In the dawn of August 15, 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made one of his final phone calls to his military secretary, the then Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmad. He had been attacked, Bangabandhu told Col Jamil, and the residence on Road 32 was surrounded. Then the line went dead.
On a night when conspiracy was afoot and uncertainty gripped the city, and with the country's leadership seemingly paralysed, Col Jamil did not shrink from doing his duty. He called senior officers, including the chief of army staff, Gen Shafiullah, and told them to send in troops. He then ordered the Presidential Guard Regiment (PGR), charged to defend Bangabandhu, and headed for Road 32 immediately.
Calmly holstering his service revolver, Jamil tried to reassure his wife and children: "Bangabandhu is in danger. How can I not go?"
"Look after my daughters," was his final request before he mounted his jeep and headed off into the darkness.
Arriving in front of Sobhanbagh mosque, Col Jamil found that the PGR convoy had halted. He demanded to know the reason, and was told that there were army units ahead and that there was gunfire. He tried to convince the troops to march forward.
Then realising that time was running out, he got into his jeep and prepared to drive into Road 32 himself.
The valiant patriot was shot dead as he sat in his jeep and embraced martyrdom, trying to save the leader whom he had, like many others, sworn to protect. It was the steadfast adherence to his principles that guided Col Jamil in the final moments of his life. On a night when many brave souls hesitated, Jamil did not waver. It was the supreme test of courage and honour - and he passed with flying colours.
It was not until about 2pm on August 16, 1975 that the family of Col Jamil learnt anything definitive about his fate.
A call came from Gen Shafiullah, whom Col Jamil had asked at dawn to send troops to Bangabandhu's rescue. Mrs Jamil answered the phone and the chief of army choked as he broke the news of her husband's death. Bangladesh had lost a true patriot.
A man of extraordinary character, Col Jamil had been held hostage in Pakistan during the Liberation War. But his integrity and professionalism as a career army officer led him to be appointed military secretary to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in an independent Bangladesh.
Gen Shafiullah, who had trained with Jamil at the Pakistan Military Academy, had this to say when remembering his slain comrade many years later: “Jamil Bhai, myself, and the few Bangalee officers who were in Pakistan in those days had a regular liaison among ourselves. That was the time when Bangalee nationalism was at its budding stage.
As members of the majority of the population of Pakistan, we saw it the hard way how small our representations had been in the armed forces. Whenever we met, we used to talk about this. Jamil Bhai's sense of nationalism was the strongest among us, and at times he would burst out in anger and desperation."
In 2010, Jamil was promoted posthumously to the rank of Brig General, and awarded the Bir Uttam in recognition of his valour as he was killed trying to save Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib on the fateful morning of August 15, 1975.
That the recognition was so late in coming is a sign of the polarisation of our country, where even supreme act of courage and sacrifice are seen through the lens of partisanship. For the nation it's a belated reminder of the man's greatness.
And it also is a time to reflect on what the actions of this true hero mean to Bangladesh's history in general.
"Jamil's soul will be in peace and I will also die in peace," Jamil's eldest daughter Tehmina Enayet said. "My father was an honest officer. I'm proud that my father sacrificed his life for such a great leader."
Brig Gen Jamil's deeds outlive his mortal existence. He answered his country's call, and did not hesitate to lay down his life in the line of duty. When the nation stood at a crossroads, Brig Gen Jamil displayed the moral courage that marks a great soldier and a true hero.
Enayetullah Khan is Editor-in-Chief, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) & Dhaka Courier.
If Sheikh Kamal had lived until now he would have been in his seventies, an age which was quite desirable as per the LEB (Life expectancy at birth) in Bangladesh. But that did not happen. His fate was decided by on that fateful August night in 1975. It is so tragic that he died only at the age of 26 just a month after his marriage but it is more than a tragedy and so entirely unexpected that he has been much maligned by the killers and their henchmen in the wake of the seizure of power by the anti-liberation forces after the August tragedy. Maybe, perhaps, he was the heir apparent to the Father of the Nation’s politics. Yes, he is Kamal, Sheikh Kamal, Bangabandhu’s eldest son and the second of the five children. A tragic hero in the history of Bangladesh!
Born on 5 August 1949, in Tungipara under the district of Gopalganj, Kamal’s childhood was spent on the banks of Madhumati and Raghiya playing with the village-boys. That he later became a great champion of sport and its patronage has perhaps, become implanted in his mind in the village life in Tungipara.
