MINORITY GROUP OBSTRUCTING TRANSFER OF POWER

Statement issued by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 7, 1971 at Dacca

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Preisdent of Awami League, said here today that he had never conveyed any impression that an RTC-type of conference should be held.

In a statement issued here today after a two-day closed-door meeting of the Working Committee of the party, the Sheikh also `repudiated' that the Awami League in any way obstructed the transfer of power and added that the mjaority party certainly would not gain by obstruction.

 

The Sheikh said, I had only conveyed to the President that he should come to Dacca in order to see the grave situation prevailing in Bangla Desh.

 

It was pointed out, he added, that constitutional issues were best resolved within the National Assembly and its Committees rather than by secret nego­tiations and that once a National Assembly had been brought into being there was no justification for any RTC or secret parleys.

 

Sheikh Mujib said, "It is only too clear to the people of the country and indeed the world that it is a minority group of Western Wing which has obstructed and is continuing to obstruct the transfer of power".

 

 

 

Recounting the measures taken during the last few days, Sheikh Mujib said that it now appeared that the -political confrontation" was soon to be followed by "military confrontation" if the majority did not submit to the dicta­tion of the minority group.

He said neither democratic way of life could be established nor power could be transferred to the people if a minority group conspired with the vested interests to frustrate the democratic process.

 

He warned that if democracy was the ultimate casualty or the proposed transfer of power aborted, the responsibility would lie with the minority group and those who colluded with it.

 

He, therefore, suggested a seven-point formula for immediate adoption if the President sincerely desired that the National Assembly, as the sovereign body of the elected representatives of the people, should function.

 

The points are:

 

(a) Immediate withdrawal of Martial Law.

 

(b) Transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.

 

(c) Immediate withdraw[ of all military personnel to the barracks.

 

(d) Immediate cessation of the military build-up and the heavy inflow of military personnel from the Westerm Wing.

 

(e) Immediate cessation of firing upon civilians so that not a single bullet is fired with immediate effect.

 

(f) Non-interference by the military authorities in the different branches of the Govern­ment functioning in Bangla Desh and direction to desist from victimisation of Government officers and employees.

 

(g) Maintenance of law and order to be left exclusively to the police and Bengali EPR, assisted, wherever necessary, by Awami League volunteers.

 

Background

 

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said, "between the first of March when there was a sudden announcement of the postponement sine die of the sitting of the National Assembly and the sixth of March, the people of Bangla Desh have been sub­jected to military confrontation. There has been widespread firing upon unarmed civilians (workers, peasants and students) who had stood up to protest against the sudden and unwarranted postponement of the National Assembly. Those who have lost their lives during the first week are martyrs who died protecting the democratic rights of the people against arbitrary and unwarranted action of postponement sine die of the National Assembly".

Pakistan People's Party Role

 

He said: " It is said that the postponement of the National Assembly has been " misunderstood ". I would like to ask the President whether or not this post­ponement was effected solely in response to the machinations of a single party­constituting a minority of the total members-against the declared wishes of the majority party and also those of numerous members from the Western Wing?

 

"We had suggested the 15th February as the date for the first sitting. While the minority group in question had indicated a preference for the first week of March. It was the minority group's view which was accepted and the Assembly was summoned on the 3rd of March. But then the same minority group raised objections to participation in the National Assembly. First, it took up the highly obejctionable position that its members would be in 'jeopardy ' if they came to Dacca and that they would be double hostages ". Thereafter, this party took up the position that it would only attend the National Assembly on the terms dictated by it. It then went on to strike another posture when its members recorded a decision to resign from the National Assembly. What was particularly surprising was that almost simultaneously an amendment appeared in the LFO enabling Members to resign before the first sitting. But then they decided not to resign. This party's intransigence reached its climax when on 27th February it declared that it would launch a mass movement if the National Asssembly was to meet without its participation. It went so far as to say that the people would take full "revenge on those who chose to attend the National Assembly Session and that

if the people failed to take revenge" then that party "would take action against them." It further threatened that if any member of its own attended the Session the workers would liquidate him.

