THE MUJIBNAGAR GOVERNMENT
Nabid Hasan Dip
Photo: Masum-al-hasan, News Archived
2019 marks the 48th anniversary of the war of independence of Bangladesh. It also means that it is the 48th anniversary of the formation of the first provincial government of Bangladesh. The formation of the first independent government of Bangladesh on the 10th April of 1971 following the massacre of 25th March by the Pakistan Army and the announcement of the Independence of Bangladesh on the 26th March is one of the most significant days in the history of this country. The government is known as the “Mujibnagar Government” and played a vital role in directing the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.
After the Bengalis of former East Pakistan achieved majority in the general election of 1970, the West Pakistani leaders denied the Bengalis of their right of forming the Government of Pakistan. Overall situation of the country kept worsening and after the failure to politically handle the matter, the leaders of West Pakistan along with the Pakistan Army designed and executed one of the worst mass murdering in the history of mankind in a desperate attempt to silence the roaring voice of the people of East Pakistan. During the late hours of the 25th March, members of Pakistan military, who were secretly flown to East Pakistan along with weapons and ammunitions, came out on the streets of Dhaka and started killing anyone they could stumble upon. The mass killing was named as “Operation Searchlight”. The aim of the operation was to eliminate one third of the total population of East Pakistan within 72 hours. This attack was the clear indication that the Pakistani leaders were not at all ever interested to allow the population of East Pakistan has their equal rights.
The military captured Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. But before they were able to arrest Bangabandhu, he proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh in the early hours of the 26th March. The written copy of the announcement was transferred to the Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra; a small radio station established at Kalurghat of Chittagong and was aired to let the people of Bengal know that the war of independence had started.
But as there were no constitutional structure or any Government at all, it was hard to achieve international recognition as a sovereign country. Moreover, a structured authority was required to operate and oversee the operations of the newly-found Muktibahini, the armed force consisting of mass Bengali population with endless courage and love for the country. As a result, Mujibnagar Government was formed on the 10th April of 1971 as a ray of light in the darkness that was consuming the Bengali people with its fierce claws.
After the declaration of Independence was announced through radio on the 26th and 27th March started rolling a lot of gears throughout the country. Major Shafiullah organized freedom fighters in Mymensingh, Major Khaled Mosharraf started training warriors in Brahmanbaria, Major Abu Osman Chowdhury gathered warriors in Chuadanga and many others were gathering and training up warriors in different places around Bangladesh. Colonel Osmany and Lt. Colonel MA Rab arranged a meeting with the rebellious officers of the Army at the frontiers of Habiganj and Brahmanbaria. Several senior army officials such as Major Zia, Major Shafiullah, Major Khaled Mosharraf, Major Kazi Nuruzzaman, Major Nurul Islam and Major Momin Chowdhury attended the meeting. A regiment was formed of which, Colonel Osmani was the commander and MA Rab was the second in command.
In the meantime, top Awami league leaders reached India and consolidated themselves. Many civilians joined them. They held discussions among themselves in Agartala, Kolkata and Shilachar and decided that the formation of a wartime Government is a must.
A significant chapter of the liberation war of Bangladesh began on the 10th April, when the first provincial government was formed accepting the proclamation of Independence by Bangabandhu. It was also decided that an official oath-taking ceremony is mandatory in order to achieve global attention as well as gaining tactical advantage in the war. As Bangabandhu was the leader who unified the Bengalis regardless of their political-religious views, it was decided that he would be announced as the president of the Government. It was hoped that the involvement of his name will encourage the Bengali people in spite of him being captured the Pakistani Army. After many long hours, the details of the announcement of the Government were all sorted out. The line-up and the major concerns and objectives were decided through the discussion among the veteran leaders. Amirul Islam, the eminent lawyer, worked out every details of the draft proclamation that would be announced on the occasion. Yousuf Ali, a teacher turned politician was chosen to recite the proclamation on the day which he did with utter finesse.
On the 17th of the April, the oath-taking ceremony of the war-time Government took place in the remote village of Baiddanathtola, situated in Meherpur of Chuadnaga district. The major leaders of the Awami league gathered and proclaimed the birth of Bangladesh.
The revolutionary wartime government took oath under the leadership of Syed Nazrul Islam, Taj Uddin Ahmed, Captiain Mansur Ali and AHM Quamruzzaman. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was announced as the President of the new-founded country. But as Bangabandhu was held captive at an undisclosed place in Pakistan by the Pakistan Army; Syed Nazrul Islam, the Vice President of the Government was entrusted with the power, responsibilities and functions of the president in the absence of the president.
