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Charismatic Leadership Attributes of Bangabandhu in the Context of Revolution in Military Affairs

An Aspiration For a Modern Bangladesh Army

  • Colonel Golam Mohiuddin Haider, afwc, psc
  • 9 November, 2022 12:00 AM
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Charismatic Leadership Attributes of Bangabandhu in the Context of Revolution in Military Affairs
Figure 1: Bangabandhu in the Context of RMA (Source: Developed by the author)

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‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the name of true aspiration for Bangladesh and the Bangalees. Bangabandhu is the triumph of survivability as he conquered the hearts of millions of people inside and outside the country through his valour, boldness and unwavering devotion to the cause of his people. His powerful oratory and uncanny ability to communicate with the audience, regardless of the size of the crowd could make everyone mesmerized.

Bangabandhu is a charismatic leader who possessed hypnotic leadership. His inspiring direction and struggle enabled us in gaining our long-desired independence; only few such leaders have existed in the history. Bangabandhu possessed a keen understanding of how to encourage and persuade others to strive towards the leader's aim. All around the world, he is regarded as a symbol of captivating personality and political independence.

Bangabandhu was surely a magnanimous yet revolutionary leader, the ‘Greatest Ever Bangalee’ born on this Ganges Delta, who resurrected the whole nation with the spirit of independence. He was genuinely a visionary and a pro-people leader, who aspired to see a sovereign and self-sufficient ‘Golden Bengal’ with a rejuvenated modern army in the independent Bangladesh. That is why it is important to study the leadership attributes of Bangabandhu in the context of Revolution in Military Affairs.

The military concept of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is a military-theoretical hypothesis, about the future of warfare, often connected to technological and organisational recommendations for change in the militaries of the United States and other countries. Broadly stated, RMA claims that in certain periods of the history of humankind, there were new military doctrines, strategies, tactics and technologies which led to an irrecoverable change in the conduct of warfare. Furthermore, those changes compel an accelerated adaptation of novel doctrines and strategies. Famous futurists like Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler have quoted that, “a military revolution, in its fullest scene, occurs only, when an entire society transforms itself, forcing its armed forces to change at every level simultaneously from technology and culture to organisation, strategy, tactics, training, doctrine and logistics”.

Bangabandhu was a revolutionary leader who later transformed into a magnificent statesman. His charismatic leadership attributes in the context of RMA may be justified in following enumerations:

a.            Bangabandhu was a pro-people's leader. His very appearance suggested raw power, which was from the masses and from his own strong personality. After 1945, Bangladesh was the only country of the world which successfully seceded from Pakistan through armed struggle. However, the principal strength of that struggle came from the unparalleled election victory of Awami League led by its charismatic leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1970. The popular support he enjoyed was unheard of in a Western Democracy. While Bangabandhu exuded his personal appeal and exercised his charisma over his people, he also handled authority, ran a war-ravaged administration, formulated policies, issued directives, operated a massive party machine and also structuralised all elements of national power including a promising army.

                Bangabandhu was a visionary leader in which he commenced his revolution against West Pakistani Military Regime by launching ‘Six Point Movement’ in 1966 without engaging in an armed struggle. In his 6th demand, he claimed, “East Pakistan should have a separate military or paramilitary force, and Navy Headquarters should be in East Pakistan”. The movement had massive support from the population of East Pakistan. This veracity identifies his farsightedness towards an independent and sovereign Bangladesh at that time.

c.             The 19 minutes extempore speech was the guidance for the final phase of the revolution. This speech inspired a popular revolution. The speech was rated as one of the world's best speeches in the history of mankind. Ninety percent of the people of Bangladesh were taken in by the magical power of Sheikh Mujib, and they were ready to sacrifice their lives for the creation of Bangladesh. Ostensibly, he was not a revolutionary guerrilla leader like Che Guevara or Mao Zedong; the source of his strength did not come from the barrel of the gun, rather, he acquired the incontestable mandate and the solemn trust of his people. After his call of independence, thousands of Bangalee military personnel serving under West Pakistan Armed Forces, absconded and defected to join the great cause of liberation war. They were all ready to be martyrs.

