THE QUINTESSENTIAL BENGALI

THE QUINTESSENTIAL BENGALI

SYED BADRUL AHSAN

That pipe was his trademark. No matter where he happened to be — in prison or at home or at conferences or meeting foreign heads of government — that pipe was his constant companion. Bangabandhu was fond of that pipe, which he filled with Erinmore tobacco. In his conversation with the celebrated British television host David Frost in early 1972, he made it a point to let the latter know just how important that pipe was to him. And he smoked it in style, in grandeur. To his already pronounced gravitas, the pipe only added more of it, with a dash of elegance befitting a statesman.

It was a habit that suited the Mujib personality only too well. Tall for a Bengali — he was above 6 feet in height — with a thick moustache that enhanced his hold on the public imagination, with a voice that was deep and profound, the leader of the Bengali nation mesmerized audiences both at home and abroad. On his way back home from London by way of Delhi in January 1972, as he rose to address an Indian crowd come to see him after all those months of war in his newly independent Bangladesh, he began his remarks in English.

The crowd, almost all of whom were non-Bengalis, was in the mood for his famous speech-making skills in Bengali. Indira Gandhi, sensing the desire of the crowd, requested him to speak in his native Bengali. The result was a powerful enumeration of his thoughts about politics, about his struggling country, about India’s contribution to Bangladesh’s efforts to free itself of foreign subjugation.

It was vintage Mujib. Nearly ten months in solitary confinement in Pakistan, with no access to newspapers, radio and television, had not dimmed his ardour when it came to a discourse on politics. He spoke without notes, as he always did, captivating his audience. That too was part of his character.

His oratory was all. He stood tall and erect as he spoke, moving his headfrom side to side, as if telling the crowd he had them all in his vision, that everyone was part of the occasion. And then there was that famous finger which rose steadily in the air as he spoke, to emphasise the point he was making. The finger symbolized his grit and his determination at the 7 March 1971 rally in Dhaka. But, then again, the finger had been an essential component of Bangabandhu’s body language.

Bangabandhu made it a point to look his visitors or his hosts in the eye as he conversed with them. Not for him a shifty attitude, not for him any nervousness or shyness. At the Round Table Conference in Rawalpindi — and that was only within days of his release from the Agartala Case — he looked at his tormentor Ayub Khan directly as he shook hands with him. It was Ayub who was unable to match Mujib in that moment of drama in the history of Pakistan. Confidence was natural to Mujib. At the White House, in 1974, he sat with crossed legs, puffed on his pipe as he spoke to US President Gerald Ford.

The old charisma was there. Indeed, his charisma never went away, never died. He lighted up a room, any room, he made his way into. There was little of the formal about him, but much of garrulity was there. It was his voice which boomed across the place, wherever he happened to be. When to that voice was added humour, the results were electric. Mujib’s sense of humour was legendary. He could crack jokes; he could mimic other politicians. And he had the ability to laugh at himself.

People — simple citizens as well as reputed politicians and statesmen — were put at ease in Bangabandhu’s presence. His banter, his good-natured arguments, his wit all made people feel comfortable in his presence. He was Father of the Nation, he was Prime Minister and he was President. But to everyone around him, to every citizen of Bangladesh, he was Sheikh Shaheb or he was Mujib bhai or he was simply ‘Amago Muzibor’. To the country at large, he was Bangabandhu. He thus shared a high pedestal with Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, both men he adored and respected from deep within his soul. All three men were Bengalis and all three were free of the pretensions which often have characterized other politicians.

Music was a passion with Bangabandhu. In music he sought deeper meanings for his politics and those meanings came from Tagore and Nazrul. ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ was deeply embedded in his soul. Nazrul’s songs of rebellion were part of his political repertoire. In the rivers of Bangladesh, he spotted cadences of melody as he travelled by boat from one part of the land to another. In his trek through the villages, hundreds of them, he felt the music that spoke of freedom for an oppressed people.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman respected people. At the approach of academics, scholars and so many others, he rose to his feet as a mark of his respect for them. His office was more a room for a congregation of people and ideas; his visitors were a mix of the great and the humble. As a man of the people, he never differentiated between individuals and between classes. Humility was his strength.

That was Bangabandhu. Observe closely, if you will, that image of him, clad in genji (t-shirt) and lungi as he sits down to a meal at home. It is the picture of a quintessential Bengali, the person you run into every day, the person that you yourself are. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was an aggregate of all of us put together.

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The writer is Associate Editor, The Asian Age
JANUARY 10, 2018

Posted in - KNOW YOUR ENEMY -, - REVOLUTIONARY VOICES -, BANGABANDHU - Father of our Nation, BENGAL - Heritage, BENGALI NATIONALISM, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, HISTORY OF BENGAL, LEADERS - IN ITS TRUE SENSE, SYED BADRUL AHSAN | Leave a comment

ZIA REGIME ‘STOPPED’ BRITISH JURISTS ENTERING BANGLADESH TO PROBE BANGABANDHU MURDER

ZIA REGIME ‘STOPPED’ BRITISH JURISTS ENTERING BANGLADESH TO PROBE BANGABANDHU MURDER

British jurists, who set up the first enquiry into the murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and four national leaders, were barred from entering Bangladesh in January of 1981.

General Ziaur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh Nationalist Party or BNP, was then the president of Bangladesh.

The Commission of Jurists aimed to investigate the circumstances which had “impeded the normal processes of law and justice from having taken their course in these cases”.

Their preliminary report was published on Mar 20, 1982, a copy of which is with bdnews24.com.

The report concludes that the processes of law and justice have not been permitted to take their course following the murders.

“It would appear that the government has duly been responsible for impeding their process. These impediments should be removed and law and justice should be allowed to take their course.”

Bangaldesh’s founding father and President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members on Aug 15 of 1975.

Among his children, Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, and Sheikh Rehana survived as they were in Europe at that time.

Four national leaders — Syed Nazrul Islam, Vice-president, Tajuddin Ahmed, first Prime Minister, M Mansur Ali, Prime Minister, and AHM Qamaruzzaman, Industries Minister– were shot dead during detention inside Dhaka Central Jail on Nov 3, 1975.

According to the report, the commission was set up amid concern felt in many quarters in Bangladesh, and in the international community, at the failure to bring their murderers to justice.

It was in response to an appeal made by the family of Bangabandhu and the other victims, as well as other supporters who held meetings in different parts of Britain, Europe and in Bangladesh, said the commission’s first press release issued on Sept 19, 1980.

A day before, the committee met in London and agreed to start the inquiry.

The aim was “to make its appraisal of the legal issues involved in order to determine action that may be initiated to bring those responsible for the commission of these grave crimes to justice”.

“Members of the Committee expect to visit Bangladesh shortly in this connection,” it said.

Sir Thomas Williams, QC MP, headed the commission, which also had Sean MacBride, former president of Amnesty International and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The others were Jeffrey Thomas, QC MP, and Aubrey Rose, who acted as secretary.

The Bangladesh High Commission in London received an application seeking visa for Jeffrey Thomas and his assistant, who planned to visit Bangladesh in January of 1981.

“That visit could not take place as visas were not issued for Mr Thomas and his assistant, no letter of refusal was ever sent to the commission or its secretary, and, despite a number of letters and requests to the High Commission, no letter has ever been received from the High Commission in relation to the proposed visit,” said the preliminary report.

Hasina wrote the foreward of the report.

“Unable to get satisfaction from the Bangladesh authorities, the families of the victims and their democratic minded supporters in Britain, determined that the matter must not be allowed to rest, persuaded a number of distinguished jurists to set up a commission to inquire into the murder of Bangabandhu and his family and of the four national leaders while under detention without trial in the Dacca Central Jail,” said the Awami League chief.

