Following the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and his family, General Zia arranged the notorious ‘yes-no’ vote to illegally grab state power and solidify his hold on to it, in a major blow to the country’s democracy of that time at a nascent stage.
That farcical ‘yes-no’ vote, devoid of any electoral campaign or any rival candidate and marked by public fear, would remain the darkest one in the country’s history. In the absence of any opposition candidate, the poster of Zia donned in his military uniform was forcibly stuck to walls, rickshaws, and other vehicles to employ a wave of scare tactics among the public.
Following a massive rejection by countrymen unlike previous one’s, almost all the voting centres wore a deserted look. As a face-saving from such humiliation, later children were not even spared as they were forced to come and vote, a sheer contrast to the election held in 1973 that saw mass participation.
Ironically at the end of the day, Zia was announced to be the winner with a jaw-dropping 99.4 percent votes. “No one voted against Zia”, a usual metaphor popularly used to mock the outcome.
Interestingly, this sheer humiliation for the newly independent country’s democracy did not end here. This farcical election and events in the aftermath are the episodes of absolute disgrace in the history of Bangladesh.
Within years of the country’s independence, Ziaur Rahman rose to the rank of a major general and became deputy chief of staff. But, his thirst for complete power, coupled with extraordinary ambition, had never quenched. The murderer used to wear black spectacles only to hide his overambitious eyes. After becoming the deputy chief of staff, he, driven by the goal of holding state power, patronized the disgruntled group of assassins from the army responsible for the grisly murder of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu with most of his family members. Later faced with massive resistance following the killing of Bangabandhu, he unleashed a killing spree within the army. Afterwards, at his order more than a hundred freedom fighter military officers were abducted, sent behind the bars and killed. Even sacred of possible public protest, he employed the martial law of ordinance to slap a ban on the country’s politics. Even prominent politicians were arrested en mess. At one stage, he announced himself as the president by replacing interim president Justice Sayem, pointing a gun at him.
Then in utter disrespect for the constitution and martial law, he arranged the yes-no vote on May 30, 1977. He was the sole candidate and people could only vote for and against him. In a virtually zero turnout amid a state of fear prevailing in the country, a 88% turnout was officially declared and around 100% (99.4%) votes were said to be cast in his favor. Moreover staying in the position of the chief of the army, he illegally formed the party BNP, a move clearly defying all definitions of the constitution earned over an ocean of blood. And further abusing the cover of that party, he contested the presidential polls in 1978 and declared himself the winner. Foreign media outlets reported that he obtained 120% votes in some constituencies. As reported in The Herald in Pakistan, the birth of BNP was masterminded by the infamous agencies of Pakistan. All that this party aims at is to get Awami League on the wrong foot and whip up the anti-India mindset as the absence of the party’s thinkers was filled up by some betrayer Awami Leaguers, extreme leftists, and Muslim Leaguers, perhaps the biggest irony with the supreme sacrifices made by our 3 million martyrs, countless war heroes and every single freedom-loving people in our country.