Bangladesh’s first prime minister Tajuddin Ahmad’s son and former state minister for home affairs Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj on Saturday protested Facebook posts of an official (prime minister’s special assistant with status of a deputy secretary) at the prime minister office. The official in involved in Awami League politics. His name is Shah Ali Farhad. The debate emerged over the analysis and evaluation of the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his close political friend Tajuddin Ahmad.
Late Tajuddin Ahmad’s daughter Sharmin Ahmad, lawyer Tania Ameer and Muhammad Nurul Quader known as the travelling ambassador of the Mujibnagar government, joined an online Zoom meeting on 23 July on the occasion of Tajuddin Ahmad's birth anniversary.
Sohel Taj’s Facebook had screenshots of a number of posts taken from Farhad’s Facebook. Can the objectionable posts about Tajuddin Ahmad be considered as his personal business? The political norms of Awami League cannot support Tajuddin Ahmad’s family being publicly insulted. The official not only insulted Tajuddin Ahmad’s family but also made them out to be opponents of the Awami Legaue.
Farhad writes, “The ulterior motive to establish Zia the announcer of the country’s independence and the strategy to brand Tajuddin a more skilled administrator than Sheikh Mujib, are interlinked.”
There will be hundreds of stories of heroism in a nation. It is unnecessary and wrong to analyse and compare the quality of one person with the other for the sake of criticism or appreciation. Zia has been brought into the picture to insult Tajuddin’s family and allegations of distorting history has been raised. It is a punishable offence to distort history. Is this a strategy? Whose strategy?
Maidul Hasan is hugely knowledgeable and he played an important role in the government-in-exile. It is insulting to refer to such a senior person like him as Sharmin’s 'assistant'.
In the beginning of another post, Farhad writes that certain statements are not only objectionable but also tantamount to distorting history. These statements were to the effect that Tajuddin was uncompromising to principles till his death, but the principles of Bangabandhu deviated in independent Bangladesh, that when Tajuddin suggested the declaration independence to Bangabandhu on 25 March, Bangabandhu told Tajuddin just to relax and not to bother and also that Bangabandhu was emotional, not a skilled negotiator so Pakistan and World Bank were not afraid of him.
According to Farhad, “That alternate history is found in two distorted history books by Tajuddin Ahmad’s daughter Sharmin Ahmad and her assistant Maidul Hasan."
Did they write the books to create confusion? Maidul Hasan is hugely knowledgeable and he played an important role in the government-in-exile. It is insulting to refer to such a senior person like him as Sharmin’s 'assistant'.
Farhad extracted three sentences from two books. The target is to mislead followers of Bangabandhu. There is a detailed explanation in Sharmin’s book why Bangabandhu stayed in the Dhanmondi Road 32 house on 25 March, why he did not record the declaration of independence in line with the plan of Tajuddin Ahmad.
But Farhad picked up only one sentence from there separately and, out of context, added the sentence with quotes about two other matters. This can be considered as an attempt to create confusion or to humiliate Tajuddin Ahmad’s family.
In page 147 of her book, Sharmin writes Bangabandhu secretly took preparation although he told her father (Tajuddin) not to bother about what happened. As proof of this, he told martyred engineer Nurul Haque to collect a transmitter.
Journalist of Daily Telegraph David Lisak wrote that Mujib had earlier recorded his declaration of independence aired on 26 March.
Moreover, Sharmin has written that her father was happy hearing the declaration of independence by Zia on behalf of Bangabandhu. She also condemns the attempt to make Zia announcer of the independence. So her comment about Bangabandhu saying not to bother, has been taken out of context. This is being used as a weapon, not information.
Difference of opinion is little practiced in Bangladesh politics. The main target is to belittle the opponent in the name of differed opinions. Farhad is a four-year Facebook friend of Tajuddin’s other daughter Mahjabin Ahmad Mimi. Sharmin’s book of 428 pages was published from Oitijyo in 2014. Is there any instigation behind Farhad's sudden reaction after so many days?
Farhad may not be aware that he hurt Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury in a bid to attack Sharmin.
On 11 June 1986, Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury wrote ‘Memoirs of a forgotten leader’ in Jai Jai Din.
In it, he mentioned an incident to explain how afraid Bhutto and his associates were of Tajuddin. Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury claims Bhutto and his associates were discussing this in the Intercontinental Hotel and he overheard them.
“Mujib can be managed in an emotional approach but it is very difficult to manage the man who sits with a file behind Mujib. This Tajuddin, I tell you, will be the main problem,” Sharmin quoted him as saying in page 205 of her book.
The statement Farhad has made in this regard proves his dullness. What difference do Bhutto's remarks make? Why do thetwo leaders have to be judged on the basis of Bhutto’s remarks?
Referring to Bhutto’s remark, Farhad in separate post writes that he saw Bhutto’s so-called remark the day before yesterday on the occasion of Tajuddin’s birth anniversary. Farhad said, "I wouldn’t have believed this even if Bhutto had written it himself." He question how would Bhutto insult a man who kept all the Pakistani regimes on their toes.
He has more posts and insults about Tajuddin, which are unfair and unfortunate. So there it seems quite apparent that this is a well-planned campaign against Tajuddin family.
there are allegations against Farhad's family about grabbing killing grounds in Sarail, Brahmanbaria. An investigation should be made as to whether he has tried to use his influence in that case.
Farhad’s freedom of expression must be respected and he has the right to make mistakes in the exercise of his freedom of expression. But the problem is the posts are not consistent with his current status. He is a servant of the republic although he was recruited on political consideration. If Awami League as a party considers that it is necessary to take a position, there are many people to talk on the matter. Why does the prime minister’s special assistant have to say this?
The remarks Farhad made are a the violation of the code of conduct. The prime minister’s office can look into whether it is in the misconduct category.
The statement Sohel Taj has been given on behalf of the family of Tajuddin Ahmad and Zohra Tajuddin Ahmad. It is clear that all family members including Simeen Hussain Rimi has taken a strong position. Sohel Taj on behalf of the family has demanded a statement from the prime minister’s office.
Sohel Taj in the beginning of his video message said that Bangabandhu is the father of the nation. There should be no doubt or debate about this. Bangladesh and Bangabandhu are one and the same. He will be remain in the golden aura of being the architect of the state and father of the nation as long as Bangladesh will remain.
That official is a promising young politician. He became a barrister in London. The office which he holds is similar to what is called special adviser in Britain. Prime minister Boris Johnson has over 50 officials with such status. Their activities are controlled by the law. They have specific code of conduct. The codes are like the permanent public servants.
The function of the government and the ruling party may overlap sometimes. The rules say in such case the officials will advise the ministers. Civil servants will not be involved in politics. According to the conditions of Shah Ali Farhad’s recruitment, he will remain in office as long as the prime minister deems approporiate. As far as we know, persons in such posts have no specific code of conduct. But there should be some code.
Sohel Taj writes that out of good manners they are refraining from referring to his father, grandfather, family and his personal affairs.
It is constitutionally forbidden to judge a person by his birth. But there are allegations against Farhad's family about grabbing killing grounds in Sarail, Brahmanbaria. An investigation should be made as to whether he has tried to use his influence in that case.
Mizanur Rahman is a joint editor of Prothom Alo
This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam