What the international press had to say about the failures of Awami League government and BKSAL
To know what were the reactions of the foreign press, a few write-ups that were published in some of the leading newspapers are quoted bellow:
Mr. Jonathan Dimbleby in The Statesman of London issue dated 27th Sept 1974 writes,
"There were days when people used to spontaneously raise their hand and greeted him with joy Bangla whenever he was seen on the streets. Now when he leaves his home for the office then he is seen with heavily armed escorts on both the sides for his security and the people consciously ignore his coming and going. The father of the nation also no more wave his hand through the car windows. His sights remain fixed to the front. Bangladesh today is facing a dangerous law and order situation. Lacs and lacs of people are starving. Thousands are dying out of hunger. The local administrators at the districts are worried about the coming three months. One gets suffocated among the crowd of hungry faces at the capital. Now additional people are flocking at Dhaka due to the recent floods. The refugees live in such filthy conditions that can not be found anywhere in the world. While something is distributed, the refugees start fighting among themselves. The intellectuals say that if these hungry masses wake up than they would not be spared. Bangladesh today is bankcrupt. In last 18 months the prices of rice have increased 4 times. Most of the salaries of the government employees are being spent to buy foodstuff. And the poor remain hungry. But Sheikh Mujib lives in his dreamland as the situation aggravates. He is still thinking the people loves him blaming Pakistan for all these miseries, outside world will come forward to help him and Bangladesh will be rescued are all nothing but day dreams. Mujib had been doubted all along. He still has his charms as the leader. He is a passionate orator. He is proud and brave. But now when the country is going to dogs, more than half of the day he is spending with the cronies of his Awami League. He takes all the major decisions. He also decides even the triffle maters. Today he is a prisoner of his hollow pride and is surrounded by the lackies and sycophants. The outside world is talking aloud about the corruptions in Bangladesh. The down trodden may get meal today but do not know about tomorrow. In such a country corruption is a must. But there are people who do not have any justification to be corrupt. The young novo rich flock at the bar of the hotel Intercontinental. They look very comfortable. These are so called freedom fighters. They enjoy unlimited power today. Through political toutery or acting as the middleman for securing licenees and permits they are leading a wealthy life. They are threatening the government officials, influencing the political leaders, if neceassary they are also using guns. These are the selected cronies of the Awami League. The people at the higher echelon of Awami League are even worse. They all have become fabulously rich by breaking the backbone of the people who got the independence of the country. Today they all are scared about their accumulated fortunes and thinking about their ownselves. They are worried thinking about tomorrow. Although it sounds unpalatable but Henry Kisinger very rightly said, Bangaldesh internationally is a bottomless basket. At this horrified situation it is impossible for the government to face the challenges. The international community has become impatient about Banglasesh. The relif operation of last 32 months has turned out to be a total failure. Facing this reality the relief organizations, diplomatic missions and the UN agencies are squaraly blaming the government and the rulling party for this fiasco".
Mr. John Pinzer in the London based Daily Mail issue of 17th Sep 1974 writes,
"A great famine has recurred in Bangladesh, a bastion of poverty and hunger in South Asia. Such a widespread famine has not been seen in the near past. There is no dependable statistics of deaths. Due to the loss of the crop and crop seeds in the flood of July a few lacs of people have died of hunger in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Mr. Michasl prosser of Save The Children Fund said, Our apprehasions came ture. We are on the verge of a catastrophe, which I have not witnessed, in last 31 years of my stay in this region. The new crop as expected before spring. Many will die if Bangladesh does not get 100000 tons of food grains and other medical assistences per week. It is a tragedy that all the hospitals together only have 75 beds for the children. Scores of male, female and children have gathered in front of the irongate of the Mirpur refugee camp. Some sepoys with out dated 303 rifles are standing around. Most of the refugese had come form the North Rangpur, Dinajpur districts. They walked for two days without any food. Most of the children except two were infected with pox. They are so weak that they can not even remove the flies. There is no place in the camp to accomodate these refugees. Seeing a foreign journalist someone opened the gate. Mr. Abdus Salam called us in. And there was a rush. Everyone was trying to get in Mr. Salam informed us that there were three thousand nefugees already crammed the camp. From Friday they will not have anything to eat. Friday was the next day. They were expecting some American biscuits on Saturday. To save a child in this country it needs only 25 cents per day. A three years old child was so small that one can say he was still in his mothers womb. I touched his hand. It just melted like wax. Another serious aspect of this famine is that over 50 thousand women are without cloth as they had to sell off their clothings for food. It was evening my car was following a vehicle of Anjuman Mahfidul Islam a charitable organization. This organization picks up the victims of hunger from the streets of Dhaka once they die. Dr. Abdul Waheed of this organization informed that usually they pick up couple of dozens of dead body everyday. But now the number is around 600 per day. All of them die out of hunger. When the vehicle reached the graveyard they had already collected seven dead bodies. Four out of them were child. After the religious obligations the bodies were taken to be buried. A month old grave was dug up and I saw a sight unforgettable. I saw hips of Skeletons as far as I could see, in thousands. Most of them were of children".