“Their names and reputations are a guarantee that the inquiry will conform to the highest standards of judicial propriety.”

The trial process of Bangabandhu’s murder started 21 years after the gruesome carnage, when the Awami League was elected to power in 1996.

The convicted killers

Five individuals convicted of murdering Bangabandhu were hanged in 2010.

They are Syed Faruque Rahman, Sultan Shahariar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, Mohiuddin Ahmed and AKM Mohiuddin.

Another, Abdul Aziz Pasha, who was hiding in Zimbabwe, died there in 2001, police say.

The authorities said they were not sure about the whereabouts of convict Risaldar Moslehuddin (Khan).

The other five are Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, M Rashed Chowdhury, AHMB Noor Chowdhury and Abdul Mazed.

Rashid had gone to Pakistan from Libya while Dalim was in Pakistan, Prime Minister Hasina had earlier said.

Four others are either in the US or Canada.

Hasina’s government has repeatedly said that it is trying to bring them back to the country.

Twelve army officers involved in the assassination had been rewarded with jobs in diplomatic missions abroad in 1977 when Ziaur Rahman came to power through a military coup.

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AUGUST 16, 2016

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ASSASSINS’ SAFETY AND WESTERN RULE OF LAW

ASSASSINS’ SAFETY AND WESTERN RULE OF LAW

Quite some years ago, a Canadian politician made a trip to Bangladesh. Prior to leaving the country, he informed the media that the laws of his country did not allow extraditing Noor Chowdhury, a former army officer convicted of assassinating Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, to Bangladesh. But, of course, if the Bangladesh authorities came up with a guarantee that this assassin would not be executed, Ottawa would send him back to Dhaka.

It is a typical, almost hypocritical Western response to our Eastern values. In the West, more and more people are coming round to the notion that capital punishment is wrong. In our part of the world, we still have not given up the idea that comeuppance, in that strictly legal and moral sense, for one guilty of having committed a crime is in order. This difference between their world and ours will remain, for a very long time yet.

But then comes this question of the rule of law, a truism nations in the West are forever reminding us of. We understand why the rule of law is necessary, why an enforcement of it is a vital ingredient in a strengthening of democracy. But what do you do about another question, the one which asks under what law an assassin like Noor was given shelter by Canada and then, as we have been informed, given its citizenship? The Canadians might now tell us that this man became their citizen long before his conviction, in absentia, by a Bangladesh court. But that argument would be spurious.

And here’s how. The people of Bangladesh as well as governments around the world knew, once the murders of August 1975 had been committed, of the identity of those involved in the crime. Any western government which wishes to inform us that it did not know who played what role in the overthrow of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government is being economical with the truth. Everyone has known since 15 August 1975 that Noor is one of the gang of soldiers who committed the bloodbath in that long-ago year. And yet the Canadian authorities, as we understand it, not only gave Noor asylum but also made him happy with citizenship. Rule of law, did you say?

There are quite a few countries around the world which have demonstrated absolutely double standards in the matter of dealing with Bangabandhu’s assassins. Rashed Chowdhury, we have it on good authority, is leading a happy life in the United States. The Americans were prompt in sending Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to the gallows without giving him a fair trial. They found and swiftly pumped bullets into Osama bin Laden and then dumped his corpse into the sea. Justice stayed suspended in a state of disbelief. Rule of law, is it?

At a certain point, Bishop Desmond Tutu demonstrated before the world the moral responsibilities of anyone who wins the Nobel Prize for Peace. He refused to share a platform with Tony Blair because of his belief, shared by millions around the world, that the former British leader is a war criminal. Tutu thinks — and we agree with him — that if Africa’s fallen leaders can be hauled away to The Hague for war crimes related trials, the same ought to be done in the case of Tony Blair and George W Bush. But Western hypocrisy gets in the way. Blair and Bush, despite destroying a country and pushing tens of thousands to death, will earn millions on the lecture circuit.

That is when you realize that men like Noor Chowdhury and Rashed Chowdhury could, until they die natural deaths, lead peaceful lives in Canada and America, thanks to the questionable concept of the rule of law operating in those two countries. Morality does not have a chance, and not just in Ottawa and Washington. Some of the killers of the Father of the Nation were sent off to Bangladesh’s diplomatic missions in Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Harare and Nairobi by our first military dictator, General Ziaur Rahman. While you understand why Zia did that nasty thing (he was out to rewrite history in perfectly embarrassing ways), you are stupefied at the manner in which those foreign governments agreed to accept these killers in their countries. Diplomatic immunity? There is a clear line between diplomacy and criminality. You do not blur the distinction between the two. And let no one tell us that China, Japan, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe and Kenya did not know of the background of these men.

Murderers like, Shariful Haq Dalim and Khondokar Abdur Rashid have led charmed lives in Pakistan and Libya. The immorality with which the Pakistanis and the Libyans —they were thrilled at Bangabandhu’s murder — offered their services to Mujib’s assassins has been appalling. It is behaviour you do not expect from governments in modern times.
But then, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Ziaul Haq, Muammar Gaddafi and people like them have led warped lives in times they cannot believe are not medieval any more. And those men of power in Canada and the United States? They try to educate us in values, in matters of an aesthetic kind. And yet they have little compunction in giving refuge and even citizenship to murderers from abroad.

Hundreds of rendition flights have transported Islamic militants, all abducted by American forces, with a grinning Blair by their side, to Guantanamo. No law was at work, and the degrading treatment of those caught and placed in custody at Guantanamo commenced in utter disregard of the law. Rule of law, did you say?

The logic that murderers must feel safe, must not have the law catch up with them, indeed must live in honour as citizens of countries giving them refuge, is perverse. It is an insult to the societies these men once humiliated in macabre fashion. It is an abomination, for it gives short shrift to the ethical principles upon which life enriches itself.

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SYED BADRUL AHSAN IS THE EDITOR IN CHARGE AT THE ASIAN AGE.
APRIL 28, 2019

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GOVERNMENTS OF ZIA, ERSHAD AND KHALEDA PROTECTED BANGABANDHU’S KILLERS

GOVERNMENTS OF ZIA, ERSHAD AND KHALEDA PROTECTED BANGABANDHU’S KILLERS

Justice was long withheld for the brutal killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leading figure of Bangladesh’s independence struggle, and the members of his family. During the long years when Bangladesh was under the military rule of Ziaur Rahman and the BNP government, under Ershad’s military rule and that of Jatiya Party, and subsequently under two terms of Khaleda Zia’s rule, no trial was held for this despicable killing. On the contrary, Bangabandhu’s killers were facilitated in all sorts of ways at home and abroad.

When Ziaur Rahman was president, these killers were given posts in Bangladesh’s diplomatic missions overseas and were also given promotions. Though there was ample evidence of their involvement in various conspiracies and coup attempts, no action was taken against them.

Then when Ershad came to power, the promotions and benefits of the killers continued unabated. Notonly that, with the help of Ershad’s government, they returned to the country and created new political parties (Progotisheel Gonotantrik Shakti and Freedom Party). They even joined the parliament. After 1990, two governments of Khaleda Zia also extended cooperation to these killers. The trial of Bangabandhu’s killers was held up in the Supreme Court.

Posted in diplomatic missions

We have information that on 8 June 1996, 12 of those involved in the assassination of Bangabandhu, were given postings in various diplomatic missions overseas. Towards mid-November 1975, they were living in Gaddafi’s Libya. They were given diplomatic postings in Bangladesh’s missions in different countries of the world.

