Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
|Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assassination|
|Date||August 15, 1975
|Target||Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family|
|Deaths||20 (including Sheikh Mujib, his wife and three sons)|
|Perpetrators||Syed Faruque Rahman, Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, Mohiuddin Ahmed, A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Shariful Haq (Dalim)|
The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Mujibur) took place in the early hours of August 15, 1975, when a group of Bangladesh Army personnel went to Mujibur's residence to arrest him. A gun battle ensued with Mujibs' sons and other armed Awami League members. At the time of his assassination, Mujibur was serving as the President of Bangladesh.
Following the independence of Bangladesh in December 1971, Mujibur was released from custody in Pakistan. He was flown from Pakistan via London, England and then brought to India. Bangladesh at the time was under Indian occupation and control. Mujibur was installed as the Prime Minister and later President of the new independent state. He soon established a national unity government by banning all political parties, the press. With virtual no opposition, he was appointed as a president through a constitutional amendment due to an unabated political chaos in early 1975 when Pakistani collaborators were regrouping and planning for reestablishing their lost power. His declaration of one party rule was opposed by the civil society, intellectuals and all political groups. The country was in chaos when corruption was rampant and food shortage and poor distribution led to a disastrous famine. Nationalization has simply failed to yield any tangible progress. It was a very weak government with no clear path and the country was nearly bankrupt.
The Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini (National Vanguards) was a highly controversial political militia force formed in 1972 with a status of an elite force which was loyal to Mujibur . It was assigned an apparent functionality of recovering arms from the civilians but actually acted as an armament to protect the Mujibur-regime from pro and anti independence forces. Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini is considered one of the main ingredients of discontent among the army and the assassination of Mujibur as well.
Colonel (Major at the time) Syed Faruque Rahman, Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Sharful Haque (Dalim), Mohiuddin Ahmed and A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, S.H.M.B. Noor Chowdhury all majors in the Bangladesh Army and veterans of Bangladesh Forces. With cue from certain foreign intelligence, they planned to topple the government and establish a military government of their own. Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed, an Awami League cabinet minister under the Mujibur regime, agreed to take over the Presidency. Over the years many paint of alternative pictures of different conspiracies, implicating Mustaque and CIA as participants. It is alleged that the chief of the army staff Major General K M Shafiullah and Defence Intelligence Agency DGFI Air Vice Marshall Aminul Islam Khan were aware of the conspiracy.
In the early morning of August 15, 1975, the conspirators were divided into four groups. One group, consisting of members of the Bengal Lancers of the First Armoured Division and 535 Infantry Division under Major Huda, attacked Mujibur's residence. Mujibur's son, Sheikh Kamal, fired shots from a second floor window towards the entrance. Mujibur was shot as planned, before he could show his outrage for the scandalous military intrusion to his premises by these officers. Mujibur may have had time to telephone Colonel Jamil, the new chief of Military Intelligence. Jamil was shot and killed at the gate.
Other occupants killed in the attack were Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, wife of Mujibur (killed upstairs); Sheikh Nasser and a couple of servants (in the lavatory); Sheikh Jamal; 10-year-old Sheikh Russel; and several daughters-in-law of Mujibur. Two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in West Germany at the time. They took refuge with the Indian government and were flown to India.
Two other groups of soldiers killed Sheikh Fazlul Haque (Mani), Mujibur's nephew and influential leader of the Awami League along with his pregnant wife at 13/1, Dhanmondi, and Abdur Rab Serniabat, Mujibur's brother-in-law, and a minister of the Government along with 13 family members on Mintu Road.
The fourth and most powerful group was sent towards Savar to repel the anticipated counter-attack by the Security Forces where after a short fight and a loss of eleven men, Security Forces surrendered.
Three months later, four major founding leaders of the Awami League, first Prime Minister of Bangladesh Tajuddin Ahmed, former Prime Minister Mansur Ali, former Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam and former Home Minister A H M Kamruzzaman were arrested and brutally murdered in Dhaka jail on November 3, 1975.
Aftermath of assassination
Khondaker Mustaq Ahmed assumed the presidency, Major General Ziaur Rahman became the new Chief of Army Staff. The leading conspirators were all given the highest ranks. They were later toppled by yet another coup led by Brigadier General Khaled Mosharraf on November 3, 1975. Mosharraf himself was killed during a counter revolt four days later on November 7, which freed Major General Ziaur Rahman in power and was brought in to bring law and order. In the meantime Major Syed Faruque Rahman, Rashid, and the other army officers had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. They were exiled to Libya, China, Rhodesia, Canada and other countries, and were given several diplomatic posts in Bangladeshi missions abroad. Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd.) Syed Faruque Rahman later returned and founded the Bangladesh Freedom Party in 1985, and took part in the presidential election in 1987 against Indian backed military ruler Lieutenant General Hussain Mohammad Ershad.
