Pak-Bangla subcontinent has five generals who went on to become politicians with their own parties. Of these, the two named Zia were killed while in office. The other three — Ayub Khan, HM Ershad, and Pervez Musharraf — were forced to resign after popular uprising. Ayub died an old man, and no one cared. Musharraf lives in exile. In fact, all the other generals who tried to save our countries — Iskander Mirza, Yahya Khan, Moeen U Ahmed — died as forgotten men, or were exiled, or both.
What about Ershad?
Ershad is different. He wasn’t left alone or exiled. Instead, he was tried and convicted for in open, civilian courts.
The country of Bengal is a land where, owing to the climate’s favouring the base, the dust of dissension is always rising – so said the Mughal court chronicler Abul Fazl in the 16th century. Four hundred years later, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has been a country where the dust of dissension has repeatedly risen among the men armed to guard the republic. The allegedly thwarted coup in January is but the latest in a long list of coups / mutinies / revolutions / military interventions going all the way back to the country’s very foundation in 1971.
The country’s founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed with most of his family in a brutal coup in 1975. Within a decade of the country’s 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan, much of the political and military leadership of the war were either killed or politically delegitimized by successive coups. And the coups of the 1970s reverberate even today, as Humayun Ahmed (a popular novelist) found out recently — Mr Ahmed’s latest novel, set in 1975, has been effectively banned because his depiction of history doesn’t suit the version favoured by Bangladesh’s current political dispensation. The politicised quest for what Naeem Mohaiemen calls shothik itihash (correct history) stifles the freedom of speech and thought, and ssts back academia and creativity.
Of course, what actually happened in the 1970s, and beyond, should be subject to serious debate. History isn’t, after all, mere recount of dates and facts. History should be about understanding what happened and why they happened. Needless to say, one’s understanding depends on one’s own political biases.
Over the folder, I summarise major mutinies/coups/rebellions of the past four decades, and the narrative reflects my own biases and ideological prisms – just as one’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, so is one’s mutiny someone else’s revolution. For the interested reader, a reading list is provided at the end.
So six politicos — including HM Ershad and MK Alamgir — will soon be bankers. Why do they want to become bankers? Good question. I don’t think anyone starts a bank for charity — so they want to make money. Fine. Ain’t no problem with that. But the Bangladesh Bank said the economy doesn’t need more. So what will become of these banks? Won’t they lose money? Why do we care if people like Ershad loses money?