The killers given the diplomatic postings were 1. Lt Col Shariful Huq (Dalim), first secretary, China; 2. Lt Col Aziz Pasha, first secretary, Argentina; 3. Maj AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, first secretary, Algeria; 4. Maj Bazlul Huda, second secretary, Pakistan; 5. Maj Shahriar Rashid, second secretary, Indonesia; 6. Maj Rashed Chowdhury, second secretary, Saudi Arabia; 7. Maj Nur Chowdhury, second secretary, Iran; 8. Maj Shariful Hossain, second secretary, Kuwait; 9. Captain Kismat Hashem, third secretary, Abu Dhabi; 10. Lt Khairuzzaman, third secretary, Egypt; 11. Lt Najmul Hossain, third secretary, Canada; and 12. Lt Abdul Majed, third secretary, Senegal.

Their appointment letters were delivered to them in Libya by a foreign ministry official at the time, who later became foreign secretary, Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury. Prior to that, in February-March that year, Brigadier General (later Major General) Nurul Islam (Shishu) went to Libya to discuss matters with them. This was revealed by sources who were in the foreign ministry at the time.

Though 12 of the military officers accepted these postings, the two main actors of the 15 August killing Col Syed Farooq Rahman and Col Khandkar Abdur Rashid did not agree to come to an understanding with the government or to take up these jobs. They received full support from Libya’s President Col Gaddafi.

After President Zia, during Ershad’s government too, Bangabandhu’s killers were posted in various diplomatic missions around the world and were even given promotions. Maj Dalim was sent from Beijing to Hong Kong as Bangladesh’s Charge d’ Affaires. He was later appointed as the country’s Charge d’ Affaires in Poland, but the socialist government of Poland at the time did not accept this appointment. He was later made Bangladesh’s high commissioner to Kenya.

Maj Nur was Charge d’Affaires in Brazil at the time, after a stint as counsellor in Algeria. Maj Rashed Chowdhury was counsellor in Tokyo. Maj AKM Mohiuddin was the deputy chief of Bangladesh’s mission in Saudi Arabia (Benazir Bhutto’s government did not accept him for the same post in Karachi). Maj Shariful Hossain was made Charge d’Affaires in Oman. All of them were promoted to minister rank in the foreign ministry.

Later at a certain juncture, Lt Najmul Hossain and Captain Kismat Hashem left their jobs in the diplomatic missions. They took up Canadian citizenship and reportedly settled there. Lt Abdul Majed came back to Dhaka and was working in the planning ministry. He was also in jail at one point of time. No further information could be learnt about him.

Killers’ attempted coup

After the August 1975 killing, Farooq and Rashid made several attempts to stir up discord within the armed forces in order to carry out a coup.

We learnt that at the end of the seventies during President Zia’s rule, the killers living overseas, Shariful Huq (Dalim), Aziz Pasha, Bazlul Huda, Nur Chowdhury and the other accused persons, carried out an attempted coup in 17 June 1980 in Dhaka Cantonment. But the armed forces were informed in advance and aborted the coup.

Col Didarul Alam and a number of other political leaders were arrested to be tried under martial law. This was revealed by certain political sources in Dhaka.

Investigations by the armed forces found proof of involvement of Shariful Huq (Dalim), Aziz Pasha, Bazlul Huda and Nur Chowdhury in the attempted coup. The authorities found evidence of Farooq and Rashid’s direct involvement too.

The killer coterie has held meetings in May 1979 in Islamabad, and later in Tehran and then Ankara, to plan this conspiracy. They held several meetings in Dhaka, too. Then in May 1980 they held a final meeting in Dhaka, with Dalim, Aziz Pasha and Bazlul Huda present. They were joined by Col Faruk Rahman who had just been released from jail.

Incidentally, in 1977 Faruk had come to Dhaka secretly and was arrested from Banani and jailed. Their aim was to kill Ziaur Rahman during the coup and establish ‘Islamic socialism’ in the country. Details of this can be found in Brig Gen (retd) Sakhawat Hossain’s book ‘Bangladesh: Raktakta Odhay’. Brig Sakhawat Hossain (former election commissioner and columnist) was directly appointed from the army as state prosecutor during the trial of the members of the armed forces after the attempted coup.

After the coup attempt failed, Huda and Nur left their respective workplaces and fled to various countries abroad. Aziz Pasha was arrested in Dhaka. He agreed to be a state witness and he was later rehabilitated with a diplomatic posting in Rome. He was later said to have been given posts in the foreign ministry and the finance ministry in Dhaka.

Dalim, Huda and Nur were reinstated in diplomatic positions abroad and were also given several promotions. After President Zia, the autocratic government of Ershad continued to provide them with these jobs and other facilities.

Other than attempting to carry out a coup, these killers have been accused of all sorts of irregularities while in diplomatic service abroad, including misappropriation of funds. In June 1996 after the Awami League government came to power, six of the accused — Shariful Huq (Dalim), Aziz Pasha, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, Rashed Chowdhury, Nur Chowdhury and Maj Khairuzzaman – were dismissed from service on grounds of violating the government service rules.

Joining politics

It was astonishing that during the government of autocrat Ershad, the killers Rashid, Farooq, Shahriar and Bazlul Huda were allowed to return to the country and participate in politics.

Even though it was proven that Shahriar Rashid and Bazlul Huda were involved in the attempted coup of 17 June 1980, no action was taken against them and they were allowed to return to Dhaka. They came to Dhaka and formed a political party, Progotisheel Gonotantrik Shakti. It was learnt that they were facilitated in this initiative by the Ershad government and its intelligence agencies. Bazlul Huda later joined Freedom Party.

Later we see that in 1985, Col Faruk and Col Rashid began political activities in Dhaka under an organisation for the ‘implementation of the ideals of the 15 August revolution.’

Col Farooq was a candidate for the presidential election in 1986. On 3 August 1987 at Sheraton Hotel, Col Rashid declared the founding of Freedom Party with Col Farooq Rahman as its president. Bazlul Huda was elected as member of parliament from the Meherpur-2 seat as a candidate of Freedom Party. Even before that, on 16 December 1983, Col Rashid and Col Farooq had published a book, ‘Mukti Path’ highlighting their political objectives.

It was obvious then that the autocratic Ershad wanted to build Freedom Party up as a terrorist political party to use against the democratic forces in the country. Immediately after the founding of Freedom Party, upon orders from Col Rashid, on 7 November Freedom Party cadres opened fire from a Pajero at a meeting on the National Press Club premises and a child was killed. On 11 February the next year, a businessman was similarly killed when Bazlul Huda and his cadres opened fire in Mymensingh.

When the voterless so-called election was held under the rule of Khaleda Zia’s government on 15 February 1996, the main killer Rashid was elected as member of parliament from Comilla-6 as a Freedom Party candidate. He became a member of the opposition in parliament. Faruk and Rashid were involved in all sorts of business schemes in Dhaka at the time and even submitted a proposal to Bangladesh Bank to set up a private bank in the country. Dalim, Nur Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury and others were posted as ambassadors and counsel generals in Kenya, Hong Kong and Brazil during the 1991-96 Khaleda Zia government.

It was also learnt that when Farooq and Rashid were in Libya, Freedom Party cadres were given armed training with the help of the Libyan government. A few hundred young men were given three months, six months and even up to nine months of training in Libya.

The Freedom Party cadres were training in the use of pistols, machine guns and other modern firearms. No investigation, however, was made by any government in this regard.

During the two decades which followed 1975, wherever Bangabandhu’s killers were, at home or abroad, they conspired against Bangladesh. They did so under the banner of political parties, sometimes with backing from elements within the armed forces and the government. These conspiracies were finally quelled after prime minister Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996.

Even during the general elections on 12 June 1996, the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were particularly active. Farooq, Rashid, Dalim, Shahriar and others were involved in conspiracies within the cantonment and outside. Upon learning their plotting and conspiracies, security was beefed up for the caretaker government head at the time, Chief Justice Muhammed Habibur Rahman and also for Awami League president Sheikh Hasina.

