Assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
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The president of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (also known as Sheikh Mujib or just Mujib) and almost his entire family were killed during the early hours of 15 August 1975, when a group of young Bangladesh Army personnel went into his residence and assassinated Sheikh Mujib as part of a coup d'état.
|Sheikh Mujibur Rahman assassination|
|Date||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|
|Motive||The perceived failure of the authoritarian Bangladeshi government and its subservience to India|
In the 1970 Pakistani general election, Sheikh Mujib's party, the Awami League, won the majority of the seats in the Pakistani National Assembly. They won 167 of the 169 seats in East Pakistan, which would later become Bangladesh after it seceded from West Pakistan. Despite Pakistan's military government delaying the handover of power, Mujib's house had become the de facto head of government in East Pakistan by March. At the start of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, he was arrested in his home by Pakistani soldiers. Later that year the provisional government of the Bangladeshi rebellion, the Mujibnagar Government, formed on 10 April and made Mujib its head and also the leader of Bangladeshi armed forces. Following the independence of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from custody from Pakistan in London, England, and flew to India followed by Bangladesh. Mujib led the government as Prime Minister of Bangladesh for three years after Bangladesh gained independence.
He was later elected President of Bangladesh and established a national unity government, the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL), on 7 June 1975 by banning all political parties and independent press. Although the BAKSAL was intended to bring stability to Bangladesh and uphold law and order, it engendered hostility among the bureaucracy, military, and civil society. Opposition groups, as well as some of Mujib's supporters, challenged Mujib's authoritarian, one-party state. The period of the BAKSAL's one-party rule was marked by widespread censorship and abuse of the judiciary, as well as opposition from the general populace, intellectuals, and all other political groups. The country was in chaos: corruption was rampant, and food shortage and poor distribution led to a disastrous famine. Nationalization of industry failed to yield any tangible progress. Not only was the government weak and with no clear goals, but the country was also nearly bankrupt. In the Far Eastern Economic Review, journalist Lawrence Lifschultz wrote in 1974 that "the corruption and malpractices and plunder of national wealth" in Bangladesh were "unprecedented".
A left-wing insurgency from 1972 to 1975 is widely held responsible for creating the conditions that lead up to the assassination. In 1972, a leftist group named the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) was founded from a split in the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of the Bangladesh Awami League. They had an ideology of scientific socialism. The JSD, through its armed wing Gonobahini led by Colonel Abu Taher and politician Hasanul Haq Inu, began a political massacre of government supporters, Awami League members, and police. Their campaign contributed to a breakdown of law and order in the country and paved the way for the assassination of Mujib.
Major Syed Faruque Rahman; Khandaker Abdur Rashid; Shariful Haque Dalim; and Mohiuddin Ahmed, along with A. K. M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, and S. H. M. B. Noor Chowdhury (three majors in the Bangladesh Army and veterans of the Bangladesh Liberation War), planned to topple the government and establish a military government of their own. They were previously part of the opposition to BAKSAL and viewed the government as too subservient to India and a threat to Bangladesh's military. Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, an Awami League cabinet minister under Mujib's government, agreed to take over the Presidency. Journalist Lawrence Lifschultz paints an alternate picture of the conspiracy, however, that implicates Mostaq and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In his book Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution, he wrote that the "CIA station chief in Dhaka, Philip Cherry, was actively involved in the killing of the Father of the Nation—Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman." It is alleged that the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kazi Mohammed Shafiullah, and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence Air Vice Marshal, Aminul Islam Khan, were aware of the conspiracy.
In the early morning of 15 August 1975, the conspirators divided into four groups. One group, consisting of members of the Bengal Lancers of the First Armoured Division and 535th Infantry Division under Major Huda, attacked Mujib's residence. Correspondent for Anandabazar Patrika Sukharanjan Dasgupta, who described the Bangladesh Liberation War 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. Meanwhile, Mujib was asked to resign and allowed time to consider his choice. He telephoned Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmad, the new Chief of Military Intelligence. When Jamil arrived and ordered the troops back to the barracks, he was gunned down at the gate of the residence. After he refused to resign, Mujib was shot and killed.
