A Leader Subjected to Inhuman TorturesProfessor Anwarullah Chowdhury
I consider myself privileged to form a soul-searching warm relationship with Tarique Rahman by seeing his great works from the proximity. Like many other Bangladeshis, I was first introduced to his developmental plans through various print and electronic media outlets. I was utterly impressed by his constructive political outlooks and passionate socio-economic programmes to bring about the changes that we need in Bangladesh. On top of the secondary media sources, I was fortunate to meet Tarique Rahman in person and converse with him face-to-face about academia, society, economics and development. Our discussions also revolved around the political situations and policy reformations of Bangladesh and the wider world. Again, I was utterly impressed by his in-depth knowledge, wide-ranging ideas, and deeprooted commitments about critical national and global issues of socio-political interest. It all assured me that Tarique Rahman is the man whom we should unanimously thrust the responsibility to take Bangladesh forward and he is the reformer who would create a self-reliant progressive Bangladesh, as was aspired by his father.
Tarique formally entered into the top circuit of politics about a decade ago as the Senior Joint Secretary General of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). He then played a pivotal role in the advancement of the nationalist forces. I firmly believe that he is the best suited successor of the noble spirit and ideology of his father Shaheed (Martyred) President Ziaur Rahman and mother Deshnetri (Leader of the Country) Begum Khaleda Zia. He was born and brought up in a traditional political family. He got his first set of political lessons and socio-political initiations within the family, which in turn, encouraged him to get interested into politics in an early age. Tarique Rahman is well informed about the global political developments. He systematically prepared himself through the study of various national and international political issues, pertaining to both the major events and the key actors. He was eager to know about the contemporary society and the history of civilisation. He had considerable knowledge about the current stage of cutting-edge science and technology. Thereby, he used information technology in his political and organisational activities, which was imperative in building the BNP as a strong political institution.
Tarique identified the challenges for the BNP and planned its strategies and tactics to cope with the situation. In 1998, he established a research cell for the party and drew in the expertise of academics, professionals and entrepreneurs, along with the experiences and expertises of the politicians, to plan for the future of the party. He played an integral part in the national elections held in 2001 and masterminded the great success of the BNP. He was involved inextricably in that election process and the electoral success brought him closer to active politics. Evidences show that he has had absolute acceptability within the nationalist forces and beyond to the general people. As it happens in any democratic party, Tarique was rewarded for his accomplishments and took up the position of the Senior Joint Secretary General of the BNP. He felt the urge to organise the party in an apt way through the involvement of the grassroots supporters. So he devoted himself to the organising of revolutionary activities with a view to building the party policies right from the bottom. I witnessed from a distance as to how he took politics to the hands of the local villagers and arranged conferences by ensuring the participation of their true representatives. In doing so, he came out of the conventional politics and set a new benchmark of constructive politics. Tarique’s efforts of arranging conferences in the local levels and giving preference to the opinions of the representatives in the policy formulation processes made him a luminous and radiant revolutionist in the political arena. Clearly, he was influenced by the pro-village politics pursued by his legendary father.
Tarique Rahman is a symbol of youth. His youthful dexterity is an inspiration to the innumerable youths of the country. He is the representative of those young people who have got involved or want to get involved with politics. The aim of his politics is national progress and advancement based on science and technology. It seems to me that Tarique is an able organiser and he
used his juvenile attributes masterfully in all organisational underpinnings. As an outsider of the party, I reckon he played a critical role in building the BNP as an expanded and powerful organisation. Tarique’s merit and organisational skills will be needed in the future to make the nationalist forces more united and powerful, and thereby improve the socio-economic conditions of Bangladesh. Whenever I speak or write something about Tarique Rahman, the young patriotic nationalist’s pain-afflicted image appears in my mind in the first instance. Tarique was subjected to brutal physical and mental tortures during the period of the last caretaker government, as a result of which, the darkness of the dark night of the new moon still overcasts the life of this lively, rising, and promising politician. There was even a widespread apprehension that due to the infliction of cruel and inhuman sufferings at the time of his imprisonment, his life was at the risk of loss. As known by one and all, some of the bones of Tarique’s spinal cord were broken after the devilish tortures and he was facing the danger of becoming paralysed for the rest of his life. I sat firm in front of the television set to watch the video clips of him walking leaning on others’ shoulders or sitting on a wheelchair while going to the court. It was never easy to see such painful scenes of a patriot standing with much trouble and moving with the help of others. It made the general citizens of Bangladesh feel his pains and shed into tears, even more so when we comprehended the agenda-driven political reasons behind this cruelty. In line with others, I too prayed for his release from such disastrous condition and was relieved when he went abroad for medical treatment by getting a temporary release.
