After reaching home I contacted Khaleda Zia to inform that I have reached Dhaka. She invited me over dinner same very night at her cantonment residence. I told Nimmi about her invitation. Nimmi curtly said she would not be going. It was known that she would not be accepting Khaleda’s invitation. So, at the appointed time I alone went to the house at Shaheed Moinul Hussain road. I was received there by a young man. He introduced himself as Mosaddek Ali Falu, the PS to the Prime Minister. He got me seated in a sitting room and with an unsophisticated green exposing his teeths informed that Madam had already left her office at Shugandha and was expected to arrive any moment. Some how, I found this young man unpalatable at the very first sight and was least interested to talk to him. But he was trying to be chummy and at one point asked why Nimmi Bhabi(My wife) did not come? This made me all the more irritated and with out replying to his querry just told him
Fine, I shall be waiting and picked up a magazine from the table to hide my face. Falu left the room.
Within a few minuites I realised Khaleda Zia’s motorcade was moving inside through the gate. She came straight to the room where I was sitting. As she moved in, I stood up and exchanged Salam. She requested me to take my seat and sat on the sofa next to mine and asked
Where is Nimmi and why she did not come?
Being slightly embarassed I replied
Due to long tour she has become a bit unwell and requested me to beg apology from you on her behalf.
You had visited quite a few countries this time. Such long tours are all ways tiring ofcourse. tell me how was your tour?
Good. The visits this time were basically for fulfilling the obligation of conveying thanks and gratitudes to the friends. If you don’t mind to be at ease while conversing, I deem it appropriate to know your views about one thing.
She with an inquisitive look wanted to know
What is that?
Since I stepped on the soil of Bangladesh I found every where you are being addressed as Madame. Since the days at Kakul I had been used to addressing you as Bhabi but now I am not too sure how should I address you?
Khaleda Zia burst out into laughter at my inquiry and replied with out any hesitation
You will address me as Bhabi not Madame.
I was releived with her reply.
Meanwhile, a household staff came and said the dinner has been served.
Lets go, after having dinner we shall talk.
The menu was very simple. Boiled rice, fish, vegitable and salad etc. Both me and the slain President Ziaur Rahman were fond of such simple delights. After dinner we returned to the same sitting room. On one of the side table some packets of Paan Masallah of various kind were kept. Both of us took a packet of liking. While chewing the Masallah she called Falu through intercom. As he came in she instructed him she would not like to be disturbed by any visitor or phone call till I leave. Mr. Falu went away with the instructions.
I am very greatful for everything that you have done for me but I shall not belittle you saying thanks.
I have done nothing for your goodself but had done whatever for the greater interest of the country and the people after a consentious decision. You have won the elections as the greater majority of the people who charish anti Indian sentiment and beleive in the spirit of nationalism and religious values. We also beleive in the same spirit in view of that whatever we have done within our means for your victory was our moral obligation. Therefore, it is not me alone who deserves any thanks. Among those who played active leading role to arrange your election funding the names of Mr. Nawaz Sharif the Prime Minister and Choudhury Shujat Hussain the Home Minister of Pakistan deserve special mentioning for their efforts. Both of them had conveyed their Salam and sincere congratulations through me. They also invited you to visit Pakistan at your convinience. I consider, it would be prudent for you to thank both for their sincere efforts and the invitation directly on person from here. I have the secured personal hotline numbers of both. She agreed. She pointed to the red telephone and requested me to connect the two numbers.
I got the numbers connected one by one. In short Khaleda Zia warmly exchanged the greetings and coveyed her gratitude and thanks to both. Mia Nawaz Sharif while talking reiteriated the invitation for the state visit to Pakistan at her convinience. I remained a silent witness and listened to their conversations quitely. after she finished talking to them Bhabi became thoughtful for a while and said
Should I put up a request?
Of course. I replied.
You join my cabinet as Senior Minister. Initially you would be inducted from the technocrat Cota there after I shall get you elected through a by election. Holding that post you would assist and help me in every possible way. Your other colleagues could also join BNP. It would have been very helpfull to get around selflessly commited, experienced and trustworthy persons like you all. There is acute shortage of selfless, compitant, trustworthy and dependable people in the party.
