Written by Capt. Syed Ahmed Mortada (Retd)
The oeuvre of General Ataul Gani Osmany- The Supreme Commander Of The Liberation Forces is galvanized with espirit de corps of Bengali nationalism for which he was reprimanded and punished during Pakistan time for his morale and high code of principle. He used to call a spade, a spade. Afterward he was overtaken and sidelined by the country that he liberated... ...
His rendezvous with Gen. Ayub Khan raced back to Azad Kashmir when he joined 5th battalion of 14 Punjab as 2IC which was being commanded by Ayub possibly during 1948/49. That 5th battalion was renamed 5 Punjab later on. Ayub’s first posting as a 2nd Lieutenant was also to this same 5 Punjab. The old adage that two tigers could not drink water from same tank was exactly what was dramatized between the CO and the 2IC at the zenith of the world on The Himalaya. The duel between the devils. Ayub’s obiter dictum on Bengali ethos per se East Pakistan could be best paraphrased in one of the addresses he made in Dhaka in the sixties,” You people are slaves”. Begum Sofia Kamal stood up and blurted back,” And you are our president.”
Osmany had many talents and achievements up his sleeve. Not only he qualified in first division in his matriculation examination in 1934 from Sylhet Government School, he captured the ‘Pretoria Award’ for his highest score in English in the same examination. Osmany’s father was a civil servant. He wanted Osmany to join Indian Civil Service- which was the most aristocrat , prestigious, luxurious also sought after career in those days. One of Osmany’s closest relatives Gazam for Ali Khan was the first Bengali Muslim ICS. But his notorious craze for martial outfit dictated his term for a rigorous life of a soldier. He envisioned that the true strength of army aggrandizement lied in the infantry, to reach that end he jettisoned the rank of a lt. Col. and accepted the rank of a reverted major when he opted to join infantry after his successful PSC. He was originally from supply. That paid its dividend in the long run.
There was a misconception that Osmany was a confirmed bachelor. Osmany was married to 1Bengal. His honey moon started the moment he took over the command of 1Bengalin Jessore in late forties. No sooner he held the rein, Osmany meant business. As a CO, he chalked out a comprehensive modus operandi to reach his desired goal by excelling excellence by subjecting his troops to a very, very difficult routine and discipline. He conditioned them for extreme climate pertaining to West Pakistan undergoing rigorous training bare breasted in winters for a prolong period over here in East Pakistan.. He paid full attention to PT, parade, drill, long march, exercise, combat, tactics, game, sport and health monitoring in a frenzy. Once he made the entire battalion fighting fit, he focused his concentration on morale, pride, patriotism and Bengali ethos. ‘Bengal Tiger’ was the name given by Papa Tiger. Osmany branded the ,’chal, chal, chal’ of Bengali rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam as the marching song of Bengal regiment. ‘Brathachari Dance’ was made the regimental dance. The Papa Tiger introduced Rabindranath tagore’s,” Gram chara oi rangamatir path’ and Dijendralal’s,”Dhano Dhannay pushpay bhora” the two songs with full military band for the Bengal Tiger. After the raising of 1 and 2 Bengal by Mahammad Ali Jinnah at the inception of Pakistan,Bengal regiments were always having a superiority over the Punjabis in swimming which was not considered a martial sport. But boxing was a mother of all martial sports. In 1949 1 Bengal defeated the 3rd and 8th Punjab regiment in boxing. In the 11 bouts Bengal regiment knocked out Punjab regiment in 8 bouts and vanquished them in other three bouts on points. In those days the cliché ,”Bangla Wash” was not invented otherwise the so called Martial Race, Tikka Khan’s forefathers, the Punjabis could have been taught the language of Bangla dictates. Much later in 1965 Indo-Pak war, 1 Bengal was decorated with 17 gallantry awards- the highest ever received by a single battalion in Pakistan’s military history.
Col. Osmany retired in 1967 while posted to GHQ Pindi where Ayub was holding the fort as C-in-C. The two old buddies were again together to make old accounts square. Before Osmany’s retirement, his nephew who was a lecturer most likely in Oxford turned up to Osmany one day. The young, dashing, handsome nephew expressed his desire to meet Field Marshal President Mohammad Ayub Khan. Osmany organized the meeting and in the course of conversation Ayub as usual started cursing Bengalis. On the spur of the moment, the nephew picked up a tea cup which was in front of him and directly shot at Ayub’s face. Ayub tilted his head, averted the catastrophe. Osmany was at a loss. The most powerful man of the country, hit by his nephew. It was so embarrassing, alarming even to ask for apologies. However unexpectedly Ayub put the car on reverse gear. He laughed. That day, had the cup hit the bull’s eye, the uncle and the nephew would have languished in the dungeon of Mianwali jail waiting for death penalty like the 1959, 11 academy winner fiction film,”Ben-Hur”. Bangabandhu also was about to walk to the gallows in that Mianwali jail which was foiled by a coup d’etat staged by a sage jailor Chowdhury Nazir Ahmed. Osmany’s nom de guerre was flown full mast by his worthy nephew.
Osmany’s rendezvous with Syletians- to which he himself belonged. While campaigning for his party’”Jatio Janata Party’ for the president ship against Gen. Ziaur Rahman in 1976/77, Osmany was traveling along with his cavalcade from Sylhet to Nabiganj. His motorcade was stalled in a long queue when they reached Sherpur ferry ghat. They were trailing behind by about 50 cars. He was chaperoned by the heavy weights of his party advocate Abdur Rahman khan, President Jatio Janata Party, Sylhet and Nurul Islam Khan Ex. M.P. A sweet cold spelled by a light drizzle settled on the Papa Tiger and fire brand General overcame by a slumber. Down to earth, he realized that his sedan, in which he was just enjoying a nap, toppled the cavalcade still waiting for the ferry. He gazed at his two top gear chaperons and they surrendered with an apology that the meeting at Nabiganj was at 4 PM and since it was already 2 PM, they informed the ferry authority about his Nabiganj meeting and it was actually ferry in-charge who organized a little change bringing his car ahead of others. The tiger roared ordering the driver to go back at the tail of the queue. The order was obeyed but before he was behind 50 cars and now he queued behind 75 cars. No compromise on question of principle.
Osmany fought against the army which he championed most. He raised his voice against his party “Awami League’ which he idolized most. He dueled against his blue eyed boy Gen. Ziaur Rahman whom he loved most. 1st September would be his birth anniversary which would pass unceremoniously yet the people of the country bestowed on him the title, ”Bongo Bir” on the bravest son of the soil.