Awami League, under leadership of the present prime minister Sheikh Hasina, won the majority in the 12 June 1996 election and formed the government with support of Jatiya Party. Upon formation of the new government, Col Farooq and Shahriar were immediately arrested in Dhaka. Maj Dalim and the others left the country before they could be arrested.

Trial of the Bangabandhu killers

On 12 November 1996 the seventh national parliament passed the bill to abolish the infamous Indemnity Bill. This opened the way to try the killers of Bangabandhu and his family. Then on 2 October 1996, Mohitul Islam submitted a petition for the trial of the killing of Bangabandhu and his family members.

On 8 November 1998 a lower court passed a death sentence against 15 of Bangabandhu’s killers. On 30 April 2001, the High Court upheld the death sentence of 12 of them. The final verdict was held up in the Supreme Court as after Khaleda Zia won the election in 2001, the BNP government once against obstructed the implementation of the verdict.

The trial process resumed during the rule of the 2007 caretaker government and one of the convicted killers was brought back from the US. In the beginning of 2009 when Awami League came to power, once again the way opened for the death sentence to be carried out against the killers.

Thus it is clear how the trial of Bangabandhu’s killers was held up for over three decades during the governments of President Zia, autocrat Ershad and Khaleda Zia. Not only that, they also protected and facilitated the killers in all sorts of ways.

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AUGUST 15, 2019
Matiur Rahman is the Editor of Prothom Alo.
This piece appeared in the print and online version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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ROLE OF US IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OF BANGLADESH

ROLE OF US IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OF BANGLADESH

The State Department has for the first time quietly made some of the most startling admissions about the role of the United States in the internal affairs of Bangladesh in the early 1970s.

The State Department has for the first time quietly made some of the most startling admissions about the role of the United States in the internal affairs of Bangladesh in the early 1970s.

The State Department comments, contained in a private letter to a member of Congress, appear to vindicate the thesis of Lawrence Lifschultz that American intelligence agencies initially plotted with right wing elements within the Awami League in an unsuccessful bid to split the party, and later decided on a coup against Mujibur Rahman.

Lawrence Lifschultz is the 32-year-old peripatetic reporter for the Far Eastern Economic Review of Hong Kong whose name became a household word in Indian intellectual circles in the aftermath of l’affaire Griffin. India recently rejected the appointment of George Griffin to the US Embassy in New Delhi.

Lifschultz’s book on Bangladesh, The Unfinished Revolution, had recounted how Griffin had been the front man for covert contacts with dissident members of the Awami League during Henry Kissinger’s infamous “tilt” to Pakistan in 1971.

Lifschultz is usually calm and unflappable with a steady, intense gaze, a low voice. But during an interview with India Today in Washington, there was an edge of excitement to his voice. He finally had evidence of the smoking gun in the Bangladesh tragedy that he has so assiduously researched over the last several years. He has documents showing that American diplomatic officials:

  • Met with members of the Awami League in Calcutta in 1971 – Mujib was then in jail in West Pakistan – in an effort to abort Bangladesh’s independence movement.
  • Had several contacts with the people who perpetrated the coup against Mujib in 1975.

“When I completed the book,” Lifschultz says, “my attitude was that we had 90 per cent of the story. We just could not go any further. The purpose of the book was to open the whole question for others to look at. We didn’t really have the smoking gun. The only evidence we had of prior contacts between the perpetrators of the coup and the American Embassy in Dacca was based on an interview with an unnamed embassy source.”

Lifschultz’s research caught the attention of Congressman Stephen Solarz, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee. Solarz made several inquiries in his official capacity and reported the following to Lifschultz:

  • The State Department “readily admits that it had contacts in 1971 with several Bengali officials who were interested in discussing arrangements that would have allowed Bangladesh to become part of Pakistan. Considering that the dismemberment of Pakistan, a traditional ally of the US, was not in the US interest, the State Department contends that there was nothing either surprising or disturbing about the US trying to negotiate an arrangement with Bengali officials to prevent this outcome from occurring.”
  • With respect to the embassy meetings in the November 1974-January 1975 period with opponents of Mujibur Rahman’s regime, “the State Department once again does not deny that the meetings took place. However, the State Department does claim that it notified Rahman about the meetings, including the possibility of a coup. This would seem to put these meetings in a less conspiratorial light.”
  • “On the crucial question of CIA involvement in the post-January 1975 period, I have not been able to unearth any hard evidence in either direction.” But Solarz admitted that he is not “fully satisfied with all the answers I received” from the State Department. He has since written to the Senate Permanent Committee on Intelligence to launch a “thorough investigation of CIA activities in Bangladesh”.

What is tremendously significant about Solarz’s investigation is that the State Department was forced to break its years of official silence on the issue. The department had little choice. Stonewalling a congressional inquiry can produce the direst of consequences for the executive branch of government.

Besides, Lifschultz’s research was not entirely based on unnamed sources. It drew heavily from an aborted study undertaken by the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace. So a State Department denial would have had to weather a massive array of evidence to the contrary.

But the State Department admissions are carefully crafted. They are designed to give the covert contacts an aura of mundane ho-hummery, to mislead an unwary reader and to obfuscate history. The answers create, in the words of Lifschultz: “The foggy blur behind which crimes and blunders comfortably cower.”

With the precision of a Gurkha wielding a khukri, Lifschultz proceeds to hack down the brambles of confusion that litter the State Department’s explanation. He calls the State Department’s assertion that it was logical for the US to prevent the “dismemberment” of Pakistan “a simplistic and defective parody of the actual events.”

Civil War: Free elections had been held in December 1970 for the first time after more than a decade of dictatorship in Pakistan. The Awami League, based in East Pakistan, had won an absolute majority and Mujib was slated to become prime minister of all of Pakistan. But General Yahya Khan refused to convene the National Assembly, thereby sparking off a revolt in East Pakistan.

On March 25, 1971 Yahya ordered a military crackdown that plunged Pakistan into civil war. The genocidal dimensions of Yahya’s suppression of East Pakistan and America’s continuing support for the Pakistan junta caused a revolt within America’s diplomatic corps.

Twenty US consular officials led by Archer Blood, US consul in Dacca, cabled Washington: “Our government has failed to denounce the suppression of democracy. Our government has failed to take forceful measures to protect its citizens while at the same time bending backwards to placate the West Pak-dominated government…Our government has evidence that many will consider moral bankruptcy, ironically at a time when the USSR sent President Yahya a message defending democracy, condemning the arrest of the leader of a democratically elected majority party – but we have chosen not to intervene, even morally, on the ground that the Awami conflict, in which the overworked term genocide is applicable, is purely an internal matter…private Americans have expressed disgust.”

The State Department’s explanation that the 1971 Calcutta contacts were an effort to negotiate a settlement under which Bangladesh would have remained a part of Pakistan “was absurd in this context,” says Lifschultz. “The situation had gone way beyond such a reconciliation… Mujib’s party had won an absolute majority and the military had refused to accept the results of the elections. After the brutality and repression there would be no going back on a struggle aimed at the establishment of an independent democratic state.”

Absurd: Lifschultz says that Bangladesh accepting a return to Pakistani hegemony through the diplomatic good offices of Uncle Sam is as absurd as “George Washington and the American Continental Congress on the verge of military victory suddenly accepting a return to colonial status on the basis of a last minute repeal of the stamp act.”

Even when Lifschultz is being generous and charitable and agreeing to accept at face value the State Department’s line that the contacts in Calcutta were aimed at bringing about a reconciliation, he encounters nagging inconsistencies.

