Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Persecuting Presidents & Zia Mausoleum Complex in Dhaka Tales
There wasn’t much to do when visiting the National Assembly Building. Our auto-rickshaw dropped us along Lake Road, directly facing the National Assembly which was more than a hundred meters from the sidewalk. There’s a wired gate preventing us from walking over the immaculate grass at the front yard. After an unusual number of photo opportunities with me in it (there wasn’t much to do really), we went back to our auto-rickshaw to take us at the back. The scenery is even lovelier. It was a Mausoleum Complex of Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman (“…martyred president…”).
The nation’s international airport, if you remember, used to be called Zia International Airport, but has since been changed into a hard-to-remember name of a Sufi saint (Shahjalal). Zia was named in honor of this president. Bangladesh has to stop re-naming major landmarks, as it gets ridiculous already. It complicates people, not to mention the degree of desecration upon stripping the name of an honored hero. What? Suddenly, President Zia becomes less important than the Sufi Saint Shahjalal?
This Mausoleum Complex is a memorial of President Zia, as he was popularly regarded. He was a hero of the Bangladesh Liberation War in the early 70’s. He revolted against the West Pakistanis during the genocide of East Pakistan. He eventually stepped up as the 7th President of Bangladesh where he ruled for 4 years. Unfortunately for President Zia, he suffered the fate of most of Bangladesh’s esteemed leaders.
HOW BANGLADESH TREATS THEIR FORMER HEADS OF STATE
Remember Mujibur, the Father of Bangladesh Independence who became Bangladesh’s 1st Prime Minister? Murdered during a coup! Ershad, who staged a bloodless coup against the series of military iron fists, became president and was later sent to prison! President Zia, who staked his life against the Pakistanis and against genocide, became president and was murdered during an abortive coup in 1985. Bangladesh is notorious for sending former heads of state to jail – or to their grave!
It was easy to admire the mausoleum grounds in honor of President Zia. It was just reeking with charm- a romantic Crescent Lake, a bridge; the diamond-shaped glass roofing over the tomb; a well-maintained backyard garden; a biographical museum, and the immaculately maintained grounds! This is a fitting homage to Bangladesh’s most popular and most controversial political leaders.
After a satisfying visit around the mausoleum complex, my guide Mafuz and I went to the northwestern lake for a sip of Coke, while Mafuz regaled about his girlfriend (a history student). Of course he never stopped texting and calling her during my tour. In fact, we must have stopped 3 times just so he could reload his mobile. Such was his devotion. I listened with a smile pasted on my face. So this is how Bangladeshis live and love. Well, they’re not all that different from us, I thought.
This is the Eye in the Sky.