After the liberation of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from Pakistan jail and he arrived at Dhaka via London on 10 January. I heard the news over my car radio as I was heading for Dhaka on the very same day to join my post as Private Secretary to Sheikh Abdul Aziz , then Minister for Communications. The machinations of Bhutto and Yahya Khan had led to the arrest of Bangabandhu by the enemy military and then the Liberation of Bangladesh . Bangabandhu had opted to be the father of a nation rather than the Prime Minister of an alien country . And it was the opportunist Bhutto who strived to get an advantage out of the situation he faced by promptly releasing Bangabandhu in the face of appeals by the leaders of the free world.
On his arrival , Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had to start from scratch .He and his government had to deal with countless problems of a war ravaged country. Restoring law and order , rehabilitating the muktijoddhas , restoring the ruptured communication system, saving lives of the people who were hostile to the War of Liberation , from the public wrath , and, more importantly , feeding the hungry millions and many other problems were faced by Bangabandhu , his ministers and the administration . For the first months of our independence , the country was impaled on the shards of its war-shattered economy .Dozens of jute mills and other factories were heavily damaged .The plantations of Sylhet , which produced 30 million kgs of tea annually, were ruined . The country came out of the war with less than US$ 500,000 in foreign exchange .Most of the major businesses were owned by West Pakistanis, , who managed to get the bulk of their cash assets out of the country before December , 1971.
William S. Ellis, a senior sub-editor of National Geographic who came to Bangladesh in February 1972 wrote in his article ," Bangadesh: Hope Nourishes a New Nation" published in the September 1972 issue of the National Geographic:
"Earlier in the day I accompanied Sheikh Mujib as he inspected widespread destruction a few miles south of Mymensingh . Sadness and the physical toll of 18-hour work days showed on the face of the Prime Minster as he walked through the debris. As word of his presence spread the area came alive with thousands of villagers. Hundreds of thousands of people waited on the field as the weary man stepped upto the microphone .They knew what his first words would be .They were ready with the response.
"Joi Bangla !" meaning "Victory to Bengal" and the answer was an echo that swelled to thunderous volume as it rolled back from the crowd "Joi Bangla "
And then Bangabandhu posed a question:" Are you willing not to demand anything from me for two , even three years ?" "Yes ' they shouted .Some were too weak from hunger and disease to shout. They nodded to signify their willingness"
And it was exactly after three years and two hundred and eighteen days that he was assassinated by the very soldiers he had welcomed into the army.
On a personal level there are two memories of mine after the return of Bangbandhu .Towards the end of January 1972 my mother, late Khodeja Khatun, who was Principal of Eden Girls' College, went to meet Bangabandhu at Ganobhaban with some of her colleagues and student leaders of the College . After the formal aspects of the meeting , she asked Bangabandhu whether he remembered my father , late Muhammad Husain Khan. Bangabandhu said , "Who will forget Thanda Miah (my father's nickname) for his great deeds , and also who will forget Thnda Miah (Wahiduzzaman) now in jail for all his misdeeds?"
Later, in February, Tofail Ahmed , my class friend and Political Secretary to the Prime Minister told Bangabandhu that I was a leader of the East Pakistan Chhatra Union in my student days. Bangabandhu told Sheik Abdul Aziz , whose Private Secretary I was, about my political leanings .Sheikh Aziz asked me about it , and I said it was true . But no political victimisation came my way . Rather I was always given a very good ACR and prize postings .
Now that more than forty years have gone by since 26 March 1971, 16 December 1971 and 10 January 1972, our freedom's serenity and grandeur still lifts us up by the ear ,still translates for us that language we are in danger of forgetting , the language of freedom, the appeal of Bangabandhu , which all things and events speak without metaphor, which alone is copious and stands true . We can only look ahead , when we look back to the lessons of 1971 , and to the ultimate tragedy of 15 August 1975.
Mahbub Husain Khan is a writer and former civil servant #