What he greatly missed in Tungipara was fatherly affection. As a matter of fact, he could hardly see his father after his birth. Bangabandhu had to remain in jail almost round the year for his rebellion against the Pakistan establishment. Once on his release from imprisonment he came to Tungipara to meet his family. All his children were jumping for joy at getting their father in their midst. The small boy Kamal, however, could not understand the reason for the joy, nor could he recognize the man who was the source of their joy. However, he found it astonishing that his elder sister Hasina was calling him Abba. He leaned over and shyly whispered in her ear, “Hashu Aapa, Hashu Aapa, please let me call your father Abba”. This is what Sheikh Kamal was—a shy and intelligent boy!
From his early life Kamal was very interested in sports. While attending Shaheen School in Dhaka he used to take part in all kinds of sports of which cricket attracted him most. He used to play cricket in first division for Azad Boys Club and Basketball in first division for Spurs Club. He was a robust fast bowler. With high speed and a perfect sense of line and length, he could easily beat the opposition batsman. He was one of the best rising pace bowlers in undivided Pakistan. But due to being a Bangali and the son of Mujib, he gained no recognition for his talent for cricket.
Not only in the field of cricket, Kamal had more strings to his bow. He showed considerable talent for and interest in other cultural and aesthetic activities like music, acting, debate, extempore speech. A student of Dhaka College and of Dhaka University Social Science Department, Kamal tried to represent Bangladesh and Bengali culture overseas. He was also a student of Chhyanot and himself a good actor he established Dhaka Theatre. A resident of Salimullah Muslim Hall, he was the captain of the Hall’s Basketball team and held the championship of his team for the whole of his stay at the hall. During the tumultuous days of the 1969 mass movement, while the Pakistan junta imposed a ban on Rabindranath’s songs in Bangladesh, Sheikh Kamal along with millions of Bengali defied the ban and kept practicing Rabindrasangit (Songs of Rabindranath). On and after the 25 March 1971 when the marauding occupation army went on the rampage in and around the country and Mujib was arrested and kept in the prison of Pakistan, Sheikh Kamal jumped into the freedom fight with hundreds of thousands of freedom fighters with the vow of saving the dignity of motherland. He took training from India and worked as the Aide-de-Camp (ADC) to Commander-in-Chief of Bangladesh Armed Forces, General Ataul Gani Osmani during the War of Liberation. He received wartime commission in Bangladesh Army and played an important role in the freedom fight both as a fighter and an organizer.
In the tempestuous hours of the war, Kamal was not oblivious of his passion for sports. He always raised his hope for the independence of Bangladesh and for the improvement of Bangladesh sports. He expressed his desire to the manager of Swadhin Bangla Football Team, Tanvir Mazhar Tanna that he would bring about radical changes in the sport scene of the country if her independence is gained. And Kamal kept his word. Upon return to newly independent Bangladesh, he established Abahani Social Welfare Organization and in 1972 purchased Iqbal Sporting Football Team and Ispahani Sporting Cricket and Hockey team under the organization. And finally in combination with all these, emerged Abahani Krira Chakra. Sheikh Kamal was the founder-president of this leading sporting club in the country. The history of Abahani Krira Chakra is the history of sports in independent Bangladesh. Kamal dreamed of taking the standards of Bangladesh football, cricket and hockey to international heights and of making Bangladesh a sports super power. He used to collect promising players from every nook and cranny of the country and also hired coaches like Bill Heart from abroad.
His contribution to the establishment of the infrastructure of Bangladesh national sports is of immense importance. Sheikh Kamal is an unsung hero in the history of Bangladesh who was a symbol of the nation’s indomitable youth. His achievements earned over a lifespan of only 26 years would be an abiding source of inspiration for generations to come.
Dr. Rashid Askari is a writer, columnist, fictionist, translator, media personality and vice chancellor of Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hong Kong National Security Law was passed unanimously and signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping on June 30th, right before the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return from the UK to China. While passing the new legislation is completely China's domestic affairs, it has triggered another round of false accusations against China which may mislead some of our Bangladeshi friends. As China's Ambassador, I feel obliged to lay out some basic facts about the legitimacy of the new legislation and illustrate how security and prosperity go hand in hand in Hong Kong.
China officially resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1st, 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has become a special administrative region (SAR) of China under the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, which guarantees that the HKSAR can retain its capitalist system while integrating into the whole of China. Throughout the world, no other country has such political courage and tolerance to allow two political systems to exist at the same time. The policy is not a compromise but a demonstration of China's determination towards peaceful reunification.
