Oxford University Press Pakistan organised the launch of The Unfinished Memoirs of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Islamabad Club Wednesday (Nov. 21, 2012). Speakers included Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs adviser to the prime minister of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohammad Mijarul Quayes, rights activist I.A. Rehman, and Mr. Hamid Mir of Gew News.
Quoting various Pakistani historians, Hamid Mir elaborated that Sheikh Saheb, as he called him, was an active worker of the All India Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. He said Sheikh Mujib would sell Millat, a pro-Pakistan newspaper, in the streets of Dhaka. Mir talked of the unfortunate incidents on the part of West Pakistani rulers and Pakistan Army that led to the creation of Bangladesh. He quoted Faiz on the horror of 1971 war in Bangladesh and demanded of the Pakistan govt an official apology to Bangladesh for what it did in 1971. He said it’s the brave who apologise. “An official apology would not weaken Pakistan. It would rather strengthen it,” said Mir.
I.A. Rehman observed that the book is free of bitterness and harsh words. Comparing the then East Pakistan with the west unit, Rehman noted that the youth were active in politics and Pakistan Movement in Bengal – Sheikh Mujeeb being one of them – whereas the ordinary people in West Pakistan believed what they were told by feudal lords or religious gurus.
Foreign Secretary Mohammad Mijarul Quayes said Bangabandhu was a person who shaped journey of a nation to statehood and said the book is an unbiased piece of narrative on political history of the Sub-continent. He said Sheikh Mujib was one of the most powerful communicators of Bengal. He talked of his mastery of the language and his Shakespearean response to the questions by the press in London: “Today I am only to be seen and no to be heard.”
“The book is a celebration of that great man. It is also a celebration of a time that spans our journey together,” remarked Quayes. “We still can’t fathom the fullest power of this great man. That one speech on March 7, 1971, made him from an individual into the father of the nation.” He said Mujib is the first one who gave shape to a post-colonial state.
Goher Rizwi spoke of Bangabandhu rather personally. “Whenever Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy would stay at our place, a young man would turn up, he was Mujib. I have seen him (Mujib) on several occasions listening to music and tears rolling down his cheeks. It is his heart and his concern for the fellow human beings that really define him,” Rizvi remembered.
“It was his concern for the people of Bengal that brought him into politics. Marginalisation of the people inspired him to fight the colonial masters. But when he realised that people were still marginalised after independence from the British rule, Bangabandhu demanded autonomy,” Rizvi went on.
Rizvi said Sheikh Mujib had a strong connection with Bengali literature, language and songs. He talked of Sheikh Mujib’s struggle against economic marginalisation as well as cultural (read linguistic) suppression. “Bangabandhu once was asked as to what was his greatest strength. ‘I love my people’, was his response. Asked what was his weakness, he said ‘I love them too much’,” said Gowher Rizvi.
Rizvi said Sheikh Mujib was a deeply religious person but espoused secularism. “He challenged the single identity of the post-colonial-state nationalism.”
He commended I.A. Rehman for “always being on the right side of the history.”
“The book provides us a moment to reflect on what went wrong but not in the spirit of blaming. Sheikh Mujib’s demand for autonomy is as relevant today as was back then. If this book has any value it is that it’s a reflection of a sincere, passionate man on problems facing people around him,” Rizvi concluded.
The memoirs are based on four of the six notebooks Sheikh Mujib wrote while he was a state prisoner in 1967 and covers the period until 1955. Rizvi Saheb says police record shows receipt of 6 notebooks, but only four of them have been recovered so far.