While the State Department has not named the Bengali “officials” with whom – through Grirtin – it made contact, the Carnegie papers make it abundantly clear that these meetings were with Khondaker Mustaque Ahmed, and his two most favoured proteges, Mahbub Alam Chashi, and Taheruddin Thakur – the “Mustaque Triangle” as it was called.

But as Lifschultz points out, if the US was genuinely seeking a reconciliation, “then the most logical personality to have been approached would have been the prime minister of the provisional government, Tajuddin Ahmed.”

Moreover, such contacts certainly could have been open ones with the US providing its good offices as an intermediary. But Tajuddin was not contacted and the contacts which did occur were made in complete secrecy with great care taken to ensure that the majority leadership of the exiled government knew nothing of the US links to the group led by Khondaker Mustaque Ahmed.

As Lifschultz noted in his book: “Four years later this same trio Mustaque. Chashi and Thakur would arrive together at Bangladesh Radio to announce that Mujib was dead, and that Mustaque had taken over the Presidency of Bangladesh.”

Rahman Intimated: Even more ominous is the evidence that the U S continued contacts with this same group for four years right upto the execution of the 1975 coup. While the State Department now acknowledges the 1974-1975 pre-coup meetings between the US embassy in Dacca and Mujib’s opponents, it also claims that it notified Rahman about the meetings, “including the possibility of a coup”.

Lifschultz, who is planning a follow-up to his first book, has returned from another tour of Bangladesh during which he contacted several sources who were close to Mujib. “I could not find anybody who had been notified about the coup in advance, “he says:” Former members of the Mujib Government were amused. It seems highly unlikely that a man against whom a coup is being planned would be informed about it by the very intelligence circles who were planning it.”

In his letter to Congressman Solarz, Lifschultz asks: “Who in the Mujib Government was informed by our embassy about the possibility of a coup? Was Mujib notified directly of these meetings? If his government was so well informed about the coup, is it not strange that he and his entire family were easily killed and suffered so many casualties ? Are we being presented with an intelligence community tautology here? The coup was an inside job by conservative elements within Mujib’s own party, his own cabinet, and his own national intelligence service – all with an unusual set of past associations with the US.

Now, does the State Department mean the embassy informed one of these individuals of the possibility of a coup? It reminds me of the old story about the US warning the Diem Government (in South Vietnam) in broad terms that there might be trouble when in fact Colonel Landsdale’s unit had a liaison officer at the headquarters of the generals (who were planning the coup against Diem).”

CIA Present:
Lifschultz had learned that some of the pre-coup meetings had been attended by Philip Cherry, CIA station chief at Dacca, and that he had passed this information to George Griffin in Washington and up the line to Kissinger. While Cherry acknowledged having met one of the conspirators socially, he denied that there were any meetings at the embassy. The State Department’s version given to Solarz flatly contradicts Cherry.

A company by the name of Emerald Corporation that operated out of Bangladesh during that period was suspected to be a CIA front. Ostensibly involved in jute exports the company was run by a shadowy figure by the name of Sullivan. The company headquarters were listed in Los Angeles but there was no such corporation there. Another senior “partner” associated with Emerald was identified as having been a CIA man in Saigon.

What sources find highly suspicious is that Emerald employed the wives of Farook and Rashid, two army majors involved in the coup against Mujib. The majors escaped to Bangkok after the assassination in the expectation that they would be given asylum by the US authorities. Following an unexplained mix-up they went to Libya where Gaddafi – who hated Mujib because of Mujib’s secular beliefs – let them stay.

Incidentally, Lifschultz is still trying to track down Griffin for an interview. Griffin has evaded him for three years. Finally, late last month, Griffin returned Lifschultz’s call in Washington and accused’ Lifschultz of smearing him. “He became angrier and angrier, called me unreliable, and denounced me, again and again.” The conversation ended without-an interview.

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INDERJIT BADHWAR
OCTOBER 26, 2013
ISSUE DATE: NOVEMBER 15, 1981

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CIA’S DACCA CONNECTION

CIA’S DACCA CONNECTION

A prominent American journalist and author, Lawrence Lifschultz, has launched a campaign that he hopes will convince the US Congress to begin a sweeping investigation of the role played by Henry Kissinger and the CIA in the events – starting in 1971 – that led to the murder of Bangladesh’s first President, Mujibur Rehman in 1975.

A prominent American journalist and author, Lawrence Lifschultz, has launched a campaign that he hopes will convince the US Congress to begin a sweeping investigation of the role played by Henry Kissinger and the CIA in the events – starting in 1971 – that led to the murder of Bangladesh’s first President, Mujibur Rehman in 1975.

Lifschultz, who served for many years as the South Asian correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, is going to fire the first salvo in his campaign in a book which will be published this month containing strong evidence of America’s attempt to destroy the Mujibist revolution in 1971 and its possible involvement in the coup that overthrew Mujib four years later.

“There is ample evidence,” Lifschultz said in a telephone interview from his home in East Haven, Connecticut, “that US intelligence agencies along with Kissinger had advance knowledge of the coup against Mujib. But much more research needs to be done. What I have is only part of the story. There are hundreds of cables on this subject in the State Department that we have not been able to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act. And we have been denied interviews with people like William Grimsley (a former CIA station chief in New Delhi) and Alan Wolfe.”But Lifschultz did obtain an interview with Kissinger’s former staff assistant on the National Security Council, Roger Morris. Morris said it is “absolutely plausible” that Kissinger gave his “nod” to Mujib’s ouster because Mujib was on Kissinger’s “enemies list” of the “three most hated men” along with Allende and Thieu. He perceived all three as major obstacles to his geopolitical diplomacy, “and he would have felt no hesitation to unseat an already unstable regime, and replacing it with a client state.”

Evidence: India Today has obtained an advance copy of Lifschultz’s forthcoming book, Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution, presenting evidence that the forces – including the cast of characters that overthrew Mujib on August 15,1975 – were the same that unsuccessfully tried to orchestrate a pro – Pakistani betrayal of Mujib in 1971. They were Kissinger and his emissaries, Bangladesh commerce minister who later became President, Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed, and his associates, and Bangladesh’s own intelligence services.

While much of Lifschultz’s prodigious research, which took him three years to complete, is a product of his own interviews with Bangladesh and State Department sources, a significant portion of it is based on what is known as the Carnegie Papers. The Carnegies Endowment for Peace, (an influential think tank with close links to America’s foreign policy establishment), launched its own probe of America’s Bangladesh policies. Carnegie researchers conducted some 200 high-level interviews but the ultimate study was suppressed. But Lifschultz however was able to obtain, through leaks, large portions of the hitherto secret interview material compiled for the aborted Carnegie project.

That six junior military officers, backed by 200 soldiers, overthrew Mujib on their own to demonstrate the army’s disenchantment with his policies, Lifschultz says, is a myth. This myth was first exploded by British journalist Anthony Mascarenhas who interviewed two Bangladesh majors involved in the coup and discovered that they were linked to Mushtaque. But the new study goes even further and states, on the basis of interviews with American officials, that the US Embassy in Dacca was approached by the perpetrators of the coup more than six months in advance of it.

Clandestine Activities: These discussions, according to the book, continued until January 1975 from when on, because of pressure from a Senate Intelligence Committee probe of CIA’s covert and assassination activities, the contacts were conducted clandestinely bypassing normal diplomatic channels. The author has received information that the man in charge of dealing with the coup perpetrators was Dacca’s CIA Station Chief Philip Cherry. But Cherry, in an interview with Lifschultz, has denied all involvement.

But information on the planning of the coup, Lifschultz’s diplomatic sources told him, was regularly forwarded to Kissinger and his aides George Griffin and Harold Saunders. The Bangladeshis who approached the Americans for their assent to the coup, the book reveals, were Mahmud Alam Chashi, chairman of the Rural Development Academy, Taheruddin Thakur, Mujib’s information minister, and A. B. S. Safder, Chashi and Thakur were by Khondakar Mushtaque’s side when he announced Mujib’s overthrow over Dacca Radio, and Safder was later to become director of Bangladesh’s intelligence services (MIS).