From the very beginning, the Central Government of China has left the right, and obligation at the same time, of national security legislation to the people of HKSAR by stipulating in Article 23 of the Basic Law that Hong Kong "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies." But two decades on, the legislation is still not there due to the obstruction of some actors with ulterior motives, making HKSAR the only place in the world without the protection of national security law. The chaos and violence in the past year have proved how vulnerable Hong Kong is in the face of infiltration, incitement, and foreign interference.
Safeguarding national security is the first and foremost factor of national sovereignty. No country would ever leave acts endangering national security on its territory unchecked or allow loopholes in its national security mechanism and legislation to remain exposed. Hong Kong is a special and local administrative region of China. As Hong Kong is unable to resolve the problem on its own, it is only just, legitimate and in line with the Constitution for the Central Authorities to legislate on national security for the HKSAR at the state level. Nearly 3 million Hong Kong citizens signed a petition endorsing the legislation
Some western politicians say that by passing the new law, the Central Government of China has undermined the high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR. This is groundless. No one is more earnest and determined than the Chinese Government to fully implement "One Country, Two Systems", and no one cares more than the Chinese Government about Hong Kong's prosperity, stability, and its people's well-being. At the core of "One Country, Two Systems" is the mission to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests. "One Country" is the prerequisite for and the foundation of "Two Systems", while "Two Systems" derives from and is subordinate to "One Country". Should the "One Country" principle be undermined, "Two Systems" would be out of the question. Without national security, how can we talk about autonomy?
Some western politicians also say that with the new legislation, human rights have been endangered in the HKSAR. While proclaiming themselves as champions of human rights, these people have falsely pitted the protection of human rights against the protection of national security. They frequently cite the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but ignore that the ICCPR mentions at least seven times that human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly, and association, can be subject to restrictions for the protection of national security. While targeting a small handful of criminal acts and activities endangering national security, the new law will protect the legitimate rights and freedom of the majority of Hong Kong citizens so that they can enjoy freedom without fears caused by violence, freedom to use the metro and visit shopping malls without worries, and freedom to speak the truth in public without being lynched by rioters.
Some western politicians even say that with the new legislation, the Central Government of China has deserted the rule of law. I think these people have shown no respect for the principle of non-interference, a principle of international law and a basic norm governing international relations. They frequently cite the Sino-British Joint Declaration but ignore that in its eight paragraphs and three annexes, there is no single word or clause that grants other countries any responsibility for Hong Kong after the city's return to China. Since 1 July, 1997, no country other than China has sovereignty, jurisdiction, or the right of supervision over Hong Kong. No foreign country shall meddle with Hong Kong affairs, which are purely China's internal affairs, under the pretext of any legal document.
As we know, Hong Kong is one of the most open and competitive cities in the world and a major global financial, trading, and shipping center. Hong Kong has been rated as the world's freest economy consecutively for more than two decades. As a highly-developed economy, Hong Kong was able to sustain the blast of a few economic crises and maintain an annual GDP growth rate of 3% to 4%. However, the outbreak of chaos one year ago has plunged Hong Kong's economy into recession. In the third quarter of 2019, Hong Kong's GDP shrank by 2.9% for the first time since 2009. In the first quarter of 2020, Hong Kong's GDP decreased by 8.9%, and its total import and export volume dropped by 8% during the first five months of 2020. Without stability and security, there is no prosperity. The new national security legislation is not only about upholding national sovereignty and delineating political jurisdiction, but also about ensuring people's livelihood, sustaining an economic legend, and saving the "Pearl of the Orient".
As Strategic Partners of Cooperation, China and Bangladesh have always supported each other's core interests in the international arena and stayed away from interfering in each other's domestic affairs. Amid ongoing turmoils in the HKSAR and ungrounded finger-pointings against China, many Bangladeshi politicians, journalists and experts have voiced their support to the righteous side, to which I am deeply grateful. Hong Kong is also important to Bangladesh. For so many years, a significant portion of export goods from the country are shipped first to Hong Kong and then to the world, and many Hong Kong-based companies have contributed their shares to the remarkable economic trajectory of Bangladesh. Guided by "Vision 2041" and the dream of "Sonar Bangla", Bangladesh is now seeking more FDI and enhanced business ties with the world to recover faster and stronger in the post COVID-19 era, and I am sure that Hong Kong will play a big part in that story. With the national security legislation coming into effect, the HKSAR will embark upon a new leg of journey towards prosperity. It is our sincere hope that Bangladesh, our time-tested friend, would stand by us to embrace a securer and better Hong Kong.
