All these years, indeed decades, after the execution of Col Abu Taher in dubious circumstances, the 198-page judgement by the High Court on his trial and hanging restores his reputation before the country.
But, of course, Taher's reputation has never been in question. What was in question was the sordid manner in which the martial law regime, where General Ziaur Rahman was the strongman with a pliant president ASM Sayem beside him, sent Taher, clearly one of the bravest of freedom fighters, to a premature end.
Now that justice has finally been done to Col Taher, questions naturally arise over other crimes committed in Bangladesh between 1975 and 1981. Those were the years when conspiracy, mayhem and murder vitiated the country's politics and left the state hobbled through an absence of strong, legitimate national leadership.
With Taher's case now having seen a resolution, it ought to be for the state to initiate investigations into the circumstances in which Khaled Musharraf, Najmul Huda and ATM Haider, all senior army officers and courageous freedom fighters, were murdered early in the morning on November 7 in 1975. Once they had been killed, their corpses were subjected to systematic insult by forces loyal to Zia for days until a threat of decomposition of the bodies led to their burial.
Thirty-eight years after the murder of the three men by mutinous soldiers driven by thoughts of a so-called "sipahi-janata biplob", legal measures can and should be taken to identify the general soldiers and officers responsible for the gruesome incident on November 7. It may well be that many of the perpetrators of the crime have since died. That should be no bar to naming and shaming them, along with those sepoys and officers who are yet around.
Musharraf, Huda and Haider demonstrated immense courage and commitment to the cause of freedom in 1971. Their murderers, in 1975, sought to tar their reputations through the lie that they were Indo-Soviet agents working against the interests of Bangladesh. Their accusers must be exposed and their reputations must be restored, to a point where they must be officially recognised as national heroes not merely because of their wartime contributions but also because of the decisive manner in which they sent the murderous Moshtaque cabal packing in early November 1975.
An inquiry is also an imperative in the matter of all the hangings and disappearances of army soldiers and air force men following the crushing of the many coup attempts against the Zia regime in the six years between 1975 and 1981. There were summary trials followed by summary executions. There are families which have to this day little or no clue about the fate of the sons and brothers and husbands they lost to the peremptory instincts of the Zia regime.
Likewise, a thorough inquiry is required to determine the circumstances that eventually led to the assassination of General Zia in Chittagong on May 30 in 1981. To be sure, a number of army officers were tried by a military court headed by General Abdur Rahman months after the putsch, but questions have remained about the fairness and transparency of the court martial and the subsequent executions of thirteen officers.
One other matter of concern is the murder of General MA Manzoor within days of the Zia assassination. Arrested by police while he was on the run, he demanded to speak to the army chief of staff. That was General HM Ershad. The request was not granted. Instead, Manzoor was handed over to the army. Sometime later, his body was found beside a drain in Chittagong cantonment. A bullet had pierced his skull.
It is important that those responsible for Manzoor's murder, indeed for ordering it, be swiftly apprehended to ascertain the truth behind the incidents of late May-early June 1981. There are yet many of the men responsible for his plight around. If they go to their graves without answering for their crimes, an outrage against morality will have been perpetrated.
With justice having been done in the Bangabandhu murder case, the jail killing case and the Taher case, it is only proper that all other unresolved matters of criminal conduct in high places between the mid-1970s and early 1980s be brought to a logical conclusion.
States which try to paper over the past are condemned to political perdition.