The Kissinger-Ahmed-Chashi-Thakur-Safder link goes back to 1971. The Carnegie papers establish beyond any doubt that as many as eight secret contacts took place during that year between American intelligence sources and a faction of the Awami League Government-in-exile in an effort to split the Bangladesh independence movement and arrive at a settlement short of independence acceptable to Pakistan’s Yahya Khan, whom Kissinger was wooing in the pursuit of his China initiative.

Mujib was then in jail in Pakistan and the head of his provisional government in Calcutta was Tajuddin Ahmed who was viewed by Kissinger as pro-India and pro-Soviet and a democratic socialist. The Americans made contact with Mushtaque who represented the right wing of the Awami League, through Chashi and Thakur. Chashi, a foreign service officer, had served in the US in the 1950s and was known to be committed ideologically to the American lobby.

According to Lifschultz, Kissinger – either in Europe, Washington or in New Delhi en route to Peking in July 1971 – talked directly to a representative of the Mushtaque faction.

The Plot: Since Tajuddin was committed to full independence for Bangladesh, “absolute discretion and secrecy was the key to splitting the Bengali leadership and supporting that faction which would compromise with Pakistan and not demand full independence”, Lifschultz says.

Rehman: on Kissinger’s enemies list

The moment for the 1971 coup against the Mujibists, the study suggests, was to be October 1971, when Mushtaque, as the provisional government’s foreign minister, was to arrive in New York to present the Bangladesh case before the UN. According to plan he would unilaterally, and without warning, announce a compromise solution, short of independence and thereby pull off a coup against the Awami League leadership in Calcutta.

The plot was foiled after Tajuddin discovered Mushtaque’s secret meetings and confined him to house arrest. After Mujib’s return, Mushtaque was unceremoniously demoted to a lower ranking ministry. According to the Carnegie Papers the Mushtaque-Chashi-Thakur clique dealt with Griffin who was then a political officer in Calcutta. He reported directly to Saunders, now assistant secretary for South Asian affairs, and through him to Kissinger- the same trio who four years later were kept informed of the impending coup against Mujib by the same cast of Bengali characters.

The role of the Bangladesh intelligence services in 1971 and 1975 is a sordid tale of betrayal and intrigue. What is generally not known is that between 1961 and 1971,40 Bengali police officers – most of whom still occupy high government positions – were trained in CIA-sponsored counter-intelligence-oriented police academies such as the International Police Academy in Washington under Usaid’s Office of Public Safety (OPS) programme. Thousands of police officers from Third World nations were trained under OPS.

Irony: The OPS-Bangladesh connection is a grim one. Safder, said to be one of the contact men from the Mushtaque group with CIA’s Cherry in 1975 is an OPS graduate.

Safder – once General Ayub’s chief intelligence officer in East Pakistan – was undergoing OPS training in Washington when the Bangladesh civil war began. When the war was at its height that summer he, and another Bengali colleague Abdur Rahim, also trained in Washington, returned to East Bengal to side with Pakistan.

Safder took over a role in the counter-insurgency forces while Rahim took command of the dreaded Razakar Paramilitary Forces. All the OPS-trained officers, Lifschultz discovered, dominated the respective branches of their services and all remained in their posts and collaborated with the Pakistanis during the civil war, an activity that gained them the title of the Bangladesh Vichy. After the Mujib victory, there were widespread demands that the “Vichy” be tried for their crimes but they were saved from trial through heavy western and Islamic bloc pressure.

Most of them went into hiding. But it is an irony of history that when Mujib was collapsing in 1974 under the weight of national bankruptcy and a famine and charges of corruption he was forced to rely for his protection on the very forces that had fought on the other side during his struggle. Both Safder and Rahim were brought back into the government. The question is often posed how Mujib’s intelligence apparatus failed to foresee the coup, Lifschultz suggests they were involved in it. After Mujib’s ouster his entire secretariat fled for their lives but Rahim and Safder remained.

Dissent: During the period 1971 through 1975, according to the Carnegie Papers, Kissinger chose to orchestrate his personal diplomacy by bypassing diplomats and embassies and relying on secret contacts. Early in 1971 the American Consul General in Dacca, Archer Blood, sent a cable to Kissinger containing a resounding dissent against his Pakistan policy, signed by his colleagues. Many State Department officials who saw the cable in Washington added their signatures to it. They included prominent diplomats such as Howard Schaffer, Craig Baxter, Douglas Cockran, Anthony Quainton, Townsend Swayze, and Andrew Kilgore.

All of them, in the days ahead, says Lifschultz, were systematically ignored and frozen from making policy. And just as the American consul in Dacca was bypassed in 1974-75 during the secret negotiations with the Mushtaque clique, so too in 1971 Ambassador Kenneth Keating in Delhi, and Consul Herbert Gordon in Calcutta were kept in the dark about the real content of the discussions between the Mushtaque group and Kissinger’s emissaries in their earlier attempt to break the Mujibist movement.

Some of the reasons for Kissinger’s dislike of the Mujibists may be summed up as follows:

  • Kissinger’s preference for dictatorships and dislike for democratic nonaligned movements.
  • Mujib was on his most hated list because of the trouble he caused him in his China policy.
  • The US was annoyed with Mujib for permitting the Soviet navy into Chittagong harbour – something unlikely to be repeated under Zia who is viewed as pro-Western.
  • The Mushtaque faction was seen as pro-American while Tajuddin was seen as a leftist and pro-Moscow.
  • Mujib was viewed as part of the Indo-Soviet axis engineered by Mrs Gandhi whom Nixon hated passionately and constantly referred to as “that bitch”.

Nixon and Mrs Gandhi: hatred for Indira and IndiaRevelation of Nixon’s personal hatred of India and of Mrs Gandhi and his calling her a “bitch” appears in an interview in the Carnegie Papers. A senior diplomatic correspondent who gave the interview said: “Nixon had a psychological thing about female leaders. He just didn’t like Mrs Gandhi, and he liked military leaders like Yahya… After four or five months of indecision, they had major breakthroughs on China. In July, Kissinger had already made his trip. By that time they were only interested in one thing; to caress and coddle their relationship with China-to maintain that link.

Abusive: “In the fall as Mrs Gandhi’s US visit approached, they were worried about the US-Pakistan-China alignment. I remember Nixon referred to Mrs Gandhi in abusive language several times. The tenor of the conversation was: “If she would only understand what was good for her. She misunderstood her own interests as they saw them. From things that Kissinger, Rogers and Sisco told Mrs Gandhi she realised they were operating on two different levels. I remember one reception during Mrs Gandhi’s visit, Nixon made one of his blue sky toasts and Mrs Gandhi was very cold. The ‘abusive’ references were even greater after that at the White House.”Another senior State Department source said: “Back in 1967, I had Nixon in my house for three hours. He’d just been in a meeting with Indira Gandhi and he castigated her. He said she was no better than her father, that none of them were any better than Krishna Menon. He said he didn’t understand how I could stand the Indians, how I could stand living in Bombay or Calcutta. I think the President’s dislike for India was an important consideration in the Bangladesh crisis.”

