Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
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|Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assassination|
15 August 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) Noor|
The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was the killing of the president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and almost his entire family. It took place in the early hours of 15 August 1975, when a group of Bangladesh Army personnel went to his residence and killed him, during a coup d'état.
In the 1970 General elections in Pakistan, Sheikh Mujib's Awami League won the general election of Pakistan winning the majority of the seats in the National Assembly including 167 of the 169 seats in East Pakistan. Pakistan military government delayed handover of power. By March his house had become the de facto head of government in East Pakistan. At the start of Bangladesh Liberation War he was arrested from his home by Pakistani soldiers. He was made the President of the provisional Mujibnagar Government, formed on 10 April 1971, and the head of the Bangladeshi armed forces. Following the independence of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from custody in Pakistan via London. He was flown from London, England and then stopped over in India on way to Bangladesh. Mujibur led the government as Prime Minister of Bangladesh for three years.
He was made later President of Bangladesh. He established a national unity government, BAKSAL on 7 June 1975. by banning all political parties, and independent press. He was the president of the BAKSAL. Through the BAKSAL was meant to bring stability to Bangladesh and improve law and order, it created hostility among the bureaucracy, military and civil society. They and his supporters were against him heading an authoritarian one party state. His declaration of one party rule with the formation of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League was marked by widespread censorship and abuse of the judiciary, and 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. Lawrence Lifschultz wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1974 that Bangladeshis considered "the corruption and malpractices and plunder of national wealth" was "unprecedented".
The left-wing insurgency from 1972 to 1975 is also widely held responsible for creating the conditions leading up to the assassination. In 1972, to establish scientific socialism, Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) was formed from a split in the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the Bangladesh Awami League.
The JSD's insurgency, with its armed wing, Gonobahini, led by Colonel Abu Taher and Hasanul Haq Inu started killing government supporters, Awami League members and the police. This led to a total breakdown of law and order in the country, and paved the way for the assassination to take place.
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 Mukti Bahini, planned to topple the government and establish a military government of their own. They were against the formation of BAKSAL. They also viewed the government as subservient to India and that the government might dismantle Bangladesh Army in the future.
Khondaker Mostaq Ahmed, an Awami League cabinet minister under the Mujib's government, agreed to take over the Presidency. Journalist Lawrence Lifschultz paints an alternative picture of the conspiracy, implicating Mostaq and the CIA as participants. "The CIA station chief in Dhaka, Philip Cherry, was actively involved in the killing of Father of the Nation - Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman," Lifschultz wrote in his book Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution. It is alleged that the chief of the army staff Major General K M Shafiullah and Defence Intelligence Agency DGFI Air Vice Marshal Aminul Islam Khan were aware of the conspiracy.
In the early morning of 15 August 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. Sukharanjan Dasgupta, correspondent for Anandabazar Patrika during the Liberation War and in Dhaka until 1974, writes in his book Midnight Massacre in Dacca that "the exact details of the massacre will always remain shrouded in mystery". He goes on to say, however, that the army platoon protecting the President's house offered no resistance. Sheikh Kamal, son of Mujib was shot at the reception area on the ground floor. Mujibur was asked to resign and allowed time to consider his position. He telephoned Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmad, the new chief of Military Intelligence. When Jamil arrived and ordered the troops back to barracks, he was gunned down at the gate. Mujibur was shot and killed.
Other occupants killed in the attack were Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, wife of Mujibur (killed upstairs); Sheikh Nasser, younger brother of Mujibur and a couple of servants (in the lavatories); Sheikh Jamal; 10-year-old Sheikh Russel; and two 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. She lived in New Delhi, in a self-imposed exile. She returned to Bangladesh on 17 May 1981.
Two other groups of soldiers killed Sheikh Fazlul Haque (Mani), Mujib'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 block the expected counter-attack by the Security Forces stationed there. After a brief fight and the loss of eleven men, the security forces surrendered.
Four of the 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. Qamaruzzaman, were arrested. Three months later, on 3 November 1975, they were murdered in Dhaka Central Jail.
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 3 November 1975. Mosharraf himself was killed during a counter revolt four days later on 7 November, 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 military ruler Lieutenant General Hussain Mohammad Ershad.
The military decided not to court-martial the military officials who masterminded and participated in the coup. AFM Mohitul Islam, personal assistant to Sheikh Mujib and a survivor of the attack on his house, tried to file a case against the military officers but the police refused to do so and even assaulted him. 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 with the case being filed by AFM Mohitul Islam. 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 shoplifting, 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 8 November 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. Taheruddin Thakur, former Information Minister and one of the suspects, 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. 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 (former 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 2 June 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 18 June 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 7 August 2007, the murder case hearings resumed after six years.
The appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh gave its verdict on 19 November 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.
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- Dasgupta 1978, pp. 63–64: "According to foreign journalists the operation started at 12.30 A.M. ... divided into four groups. The first group rolled towards Mujib's residence ... The first group was formed with selected soldiers from the Bengal Lancers of the First Amroured Division and 535 Infantry Regiment. It was put under Major Huda. "
- Dasgupta 1978, p. 64, para 2: "Reports reveal that they did not kill Sheikh Mujib at once. Mujib was asked to step down from power and he was given some time to decide. Mujib summoned Colonel Jamil, the new chief of the Military Intelligence over the phone. Colonel Jamil arrived fast, and ordered the army to return to the barracks ... Then a rapid burst from machine guns mowed down Jamil right in front of the gate."
- Dasgupta 1978, pp. 65–66: "[soldiers] quickly surrounded Mujib's residence. A couple of rounds were fired. No resistance came from the army platoon guarding the President's house ... The first round of fire had brought Sheikh Kamal hurrying down to the reception on the ground floor ... A short burst, and his body, riddled with bullets sank to the floor."
- Dasgupta 1978, p. 67: "The murderers rushed upstairs ... they came across Begum Lutfunnessa Mujib ... Shots rang out again. Begum Mujib lay on the floor, dead ... A group searched the ground floor. In the lavatories they found Sheikh Nasser and a couple of servants and gunned them down. The other group charged into Mujib's bedroom. There they found the two daughters-in-law of Mujib along with Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel ... they, too, were not spared by these butchers."
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- Dasgupta 1978, p. 65: "Lieutenant Moalemuddin sped for the residence of Sheikh Mani with three trucks full of soldiers ... while Major Shahriar and Captain Huda went out with some soldiers to get rid of Minister Abdur Rab Sarniabat."
- Dasgupta 1978, p. 64, para 3: "At the same time at 13/1 Dhanmandi Sheikh Fazlul Haq and his pregnant wife, and on Mineta Road, Abdur Rab Sarniabat with the 13 members of his family, were butchered ..."
- Dasgupta 1978, p. 64, para 1: "[The] fourth group, the most powerful of the lot, proceeded towards Savar, near Dacca, to repel the anticipated counter-attack by the Security Forces. It did run against some resistance at Savar. But once the shelling took toll of eleven people the leaderless Security Force surrendered"
- Dasgupta 1978, pp. 77–78: "3 November ... Khondakar also knew that the situation was bound to be grave once Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Kamaruzzaman and Mansur Ali were released ... Khondakar had had them arrested under various pretexts shortly after Mujib's assassination, and they were still rotting in Dacca Jail. So, Khondakar ... managed to allow the associates of the "killers" [the seven Majors who assassinated Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] inside the jail to brutally kill these four leaders."
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