Such a propossal astounded me completely. Why did she came up with such an unacceptable proposition! What could be the reason behind? That is what I was thinking about.
Khaleda Zia was well aware that all the surviving top leaders of Sena Parisad since the days of liberation war took the initiative to raise an clandenstine organization on the basis of a well thought of principled philosophy and programe and thus got involved in national politics to thwart the far fetched blue print of Indian domination after independence. Gen. Ziaur Rahman had also willingly expressed solidarity with their effoerts politics. But after he was brought to the center of power through successful revolutions of 15th August and 7th November 1975, Gen. Zia took himself away from the politics of Sena Parisad and decided to persue power politics compromising with the anti national force Awami-Bakshalites and their master India. At the same time he unleashed a heinous and ruthless cleansing campaign to demolish the strength of Sena Parisad to prove that he was not associated with the revolutionary political change of 15th August ’75 spear headed by Sena Parisad. But within a short period of time he realized that he had commited the fatal mistake betraying his fellow tested comrades of Sena Parisad and it’s political philosophy and aim. In other words, by doing so as he had destroyed his own power base, he could see multipronged deadly conspiracies were fuming against him from within and out side. At that crucial juncture during his 2nd visit to PRC Gen. Zia sought help from Sena Parisad suggesting to forget and forgive what all had happened in the past and proposed to do politics together. But his offer was considered unacceptable to the leaders of the Sena Parisad for valid reasons. As his offer was rejected egoist President Gen. Ziaur Rahman became even more revengeful towards the Sena Parisad and the top leadership of the organization. The axe befell! Due to his vindictive brutal onslaught the Sena Parisad became weak to a great extent organizationally. But even then it had not been possible to subdue it’s spirit and struggle completely. The contributions of Sena Parisad behind the scene in the down fall of dictator Gen. Ershad and her election victory had proven that to Khaleda Zia. As a result, she became scared. She also realized that at any given time if it is required for the greater interest of the country and nation the real face of Gen Zia, who had played vital role from behind the scene for Gen. Ershad’s downfall and factual truth behind her election victory can only be revealed by the top leadership of Sena Parisad. That is why she was trying to keep us under her control by hook or crook. If ever we join BNP then we shall lose the credibitity to reveal those truths and facts. But this was nothing but a futile exercise on part of the newly elected Prime Minister indeed!
Because, during ’71, those selflessly dedicated brave hearts among the freedom fighters who took the initiative to raise a covert organization risking their lives against all odds to fight against Indian hegemony at the same time materialize the spirit and dream of the liberation war, that is to establish a truly independent, pro-people, progressive, prosperous and happy Bangladesh can never betray the cause though self-seeking opportunist Gen. Zia had done so just to usurp state power. So, I replied
Bhabi, being respectfull to your gracious request I, take the liberty to say that at present joining your party would not be beneficial to either side. Thus you might consider my proposal instead. Many leaders and members of Sena Parisad are still languishing in the Jail on ficticious charges. You can set them free and at the same time allow the opportunity to those who are living in exile to return to actively participitate in the national politics freely. In the mid way Gen. Zia had decided to take himself away from us though fundamentally there is no such contradiction between his and our politics. Take for example, his 19 point programe has been taken from the political programe of Sena Parisad. Our enimies are very strong and well organized. They are getting organized not only as Awami League but using quite a few other platforms as well. Like wise, we should also raise two-three more like minded political organizations. We shall fight along with you unitedly as a dependable ally to uproot the anti national Indian lackeys from the soil of Bangladesh. There is no valid reason to consider the leaders and the workers of Sena Parisad as vindictive. Bhabi, I am saying with utmost sincerity that you should not consider us your foes. Our vision and auim is the same only the path to achieve the goals might be different. Taking lessons from the past omissions and mistakes we must be forward looking and think about the future. Particularlly, we have to forget all the bitterness of the past for the sake of consolidating the spirit of nationalism. I don’t want to deliberate any more on this as I beleave you are well informed about the Sena Parisad as an organization the ideals and principles of its leadership. Today you are known as the Leader of the Country(Desh Netri). You have no darth of learned people around who can enlighten you politically. Even then I shall like to say a few words if you like.