Other people killed in the attack were Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, wife of Mujib, who was killed upstairs; Sheikh Nasser, younger brother of Mujib, who was killed in a lavatory; several servants of Mujib, who were also killed in lavatories; Sheikh Jamal, the second son of Mujib and an army officer; ten-year-old Sheikh Russel, the youngest son of Mujib; and two daughters-in-law of Mujib.
In Dhanmondi, two other groups of soldiers killed Sheikh Fazlul Haque Mani, Mujib's nephew and a leader of the Awami League along with his pregnant wife, Arzu Moni, and Abdur Rab Serniabat, Mujib's brother-in-law. They also killed a minister of the government and thirteen of his family members on Mintu Road.
The fourth and most powerful group was sent towards Savar to repel 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 assassinationEdit
Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad assumed the presidency, and Major General Ziaur Rahman became the new Chief of Army Staff. The leading conspirators were all given high government ranks. They were all 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. This act is celebrated in Bangladesh as a holiday as National Revolution and Solidarity Day.
Major Syed Faruque Rahman, Rashid, and the other army officers were promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Nevertheless, they were exiled to Libya, China, Rhodesia, Canada, and other countries, although they 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 the military ruler Lieutenant General Hussain Mohammad Ershad but lost that election in a landslide.
Mujib's two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in West Germany at the time of his assassination. After the coup, they flew back to India, instead of Bangladesh and took refuge with the Indian government. Sheikh Hasina lived in New Delhi in a self-imposed exile before returning to Bangladesh on 17 May 1981.
The military decided not to court-martial the military officials who masterminded and participated in the coup. A. F. M. Mohitul Islam, personal assistant to Sheikh Mujib and a survivor of the attack on his house, attempted to file a case against the military officers, but the police slapped him in the face and refused to file the report. The assassination conspirators could not be tried in a court of law because of the Indemnity Act passed by the government under President Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad. When the Awami League, led by Mujib's daughter Sheikh Hasina, won elections in 1996, the act was repealed. The Bangabandhu murder trial began with the case filing by A. F. M. Mohitul Islam.
Colonel (Rtd.) Syed Faruque Rahman was arrested from his Dhaka home, and Colonel (Rtd.) Bazlul Huda was brought back from Bangkok, where he was serving a prison sentence for shoplifting as part of a criminal exchange program between Thailand and Bangladesh. Lieutenant Colonel Mohiuddin Ahmed was in active military service when he was arrested. Colonel (Rtd.) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan had been appointed to active diplomatic service by previous Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia, but he returned to Bangladesh and was arrested when he was recalled by the foreign ministry. Colonel (Rtd.) Abdur Rashid and other accused individuals had already left Bangladesh, however. They believed that the upcoming 1996 general election would be an Awami League victory, which would result in the repealing of the Indemnity Act and their subsequent arrest. Colonel (Rtd.) Rashid now reportedly shuttles between Pakistan and Libya. All these men were also involved in Jail Killing Day on 3 November 1975, when four Awami League officials were assassinated.
The first trial ended on 8 November 1998. The District and Session Judge of Dhaka, Mohammad Golam Rasul, ordered the death sentence by firing squad to fifteen out of the twenty accused of conspiring in the assassination. The sentences were not carried out immediately, because five of the convicts sought to file appeals in the high court division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The Supreme Court, consisting of Justice Mohammad Ruhul Amin and Justice A. B. M. Khairul Haque, who was the former Chief Justice of Bangladesh, gave a divisive verdict. Senior Justice Amin acquitted five out of the original fifteen accused, whereas Junior Justice Haque upheld the lower court's verdict. A verdict from a third judge became necessary. Later, Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim condemned twelve out of original fifteen, including two acquitted in Justice Amin's verdict.
One of the convicts, Major (Rtd.) Aziz Pasha died in Zimbabwe on 2 June 2001. Although the five accused appealed to the appellate division of the Supreme Court, their decision remained pending from August 2001. Several judges refused to hear the case, which meant the government lacked the three judges required to hold a hearing session. 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 a six year delay. 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 building, to prevent disruption of the proceedings by the convicted men's supporters. Nevertheless, they were 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 through the high court division and appellate division verdicts and now live in Canada. Taheruddin Thakur, former Information Minister and one of the suspects, was cleared during the Hasina Government, acquitted in trial, and released. He died naturally in 2009. 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 was 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 Armoured 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."
- 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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