August 15, 1975, marked the most tragic morning in Bangladesh’s history when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the nation’s architect, was ruthlessly assassinated alongside several family members
Major General Ziaur Rahman, along with the gang of assassins, seized power through violence and chaos, plunging Bangladesh deeper into darkness in November 1975.
That killing spree did not end there; four of Bangladesh’s founding leaders were killed inside the jail by the then illegitimate government of the killers in November 1975.
The assassination and Zia’s lust for power cast a shadow on the hard-won independence achieved at the immense cost of three million lives and the sacrifice of two million women.
The murderous government banned ‘Joy Bangla’, the main slogan of the Liberation War, and replaced it with a Pakistan-styled ‘Bangladesh Zindabad’.
Dictator Ziaur Rahman and the Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad faction were bent on distorting Bangladesh’s history and undermining the principles of secularism. They poisoned the brains of the common masses with blind belief in religion to gain their ill objectives.
Fast forward to January 28, 2010, Bangladesh was finally able to clear its stigma by hanging five killers of Bangabandhu—– Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed, but the real mastermind behind the carnage, Ziaur Rahman and his ideological anti-Bangladesh forces goes unpunished.
After the gruesome incidents, the axis seized power and began executing freedom fighters to take back Bangladesh.
Their role has become clearer after diplomatic and intelligence documents from the United States and India got leaked and journalists began exposing vital information.
Zia’s Role in The Assassination of Bangabandhu in Killers’ Confession
Following the assassination of Bangabandhu, two killers Farooq and his brother-in-law Rashid talked to ITV in an interview on August 2, 1976, by Anthony Mascarenhas.
From the interview, it has been known that Ziaur Rahman was involved in the plot to kill Bangabandhu for a long time.
In response to a question, they said that Ziaur Rahman took over as the Chief of Army Staff from the Deputy Chief of Army Staff immediately after the August 15 coup. Then he neither wanted to see any civilian government nor was even against the rapid introduction of any political process in the country. Unsatisfied desire, ambition, and greed got General Zia in such a way that he wanted to be sworn in as the country’s president at any cost. He was the main patron of the August 15 and November 3 killings. They even made it clear in a book jointly written by Rashid and Farooq later.
Meanwhile, Shahriar, another assassin of Bangabandhu, also mentioned Ziaur Rahman’s name in an interview with the weekly Meghna in 1985. In response to a question, he said: “Ziaur Rahman was the deputy chief of the army at that time. He had many functions to do. So, we have talked to him many times. These meetings have been held in many places.”
Meanwhile, after the assassination of Bangabandhu, the two murderers Farooq and Rashid gave an interview to foreign journalist Anthony Mascarenhas in 1976. There, Farooq Rahman said, “I met Deputy Chief of Army Staff Ziaur Rahman on the evening of March 20, 1975. He then listened to everything and instructed us to move forward. However, as a senior officer, he expressed his inability to be in front.” Farooq also said that he had several meetings with Khondaker Mostaq. Anthony Mascarenhas later asked Ziaur Rahman if he wanted to talk about the matter. Ziaur Rahman said he would consider it later, but he did not respond.
Majed is another killer of Bangabandhu. He had fled to India for a long time hiding his identity. After his arrest, he also said that Ziaur Rahman had directly patronised the army members involved in the assassination of Bangabandhu. He allows them to go abroad with their families. Zia even offered a job at the foreign ministry as a prize posting.
Zia instructed to kill four national leaders in jail after Bangabandhu
Day after the assassination of Bangabandhu, Khondaker Mostaq declared himself the President and Ziaur Rahman took over the charge as Chief of Army Staff.
Mahabub Alam Chashi, who was once known as a close associate of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a Pakistani foreign ministry official, was made the chief secretary. After that, the army led by its new chief Ziaur Rahman started a crackdown on Awami League leaders and freedom fighters all over the country.
During the tense period, Khondaker Mostaq used to maintain regular visits at Bangabhaban to keep himself at the center of power. However, his fate was ruined in less than three months.
But before that, Mostaq and Ziaur Rahman had already taken four national leaders of the Liberation War – Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Kamaruzzaman and Captain Mansur Ali – to jail.
Mostaq considered the four jailed national leaders a threat to himself. At the same time, Army Chief Ziaur Rahman decided to remove these leaders forever to ensure his long-term power.
Zia allegedly sent troops to the jail to assassinate the national leaders. Even after the assassination of Bangabandhu, those who refused to join Mostaq’s cabinet were threatened by Zia’s soldiers with weapons.
