'Zia first called himself president': KM Shafiullah

‘Zia first called himself president': KM Shafiullah

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Ziaur Rahman had claimed himself to be the president of Bangladesh while reading out the declaration of independence on Mar27, 1971, but that was corrected afterwards, one of the sector commanders of the Liberation War has said.
KM Shafiullah made the claim at a discussion on Thursday amid controversy raised by the claim of Zia’s elder son Tarique Rahman that the BNP founder was the country’s first president.
Thursday was observed as historic Mujibnagar day. On this day in 1971, the ‘provisional government’ of Bangladesh was formed in Kushtia’s Meherpur with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman named as president, Syed Nazrul Islam vice-president and acting president, and Tajuddin Ahmed prime minister.Shafiullah said Zia had claimed himself president while reading the declaration of independence from the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra at Chittagong’s Kalurghat a day after Awami League leader Abdul Hannan read it three times on Mar 26, 1971.
“We and Awami League leaders present there protested that right away. He (Zia) reread (the declaration) again on March 28 and that day he said ‘I on behalf of Bangabandhu…’,” said Shafiullah, who is a former Awami League MP.
However, war-time ‘S Force’ commander Shafiullah’s remarks regarding Zia, then a Major who headed the ‘Z Force’, contradicts the version of Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra founder late Belal Mohammad.
Belal in an interview to bdnews24.com in 2010 did not say anything regarding Zia calling himself the president.
Retired Maj Gen Shafiullah said, “We thought he (Zia) mistakenly did not say ‘on behalf of Bangabandhu’ at the time. Mistakes can happen. Later in his life he never said that he was Bangladesh’s first president.”
“Even in an article published in magazine ‘Bichittra’ in 1974, Zia claimed that Bangabandhu’s March 7 speech was the inspired the Bengali military officers to take part in the war.”
Belal Mohammad had said, “I see many of our intellectuals say Ziaur Rahman did not mention Bangabandhu’s name at first. Then pressure was put for inclusion of the name. Some claim they took the initiative to include it. Why don’t you say Bangabandhu’s name if you all were the ones who brought it up?”
According to Belal, he was accompanied by Abul Kashem Sandwip, Abdullah Al Faruq, Kazi Habibuddin, Aminur Rahman, Sarfuzzaman and others when Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra started its journey at Kalurghat.
“Of the political leaders, only MA Hannan came one day and didn’t come ever again. No politicians other than him ever came.”
Responding to Tarique Rahman’s remarks, Shafiullah on Thursday said it was a plot to distort history and steer people in the wrong way.
“Maybe they (Tarique and BNP) are taking the first time (when Zia read the declaration) into account. But it is true there are forces trying to erase the Liberation War’s history.”
BNP’s Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman at a recent party event in London claimed that Ziaur Rahman, his father and former military dictator who founded the party, was the first president of the country.
Two weeks later, at another event, the elder son of Zia and BNP chief Khaleda Zia claimed that the nation’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the nation’s first “illegal prime minister.”
Different quarters have called Tarique’s statements an effort to distort history. – bdnews24.com

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