Bangladesh: An Open Letter to Foreign Minister Abdul Momen

17-Abdul-Momen

by Taj Hashmi 6 June 2020

Dear Dr. Momen:

 
I write this to draw your attention to your recent interview with an Indian weekly The Week , published on May 31, 2020, which all of our common friends and other Bangladeshis at home and abroad have found very gratuitous, objectionable, as it grossly undermines truth, and tarnishes the image of Bangladesh, which you represent as the diplomat-in-chief or Foreign Minister. Hence this open letter!

(The link: https://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html)

I have no problem with the interview per se, but with your answer to the last question by the interviewer Rabi Banerjee. Responding to his question, “How was your experience working with Mujibur Rahman?” you said:

“I travelled with him to West Pakistan [in 1970] for the round-table conference [after which he was arrested]. I used to look after his day-to-day paperwork. After independence, I served him in different ministries as a senior bureaucrat. I found him to be extremely committed.”

I know you since late 1960s. As a fellow-member and office holder of the National Student Federation (NSF) at Dhaka University, I know you were the President of the S.M Hall Unit of Dhaka University of the pro-Ayub Khan student organization (NSF) prior to your departure for Islamabad in 1968. I also know Sheikh Mujib had no reason to even know you let alone taking you as his travel companion while he was attending the Round Table Conference (RTC), convened by President Ayub Khan to meet the politicians from the two wings of Pakistan to resolve the political crisis in the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, among others, attended the RTC.

By the way, the RTC took place on 10th through 13th March 1969. And, you have given the wrong year to your interviewer Rabi Banerjee, instead of 1969 you have mentioned 1970 as the year of the RTC! Since you never travelled with Bangabandhu, let alone “looked after his day-to-day paperwork” – as you have inaccurately claimed to your interviewer – you possibly don’t even remember the correct year of the RTC! By the way,  Mujib was NOT arrested after the RTC but was arrested for the last time in his life, on 25th/26th March 1971, before the Pakistani military crackdown in East Pakistan.

Please give me just one reason why would Bangabandhu let you do his “paperwork” during the conference while he had senior and experienced aides like Dr. Kamal Hossain and Barrister Moudud Ahmed to handle those things and advise him accordingly? You were just an MA Final-Year student at Islamabad at that time. And, you never belonged to the pro-Awami League Student League either, rather you were an active member of the anti-Awami League and pro-Ayub Khan NSF ? I don’t blame you for your association with the NSF, as Your Truly was also  the President of the Jinnah Hall (Surjya Sen Hall) unit of the NSF at Dhaka University in 1969. People in their late teens and early twenties do things and associate themselves with groups which many of them later dissociate with completely. Examples abound!  By the way, Bangabandhu had no reason to tag you or any student leaders to the RTC in Islamabad.

You have another piece of misinformation in the Interview, which could well be misconstrued as an example of  one’s compulsive mendacious behaviour! You told your interviewer: “After

independence, I served him [Sheikh Mujib] in different ministries as a senior bureaucrat. I found him to be extremely committed”. I find your comment about Bangabandhu’s commitment to his cause condescendingly gratuitous, if not insulting!

However, the way you have given a totally baseless piece of information, which was nothing but a piece of misinformation or untruth, is beyond me! To put it in other words, as you have said that after independence you served Bangabandhu “in different ministries as a senior bureaucrat” (emphasis added) is anything butfarthest from the reality. First of all, you did NOT serve Bangabandhu but Bangladesh in several or just one ministry, and that too, not as a “senior bureaucrat” as you have deliberately claimed, but as one of the junior most bureaucrats, holding the rank of a section officer as the personal secretary to Dewan Farid Gazi, a state-minister in the Government of Bangladesh in 1973-1975.

You know that those of us who grew up together with you as students of Dhaka University in late 1960s and early 1970s, also remember you were never a CSP (Civil Service of Pakistan) or PFS (Pakistan Foreign Service) officer but were from the not-so-lucrative Central Secretariat Service (CSS) of the Government of Pakistan. Thus, your pretentious claim of holding a senior administrative position in early 1970s doesn’t hold any water.

Your interview, in sum stands out as a  collection of  preposterous and mendacious assertions. I’m afraid, they somehow also reflect one’s narcissistic and quixotic imagination, if not insecurity! I’m sorry to write this Mr. Momen, but as a stickler for accuracy, truth, and true history, I write this to you so that you apologise to the nation and to your Prime Minister for what could be your inadvertence. It’s necessary for the sake of truth. At the end of the day, truth matters most,  while everything else is useless.

I believe for glorifying the Bangabandhu, one doesn’t need to resort to doctoring the truth, because it’s counterproductive. And, one doesn’t need to glorify one’s hero and oneself simultaneously. One should refrain from self-glorification, even if it’s true. Most definitely, one shouldn’t do so  if one doesn’t have the evidence in support of such assertions. You must be knowing that so many of your friends and contemporaries are still around and most importantly, they are in touch with media, especially social media, in the post-IT Revolution. I just give you this unsolicited advice as an old friend: please don’t say or do things that undermine your position as the diplomat-in-chief of Bangladesh, as that also tarnish the image of the Government you represent, and the country you serve.

