Rewards for slayers
After the most gruesome political assassinations in the history of Bangladesh, perpetrated on August 15 and November 3 of 1975, in which Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman along with most of his family members, and four national leaders were killed by disgruntled army officers, the killer majors and colonels were allowed free passage to Bangkok by a special plane.
The getaway was arranged by the then president, Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, immediately after the jail killing of the four national leaders on November 3.
Among the prominent killers who had led both the killings and fled the country were Lieutenant Colonels Syed Farooqur Rahman, Khandaker Abdur Rashid, and Shariful Haque Dalim.
Assuming power through the November 7, 1975 regime change, former president late Lt Gen Ziaur Rahman rewarded 12 army officials involved in the Bangabandhu killing with diplomatic jobs at Bangladesh missions abroad in 1976.
They were incorporated in the foreign service in September 1980. Only Farooq and Rashid declined to accept any diplomatic assignment.
Subsequent military ruler HM Ershad, who came to power through a military coup on March 24, 1982, and the elected governments of Khaleda Zia followed the policy of Lt Gen Zia regarding the self-confessed killers of Bangabandhu. The accused army officers enjoyed all facilities of government jobs and got promotions during the regimes.
Those who were given diplomatic jobs as rewards for the August 15 and November 3, 1975 killings were Lt Col Shariful Huq Dalim, Lt Col Md Abdul Aziz Pasha, Lt Col Mohiuddin Ahmed, Lt Col Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Maj Md Bazlul Huda, Lt Col AM Rashed Chowdhury, Lt Col SHBM Nur Chowdhury, Maj Ahmed Sharful Hossain, Capt Md Kismat Hashem, Lt Khairuzzaman (later major), and Lt Abdul Majid (later captain).
Lt Col Shariful Huq Dalim was the first to get a diplomatic job at the Bangladesh mission in Peking (now Beijing), in China. Then he was made the consul general at the Bangladesh consulate in Hong Kong. He also served in Bangladesh mission in Tripoli, Libya. He got several promotions and finally was elevated to the post of an ambassador and his last posting was in Nairobi, Kenya as the high commissioner.
Dalim along with Lt Col Shahriar was also involved in an abortive coup on June 17, 1980. After that both men fled from their respective missions fearing arrest, but they returned to their jobs following an understanding with the then Zia government. Dalim, who fled to London from China following the failed 1980 coup, got back his job during Lt Gen HM Ershad's regime and was appointed to the Hong Kong mission.
Lt Col Md Abdul Aziz Pasha was appointed the first secretary to Bangladesh mission in Rome, Italy. Aziz Pasha was arrested in Dhaka over his involvement in the June 17, 1980 coup, but he too reached an understanding with the then government after he had agreed to testify about the coup, and was again given diplomatic job as a counsellor in Rome. He also served in Nairobi.
Pasha's last posting was in Zimbabwe as the deputy high commissioner. He was dismissed from service by the last Awami League government in 1996. Pasha sought asylum in Zimbabwe and died there on June 2, 2001. Surprisingly, the BNP-led alliance government, after assuming power again in 2001, reinstated Pasha in service posthumously, to provide his family with all government facilities like pension, showing him as 'retired' from the service.
Lt Col AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed was appointed as a counsellor to the Algiers mission, and Lt Col AHMB Nur Chowdhury as a counsellor to Brazil, Tehran, and Algiers.
Maj Md Bazlul Huda, who was arrested and handed over to Bangladesh government by Thailand, served in Islamabad and Jeddah. Lt Col Mohiuddin Ahmed served in Bangladesh missions in Bangkok and Jeddah.
Lt Col AM Rashed Chowdhury was posted as a counsellor in Nigeria till 1984, and his last posting was in Tokyo as the head of chancery also as a counsellor (political). The last Awami League government in 1996 removed him from service.
Maj Ahmed Sharful Hossain alias Shariful Islam was appointed a counsellor in Senegal. He also served at the Bangladesh consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and in Muscat, Oman.
Lt Khairuzzaman (later a major) was appointed as the first secretary to the Bangladesh mission in Cairo. He was later promoted to the post of the high commissioner. His last posting was in Malaysia. The Awami League government after its assumption of power in 1996 recalled Khairuzzaman while he was the acting ambassador in Manila.
Khairuzzaman was accused on the charge sheet of the jail killing case and then was arrested and given forced retirement on September 24, 1996. Soon after the BNP-led alliance government assumed power on 2001, Khairuzzaman was shifted from jail to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital and then released on bail. On May 4, 2003 he was reinstated as a key director general in the foreign office and later promoted as an additional secretary to the ministry. He was then acquitted in the case by a court. Later, he was appointed ambassador to Myanmar by the BNP-led government. He was transferred to the Bangladesh mission in Kuala Lumpur during the immediate past caretaker government as the high commissioner. The Awami League government after returning to power on January 6 this year asked him to come back to Dhaka and report to the foreign ministry by March 7, but he did not comply with the government order and now remains absconding.
Lt Nazmul Hossain Ansar (later a captain) got a diplomatic assignment as the third secretary in Ottawa, Canada.
Risaldar Moslemuddin was given a posting in Tehran and Jeddah. Capt Md Kismat Hashem got a diplomatic job in Ottawa, and Lt Abdul Majid (later a captain) in Tripoli.
Lt Col Shahriar was given a diplomatic job at the Bangladesh embassy in Turkey and he returned to Bangladesh during the Ershad regime and floated a political party named Progotishil Ganotantrik Shakti (Progosh). He also served in Indonesia and Japan.
Lt Col Rashid and Lt Col Farooq, who fled the country on November 4, 1975, found homes in Libya. During Zia's rule they attempted to enter Bangladesh several times, but were not allowed. After several attempts, Col Farooq was able to enter Bangladesh twice, but both times he was arrested and forcibly sent back abroad. Both the leading killers were actively involved in abortive military coups during Zia's rule even as they were staying in Libya. They returned to Bangladesh during the Ershad regime and formed Freedom Party on November 7, 1987. Freedom Party contested in the farcical parliamentary polls of 1988 through which Bangabandhu's killer Maj Bazlul Huda was elected a member of the parliament. Farooq contested in the presidential election of October 15, 1986 as the party's nominee. Rashid took part in the February 15, 1996 elections and was 'elected' to the parliament.
When Ziaur Rahman assumed power he systematically helped the rehabilitation of the killers of Bangabandhu, said Mehnaz Rashid, daughter of Khandaker Abdur Rashid who recently was arrested in connection with the bomb attack on Awami League lawmaker Sheikh Fazle Nur Taposh.
Ziaur Rahman used to pay $100 a day to the family of Abdur Rashid as hotel expenses in Thailand following the assassination of Bangabandhu, Mehnaz told police.
Rashid's wife and four daughters were sent to Thailand in late September 1975 where they stayed in a hotel for several months. From Thailand they went to Dubai and then to Libya where the family currently lives and runs own business.
Zia with the help of the then Pakistan premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto convinced Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to allow Rashid and his family to live in that country.
Zia gave Mrs Rashid a duplex house in Gulshan 'as an award' for Rashid's role in Bangabandhu assassination, claimed Mehnaz.