Dictator Ziaur Rahman grabbed state power after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and his family in 1975. He remained in power till 1981 with the help of Bangabandhu’s killers and anti-liberation extremist groups. He made the blueprints at both military and civilian levels to perpetuate his power, ending the dream of economic freedom for our people. Our people were, once again, taken hostage by a handful of classes like the British and Pakistani rulers. The cantonments became stained with the blood of patriotic army members. The freedom fighters who fought on the battlefield were cornered from the mainstream. Religious extremists and social evils gradually came to the fore.
After taking over the state power, killer Zia introduced village councils for forming his cadre groups across the country by making the ordinary rural people fool. BNP took control of every village by forming a force of 150 people in each village and appointing 11 members of the village council by undermining the democratic rights of thousands of rural people.
The radio was then handed over to the members of the village councils so that they could get Ziaur Rahman’s direction and instruct people in the village accordingly. Zia used the force to suppress the opinion of the ordinary village people.
Zia even took the initiative to suppress the freedom fighters who were in the army then. He made military persons, who returned from Pakistan, close to him whie dismissed the freedom fighters on various pretexts and killed them through mock trials.
According to research by Dhaka University teacher Syed Sirajul Islam published in an international journal in 1984, there were at least 50 persons at the ranks of Major General and Brigadier in Bangladesh Army by 1981. Among them, two were freedom fighters. Even only two of eight sector commanders of the Liberation War remained in the army till 1980. Of them, Major Shawkat Ali was removed from command and posted as Principal of Dhaka Staff College while General Manzur was posted in a remote area in Chittagong from Dhaka.
Between 1979 and 1981, Zia recruited a lot of staff in defence to curb the influence of freedom fighters in the force. He also created obstacles for freedom fighters and their family members for getting jobs in defence. Such activities brought the share of freedom fighters in the army to just 15%.
Moreover, before the so-called elections in 1979, Ziaur Rahman formed a party called BNP while he was the President and Chief of Army Staff. BNP inducted leaders and activists from the extreme religious and extreme leftists to form its committee. The 170-member executive committee of the BNP had 64 professionals, including 57 businessmen, leaving the politicians in minority. Even after that fraudulent election, it was found that out of 206 MPs from BNP, 84 were businessmen. Ziaur Rahman and his party started the malpractice of using illegal money, arms, and buying votes to tarnish the history of the country’s electoral system. The party, from the very beginning, wanted to rely on money and muscle power, not the people.
However, shortly after the party was formed using guns, the then newspaper The New Nation predicted the fall of the BNP. It reported that BNP was not a political party, rather a group of many extremist, isolated and selfish quarters. They conducted the party with chaos and conflict, and their main target was always the Awami League that led the Liberation War. They had even no ideology or basis of their own.
It was also said about the BNP then – perhaps the BNP itself would be the cause of its own fall. Most of the members of the party were of rampant greed, corruption and opportunists, and they would fall into their own trap and end up on their own.
The prediction about the party has come true today. The corruption, anti-state activities and involvement in the militancy of the Zia family and sabotage and destructive activities of the party people have isolated BNP from mass people. That is why they are now afraid to participate in the polls. And in the disguise of a political party, this merchant association BNP is trying to seize the state power by disrupting the elections in various ways, spreading instability in the society by inciting communalism, and burning people with petrol and bombs.