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Lieutenant Colonel Abu Taher (retired – BD Army) (Bengali: আবু তাহের) (1938–1976) was a communist and a left-leaning radical activist of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, responsible for the Soldiers Mutiny and Uprising and the radical break-out that occurred in Dhaka, which killed countless officers and men, along with their spouses on 7 November 1975. As a Captain, Taher escaped from Pakistan during mid-July with three other fellow officers and successfully made contact with Indian authorities. He spent further two weeks at Dehradun, RAW HQ's, for debriefing and then sent to BDF HQ at Calcutta. With orders from 8 Theatre Rd., he reported to BDF Sector Commander Major Ziaur Rahman who officially appointed him 2nd Sub-Sector Commander of the 11th Sector at Mahendraganj. On 10 October 1971, Major Shafaat Jamil under interim orders from Major Zia transferred command of Sector 11 to Taher temporarily. Just only 22 days later, Taher lost his leg from a grenade blast on 2 November and flown to Pune, India, for treatment. Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan officially took command of BDF Sector 11 under authority of the Direct Order Transfer of Command from the Emergency Action Message tele-wired from Bangladesh Government interim HQ at 8, Theatre Rd. Calcutta. On 21 November 1971, Major Taher received a medical board release from military service. He was temporarily reinstated in April 1972 in the Bangladesh Army and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
Early life and education
Lieutenant Colonel Abu Taher was born in Badarpur, Assam Province of British India on 14 November 1938. He is from Kazla village in Purbadhala in Netrokona District of Bangladesh which is his ancestral home. After completion of higher secondary school from Sylhet M C College, he joined the Pakistan Army in September 1960 as an officer candidate. It is falsely claimed that Taher took a degree from the Institute of Social Welfare and Research of the University of Dhaka, even though there are no records of admission, courses taken or completion.
Abu Taher received his Commission in 1962 as a second lieutenant in the Pakistan Army. Abu Taher joined the elite Special Services Group (Commando Force) in 1965. Following his training, he participated in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 in the Sialkot sector of Kashmir. For his part, he received a war participation medal from the Pakistan Army. After the war, Taher took officers pre qualification course on Guerrilla Warfare at Fort Benning in the United States in 1969. He was posted to the Quetta Staff College, Pakistan in 1970.
Role in Bangladesh Liberation War
Towards the end of July 1971, Capt. Taher along with three other Bengali officers: Maj. Abul Manzoor, Capt. Dalim and Capt. Ziauddin defected from the Pakistan Army and crossed over the border near Abbottabad, West Pakistan, into India. After two weeks under Indian intelligence screening and debriefing, he was sent to BDF HQ at 8 Theatre Road. He was promoted to Major and posted to Sector 11 under Major Ziaur Rahman at Teldhala. Sector 11 was located across the Rangpur District, which comprised Mymensingh District, Tangail District and parts of the Rangpur District.
After his arrival there, Major Ziaur Rahman appointed him Sub-Sector commander of the second sub-sector at Mahendraganj towards end of August. At departure with Z-Force towards Sylhet sector on 10 October 1971, under orders from Major Zia, Major Shafaat Jamil temporarily placed command of Sector 11 to Major Taher. After 22 days on 2 November 1971, Taher lost his leg from a grenade blast injury. Squadron Leader M. Hamidullah Khan was officially appointed Sector Commander of Sector 11 under direct orders from Colonel Osmani, BDF HQ. Taher was flown to Pune, India. On 21 November Taher received a Medical Board Release. His leg was later amputated there, where he remained until February 1972. For his valour, he was awarded Bir Uttam.
Following his return, Taher was reinstated into Bangladesh Army in April due to the severe shortage of personnel, as many remained stranded in Pakistan, where most were interned as prisoners of war. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed as the "Adjutant General" of BD army, in June 1972 he was appointed as Commander of 44th Brigade at the Comilla Cantonment. Due to his left-leaning communist ideas of organising and reforming the Bangladesh Army along the model of the Chinese army, he resigned from the Bangladesh Army and joined Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party). As Abu Taher's ideas of a social revolution with a central communist army grew, a mutiny rebellion occurred on 3 November 1975 among senior officers and field unit commanders in the army, against those in charge since Sheikh Mujib's assassination in 15 August. Taher quickly took advantage of this, exacerbating dissent among ranking Non-Commissioned Officers and regular soldiers. Abu Taher incited and organised a socialist uprising of the soldiers on 7 November 1975. Some revenge killings took place of a number of military officers and their wives due incidents dating back to injustices that occurred during the independence war in 1971. Acts of treason and clear serious breach of military discipline and morale followed. Former Army chief of Staff, Major General Ziaur Rahman, who was released from house arrest by soldiers of 2nd Field Artillery Regiment worked to bring down the acts of treason and mutiny. Taher's actual intentions revealed further and he threatened to further instigate instability until his demands were met. Members of the army and their families demanded justice which was inevitable to bring back discipline and morale.
Once Zia retook charge of the Army, he promised stability and ordered Lt. Col. Abu Taher, BD Army(Retd.) be arrested for charges of high treason and murder on 24 November 1975. Taher was tried by a military tribunal inside the Dhaka Central Jail and was sentenced to death. He was executed by hanging on 21 July 1976. The established myth, that Taher drove to Zia's Cantonment resident and released Zia from house arrest and restored Zia to power. Once Zia brought the chaotic situation under total control, drove to the Radio Station and declared over the radio waves regarding the situation of the country and brought it to calm restoring law and order.
High Court ruling
On 22 March 2011 the High Court overturned the previous judgement that authorised Taher's execution by a military tribunal while the nation was under martial law. The military court judgement was declared illegal.,
Ministry of Defence Gazette Notification No.8/25/D-1/72-1378, Dated 15 December 1973. Sector Documents/1971/No.11 Sector/Liberation War, Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Bangladesh Army, Personnel Services Directorate – Records Office.