Dhaka’s independence proclamation documents missing

June 18th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, June 18 (IANS) Original documents on the formation of Bangladesh’s government-in-exile during the freedom struggle against Pakistan in 1971 have been missing and successive regimes have done nothing to recover them, say old timers, who smell a conspiracy behind the disappearance. Senior government officials, who worked in the Cabinet Division immediately after the country’s independence that year, fear that the historic documents could have been “lost, removed, or destroyed with ill motives” to conceal the role of those who collaborated with the erstwhile East Pakistan government.

This could have been done, they told The Daily Star newspaper, in the aftermath of the abrupt change of government after the country’s founding father and president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was overthrown and killed in a military putsch in August 1975.

Successive governments, aware of the missing documents, have done nothing to recover them, the newspaper said Wednesday.

Among the missing documents are original, handwritten papers pertaining to the country’s proclamations of independence, formation of the first government, and the laws of 1971 that established the government as a successor to the East Pakistan regime.

Senior officials of the cabinet division, who are responsible for preserving the historic documents, do not know how the originals were lost.

They said when the current caretaker government in April this year handed over some papers to the National Archives for permanent preservation, the original documents of the country’s birth were not found.

“Original copies of the documents were not in the cabinet division’s custody. We had photocopies of those, which we handed over to the National Archives,” Cabinet Secretary Ali Imam Majumder told The Daily Star.

Asked how the originals went missing, he expressed his ignorance about the matter.

Talking to The Daily Star about the matter, H.T. Imam, the country’s first cabinet secretary, said the original copy of the proclamation of independence was definitely in government custody, which was also published in an official gazette on May 23, 1972.

Imam, also the cabinet secretary to the Mujibnagar government, the first ever interim government of Bangladesh which led the liberation war, said it was really unfortunate for the nation that the original copy of the April 10, 1971 proclamation of independence through which the first government was formed and the March 26, 1971 declaration of independence was approved were not to be found.

Mujibnagar was the name given to a small territory in the then East Pakistan liberated by the freedom fighters where the proclamation of independence, earlier made by Sheikh MUjib and read out on a radio network by the then Major Ziaur Rahman, was reaffirmed.

It served as the headquarters of the government-in-exile till Dhaka was liberated in December 1971.

Barrister Amir-ul Islam, who drafted the proclamation of independence that worked as the provisional constitution of Bangladesh through the liberation war, said the draft was handwritten and some copies were made before it was proclaimed in Mujibnagar in 1971.

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