Veteran Awami league leader Tajuddin Ahmed was declared as the Prime minister. He was entrusted with the duty of taking care of the Defence, Information, Broadcasting and Communications, Economic Affairs, Planning Division, Education, Local Government, Health, Labour, Social Welfare, Establishment as well as other affairs the responsibility of which was not yet entrusted to anyone.
Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed was announced as the Minister of the Ministry of Foreign affairs, law and Parliamentary Affairs. Captain M Mansur Ali was trusted with the duties of Ministry of Finance, Industry and Commerce. Last but not the least, AHM Qamaruzzaman was announced as the minister of the Ministry of Home, Civil Supplies, Relief and Rehabilitation and Agriculture.
The acting president of the newly formed Government was treated with a guard of honor. Although the oath taking ceremony was held on the 17th, the ministers received their portfolio on the following day. The Mujibnagar Government consisted of fifteen ministries and divisions. Some ministries were placed under the control of the cabinet. The Ministry of Defense was placed under the supervision of Colonel MAG Osmani, announcing him as the Commander-in-chief; while SA Samad acted as the Defense Secretary and Colonel Abdur Rab as the Chief of Staff. The ministry of Defense divided the total area of Bangladesh into eleven sectors, with a sector commander for each of the sectors, except from the sector 10, the naval sector. While operating, commandos acted under the command of the concerned sector commander while operating. The ministry also supervised three brigades; the Z-force, K-force and S-force operating under the commands of Major Ziaur Rahman, Major Khaled Mosharraf and Major KM Shafiullah respectively.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs played the vital role of obtaining international support. It established Bangladesh missions in several countries and dispatched diplomatic emissaries many other to achieve global support. Diplomatic missions were set up in Kolkata, Delhi, Washington, London, New York and Stockholm. On the other hand, Diplomatic delegations were dispatched to the UNO, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand and Burma.
M Mansur Ali and Khandaker Asaduzzaman acted as the secretaries of the Ministry of Finance. Cabinet secretariat was established with the duty of developing strategies of warfare operations, implementing the accepted operations, monitoring and reporting the outcomes and possible improvements.
Ministry of Establishment had the General Administration Division under its arms with Nurul Kader as the secretary of the division. The duty of general administration was to deal with the transfers, appointments, promotions and framing of service rules. The division also had a zonal administrative council. It had nine administrative zones with a chairman appointed for each zone.
The operating head of the Ministry of Health and Welfare was introduced as a Director General which was later elevated to Secretary. The health and welfare department worked in two divisions. The duty of the first division was to provide medical support to the freedom fighters of the army or under the supervision of the ministry of defense. The second division concentrated on providing medical support to the civilians who did not actively took part in the liberation war.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had the important duty of building up public opinions in favor of the liberation war. The operations of the ministry were divided into four sections; Radio, Films, Publications and Fine arts and Design.
Ministry of Home was responsible to ensure law and order in the liberated areas of the country. In order to that, the ministry established the Bangladesh Police Force and selected the uniform-badge and monogram. Abdul Khalek, initially appointed as the first IG of Bangladesh police was later promoted as the home secretary.
Ministry of Home and Ministry of Relief co-supervised the Relief and Rehabilitation division. This division worked with the plans of rehabilitating the refugees in India and undertook the execution of the plans after the freedom which was eventually achieved on 16th December, 1971.
To engage the members of provincial and national assembly in various activities and oversee their achievements, the Parliamentary Affairs was developed. This division operated under the direct supervision of Foreign affairs and Law and Parliamentary affairs.
Last but not the least, the Agriculture Division was established to develop plans for overcoming the unavoidable food crisis in the post war Bangladesh. It concentrated on developing plans that would ensure the highest possible production of agricultural goods after the war.
The Mujibnagar Government played a vital role in the war of independence of Bangladesh. It provided the liberation war with a structural integrity and countrywide authoritative control which ensured synchronization among all the troops of Freedom Fighters. It also had tremendous effects in achieving international support which accelerated the freedom of Bangladesh. Also, the government provided with an outline of the Government to be developed after the war.
To sum up, it can be stated without the slightest doubt that the Mujibnagar Government and 17th April is a vital part of the liberation war and an important force playing an undeniable role in achievement of the freedom of the country.