 

Awami League Stand

 

" By this time, our Parliamentary Party had assembled at Dacca and Members had already begun to arrive from the different provinces of the Western Wing.

The Chief Election Commissioner had reached Dacca and announced that the election of the women Members was to be held on the second of March. The President himself was expected to arrive on the lst March for the inaugural

Session.

 

" Our own position on constitution-making had been clearly stated in our Press statement of the 24th February when we reiterated our invitation to each and every member of the National Assembly from all parts of Pakistan to co-operate with us in this historic task. On the 27th February, he went to the extent of affirming that if any Member presents before the Assembly anything just and reasonable we would accept it. But even this was ignored, it would appear deliberately and with motive."

 

Postponement Reaction

 

" On the lst March, by a Radio statement there was sudden and unwarranted postponement of the National Assembly sitting sine die. The reason given was that there should be more time for " understanding " and it was said that there was political confrontation between the leaders of East Pakistan and those of the West. Did the people of Bangla Desh not have sufficient reason to feel that their democratic rights had been grossly interfered with at the behest of an undemocratic minority? Were there not enough grounds for them to feet that a minority group had aligned itself with certain forces to obstruct the constitutional process and to deprive the majority of the people of their rights? Indeed, these apprehensions were further fortified by the steady military build-up which became evident. This showed that political confrontation was soon to be followed by `military confronta­tion ', if the majority did not submit to the dictation of the minority ".

 

Conspiracy History

 

" Indeed, we had warned in our statement of the 24th February that dark conspiratorial forces had always intervened in our country whenever the people were to take over power through the democratic process. The microscopic minority which represented the vested interests of the Western Wing, . had by sabotaging democracy deprived the 75 million people of Bangla Desh, as they did the oppressed masses of the Western Wing of their basic rights. In 1953 the Bengali Prime Minister was dismissed by a conspiracy of the Punjabi ruling clique. In 1954, the elected Government in East Bengal was dismissed and the Constituent Assembly itself was dismissed by the same clique. When general elections were to be held in early 1959, the vested interests of the Punjab once again struck and usurped power. Today the Punjabi ruling coterie is attempting to repeat this disgraceful history. But they should know that the awakened masses of Bangla Desh as also the oppressed masses of the Western Wing shall resist their foul conspiracies by every means possible.

 

" To set the record straight, I should make it clear that I had never conveyed any impression that an RTC-type of conference should be held. I had only conveyed to the President that he should come to Dacca in order to see the grave situation prevailing in Bangla Desh. As for the earlier meeting proposed by the President, we had made it clear that our pre-occupation with our Working

 

Committee and Parliamentary Party meetings which had been fixed several weeks in advance would not enable us to travel to Rawalpindi at that time. Further­more, we had pointed out that constitutional issues were best resolved within the National Assembly and its Committees rather than by secret negotiations, and that once a National Assembly had been brought into being, there was no justification for any RTC or secret parleys."

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said he had recounted "all these facts" in detail to " repudiate the charge that the Awami League had in any way obstructed the transfer of power. " The majority party is certainly not the party which would stand to gain by such obstruction. It is only too clear to the people of the country and indeed the world that it is a minority group of the Western Wing which has obstructed and is continuing to obstruct the transfer of power."

 

He said the democratic way of life could not be established nor could power be transferred to the people if a minority group conspired with the vested interests to frustrate the democratic process. " If the democratic way of life be the ultimate casualty and if the proposed transfer of power is aborted, this minority group and those who colluded with it shall not escape responsibility ".

He said: " Are these very elements not the ` handful of people ' whose actions have struck grievous blows to the efforts of the elected representatives of the people to evolve a basis for living together."