H.E. Mr. Li Jiming is the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Bangladesh.
(The views and opinions expressed herein are of the author’s own)
China and Bangladesh are good neighbors and good partners. Especially since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, the friendship between the two countries has been fully reflected. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Bangladesh in 1975, the bilateral trade volume has grown rapidly in the context of bilateral friendship. In the year when diplomatic relations were established, the bilateral trade volume between China and Bangladesh was only US$ 3.06 million. While in 2019, the volume has reached US$18.33 billion, a dramatic rise compared with that of the initial time.
At the same time, China has become the largest trading partner of Bangladesh, and Bangladesh the second largest trading partner of China in South Asia. The trade volume between the two countries has maintained a relatively high level of growth in the past five years, with a growing rate of 24.6%, highlighting the rapid development of economic cooperation between China and Bangladesh.
China-Bangladesh economic cooperation has been further consolidated under the Belt and Road Initiative, where the two countries provide each other with goods and services of excellent quality and reasonable price, and truly bring a sense of gain to the two peoples. To fulfill the promise made by President Xi to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, China is granting 97% zero tariff treatment of Bangladesh products to Chinese market from July 1, 2020, which is becoming a landmark starting point and new opportunity to promote the bilateral trade development.
With the sweeping effect of COVID-19 pandemic throughout the world, the world trade has been suffering a heavy blow, and the trade between China and Bangladesh has also been effected. According to statistics from China, the trade volume from January to April of 2020 between China and Bangladesh was USD 5.02 billion, 16% down comparing with the same period last year. It’s high time that the 97% zero tariff treatment come out, which will definitely help the trade between our two countries to recover from the COVID-19 trauma, and enhance export from Bangladesh to China so as to alleviate the trade imbalances.
China encourages Bangladesh trade companies to make full use of the 97% zero tariff treatment to expand market share in China and be of positive effect to the improvement of the economic and social development of Bangladesh as well as the well beings of the Bangladesh people.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic around the world has caused difficulties to the economic development of Bangladesh, it has not changed the fact that the working-age population is abundant, the demographic dividend is yet to be fully realized and the industrial growth potentiality is huge.
With annual GDP growth of more than 6% for many years, Bangladesh will remain one of the most dynamic economies in South Asia and the world. Garment export industry is the biggest advantageous industry of Bangladesh, accounting for the majority of the country's exports. In 2019, China imported textile, clothing and accessories from Bangladesh amounting to USD 590 million, accounting for about 57% of the total import.
The export potential of Bangladesh lies in the need to develop manufacturing industry, break through the limitations of its own industrial structure, continuously improve the quality of export products and shift to higher value-added exports.
Over the past 40 years, Bangladesh garment manufacturing industry has made great progress, and its export volume has increased significantly. However, it still has great potential in terms of the types of export commodities, the improvement of production efficiency, the diversification of export commodities, the improvement of technical content of products and the transfer of products with higher added value. In addition, Bangladesh is rich in agricultural products, livestock products, tropical fruits and seafood. Through industrial upgrading, expanding production scale and improving product quality, Bangladesh has the full potential to continuously expand its exports to China.
China has a large market with a population of more than 1.4 billion. China sincerely opens its market to other countries. In 2019, China's total trade value of goods is about US$ 4.5 trillion, of which imports account for about US$ 2.2 trillion. It is estimated that in the next 15 years, China’s imports will exceed US$30 trillion. China's import will continue to maintain great potential, providing a strong guarantee for China's economic development and a huge market for high-quality products of Bangladesh.
It will be a win-win cooperation for China and Bangladesh to fully explore China's import capability, catch up with the demand of the Chinese market, and strengthen bilateral trade. The continuous development of bilateral trade will also provide a solid foundation for the realization of Bangladesh’s development visions such as “Sonar Bangla” and “Digital Bangladesh”.
Deepening cooperation in bilateral trade between China and Bangladesh is an inevitable choice to benefit the national economies and livelihoods, enhance the friendship between the two countries and effectively respond to the outbreak of the pandemic.
The difficulties caused by the pandemic are just temporary, while the friendship and trade development between China and Bangladesh would be long-lasting. With the implementation of 97% zero tariff treatment, China-Bangladesh economic and trade cooperation will definitely enter a significant new stage.
H. E. Mr Li Jiming is the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Bangladesh