d.            Bangabandhu’s speech of 7th March was a leap out of the darkness; pointed to the dusty pastoral path to freedom, to the twilight struggle of liberation. He clearly gave his strategic guidance in his speech. He reiterated the ends, means and ways throughout his speech. He mentioned, “…. I call upon you to turn every home into a fortress against their onslaught. Use whatever you can, put your hands on to confront the enemy. Every road must be blocked. We will deprive them of food, we will deprive them of water”. If the independence of the country was the end state, surely guerilla warfare doctrine would be the way.

e.            Bangabandhu adopted non-alignment and neutral foreign policy for a peaceful co-existence with its neighbours and sought for world peace. He even visited Pakistan to join OIC summit in 1974. In the Delhi Agreement of 1974, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan pledged to work together for regional stability and peace. The agreement paved the way for the return of imprisoned Bangalee military officers, men and families stranded in Pakistan, as well as establishing diplomatic relations between Dhaka and Islamabad. He rehabilitated and reinstated the exiled military members within Bangladesh Armed Forces. His statecraft energized the forming of a formidable army of a war-ravaged country within a short span of time.

Bangabandhu was a magnificent visionary leader whose captivating leadership attributes paved the way of a modern army for Bangladesh may be described in following records:  

a.            Promulgation of 1st Defence Policy in 1974 clearly defined the size of the force, preferred tactics and self-sustainment capacity of Bangladesh Army considering the riverine demarcation, sectoral configuration of demography and geography. Bangladesh Army is now pursuing to develop a modern force in accordance to a new Defence Policy-2018, which has a clear inclination to the 1st Defence Policy.

b.            Bangabandhu ventured for a formidable army despite having economic constraints of the country. He started acquiring military hardware from the former Soviet Union, Egypt and Yugoslavia for Army. Bangladesh Army received its first tanks in 1974 during Bangabandhu’s visit to Egypt. The then Egyptian President Anwar Sadat presented Bangabandhu with 44 tanks which were in good shape at that time.

c.             Bangladesh Military Academy was established in Cumilla Cantonment in 1974. On 11 January 1975, he witnessed the 1st Passing Out Parade of the 1st  Bangladesh Military Academy Short Course where he delivered an outstanding speech for the cadets and officers of Bangladesh Army.

d.            During the sensitive and crucial years after the war of independence, personnel of the Mukti-Bahini were absorbed into different branches. During the 1972-73 tenure, units of engineers, signals, army services, ordnance, military police, remount veterinary and farm and medical corps were raised. In 1974, Bangladeshi soldiers and officers were repatriated from Pakistan and reinstated.

e.            Bangabandhu aspired to have disciplined and patriotic future leaders with pro-people attitude who would work for national development. Analysing his leadership attributes, the takeaways for different levels of military leadership may be listed as follows:

                (1)          Strategic Level: National Interest (Sovereignty and Security of States).

                (2)          Operational Level:           National Development (Pro-people attitude).

                (3)          Tactical Level:    Patriotism, honour and pride, justice and character                                                                         (Individual Motivation).

Bangabandhu undertook numerous acts of modernisation for Bangladesh Army. His vision for transformation and expansion of Army has been translated into ‘Forces Goal-2030’. He is a rabble-rousing, charismatic leader who galvanised the nationalist struggle for the creation of Bangladesh where he envisaged the importance of a formidable army to defend its sovereignty. Bangabandhu, who lives in the hearts of his people so as in the minds of all army personnel is the ‘Greatest Bangalee of All Time’. Bangladesh and Bangabandhu are one and inseparable. And that is why Ananda Shankar Roy said,

“As long as the Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on

Your accomplishment will also live on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman”

 

The writer is an army officer