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INDERJIT BADHWAR
ISSUE DATE: March 15, 1980
UPDATED: November 14, 2014 17:04 IST
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AUGUST 1975 AND THEREAFTER

AUGUST 1975 AND THEREAFTER

Serajul Islam Choudhury

What happened in August 1975 was a great tragedy perpetrated by an anti-people clique who did not want Bangladesh to move in the direction its people had desired it to take. The desire embodied a dream and an ideology, and for its fulfilment the people had struggled not only in 1971 but even before. The long struggle did not begin all of a sudden. It had a glorious history of its own. In December 1971, it reached a point where it was impossible for the old state not to yield to the emergence of an independent Bangladesh. What the assassins were bent upon doing was the bringing down not only of a great man but also, and not less importantly, of the ideology of secular Bengali nationalism together with the dream of a long-awaited and urgently needed social revolution. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had promoted that collective desire among, and with, the people. In mourning his death, we bemoan the loss of a leader as well as of an opportunity. Sheikh Mujib died a martyr, heading the long list of those who laid down their lives to liberate the people of Bangladesh.

The assassins were a motley group comprising disgruntled army men and a section of the reactionary elements within the ruling party itself. And they acted with the silent support of the capitalist world, of which the US was the leader. The capitalist countries had, we recall, opposed—both morally and materially—the formation of Bangladesh, being apprehensive of its turning to the left.

Not that the leftists at home were satisfied. Some of them were disheartened to see the new state not taking the line of non-capitalist development; others had gone underground fearing repression on account of their failure to join the war of liberation due to their inability to see that a resolution of the class question demanded a settlement of the national question and that the principal contradiction at that moment of history was between the people of East Bengal and the Punjabi military-bureaucratic combine that ruled Pakistan. None of the leftist groups were against a social revolution; indeed, they were fighting for it. But they did not know how to achieve that objective, which is the primary reason why they were divided among themselves, and, despite their sacrifices, were unable to take on the leadership of the liberation war. The leftists had nothing to do with the tragedy of 1975, although the Awami League leadership thought them, quite mistakenly, to be their real enemy, ignoring the reactionaries within their own camp.

The August mayhem was a rightist affair. The whole business of conspiracy, consolidation and execution was done by the ultra-rightists. The more easily identifiable anti-liberation elements, including the Al-Badrs and the Razakars, were not directly involved in the operation, but their ideological kinsmen had taken upon themselves a task which those known and condemned for their activities were incapable of performing.

The liberation war, let us remind ourselves, was not fought for the limited political aim of independence. We had the experience of independence in 1947 enormously paid for in terms of miseries and tears, and found it to be no more than a transfer of power to the Punjabis to rule over the Bengalis. That is why, since 1952, we had been struggling for liberation, which, we had realised, must be based on the twin recognition that the Bengalis were a nation and that national independence would never be meaningful without an accompanying social revolution. Revolutions have come and gone, but society, which is where people live and expect to thrive, has not changed; it has remained as class-ridden and exploitative as it has since the 1793 Permanent Settlement enforced by the British. We needed and wanted a real revolution, ensuring a democratic transformation of the state and society, guaranteeing equality of rights and opportunities to every citizen. The four state principles adumbrated in the original constitution of Bangladesh indicated the goal of a social revolution, for which the first step to be taken was secularism and socialism had to be the ultimate goal.

And it is this possibility of a liberating revolution which the assassins of August wanted to destroy. Those who succeeded them in the running of the state did not find it necessary to make apologies. Briskly they went about achieving their self-appointed task of altering the whole character of the constitution, eliminating the principles of secularism and socialism. Promulgating a martial law order, General Ziaur Rahman removed secularism and put above the preamble words which read, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”, and inserted within it a pledge “in the name of Almighty Allah.” Socialism was replaced by the innocuous idea of “economic and social justice”. The amended constitution negated Bengali nationalism by introducing Bangladeshi nationalism in its place. Clearly, the purpose was not to widen the definition of nationalism to include the small nationalities to which recognition has been denied in the constitution, but to do away with the idea that the Bengalis are a nation. Not satisfied even with that, General Ershad went to the extent of introducing Islam as the state religion.

It is not without significance that what was called “a historical struggle for national liberation” in the original document has been changed by Ziaur Rahman’s decree into “historical war for national independence,” suggesting that we fought for political independence and not for social liberation. There is absolutely no reason to doubt that those who made the alteration were unaware of the difference between independence and liberation. They wanted to make us forget that we had fought not for another independence of the 1947 type, but for emancipation of the people through a total transformation of society. What these anti-people elements wanted was not a secular state and a democratic society but a smaller edition of what was once known as Pakistan.

Even bourgeois democracy, not to speak of the one of socialist dispensation, demands as its first requisite secularism, meaning, as it does, complete separation between state and religion; and that’s exactly what has been denied to us by the rulers who commandeered the state after August 1975. What surprises us is that the Awami League, which had provided leadership in the war of liberation, has found it convenient to remain silent on the question, giving us the impression that it does not consider the restoration of secularism to be an important issue. The attack on secularism has not harmed any particular person, group or institution but has struck at the very foundations of the state which had been founded on the rejection of the non-secular two-nation theory on which Pakistan had based itself. That Pakistan was a curse and a nightmare has been made obvious to those who are now living in that broken political state. We ourselves came to the knowledge about the monstrous character of that state as early as 1952, having paid much too much in terms of blood and tears for allowing ourselves to be led into voting for it in 1946 by our leaders. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had himself realised the mistake he had made even before the state was set up and had discarded the two-nation theory at the first opportunity that came to him, namely, the occasion to speak before the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947.

Looking at the happenings in Bangladesh since August 1975 from a slightly different perspective, one could say that the progress we are supposed to have made amounted really to a widening of the road for capitalism to flourish. The collective dream of liberation was for the establishment of democracy in the country, and it has to be admitted that there is not much of a difference between proper democracy and socialism. That collective dream has been shattered. This change has been hastened by the despicably heinous act of the assassins of August 15.

But mere mourning would not do. It may prove to be counterproductive, creating despair. What we have to undertake is the continuation of the struggle to achieve the realisation of the collective dream of a social revolution. To give up the struggle would be to degrade ourselves further than we have already done.

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Serajul Islam Choudhury, professor emeritus of Dhaka University, is an eminent writer. The article was first published by The Daily Star on August 14, 2009.

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UNDERSTANDING BANGABANDHU SHEIKH MUJIBUR RAHMAN | SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON

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BANGABANDHU AND THE BOOKS ABOUT HIM

BANGABANDHU AND THE BOOKS ABOUT HIM

Syed Badrul AhsanOn his final night alive, hours before he was assassinated, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spent time reading George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. Here, in this month when he came back home as the Liberator of Bangladesh in January 1972, we present a sample of the vast literature which has grown up around the historical personality of Bangladesh’s founding father. 

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib
Koekti Oitihashik Dolil
ABDUL MATIN
Radical Asia Publications

Abdul Matin, who died a few years ago, had been researching Bangabandhu’s life and politics since the early 1970s. In this work, he draws extensively from documents previously in the hands of foreign governments, notably the United States, to explain the circumstances that led to the assassinations of August 1975. There are too some rich pickings from Keesing’s, those that will be of immense help to anyone interested in studying the history of Bangladesh. It is especially the conspiracy that led to the killing of the Father of the Nation that arouses his interest. Included in the work under survey are some hard truths, those that political authors have sometimes pointed out. Among them are details pertaining to the letter purportedly written by the leftwing Bengali politician Abdul Haq to Pakistan’s prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto seeking assistance in the matter of pushing Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government from office.

Sheikh Mujib
Triumph and Tragedy
S A KARIM
The University Press Limited

The work happens to be one of those rare studies in the English language of Bangladesh’s founding father. For years there has been a vacuum where presenting Bangabandhu to the outside world is concerned (not that much headway has been made in the matter). So what S.A. Karim, who served as a leading Bengali diplomat in the early years of a free Bangladesh and who saw many of the dramatic events unfold before his very eyes, does here is present an image of Bangabandhu and his leadership of the country in as realistic a manner as possible. The writer does not shy away from criticism of Mujib he feels is deserving. Mujib’s role in the movement for regional autonomy and his leadership of the independence movement are commented on in great detail. And then Karim dwells on the issue of why Mujib went for a change from multi-party democracy to one-party rule in early 1975. In the manner of so many others, the author does not appreciate the transformation and ends up giving the impression that Baksal was a bad move for which Bangabandhu paid dearly.

