Serajul Huq emerged as first man to challenge Moshtaq

29 October, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Serajul Huq emerged as first man to challenge Moshtaq

Serajul Huq

Khandaker Moshtaq Ahmed, the key-political patron of August 15, 1975 coup plotters who installed him as the President soon after the carnage, carried on visibly unchallenged for a period of two months, when someone emerged to confront him, face to face, reports BSS.

History suggests the man was Serajul Huq – a senior lawmaker of that time and childhood friend of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Being a famed criminal lawyer he eventually appeared as the chief prosecutor of his murder trial as well.

“The protest was very straight and loud – eyeball to eyeball,” said Ali Ashraf, who witnessed the protest at a meeting at Bangabhaban as a lawmaker from a Cumilla constituency as he was talking to BSS coinciding with Huq’s 18th death anniversary.

Ashraf, an MP in current parliament as well, recalled that the challenge which Huq had thrown, made Moshtaq furious while the killers in military uniform made visible their strong presence around, wielding their guns, scarring everyone at the scene.

He, however, could not specify the exact date but assumed it was a day in the middle of October when Huq had his heated confrontation with Moshtaq drawing an abrupt end to the meeting at the presidential palace, Bangabhaban.

Huq’s son and current law minister Anisul Huq said Moshtaq, as a matter of fact, had called two meetings in October, the first one in mid October and the second in the later part of the same month.

According to junior Huq lawmakers from all over the country were called to the first meeting, while the second one was exclusively with MPs from Cumilla, which was Moshtaq’s own home district.

Junior Huq, however, could not assert the exact meeting dates but affirmed that on return from both the meetings his father gave him a detailed account of incidents that took place in Bangabhaban on both the days.

Moshtaq visibly called the meetings in his efforts to draw the lawmakers’ allegiance at gunpoint but on both the occasions, Serajul Huq challenged his presidency.

Anisul Huq said in both the meetings his father declined to accept Khandaker Moshtaq Ahmad as the country’s president. But in the second meeting the deliberations became very heated as it was relatively a smaller gathering and Moshtaq was hurling abuses at others who tried to defend Advocate Serajul Huq.

Anisul Huq gave a detailed description of what he heard from his father.

“Today, I cannot call you the President; at best I can call you Moshtaq Bhai,” he quoted Serajul Huq as saying in the first meeting.

“Yet I don’t feel like calling you so (Moshtaq Bhai) since you are not that Khandaker Moshtaq whom I knew (and) so I refrain from calling you anything.”

Anisul Huq said his father reminded Msshtaq of his close association with both Bangabandhu and himself for over 27 years when they even shared single food plate while “you never criticized or complained regarding any of his decisions”.“Today you are saying Bangabandhu is a thief and you are a good man and I should be a witness? you asked me to be a witness to it? how dare you!,” Huq junior said.

One of the coup leaders at the scene at that moment pointed his gun to Huq who with his tactfulness outsmarted him.

“Major, I am not talking to you, I am talking to him (Moshtaq) , because he was one of us, if you want to kill me, kill me five minutes later, let me finish (what I have to tell him) first”.

Other senior lawmakers’, who were called to speak in line with a list that Moshtaq had prepared, were careful in choosing their words to evade wraths of Moshtaq and putsch leaders.

Years’ later, eminent journalist late ABM Musa, who was a witness to the episode at Bangabhaban as a lawmaker from greater Noakhali constituency, in his memoirs recalled that Huq’s comments bewildered two majors at the scene who soon moved out of the room as signaled by Moshtaq.

“Then Serajul Huq directly questioned – why you have killed Mujib?,” Musa wrote adding that Moshtaq replied that people would realize in due time what had necessitated the killing.

According to Musa, Huq commented, “I will wait to know what the necessity was, until I come to know it, stay as the President of these captains-majors, we cannot recognize you (as the President)”.

Anisul Huq said tension was very high in the second meeting where Moshtaq preferred to talk exclusively with MPs of his own district.

Revisiting his memory lane Ashraf substantiated junior Huq as he talked to BSS separately saying the lawmakers who joined the 2nd meeting virtually ran away fearing bloodshed as an abashed Moshtaq failed to keep his cool temperament despite his cunning nature.

According to both junior Huq and Ashraf at the beginning of that meeting, Moshtaq first took a swipe at senior lawmaker Kazi Zahirul Quiyum of Cumilla, regarded as his opponent in local politics, in which Serajul Huq had put his weight behind the later.

Quiyum tried to shrug off saying “I said nothing against Moshtaq”.

“Then he (Moshtaq) started talking about my father saying I may have done a wrong . . . but why this fellow (Huq) has launched a vigorous campaign (against me) . . . what is his worth as a lawyer!,” junior Huq said.

He said Serajul Huq told him he initially preferred to remain quiet but Moshtaq gradually turned very abusive as two lawmakers, one of them being a lady, tried to defend his father.

Junior Huq said Dr Abdul Haque, who was elected from Cumilla’s Banchharampur constituency, first tried to speak politely in Serajul Huq’s favour but responded with Moshtaq’s harsh rebukes.

Then Professor Momtaz Begum, who was elected to parliament from a reserved women seat and died three months ago after the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, made an attempt to stand by Serajul Huq, whom she used to call “chacha” or “uncle” but Moshtaq stopped her as well hurling “very vulgar words”.

“Having seen this (their humiliation) my father got up and said this is becoming too much . . . you (Moshtaq) are talking from a position of advantage, you come out of this Bangabhaban on the street, I will slap you on the face,” junior Huq said.

He said he learnt from his father and others at the scene that pandemonium broke out after Serajul Huq’s comments and “the meeting broke off as everybody (virtually) ran away . . .”

Ashraf, who was in his mid 20s at that time, said he accompanied Serajul Huq to that meeting and recalled that the senior lawmaker himself drove his personal Volkswagen car to Bangabhaban.

“The meeting venue was the main Darbar Hall (of Bangabhaban) but it appeared we are in a sealed compartment surrounded by gun wielding military personnel,” said Ashraf, still a lawmaker and former parliamentary deputy speaker.

He said as the situation was getting out of control he feared that the killers could open fire and “I came out of the meeting hall holding his (Serajul Huq’s) arm as everyone was running away”.

“But the situation scared me so much, I was afraid the killers may chase him (Huq) . . . I decided not to take the ride in his car again and (so) told him I can walk down,” Ashraf said.

Anisul Huq said after his return home that night his father told him “what I had said (at Bangabhaban), I said that rightly . . . I don’t care about the consequences”.