 

Only Authority

 

He said today after the elections the only legitimate source of authority in the country are the elected representatives of the people. " No individual can claim authority superior to that of the elected representatives. We as the representatives of the overwhelming majority of the people of Bangla Desh assert that we are the only legitimate source of authority for Bangla Desh. Indeed by virtue of our majority position, we are the legitimate source of authority for the whole country."

 

The events of the last seven days have shown that all branches of Government functioning throughout Bangla Desh have accepted us as the source of legitimate authority and have carried out our directives.

 

" Today, the President and the Government at Islamabad should acknowledge this basic fact. It would, therefore, be in consonance with the declared wishes of the people of Bangla Desh that no one should interfere with the exercise of authority by the elected representatives of the people.  ,

 

No National Assembly at Gunpoint

 

" This brings us to the question of the sitting of the National Assembly announced for the 25th March." The Awami League President said: " We had ourselves time and again asserted the urgency in respect of an early sitting but today a grave and abnormal situation has been created. A virtual reign of terror has been created in pursuance of the policy of military confrontation of the civilian population of Bangla Desh."

He said the Members of the National Assembly could not be expected to discharge their duties in ' an atmosphere of terror.'

 

" So long as this state of confrontation as also the inflow of army personnel and arms from the Western Wing continues, so long as an atomsphere of repres­sion is maintained, so long as there are daily reports of military firing upon civilians in different parts of Bangla Desh, the members from Bangla Desh could hardly be expected to contemplate participating in the National Assembly at gunpoint," he said.

 

Measures Suggested

 

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said: "If the President sincerely desired that the National Assembly, as the sovereign body of the elected representatives of the people, should function then the following measures must immediately be adopted:

(a) Immediate withdrawal or all military personnel to their barracks;

(b) Immediate cessation of firing upon civilians, so that not a single bullet is fired with immediate effect;

(c) Immediate cessation of the military build-up and the heavy inflow of military personnel from the Western Wing;

(d) Non-interference by the military authorities in the different branches of the Government functioning in Bangla Desh and direction to desist from victimisa­tion of Government officers and employees;

(e) Maintenance of law and order to be left exclusively to the police and Bengali EPR assisted, wherever necessary, by Awami League volunteers;

(f) Immediate withdrawal of Martial Law; and

(g) Immediate transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people".

He said if the ` military confrontation ' is continued: ` let there be no doubt that no National Assembly can ever function'.

 

People's Determination

 

The Awami League President said: " Our people have already proclaimed to the world that they shall no longer allow themselves to be exploited as a colony or a market. They have expressed their determination to be the free citizens of a free country. Our economy must be saved from ruination. Our toiling masses are to be saved from stravation, disease and unemployment. The millions in the cyclone-ravaged areas are yet to be rehabilitated.

" If the ruling coteries seek to frustrate these aspirations, the people are ready for a long and sustained struggle for their emancipation. We pledge to lead this struggle and ultimately to attain for the people their cherished goal of emancipation for which so many martyrs have shed their blood and made the supreme sacrifice of their lives. The blood of these martyrs shall not go in vain.

 

" The first phase of our struggle has been launched. Our heroic masses have displayed indomitable courage and determination. They have braved bullets and violated curfews in a planned manner. I also congratulate our people, and our Awami League volunteers, who have frustrated the designs of agent provocateurs and anti-social elements to create communal tension between different religious groups and between Bengalis and so-called ` non-Bengalis '.

 

" I once again reaffirm that every person living in Bangla Desh is a Bengali and that his person, property and honour are our sacred trust and must at any cost be protected. We are proud to note that since our volunteers have undertaken the task of vigilance and patrol, there have been no untoward incidents".

 

" Our struggle must continue. The objective of the present phase of the struggle is the immediate termination of Martial Law and the transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people. Till this objective is attained, our non­violent, non-co-operation movement must continue."

 

(THE DAWN, Karachi-March 8, 1971)

 

 

Source: Bangladesh Documents, vol – I, p. 218-222