Shah Moazzem Hossain’s place in Bangladesh’s history has never been an enviable one since 1975. He has recently tried to insinuate his way back into the limelight through spewing fresh nonsense. The people of Bangladesh, he says, obviously from his bad, glib notion that this nation does not remember history, achieved freedom under the leadership of Ziaur Rahman. This man rose to political prominence under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and yet turned an ingrate once the Father of the Nation was murdered in 1975. His lack of shame leaves us all ashamed.
Renegade politicians somehow have that sheer ability to emerge from their caves every now and then to let people know they are yet to call it a day. Shah Moazzem Hossain, once a promising student leader and then parliamentary whip in the times of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before he strayed into bad politics, has come out in the sun again. He informed us not long ago, in his dark wisdom, that Sheikh Hasina had no role in the War of Liberation. On the other hand, he is emphatic in his view that his present leader Khaleda Zia --- he has had quite a few in his career --- was a participant in the war. He has not explained how he came by such a questionable discovery.
Neither has Shah Moazzem ventured to inform people that the two women he now refers to, one through the prism of pathological hate and the other in a gleam of new-found love, were both once targets of his vulgar politics. As a nasty cog in the wheel of the illegitimate Ershad dispensation in the 1980s, Moazzem went around the country spewing obscenities against the two politicians. His audience roared with laughter, a sign that those people in the crowd were as indecent as he was. He repeated his obscenities, spiced as they were with sexual innuendo, at every opportunity. Today, one of those women is the individual who he says was a soldier in the War of Liberation. No one has asked him how an individual in the comfortable captivity of the Pakistan occupation army qualifies to be a freedom fighter.
But, of course, Shah Moazzem Hossain has always known very well what he does or means to do. As part of the Ershad regime, he was party to the nearly decade-long sinister effort to keep the nation away from democratic governance. In those bleak times, it did not occur to him that the wheel of history moves relentlessly, that every bad today swiftly drowns in the many dark yesterdays. When Ershad fell, Moazzem and everyone else associated with that venal regime fell. There were, of course, all the men who had been beholden to Ershad for the positions of authority he had catapulted them to and yet who, after his fall, thought nothing of upholding a principle called gratitude. They went off in different directions, pretending that they had come into prominence through their own abilities. Shah Moazzem was one of them. When General Ershad made it clear after the elections of December 2008 that he was aligning himself politically with Sheikh Hasina, Moazzem’s state of hate and shock led him to Khaleda Zia’s door. He carried a bouquet for his new leader.
Today, Moazzem is one among the ubiquity of vice chairmen in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. In that position, he speaks loudly of the grave danger to democracy which he says Sheikh Hasina embodies in our times. He predicts that just as Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan fell despite all their efforts to cling to power by muzzling opposition (he conveniently stays away from mentioning General Ziaur Rahman and General Ershad), Sheikh Hasina will go the way of history. Disbelief is what you get into as you hear Shah Moazzem speak in defence of democracy. But, yes, his democracy was once what Ershad claimed it was. Today, Moazzem enlightens the nation with the revelation that it was Zia who gave us democracy and indeed gave permission to the Awami League to operate as a political party again. He takes care not to mention that it was through the Awami League that he found his niche in politics in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He says not a word about his entry into politics under the guidance of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His memoirs, written quite some years ago, airbrushes all mention of the Awami League out of his narration of his career in politics.
But should one be surprised? We have not forgotten that in the darkness engendered by the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, men like Shah Moazzem Hossain, K.M. Obaidur Rahman, Taheruddin Thakur and Nurul Islam Manzur were enthusiastic players in the murderous regime of Khondokar Moshtaq. These four men were cheerful participants in the chicanery and mayhem and murder that went on till early November 1975, when the four leading lights of the 1971 Mujibnagar government were shot and bayoneted to death in the supposedly safe confines of Dhaka central jail. We remember too that one of the first acts of General Khaled Musharraf, once he seized power in November, was to place Moazzem and the others in prison. Four days later, with a counter-coup, one that caused more murder, taking place and that would cast what would turn out to be a long night of fear and darkness over the country, they were all freed.
Not once has Shah Moazzem Hossain condemned the assassinations of August-November 1975. Not once has he explained how he came to be part of every undemocratic dispensation in the country after the fall of Bangabandhu’s government. He speaks of democracy, but will not remember the times when he was part, with so many others --- politicians, lawyers, newsmen --- of the Democratic League, the sinister political contraption Khondokar Moshtaq forged into shape to perpetuate his black legacy.
The rest of the story is known. Our memories, individual as well as collective, will not let us forget how men like Shah Moazzem Hossain have consistently undermined the noble calling of politics. It is time such men were called to account.