Jail killing: An attempt to cripple Bangladesh
The killing of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sk. Mujibur Rahman on August 15 and the jail killing of four national leaders on November 3 were done by the same group of conspirators to turn back the Spirit of Liberation.
The brutal killing of Bangabandhu Sk. Mujibur Rahman along with many of his family members was the first major success of the conspirators in their efforts to bring back military rule and dictatorship. The next step was to kill the four leaders of our War of Liberation who, by virtue of their patriotism, leadership qualities and sacrifice, made it possible to free the country through a war against one of the known military powers of the world.
Since these patriotic and democratic minded leaders refused to join the illegal military government of Khandakar Mushtaque, the self-confessed perpetrators made them their next target as they played the leading role in the 1971 War of Independence. When the local agents of the international conspirators became afraid of losing power in the face of an army move to dislodge them from Bangabhaban, they decided to kill the jailed national leaders so that the country would be deprived of their leadership.
The six-member bench of the Supreme Court, in its verdict in the jail-killing trial, indicated that political conspiracy inspired the killers to carry out such a heinous act inside the jail. These national leaders were, in fact, in the custody of the state, and it would possibly be very difficult to find an example where a peacetime government instructed or inspired certain individuals having no official position to commit such a dastardly act. Thus, one can say without any hesitation that it was part of a well-calculated move to destroy the gains of our hard earned independence. The conspirators for whom the killers committed this criminal act made their plan so that everything the people of this country fought for and dreamt about would be destroyed.
Following the tragic events of August 15, 1975, the self-confessed killers started to consolidate their position from Bangabhaban without holding any official position and undertook the overall responsibility of ruling the country. This caused serious reaction amongst the senior army officials as they did not like the violation of service discipline and military hierarchy even in day-to-day administrative matters. The issue of restoration of chain of command became a concern and there was heavy pressure from different army units for asking the rebels to come back to their respective units for performing their duties. It was also learnt from different sources that some directives issued through letters from army headquarters were also ignored by the rebels, which caused serious concern for the headquarters.
In such a situation, some officers of Dhaka Cantonment under the command of brigade commander Col. Shafaat Jamil and with the overall guidance of Brig. Khaled Mosharraf organised themselves to attack and dislodge the rebels by force from Bangabhaban. Even the air force was used with helicopters and other aircrafts to terrorise the rebels, although there were differences of opinion about the mode and time of the operation between the chief of staff Major General Ziaur Rahman and the Chief of General staff Brig. Khaled Mosharraf , as it was learnt from different sources. General Zia wanted to do it gradually, especially after bringing back the tanks and armoured vehicles from the Bangabhaban area. But Brig. Khaled wanted to do it at the first available chance and teach them a lesson.
However, after the operation in the early hours of November 3, 1975, the situation became very tense as both groups readied themselves for a direct confrontation. Air Force chief Air Vice Marshal M.G. Tawab, who was an appointee of the rebel group, approached the members of the rebel group and was able to convince them to go for a settlement through discussion. Col. Malek, Col. Mannaf and Col. Chisti went to Bangabhaban and had a discussion with the rebel group members with the mediation of General M.A.G. Osmany , who was at that time working as Defence Adviser to Khandakar Mushtaque.
The members of the rebel group finally agreed to leave Bangabhaban and wanted a safe passage to Bangkok. The representatives of the army headquarters group demanded that Brig. Khaled Mosharraf be made the next chief of army staff after promoting him as major general with immediate effect -- that is November 4. The incumbent chief Major General Ziaur Rahman was retired from service and interned in his house in the cantonment. A series of meetings of the senior military officials were held at the army headquarters with General Khaled Mosharraf in the chair, and it was decided to appoint Justice A.M. Sayem as the next president of the country on November 5, replacing Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed. Justice Sayem, after becoming president, issued a press release terming the jail killing of November 3 as a heinous criminal act and formed a high powered three-member judicial commission to probe the matter. The commission was also asked to find out as to how the criminals involved in the jail killing were allowed to leave the country freely.
All those changes clearly indicate that Khandakar Mushtaque was president of the country till November 5, but his cabinet, although it existed officially, had practically no job to do. In the same way, the new chief of army staff Major General Khaled Mosharraf had officially nothing to do in the affairs of the state, but two major decisions were made on his behalf. One allowed the self-confessed killers safe passage to Bangkok in the afternoon of November 4, although they had killed the four national leaders inside the Dhaka central jail in the early hours of November 3. The other decision was not to allow to burial of the dead bodies of the martyred four national leaders near the graves of H.S. Suhrawardy and Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq at the High Court compound where the graves were already dug for them. What prompted them, who were mostly freedom fighters, to take such a negative attitude to the national leaders who were the pillars of our glorious War of Independence in 1971 is still not known.
The writer is a freedom fighter, and former Director, ISPR.