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Bangabandhu aimed for independence ahead of 1971: Pak documents

By Anisur Rahman

DHAKA, March 23, 2016 (BSS) - Bangabandhu had planned to establish independent Bangladesh long ahead of the 1971 Liberation War, unfolding documents reveal as the country is set to celebrate the 45th independence anniversary later this week.

A senior Pakistani general who served as the military commander in the then East Pakistan recently reconfirmed Bangabandhu's secret plan, citing their intelligence report while fellow officers and independent analysts previously referred to his intention to establish Bangladesh.

"One of them (intelligence agencies) laid a trap for Sheikh Mujib. A recording device was planted in a car in which Sheikh Mujib, along with a confidant, was travelling," wrote major general Khadim Hussain Raja in his "Stranger in my own country" published in 2012.

He added: "On the way the confidant engaged Sheikh Mujib in conversation unwittingly, Sheikh Mujib blurted out his real intentions (of establishing Bangladesh)".

Raja served as the general officer commanding (GOC) in East Pakistan under the Yahya junta in 1971 until lieutenant general AAK Niazi took over as the army commander after the March 25 crackdown while his book was UPL's latest one of its "road to Bangladesh series".

Famous US academic Stanley Wolpert, known for his studies on politics in Indian subcontinent, earlier obtained and referred to the secret Pakistani tape recording in his "Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan his life and times", published in 1977.

"My aim is to establish Bangladesh," Bangabandhu was heard as saying to the Pakistani journalist, set up by the Pakistani intelligence agency, to accompany him in a car on his way to a poll rally ahead of the 1970 general elections.

"I will tear the LFO (legal framework order) into pieces as soon as the elections are over. Who could challenge me once the elections are over," Bangabandhu was heard telling further the journalist, whom he took in good confidence because of their previous acquaintance and having no idea that his words were being recorded secretly.

Pakistan military's public relations officer in 1971 major Siddiq Salik gave a vivid description to what circumstances Bangabandhu expressed his eventual intention.

"It was the first anniversary of the second martial law in Pakistan. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was on his way to a rural town in East Pakistan to address an election rally," he wrote in his "Witness to Surrender".

He continued: "On the back seat of his rattling car sat with him a non-Bengali journalist who covered his election tours. He provoked Mujib on some current topic and quietly switched on his cassette tape recorder."

Salik said he himself had heard the recorded comments in which "Mujib's rhetorical voice was clearly intelligible".

"He (Bangabandhu) was saying 'somehow, Ayub Khan has pitched me to a height of popularity where nobody can say "no" to what I want. Even Yahya Khan cannot refuse my demands," Salik wrote.

The Pakistani officer said the Bengali leader's real intension was substantiated by another tape also prepared by "Yahya Khan's intelligence agencies".

He said the topic of the tape record was LFO, issued by the Yahya regime on March 30, 1970 outlining the future constitution which denied a free hand to Mujib to implement "his famous six points" while his comments were again secretly recorded during a meeting with senior Awami League leaders.

"He (Bangabandhu) confided his views on L.F.O. to his senior colleagues without realizing that these words were being taped for Yahya's consumption," Salik wrote.

Wolpert referred to the same tape recording where Bangabandhu said "my aim is to establish Bangladesh".

"When it (the tape) was played to Yahya Khan, he said, 'I will fix him if he betrays me'," Salik wrote.

Referring to this recording Salik's superior Raja in his book wrote Yahya "heard the truth" but apparently took no immediate action as "Yahya Khan was overconfident about his own position, and felt that, by virtue of being the chief martial law administrator, he had unlimited powers which would enable him to outwit and outmaneuver his potential opponents".

"Later events proved how wrong he (Yahya) was," the Pakistani general wrote.

The Pakistani documents about Bangabandhu's "real intention" were largely supported in US documents in other ways as the then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger believed he refrained from directly declaring independence in his historic 7th March address only due to "tactical" reasons.

"His (Bangabandhu's) speech last Sunday (7th March 1971) would suggest an effort to achieve his goal (for independence) by gradual assertion of power without risking a direct confrontation with the army that might follow a unilateral declaration of independence," Kissinger said in a memo to the then US president Richard Nixon.