The military decided not to court-martial the military officials who masterminded and participated in the coup. No case was registered with the police, by relatives of Mujibur or his party men, either. In fact, the conspirators could not be tried in court of law on the charge of assassination because of the Indemnity Act passed by the government under President Khondaker Mustaq Ahmed. However, when Awami League, led by Mujibur's daughter, Sheikh Hasina, won the election in 1996, it repealed the Act. The Bangabandhu murder trial commenced. Col. (Rtd.) Syed Faruque Rahman was arrested from his Dhaka Old DOHS home. Col. (Rtd.) Bazlul Huda was brought back from Bangkok, where he was serving sentence for shop lifting, as part of criminal exchange program between Thailand and Bangladesh. Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed was active in military service when he was arrested. Col. (Rtd.) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan was on active diplomatic service, appointed by previous Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia, and returned to Bangladesh when he had been called back by foreign ministry. Later he was arrested. Col. (Rtd.) Abdur Rashid and other accused, however, left Bangladesh as 1996 general election showed an upcoming Awami League victory. Colonel (Rtd.) Rashid is now reportedly shuttling between Pakistan and Libya. All these men were also involved in jail killing in November 1975.
The trial ended on November 8, 1998, and death sentences by firing squad were given by the District and Session Judge of Dhaka Mohammad Golam Rasul, to 15 out of 20 accused of the assassination. Taher Uddin Thakur, former Information Minister and one of the suspects (by Hasina government), was cleared during the period of Hasina Government. He died naturally in 2009. However, the sentences were yet to be carried out as five of the convicts sought permission to file appeals in the high court. Taher Uddin Thakur was released from all the accusations of government and released. High Court bench comprising Justice Mohammad Ruhul Amin and Justice A B M Khairul Haque (current Chief Justice of Bangladesh) gave a divisive verdict. Senior Justice Amin acquitted 5 out of original 15 accused, but junior Justice Haque upheld the lower court verdict. So another verdict from a third judge became essential. Later, as a third judge Justice Mohammad fazlul Karim accused 12 out of original 15 including 2 acquitted in Justice Amin's verdict. One of the convicts, Major (Rtd.) Aziz Pasha, died in Zimbabwe on June 2, 2001. As 5 accused again appealed to Appellate Division, decision remained pending due to a shortage of minimum requirement of three judges for a hearing session since August 2001, as several of judges embarrassed to hear the case. On June 18, 2007, one of the conspirators who had been sentenced to death, Major (Rtd.) A K M Mohiuddin Ahmed, was extradited to Bangladesh from the United States, following a series of failed attempts to gain asylum or permanent residency in the United States. On August 7, 2007, the murder case hearings resumed after six years.
The appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh gave its verdict on November 19, 2009, after a five-member special bench, headed by Justice Mahammad Tafazzal Islam, spent 29 days hearing the petition filed by the convicted.
The appeal of the convicts was rejected and the death sentence was upheld. Before the verdict, approximately 12,000 extra policemen were deployed to guard strategic buildings, including the Supreme Court, to prevent any attempt to disrupt the proceedings by the convicted men's supporters. The men's supporters have been blamed by the government for a grenade attack on one of the prosecution lawyers in October 2009, although no one has been charged yet.
Captain (Rtd.) Qismet Hashem, Captain (Rtd.) Nazmul Hossain Aanssar and Major (Rtd.) Abdul Majid were acquitted throughout the high court division and appellate division verdicts and are, now, living in Canada.
Conspirators Major (Rtd.) Bazlul Huda, Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd.) Mohiuddin Ahmed, Major (Rtd.) A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Colonel (Rtd.) Syed Faruque Rahman and Colonel (Rtd.) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan were executed on 28 January 2010.
- Memoir written in 2005 by Lawrence Lifschultz
- Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution, by Lawrence Lifschultz, London: Zed Press, 1979
- Ziaur Rahman informed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman earlier about coup threat
- Dasgupta, Sukharanjan (1978). Midnight Massacre in Dacca. Vikas. pp. [page needed]. ISBN 9780706906929.
- Mujib murder case appeals verdict today
- 6 killers still out of reach
- Bangabandhu murder case hearing resumes today after 6 years; The Daily Star; August 7, 2007
- Major Md. Bazlul Huda (Artillery) & Ors. vs. The State, Criminal Appeal Nos. 55–59 of 2007
- Security tightened around SC – The Daily Star, November 19, 2009
- "Bangladesh officers lose appeal". BBC. 19 November 2009.
- Ahmed, Anis (January 27, 2010). "Bangladesh Hangs Killers of Independence Leader Mujib". Reuters.
- Charlie Gillis (February 15, 2011). "The assassin among us – Nur Chowdhury faces execution for killing Bangladesh’s president. That’s why he’s safe in Canada.". Maclean's.