Also, when Mostaq entered parliament for the first time after illegally declaring himself president, many lawmakers angered Ziaur Rahman’s troops for not standing up to greet him. The next day, six people were picked up from their homes and put in jail on Zia’s orders.
Ziaur Rahman rewarded the killers of Bangabandhu with impunity
Backed by Ziaur Rahman, Khondaker Mostaq emerged as the self-proclaimed President of the country after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and his family on August 15, 1975. In the last week of September, Mostaq issued the infamous Indemnity Ordinance to protect Bangabandhu’s killers. It was originally called Ordinance No. 50 of 1975. Later in 1979, after declaring himself the President of the country through a dramatic vote, General Ziaur Rahman turned this ordinance into law. He approved it in his self-decorated parliament.
Ziaur Rahman made the 5th amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh on July 9, 1979, only to protect the assassins of Bangabandhu and four national leaders. Also, he made arrangements for the safe repatriation of Bangabandhu’s assassins while he was the Chief of Army Staff and the de facto head of state under military conditions. Later he rewarded the killers of Bangabandhu with jobs in embassies of different countries on a hefty salary from the state fund. Here is a list of the 12 assassins of Bangabandhu who were rewarded by Ziaur Rahman with their jobs abroad:
- Lt. Colonel Shariful Haque (Dalim) – first secretary in China,
- Lt. Colonel Aziz Pasha – the first secretary in Argentina,
- Major AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed – the first secretary in Algeria,
- Major Bazlul Huda – Second Secretary to Pakistan,
- Major Shahriar Rashid – Second Secretary in Indonesia,
- Major Rashed Chowdhury – the second secretary in Saudi Arabia,
- Major Nur Chowdhury – second secretary in Iran,
- Major Shariful Hossain – second secretary in Kuwait
- Colonel Kismat Hashem – third secretary in Abu Dhabi,
- Lt. Khairuzzaman – Egypt’s third secretary,
- Lt. Nazmul Hossain – third secretary in Canada
- Lt. Abdul Majed – third secretary in Senegal.
The illegal Zia government also assured Major Farooq and Rashid, two of the key killers of Bangabandhu, to lead a luxurious life in Libya.
Under the patronage of Ziaur Rahman, they settled in Libya but opened one business after another in Bangladesh, worth crores of money. It should be noted that Farooq and Rashid are brothers-in-law in relation. Again, Rashid is the nephew of Khondaker Mostaq and both were very trusted officials of Ziaur Rahman. In subsequent interviews, the duo admitted having meetings with Ziaur Rahman on more than one occasion before the assassination of Bangabandhu and a coup with the direct support of Zia.
BNP-Jamaat Left No Stone Unturned to Halt the Bangabandhu Murder Case
Supported and encouraged by Army Chief Major Ziaur Rahman, Khondaker Mostaq announced an indemnity ordinance to halt the trial of the Bangabandhu murder case. The Zia enacted the ordinance to stop all ways for the trial permanently. His wife Khaleda Zia also regularly patronized the killers in the latter days by every means. They even made several attempts to kill Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina. The BNP-Jamaat alliance, led by Khaleda Zia even released the killers and shamefully awarded them.
On November 7, 1975, Zia grabbed the central power of the country, and later in 1977, he declared himself the country’s president. As president, his first action was to protect the killers of August 15. He sent some of them to different countries and kept some in parliament. In 1979, he arranged an election to legalize his government. By legislating indemnity law, Zia decriminalized the killings of August 15 and November 3, 1975. Zia also led the attempt to uproot the contributions of Bangabandhu in the history of Bangladesh.
In the 21 years of autocratic rulers since the Bangabandhu assassination, all-out efforts were made to wipe out the spirit of the Liberation War. They distorted the history of the Liberation War. The rule of law was obliterated. In 1981, Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu came back to Bangladesh with life risk. With huge public support, she came to power through the 1996 general elections. After forming the government, she abolished the Indemnity Act and took steps to the trial of the convicts on August 15 and November 3.
When BNP formed the government in 2001, they halted the trial process. Even the BNP government re-employed the criminals, who were dismissed by the Awami League government.
However, with the manifesto to complete the trial of Bangabandhu murder and war crimes, the Awami League government came to power in 2009. The trial proceedings, stopped by the BNP in 2001, were re-initiated by the Awami League government. Five of the killers were executed in 2009, one of them died abroad and four of them are still fleeing abroad. The government has been sincerely working to bring them back and ensure justice.