Last updated: 10 October 2017 From the section Tajuddin Ahmad
On 16 December 1971 the Pakistan army surrendered to the joint command of the Mukti Bahini and the Indian army. Bangladesh thus emerged as an independent state in less than nine months after the Declaration of Independence.
As the principal political figure, Tajuddin Ahmad wassurrounded by journalists who asked him about his reaction. He broke into tears and said that he had performed his duty "merely as a midwife" and that he felt "sad" for not being able to "deliver the news of the child’s birth to its father" Sheikh Mujib.
Even though the credit for the victory goes to a large extent to Tajuddin Ahmed, he never claimed any recognition for his achievement. On the contrary, he instructed Secretary Nurul Quader Khan before the latter's departure for Dhaka on 17 December 1971 that "nobody other than Bangabondhu should be given any credit for the victory of Bangladesh".
On 16 December 1971 the Pak Army surrendered. On the 17th the Prime Minister called me in his office to say: "Tomorrow morning you are going to Dhaka. You are carrying with you the entire Government of Bangladesh. You have to exercise extreme caution and composure as you conduct your duties. No flare-ups, no temper tantrums. You are entering a new, independent Bangladesh, so you have to be the picture of the highest ideals and principles of a new government. You must always remember, at no point credit should be given to anyone other than Shaikh Mujibur Rahman. It’s an order, not advice. You’ll always keep I mind that all these war-efforts, movements and struggles, everything that happened so far, were under his leadership and guidance, in his footsteps and following his ideals. I, too, have done nothing other than obeying him as my leader. So whenever you speak of the Government’s official policies you’ll never deviate from this central point – all credit goes to him. All glories, all accolades, belong to him and him only. You will carry the flag Bangladesh. We are giving you that privilege. History will acknowledge this contribution of yours. Now you go."
Tajuddin Ahmad tells Nurul Qader to give Sheikh Mujib all the credit for victory
Tajuddin never took any credit for himself and shunned self promotion.
Despite crippling obstacles he organized both the political and the military front within a short time. His abilities, sacrifice, devotion and patriotism inspired all. The successful leadership during the liberation war marked the finest period of Tajuddin Ahmad’s life.
All through the liberation war Tajuddin Ahmad worked day and night in that temporary office of theatre road. He passed night after night in discomfort, ate whatever food was supplied by the mess, even did his own washing. He took a vow that till Bangladesh was liberated he would not lead a family life. As the Prime Minister of a nation ridden in war and its freedom fighters' away from their families Tajuddin wanted to share their sufferings as well as set an example. It is not possible to express in words the hard work that he did during the nine months of the war. During those months there was no rest for him. It was because of his capable leadership that the nation could win its independence within a record time of 266 days.
His firm resolve and commitment on the question of the country's liberation had no parallel. He was far from an opportunist. He would never compromise the interest of the nation. It was his unbreakable spirit that helped the nation to wriggle out of the deep crisis into which it was thrown. With his idealism and firmness of resolve and unique qualities of leadership he was able to spurn all inducements and strove single-mindedly towards his goal. He was not willing to settle for anything less than full independence. No one could deflect him in the slightest degree from his firm resolve. Because of his clear pragmatic thinking and courage he could reach the cherished goal in due time. Tajuddin Ahmad possessed the rare ability to make the right decision with intelligence in a moment of crisis.
He was able to create enthusiasm in the 75 million people of Bangladesh across parties and ideologies for freedom. During the liberation war the force of his inspiring leadership and overpowering oratory made the 75 million people of Bangladesh, irrespective of party and persuasion, into determined freedom fighters - an achievement that might not have been possible with any other leader. He knew no nepotism and treated everyone, including his opponents and those who caused him harm, with fairness and justice.
A remembrance of Tajuddin Ahmed is surely the role he played in weaving the Mujibnagar government into a credible pattern in April 1971. He it was who undertook the task of locating all the senior leaders of the Awami League then making their way across the frontier into India in the face of all-round genocide and bringing them together as a wartime administration. There were those who clearly felt uneasy about Tajuddin's playing the foremost role in organizing the war; and they went overboard in trying to push him aside. Lawmakers elected on the Awami League ticket at the December 1970 elections were made to gather, the sole objective being a removal of Tajuddin from the leadership of the movement. Tajuddin did not waver in his overriding goal of seeing the nation through to victory. He survived, to wage war in Bangabandhu's name. On 16 December 1971, Tajuddin Ahmed's place in history was firmly etched in the human consciousness.
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Tajuddin and others return and go full speed in rebuilding Bangladesh
Even before Bangladesh gained its victory Tajuddin Ahmad was very clear on the mammoth task that befell the war torn country. He knew rebuilding the country’s economy and infrastructure, especially in the countryside, and attaining social cohesion would be top priority. But he felt it was a collective effort and not left to a single party or individual to make this happen.
After winning the war, we will have to win peace as well. Shonar Bangla has to be erected on the ashes of a war-ravaged economy. All the sons and daughters of Bangladesh have to engage themselves in the joyous efforts of reconstruction and development.
Tajuddin Ahmad started speaking about peace and rebuilding Bangladesh collectively when it became clear that Bengalis were winning the war (8 December 1971)
Tajuddin and the other members of the Mujibnagar Shorkar returned victorious to Dhaka on 22 December 1971 escorted by an army helicopter. They were greeted at the Tejgaon airport by hundreds of thousands of jubilant crowds. The cabinet members took over the administration of Bangladesh. The very next day in his first cabinet meeting in Dhaka, Prime Minister Tajuddin made Bangla the state language – which had been the dream of the people since Ekushey February 1952. He also passed government decisions to provide salaries to government officials of up to Tk 1,000 as the highest ceiling, nationalisation of jute, textile mills, and tea gardens. He also ordered Bangladesh Bank to function as a central bank by December 1971.
On 20 December 1971, he [Tajuddin Ahmad] already passed some orders encompassing stoppage of any financial transaction including revenue with Pakistan either through post-offices or banks. He also made it clear that Bangladesh would follow a self-reliant economic policy and avoid US aid.
As soon as he came to Dhaka, his first consideration was to improve the law and order through the help of Indian army. His next concern was how to bring back ten million refugees quickly and help them readjust. He then quickly moved into establishing bilateral economic and diplomatic ties with countries that recognised Bangladesh.
Atiur Rahman, Journalist
My first close glimpse of him was in the evening of 22 December 1971, the day he arrived from Kolkata to Dhaka to take over, in the absence of Bangabandhu, the reins of the government in Dhaka. He came to what is now known as Bangabhaban wherein along with some other offices we had, in a couple of rooms temporarily set up the Foreign Office. A rough English rendering from my Bangla book, Desh Deshantor brings out my sentiment of the day.
"On that day," I wrote, "Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed met each and every civil servant present one by one and went around shaking hands with them. For many of us, this was our first meeting with him. This leader-like approach of his was of considerable significance. On that evening of the seventh day of our 'Victory Day', Mr. Tajuddin Ahmed established the role of political leadership in that nerve-centre of governmental activities. This he did, not with any post-war roughness, but through the initial demonstration of his habitually polite, deliberate, and self-confident personality. A man of few words that he was, this knowledgeable, intelligent, and efficient political personality left a deep impression on many of us".
Faruq Choudhury, a former civil servant
Tajuddin always dreamt of a prosperous Bangladesh which was free from poverty, inequality, hunger, and foreign dependence. He indicated this bent of his mind through his various early actions as prime minister during the difficult days of post-independence. But his three budgets are even better testimonies of his pro-poor development thinking. His emphasis on improving the lot of the working class while formulating land and industrial policies was also very straight-forward.