Please go ahead.
Siting at the center of power it had never had been possible for any one to organize any party on ediological mooring or a fleet of selflessly committed cadres to implement the political programe in the past. It wiouldn’t be possible in future either that is a proven historical reality. An ediology based party and tested cadres can be raised only through the struggle. Assembling people with different political mooring and believers in conflicting political philosophies a platform can be created but that platform can never emerge organizationally as a cohesive ediology based political party due to inherent contradictions. Those who flocks around, most of them are opportunists that experience you have earned by now. In the last elections BNP won not due to its oraganizational streanth. The greater majority of the people voted you not the BNP. Because, they found in you an uncompromising nationalist leader with undaunting courage to fight against dictatorship, Indian hegimonism and true believer in religious values. But obviously to function as the Prime Minister you have to be dependant on the leaders and workers of your platform or so called party and therefore you would be compelled to make many compromises. You have no other alternative but to accept this fate accomplee. In view of this reality as an astute and far sighted patriot you must understand the necessity to allow to grow at least two or three like minded political parties.
If this initiative is not taken then it will never be possible to up root the anti national lackeys of outside powers and ingrain the politics of Bangladeshi nationalism and religious values from the state to grass root level in the country. As a result, with the passage of time Bangladesh would become a client state dependant on India and the countrymen would be chained into the bondage of slavery. Should that happens then it would be extremely difficult and far fetched to free the nation from that strangulated suffocation. For such a pathetic consequence of a nation who earned its independence fighting a bloody liberation war and making wanton sacrifices none of the rulers and the ruling elites controlling the corridors of power would be spared. Even the so called leaders of the civil society have to pay heavily for the cumulative failure. Bhabi was listning very attentively what I had been saying but it was not understood how did she took my honest submission as she changed the topic with out any comment or remark on the subject.
I need a competant, honest and trustworthy Principal Secretary and a PS. I am provided with a few names. Among those the names of Dr. Kamal Siddiqi as Principal Secretary and Sahbbiuddin as PS are also there. I have heard you know both of them very intimately. If my information is correct then I would like to know your openion regarding them. The enquiry was apperently simple but there might be some motive behind so, I thought for a while and replied
I came to know Kamal Siddiqi after I had reached Kolkata escaping from West Pakistan in 1971. Responding to the declaration of independence by Maj. Zia he as the SDO of Norail revolted and joined the liberation war. Out of the revolting CSP officers of the than Pakistan Nurul Kader Khan, Kamal Siddiqi and Tawfiq Elahi Choudhury these three civil servants sought permission from the Prime Minister of the provisional government to stay in the sectors to fight along with the freedom fighters instead of joining the secretariat at Mujib Nagar. Kamal and his close friend Benu then were staying in the camp of
1East Bengal Regt with Capt. Hafiz at Bongaon and was taking training. I was also then heping Capt. Hafiz to reorganize the 1East Bengal Regt. That is how I came to know Kamal and Benu. After the basic training both were sent to Capt. Salahuddin, the commander of Gojadanga sub-sector of No8 sector. After a while the provisional government allowed only Tawfiq Elahi Choudhury to remain in the sector so, the rest had to join the secretariat. Kamal was appointed as the PS to the Foreign Minister Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed of the provisional government. As desired by rebel SDO of Shunam Ganj Akbar Ali Khan(Khasru Mama)Kamal’s boarding and lodging were arranged at the residence of Mr. R. I. Choudhury(Nimmi’s father)in Kolkata. Being an intimate friend I can say without any hesitation that politically conscious Kamal is a patriot, brilliant and efficient bureaucrat. Kamal also has the experience serving in various Ministries. After the revolution of 15th August kamal was appointed as the secretary to the President Mustaq. Considering every aspect If you have decided or deciding to accept Kamal as your Principal Secretary then from his knowledge, experience, honesty, integrity, trustworthyness and efficiency you would be immensely benifited that is what I believe.