Tarique Rahman was arrested on the allegation of corruption. Many politicians and businessmen were arrested at that time on similar type of allegations. Most of them were subjected to more or less the similar type of tortures as well. Some of the horrifying tales of these tortures are much more severe than the barbarism of the middle ages. Among all, the case of Tarique was by far the worst and in many regards the magnitude is unimaginable in an independent country. We, the general people and average citizens of the country, are against all forms of corruptions. We want to establish a society free from corruptions. We want justice by punishing the corrupt individuals. There should have been no objection in connection with the punishment of the corrupt people. But how can one claim that almost all the top-tier politicians and businessmen of the country were corrupt?
There cannot be a policy in a civilized society or a state to arrest the leading political activists and businessmen en masse with the allegation of corruption. It is a shame that the then caretaker government was interested in collecting money from them by force; and that too, on top of torturing them so ruthlessly. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to any conscious citizen to call anyone corrupt and inflict punishment before proving his act of corruption. The case of Tarique Rahman is no exception. He had to suffer punishment before the trial, long before the proof of any guilt or wrongdoing. It is not only sad and tragic, but also stands against any civic law. All these unprecedented events of filing false cases and oppressing amid harassment made the civil society surprised and confounded.
Everyone has the right to take part in politics in an independent and sovereign country. Taking part in politics cannot be considered as a crime. The main aims of politics are to serve the people, to protect the interests of the people, to engage for the welfare of the people, and to sacrifice for the freedom of the people. Like all other aspects of life, there has to be the coexistence of success and failure in politics. Some might have more successes and some might have more failures. In the end of the day, it is the general people, who with their voting rights, determine the fate of politics and the politicians. Since ups and downs of politicians are very common phenomena in the political arena – it is totally unexpected and undesirable to call the politicians en masse as corrupt and inflicting them punishment before the proof of their guilt – which happened during the period of the caretaker government. Whenever we talk about sufferings of politicians in Bangladesh, the name that comes first to everyone’s mind is Tarique Rahman. Such was the enormity of tortures and propagandas against him that the then government left no stone untouched to systematically obscure his exceptional achievements and destroy his political career.
The road to politics is very slippery and uneven, as there are a lot of hurdles and difficulties. Tarique Rahman was able to achieve great success surpassing all the obstacles and he earned unstinted love and support of the people. The people placed him on the apex of their hearts as a reward for his love for Bangladesh. I feel that Tarique is now crossing an uneven path in his political career, primarily because of the unprecedented love and support that he received from the people. The expansionist forces consider him a hindrance in attaining their ill-motivated political objectives and that is why he has had to undergo so much pains and sufferings. Even today, whenever I think of Tarique’s torture back then, I feel distressed and frustrated. And after coming to power, the Awami League government dropped every single case filed
against its own politicians, but did not drop any of the cases filed against the BNP leaders, including Tarique Rahman. Instead, they filed more cases against the BNP leaders and built on the caretaker government’s work to humiliate the BNP in the public eyes. After spending five years in the government, the Awami League has completely failed to support any of the cases or prove any of the allegations. They tried their best to accumulate fabricated evidences, but the whole propaganda failed and made it clear to all Bangladeshis that Tarique is subjected to political vengeance.
The lessons from the history teach us that patriots never get ruined and perished for loving their countries and fighting for great causes. Instead, their names are written in the history in golden letters. In Asia, Africa, Latin America or even Europe, many patriotic nationalist politicians paid the highest prices for loving their countries and countrymen. But they achieved immortality in the history of their nations and lived forever in the hearts of their people. I have no doubt that the present phase of life of Tarique is sure to come to an end and follow the same route. The sympathy and support of the mass people have increased for him due to the mental and physical tortures that he had to suffer. He will again get the opportunity to dedicate himself in organising the nationalist patriotic forces with a view to freeing the people. He will dedicate his life in safeguarding the independence, sovereignty and democracy of the country, with the aim of ensuring freedom of the people. The innumerable people of Bangladesh are also holding the same expectation and looking forward to seeing Tarique Rahman’s responsible developmental acts. The country and the people are waiting to see his dynamic and historical leadership in the future. To this end, I trust that the day is not far away when millions of Bangladeshis will congratulate Tarique like they did half a decade ago. I pray for Tarique’s safe return to Bangladesh where he would resume his political career without any partisan hindrance. I have the faith that he is the best person to lead the country and complete his father’s incomplete legendary works. I wish him all the very best of success with returning to Bangladesh, staying safe, and recommencing politics.
Professor Anwarullah Chowdhury
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Dhaka