A writeup in the Los Angeles Time under heading Bangladesh Under Indian Hegemony was like this, "Just within three years of the independence achieved with massive Indian army support the peoples sentiment had gone against India. The Indian and Bangladeshi government officials still claim that the relation between the two countries is cordial. But it is not reflected in the views of most of the Bangladeshis. Rather than any specific allegation, the general feeling is that India wants to establish its hegemony in the region just because of its size. India may not be in a position to control the events in Bangladesh but it is capable to exert its influence. Just a few days back one middle ranking bureaucrat told very sarcastically to a foreigner, India claims to be the biggest democracy in the world if that is the case than Bangladesh certainly is the smallest democracy in the world. A large section of Bangladeshis now hold the views that the main interest of India in the liberation war which created Bangladesh was to dismember Pakistan to establish itself as the dominant power and secure its interests.
Mr. Enayetullah Khan, the editor of Weekly Holiday said, Bangladesh is the out come of India Expansionism and the aspirations of the people! Euphoria about India has been evaporated due to the growing internal problems. Some are thinking as India is primarily responsible for the creation of Bangladesh similarly it is also mostly responsible for all the problems that are being faced by the people. One of them is Farrakka Barrage problem, which has been unilaterally constructed by India. Some even complains that it is the Indian Government, which is encouraging the smuggling of rice and jute from Bangladesh to India. The India officials have conceded that jute and rice are being smuggled from Bangladesh to India. Some unscrupulous local business people are interested in smuggling because in the black market the exchange value of Indian Rupee is almost double than that of the official value where Taka and Rupee is at par. The Bangladeshi business people buy the essentials that are required here with the money earned through smuggling and makes double profits. India is concerned about the future Sino-Bangladesh relations. China is the main competitor. India shall never allow Bangladesh to grow closer relations with China. India wants Bangladesh should remain strictly nonaligned and should not develop any foreign relations contrary to the Indian interests. Some observers even say more, Should oil be struck on the littoral zone then India will physically capture the shores of Bangladesh. One high official made an ironic remarked that the destiny of Bangladesh is not in its own hands".
On 27th Jan 1975 Mr. Peter Grill in Daily Telegraph published from London writes,
"Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has kicked off the last bit of Parliamentary democracy. On last Saturday Awami League with their brute majority declared Sheikh Mujib as the President of the Republic. And has empowered him to establish an one party rule. Without any doubt the democracy has been buried. The opposition demanded three days time to debate on such a serious issue before taking any decision. In reply the government passed a resolution that there can not be any discussion or debate on this issue. Sheikh Mujib the undisputed leader of war devasted but proud Bangladesh which achieved its Independence after a bloody nine months civil war said to the members of the Parliament, Parliamentary democracy was a gift of colonialism (British experts had helped to draft the constitution of the Bangladesh). He also complained that the independent judiciary of the country as colonial and hindrance on the way to expeditious disposal of the cases. The President can now dismiss the judges at his whims. Civil rights if at all rendered will be the perogative of the special courts constituted by the new Parliament. The new constitution has given power to Mujib to form a National Party. This will be the only recognized political party in the country. If any Member of Parliament do not join or votes against then his membership will be canceled. Criticism against such an Act remains latent at Dhaka for understandable reasons. But 5 out of 8 opposition members of 315 members Parliament walked out in protest. 11 members of Awami League did not turn up for voting. One of them was Gen. Osmani, an ex-Minister and the Commander-in-Chief of the guerrilla forces of Bangladesh during liberation war. Sheikh Mujib will be able to continue his autocratic rule till 1980. The new constitution has also extended the tenure of the elected Parliament of 1973 upto 1980. But Parliament will sit for only two brief sessions in a year. The Vice President, Prime Minister and the council of Ministers will run the government. Sayed Nazrul Islam and Mansur Ali have been appointed as the Vice President and Prime Minister respectably.