I cite some of your recent not-so-palatable and least diplomatic comments as examples of your inadvertence, if not deliberate attempt to distort things to the extreme. I paraphrase you to cite the examples:

a)     “Bangladeshi expatriates behaves like lords and nawabs at home”. You said so about Bangladeshi expatriate workers after some of them had complained about the gross mismanagement of authorities in providing them adequate quarantine facilities in Dhaka. They returned to Bangladesh from Italy after the outbreak of the Corona Virus in that country and were treated very unprofessionally, in the most undignified manner.

b)    “In the event of mass return of Bangladeshi expatriates to their homeland, there would be substantial rise in the incidents of theft and pilferage in the country”. This was another insensitive and unwarranted statement from someone of your stature.

c)     “India-Bangladesh relationship is like that between a husband and a wife”. This was possibly one of the two most irresponsible and silly public assertions made by you in the recent past! You know more than many of us as to how and why India has been maltreating Bangladesh, in so many ways that require multiple articles even to highlight them!

d)    The other most irresponsible comment of yours was: “There’s nothing to worry about Covid-19 pandemic, it’s like normal flu”. You knew you were wrong in saying so as we all know you were absolutely wrong in appraising Covid-19 pandemic mere as flu, which is afflicting the world for the last six months or so.

Last but not least, as a well wisher of yours I remind you the line between truth and falsehood, decency and indecency, reality and illusion are thin but distinctly visible. It’s as distinct as the difference between one’s real hair and the most expensive wig one sports to hide the reality!

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13 Comments

  • parvezkarim@hotmail.com'
    Parvez Karim
    June 7, 2020, 1:50 am

    Thank you Mr Hashmi for bringing to us the history of such bigots who supported Ayub Regime and sits in the high seats of this government while I see Freedom Fighter like Maj(Rtd) Rafiqul Islam , who was Sector Commander during the Liberation War ( was awarded the highest living award. Bir Uttam )take a Back seat
    Glory goes to these people who have exploited this country and is now in the good books of the dynasty of rulers

    My father was tortured by the Pak Army , suffered from PTSD till his death at a young age
    No wonder he made all his children promise to leave BD to be away from such people. But advised us to help the poor in BD in any way we can

    REPLY
  • annwarfeni@hotmail.com'
    ANWAR AHMED CHOWDHURY
    June 7, 2020, 8:52 am

    We must not hesitate to express our gratitudes to Professor Taj Hashmi for revealing such an incredibile truth of current Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. Unfortunately, every senior public officers or a high professionsl claimed himself as he was an ally of Great Leader Bangubandhu directly or even his sons allies or even his families etc, so unbearable to listen, this is now become a henious culture in Bangladesh for grashping administrative or financial opportunites. Hope Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will pay appropriate heed.

    REPLY
  • belu_bd@yahoo.com'
    Anowar hossain mirdha
    June 7, 2020, 9:24 am

    Thanks to Mr.Taj Hashmi,to speak the historical truth! We noticed only Mr.Moment,honourable minister! telling lies, many of present beneficiary so called leaders trying to speaking false history! After huge criticized, last list of freedom fighters false name published! They thought we are illiterates and rubbish! Any how strongly we are protesting against this type false and fraud speeches

    REPLY
  • shabbir1234@gmail.com'
    Shabbir Ahmed
    June 7, 2020, 11:17 am

    Most AL leadership like Mr. Momin have lied their way up. They have claimed credits for freedom fights as if this is only party that declared independence and fought the war single handedly. Lies have piled up so high that the young citizens of Bangladesh have no way to distinguish between a lie and the truth. History books have been twisted to show their point of view only. Momin is not qualified to be a minister representing our great nation. Then, which minister is qualified? We are led by a vicious leadership who is selling the country to our neighbor.

    REPLY
  • mnasser61@gmail.com'
    Nasser Rahman
    June 7, 2020, 11:42 am

    Thank you Mr. Hashmi for your stinging rebuke to the blatant lies peddled by A. K. Abdul Momen, the accidental Foreign Minister to an interviewer recently. Someone needed to respond to his outlandish lies that he talked about in that interview and none other could have been more better and accurate than you. Abdul Momen was the first Private Secretary of my late lamented father M. Saifur Rahman when he was appointed Presidential Adviser in charge of Commerce Ministry in the last week of December 1976. Momen joined as PS most likely on 2nd January 1977 and remained in that position until December when he left for the US to do higher studies. When he joined my father as his PS, he was a Section Officer even though an Adviser/Ministers PS was supposed to be a Deputy Secretary. Prior to that he was PS to then State Minister Mr. Dewan Farid Gazi. He joined the civil service as a CSS cadre officer in 1970. So it is beyond my imagination how on earth could he ever be an associate of Skh. Mujibur Rahman or even be a "Senior Bureaucrat " in newly formed Bangladesh Government when in fact he was a junior most govt functionary and was never ever posted to then Prime Minister and later President Skh. Mujibs office. So his condescending comment that he found Skh Mujib to be "committed" is so hilarious and absurd that it is only possible from a man always happy to be boastful and bombastic in which he was so adept in as his eldest brother was. I cannot imagine just why did he resort to suck blatant lies about his fictitious association with Skh. Mujib and how he thought he could get away with such lies. He didn’t imagine that his old friend Taj Hashmi would stand up and take him to task. Had you not responded in so befitting manner, I would probably have responded back in some form or other. I hope your stinging response will teach him never ever to make fictitious claims again.

    Nasser Rahman

    REPLY

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