Mushtaque, a hero! | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 14, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:11 AM, August 14, 2015

Mushtaque, a hero!

Khaleda-led BNP mourned his death at JS

Being the foreign minister he engaged in a conspiracy to foil Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971 and wanted to keep Pakistan united. In independent Bangladesh, he joined another conspiracy to overthrow Bangabandhu's government.

He grabbed the presidency and declared martial law after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and overthrow of his government on August 15, 1975. His government was quickly recognised by Pakistan.

He termed the changeover "historic" and "for the sake of the nation" and portrayed the killers of Bangabandhu as the brightest son of the armed forces and indemnified them by promulgating an ordinance.

He is none other than Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed. His conspiratorial role and betrayal has made him a villain in the country's history.

Yet, after his death eulogies flowed calling him a “seasoned politician and parliamentarian” and the Jatiya Sangsad was made to express deep sorrow and condolence for his death. He was also portrayed as a “meritorious son of the soil”.

This crown for Mushtaque was from BNP, a political party founded by Gen Ziaur Rahman who was the biggest beneficiary of Bangabandhu murder. The sixth parliament dominated by Khaleda Zia-led BNP took an obituary reference following Mushtaque's death.

Mushtaque died on March 6, 1996 and the parliament formed through the one-sided election on February 15 the same year adopted the obituary reference on March 19.

There was no opposition in the Jatiya Sangsad to the obituary reference condoling Mushtaque's death. Citizens were not too aware with this development because of the then uncertain political situation.

The opposition parties--led by Awami League--were in the streets to wage a violent movement to force the then BNP-led government to introduce the non-partisan caretaker government.  

The condolence motion passed unanimously in the inaugural sitting of the sixth parliament.

Speaker Sheikh Razzak Ali moved the obituary reference to mourn deaths of Mushtaque and some other who had died since December 1995 to March 19, the time since dissolution of the fifth parliament to the inaugural of the sixth one.

In the obituary reference, Mushtaque was portrayed as a “seasoned politician”. It made mention of his political career.

"He took charge of the presidency after the political changeover in 1975 and he remained in the office for around three months," said the obituary reference about his grabbing the state power.

"The country lost a seasoned politician and parliamentarian and skilled lawyer for his death. This parliament is expressing deep sorrow and condolence for his death and seeking salvation for his departed soul," it added.

The House also expressed sincere sympathy to family members of Mushtaque and decided to send a copy of the obituary reference to them.

A brief discussion was held before the passage of the obituary reference. Participating in the discussion, senior BNP leader Dr. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, the then home minister, highlighted his political career.  "He contributed to the great Liberation War in 1971," he said. 

It is a convention for the parliament to make obituary references at the beginning of each session to mourn the deaths of eminent persons and victims of any tragic incident that occur during its recess or in between the dissolution of one parliament to the formation of a new one.  

But the inaugural session of the second parliament in 1979 began differently.

Dominated by the then BNP-led by military ruler Ziaur Rahman, the second parliament completely ignored the brutal assassinations of the four national leaders --Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mansur Ali and Kamruzzaman -- inside the Dhaka central jail on November 3, 1975.

It did not even mention their names in the obituary reference let alone mourn their deaths.

In the condolence motion, there was no mention of Bangabandhu's family members and others who were murdered on August 15.

The House mourned the death of Bangabandhu. It however described his gruesome assassination as "a political changeover".

Before the House took up the motion, AL leader Asaduzzaman Khan, the then leader of the opposition, met newly elected Speaker Mirza Golam Hafiz and appealed to him to ensure that parliament paid due tribute to Bangabandhu in the obituary reference.

But the speaker, who was a BNP MP, rejected the opposition's appeal. He placed the proposal for the obituary reference with a half-hearted tribute to Bangabandhu.

Even Bangabandhu's portrait was removed from the chamber of the House before the second parliament started its journey.

In comparison to Bangabandhu and the four national leaders, Mushtaque was fortunate. He was given honour by the BNP. Taking the obituary reference for his death exposed BNP's sympathy for him.

MUSHTAQUE IN CONSPIRACY

Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed was the foreign minister of the then government in exile that led the country's Liberation War in 1971. But he was relieved of this position only a few days after the Mujibnagar government came back to Dhaka from India after the Liberation.

He was replaced by Abdus Samad Azad in the first reshuffle of the then cabinet. The reason for the removal was one of his surreptitious moves during the Liberation War to enter negotiation with the Pakistani military junta to reach a compromise to keep Pakistan united by forming a confederation.

With this agenda, Mushtaque held a meeting with a representative of State Department of USA. He found Mahbubul Alam Chashi, the then foreign secretary of the government in exile, on his side.

After the meeting with the US official, Chashi asked a Bangladesh representative to open negotiation with the Pakistani military junta through the USA.

But the secret message was intercepted by Indian intelligence agency, RAW.

In the eyes of RAW, Mushtaque was a CIA agent and had been working for the US intelligence agency since the formation of the Bangladesh government in exile in 1971. RAW also found Mushtaque in league with a CIA operative in a hotel at Calcutta.

Tajuddin Ahmed, Prime Minister of the government in exile, was informed about his minister's conspiratorial activities against Bangladesh's Liberation War. Mushtaque's move was against the decision of the then government.

Interception of the secret message prompted the then government in exile to scrap its earlier decision to send Mushtaque to attend a UN conference as the leader of Bangladesh delegation.

However, Mushtaque could not accept his removal from the foreign ministry. In protest, he resigned from the cabinet and got admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital. He took back his resignation letter on request of Dr. Wazed Mia, husband of Sheikh Hasina.

He agreed on condition that Wazed Mia would lobby Bangabandhu on his return from Pakistan jail for Mushtaque to reinstate him as the foreign minister or to give him some other important portfolio like finance or industries and commerce ministry.

Wazed Mia went to the hospital to meet Mushtaque considering the prevailing situation in newly born Bangladesh when Pakistani forces were still in Dhaka and Pakistan trained armed collaborators were still active and the government had yet to establish a firm control over the administration. 

Wazed Mia had thought the rise of any disunity and conflict within Awami League would jeopardise the country's independence.

After Bangabandhu's return, Mushtaque consolidated his position in Bangabandhu's cabinet.

But within years, he engaged in another conspiracy to overthrow the Bangabandhu-led government and succeeded in his mission.    

[The report is prepared based on the books "Mission R&AW" by RK Yadab, "Some Events Centring on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bangladesh" by MA Wazed Mia, "My Life's Story and Liberation Struggle of Bangladesh" by Dr AR Mallick and proceeding of the inaugural sitting of the sixth parliament.]

 

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