In the face of acute socio economic crisis faced by Bangladesh the observers are doubting about the usefulness of dictatorship and even the magnanimity of Sheikh Mujib. Whether this new mandate of Sheikh Mujib will make any difference in the way Bangladesh in heading for a famine and total lawlessness. Sheikh Mujib has declared Emergency a month back. Some people have been arrested and Shiraj Shikdar has been killed. But already doubts have arisen whether the Emergency will be able to restore law and order (no law and order exist at present). It has already been amply proved last year that the new President has no administrative capabilities whatsoever. His style is facist in nature. He takes more interest in matters like promotions of petty officers leaving aside the more important issues. Autocratic rule does not stop corruption but multiplies it. It is only the President who will be able to check the audatious Awami Leaguers. He is expected to remain under heavy pressure. More the opposition will be pushed to go under ground, more intensified will be the loot and plunder and guerrilla activities of the extremists in the rural areas".
In the issue of 14th March 1975 of Far Eastern Economic Review Mr. Hardy Scott writes,
"Another Asian democracy has been destroyed. Once again in the name of economic progress democracy has been wiped away. After the end of British rule this is the second time that democracy has been considered useless. Certainly the departed Soul of Field Marshal Ayub Khan with a smile on his face is saying, I told you........ The usurpation of power by Ayub in 1958 was against democracy. He saw a vacuum in leadership. And he came forward to fill in that institutional void in the national and personal life. In 1975 that background does not exist. Sheikh was the supreme leader and still is when he has taken the face of Ayub Khan. Even then the democracy was so tailored that he could not have complained about any reduction in his power. He is not involving the armed forces like Ayub Khan. Though some big wigs from the armed forces may be cooped in the new National Party. Even before the second revolution Sheikh had powers to provide an army touch to the civil administration. Because his personal force Rakkhi Bahinis that was raised like an Army had been employed to perform unpleasant tasks.
Street fight, suppression of opposition, elimination of the revolutionaries and the so called miscreants were the tasks performed by the Rakkhi Bahini, establishment of order and eradication of corruption is only the excuse to perpetuate absolute power. There are some differences in the way Ayub and Mujib had usurped power. Ayub after taking over had arrested some powerful smugglers and black marketeers. It had electrifying effects all over Pakistan. The price of rice drastically fell all over the country. Later ofcourse the corruption again reappeared. Even Ayubs kith and kin also got involved in it. During Sheikhs second revolution no such dramatic action has been taken as yet. As a mater of fact the effect of the second revolution is so negligible that the price of rice is ever increasing. To portray the similarity between Sheikh and Ayub not to give any chance to the democracy of the exploited one middle class intellectual very well said, The mistake Ayub made, Sheikh is committing the same. Ayub believed that the people want economic prosperity only. So he ran after economic well being at the cost of human rights. As a result Mujib got the chance for his movement. Sheikh has forgotten that or he thinks that he can afford to forget that. During British time administratively East Bengal was neglected. When the division took place the member of Bangali civil servants could be counted in fingers of one palm. Therefore West Pakistani administrators were brought to East Pakistan. Even the Bangladeshis are today openly admitting that after independence situation at some sectors have deteriorated particularly that of railway service. Before, mostly the Biharies ran this sector. Now they are out of job. In some countries the anti humane rights regimes have been successful to provide more efficient administration. But whether that would be possible in Bangladesh is doubtful. The new political system has concentrated all powers in the hands of the President. Sukarno had vehemently criticized western donor countries. In an interview with the Illustrated weekly of India Sheikh Mujib offlet similarly hit at the western media. Bangladesh will crumble when asked to comment on this, Sheikh Mujib replied, Ask them to go to hell. Not my rule, their intelligence and knowledge will crumble. The western newspapers are only criticizing and giving advice. They did the same in 1971. They are doing it again. His comments are amusing because till this date Bangladesh had been praising the role played by the Foreign Press during the liberation war."