Sabbihuddin is the ealder brother of Sael, a friend of my younger brother Shapan. he worked as the 1st secretary under me in Hong Kong. Sahbbi addresses me as Dalim Bhai due to close association. his charecter traites and proffessional compitancy is beyond any questrion just like Kamal. Sahbbi is also politically conscious patriot। Sahbbi is a well read efficient bureaucrat as well. Should you select him as your PS then you would be benifited similarly like Kamal. As it was quite late so I got up and said
I have already taken much of your time so would like to beg leave now if you allow.
Bhabi escorted me up to the poarch and asked
When are you going back?
I got this opportunity to visit Dhaka after a long time therefore, should you allow then I would like to spend about two weeks with my immediate family members and friends before going back.
Okay, I shall speak to Mustafiz(Foreign Minister). You may go to the Ministry at your convenience to complete the formalities.
Many thanks. My sincere apology once again for westing much of your valuable time.
Just before leaving after having substantive free and frank discussions was it necessary to be so formal?
May be not, but as the Prime Minister your every minuite is valuable.
That might be correct, but I invited you over an informal dinner at the residence to talk freely in a congenial atmosphere so, I presume that was not required. Khaleda Zia sounded sincere. With out prolonging our conversation any further I returned home.
On return, I found after dinner all were gossiping sitting around the Paan plater. As I appeared all focused their attention towards me to know what did I discussed with the Prime Minister so long! Nimmi picked on me and teasingly said
You had met your beloved Bhabi after a long time, both must have been revisiting the fondest memories of the past isn’t it?
Not really, but she wanted know why you did not accompany me? It took some time for me to think of a befitting reason. After knowing that you were not well healthwise she was considerate enough to sanction two weeks leave.
For my illness?
That’s correct. As it was not possible to tell her the real reason so I thought this would be most reasonable to say you were unwell to get a few days leave and that had worked miraculously!
Everyone laughed and said
Great! Well done. We shall be having lots of fun during these two weeks.
Nimmi, see if you can connect your dear Bodda(Big Brother). I shall have to give him a piece of mind.
Nimmi connected Kamal and handed over the receiver to me.
How are you son of a gun?
Totally insulting! Why do I have to know from others about your arrival?
Reached in the afternoon unscheduled and we were invited over dinner at the Moinul Road. Calling you just after returning a few minuites back.
You are supressing.
Not me but you.
What do you mean?
Very simple. You had cherished for long to serve with Khaleda Zia closely. To fullfil that desire I came to know you have maneuvered quite effectively behind the scene.
How could you know?
It is hard to beleave that a knowledgeable and cunning bureaucrat of your stature is unaware of the fact that it is impossinle to evade the sharp eyes of a high flying falcon. Any way, your Madam had known my openion regarding your appointment as her Principal Secretary and Sahbbi as her PS.
Is that so, what did you say?
I have said a bit more than what you deserve to fullfil the obligation being a sincere and close friend. Therefore, nothing to worry about, your dream would come true. Nimmi snatched away the receiver and said
In that case the entire Prime Minister’s Secretariat would be in our fists isn’t it Bodda? Why are you not saying anything? I can understand, once saddled on the positions both of you would become untouchables that is beyond reach. If that happens then we shall not be surprised at all. Do remember this.
I took the receiver once again from Nimmi and asked
Jokes apart, tell me Kamal why you had been so much interested to get into that slaught? After 7th November revolution there was some misunderstanding had developed between you and Gen. Zia concerning Piter Custer, the Dutch journalist friend of yours. You had to fled the capital and remained under ground about 3 to 4 months sheltered by Haq Bhai in Jessore. There after, you surrendered and stayed in the red building at the Nazimuddin road for a while. Hope your decision is not related to that?
Kamal did not reply but felt embarrassed. I realized there was a linkage. As it was very late we called it a night. We were having good times during the leave. Time was flowing fast with the parties thrown by the friends, attending invitations of the immediate family members, outings organized by the known rich and famous ones and intimate family gatherings.