Shorone Bangabandhu
FARUQ CHOUDHURY
Mawla Brothers

The former diplomat is in awe of Bangabandhu. In this slim volume, he reflects on the politics of the Father of the Nation and, more importantly, on the human qualities of the man. The language is simple and lucid and Choudhury properly gives out the impression that he is hugely impressed by the charisma of the leader.
Faruq Chowdhury’s work does not go into the intricate details of how Bangabandhu governed or how his government functioned. But that the government was confronted with a plethora of difficulties from day one to the end of Bangabandhu’s life is made clear. And, of course, the vast conspiracy that was always at work in order to destabilize the government is broadly hinted at.

Sheikh Mujib
Bangladesher Arek Naam
ATIUR RAHMAN
Dipti Prokashoni

The w ork promises much to those who plan to research the evolution of East Pakistan into Bangladesh. The life of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, so Atiur Rahman conveys the impression and justifiably too, is fundamentally the history of Bangladesh, of the struggles its people have carried on through generations.The author does a marvellous job of bringing together all the significant events of Bangabandhu’s political career. But surely the beauty of the work lies in the detailed, chronological presentation of facts he engages in. It is thus that the Six Points, Eleven Points, Declaration of Independence, et cetera, come to readers in a form that enable them to understand the movement of history in this part of the world. On balance, it is a useful work, not to be ignored.

Shotrur Chokhe Bangabandhu
DR MOHAMMAD HANNAN
Anupam Prakashani

A work that is rather different from the usual assessments that are made of the Father of the Nation and his politics. Mohammad Hannan focuses on the views people not kindly disposed toward Bangabandhu happen to express about him. In a way, one could say, the author is coming forth with the other side of the picture, that which Mujib’s opponents have drawn up of his politics.You may not be convinced by what Bangabandhu’s detractors have to say about the Bengali leader here. But it is worth a try reading the book. The book is, once again, quite a departure from works which usually flood the markets. Try reading it. You might end up liking it.

Bangabandhu
Rajniti O Proshashon
Bangabandhu Parishad

Bangabandhu Parishad has been an intellectual forum for the Awami League or, more appropriately, its followers. As such, this work is in its totality a collection of essays from a wide range of individuals on the diverse aspects of Bangabandhu’s politics and administration. Obviously, the write-ups are appreciative of Mujib’s positions on the various issues he faced. You may not agree with everything, but you surely will get the drift of what the Father of the Nation tried to achieve during the brief three and a half years he was in power.

Ekatturer Muktijuddho Roktakto
Moddho August O Shorhojontrer November
COL. (RETD) SHAFAYAT JAMIL
(WITH SHUMON KAISER)
Shahitya Prokash

Shafayat Jamil was a key player in the dramatic events that were to unfold in November 1975. As part of the team led by Khaled Musharraf to reclaim the state from the predators who had commandeered it barely three months earlier, he was instrumental in forcing Khondokar Moshtaq to resign and the killers of Bangabandhu and the four national leaders to quit Bangabhavan. The book deals with three historical aspects. There is the history, in however brief a fashion, of the war of liberation. That is followed by a comprehensive discussion of the tragedy of August 1975. And then, of course, comes an explication of the incidents and events leading from 3 November to 7 November 1975. Jamil is a survivor, a fortunate one. All the other leading figures of the Musharraf-led coup perished in the counter-coup spearheaded by Colonel Abu Taher. Ziaur Rahman emerged as the eventual beneficiary, with such disastrous results.

Father of the Nation
Bangabandhu Memorial Trust

An admirable album of photographs and images of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, beginning with his schooldays and ending with the end of his life in August 1975. The pictures are interspersed with quotes from the Father of the Nation, all expressive of his thoughts regarding the course Bangladesh should be taking on its journey to the future. Copies just might yet be had at Bangabandhu Memorial Museum on Dhanmondi 32, the spot that is today part of Bangladesh’s history — of its glories, of its dark tragedies.

Ekatturer 26 March
Bangabandhur Shadhinota Ghoshona
MOHAMMAD SHAHJAHAN
Bangla Prokashoni

Mohammad Shahjahan’s focus, as the title of the book makes clear, is on the events surrounding the declaration of independence in March 1971. With various quarters trying to stir up controversy over what actually happened on 26 March and especially with the rightwing attempting to build up Ziaur Rahman as the man who formally announced the country’s independence, the author presents the facts he thinks settle the issue once and for all. Shahjahan comes forth with documents, with news reports of the period in question and thus adds substance to his assertion that Bangabandhu did indeed send out the message of freedom to the country before he was taken into custody by the Pakistan army in the early hours of 26 March 1971.

Geneva-e Bangabandhu
ABDUL MATIN
Radical Asia Publications

Once again it is Abdul Matin, this time with an account of Bangabandhu’s stay in Geneva following surgery in London in mid 1972. The Father of the Nation was in a state of convalescence in Switzerland, but that did not deter him from meeting any and every Bengali who came calling on him. Matin provides a fascinating account of all the men and matters that came to Bangabandhu’s attention during that time — the genuine ones, the insidious ones and the plain hangers on.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Sharokgrantha
Jyotsna Publishers

This is a rich collection of articles on the life and achievements of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It comes in three volumes and brings together a rich assortment of ideas from diverse personalities, all of whom are united by a common position on the 1971 war of liberation and the ideals set by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through the 1960s and 1970s. The volumes testify to the many facets of the Mujib character, those that have always made him stand out in the crowd and stand apart from his contemporaries. You really must appreciate the endeavour of those behind the compilations.

Bangladesh
The Unfinished Revolution
LAWRENCE LIFSCHULTZ
Zed Press

The work comes in two segments. Lifschultz dwells at considerable length on Colonel Abu Taher and his ultimate end on the gallows in one. In the other, his subject is the personality and government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the difficulties it came up against and the conspiracies which proved to be its undoing. Lifschultz writes with considerable bravery, which is again natural considering his status as a foreigner. He focuses on a number of salient points about the coup of August 1975 and while doing so points the finger at foreign governments he suspects clearly knew, if they did not exactly take part, in the programme to eliminate Bangladesh’s founder.

The Trial of Henry Kissinger
CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Verso

This surely is an acclaimed book, not least because Hitchens made a reputation for himself as a plain-speaking writer. The work is divided into several chapters, the better to explain the nature of Henry Kissinger’s sinister policies in places as diverse as Chile and Bangladesh. Where the matter is one of Bangabandhu’s assassination, Hitchens leaves little doubt that the American establishment knew all about it before it happened. He comes down hard on then US ambassador to Bangladesh, Davis Eugene Boster (he misspells the name as Booster).The bigger significance of the work is the author’s focus on Kissinger’s deep hatred for Bangladesh, a nation that had the audacity to break away from the American client state of Pakistan. Kissinger snubbed Mujib in Washington by not being present at the White House meeting between the Bengali leader and President Ford, but a short while later he sought to make amends, by visiting Dhaka and calling on Bangabandhu. It is a revealing book, a collector’s item.

Ponchattorer Roktokhoron
MAJOR RAFIQUL ISLAM PSC
Afsar Brothers

Rafiqul Islam’s book traces the entire history of the conspiracy that lay at the root of what happened on 15 August 1975. He names names and is often surprised that the very men who worked diligently for Pakistan in the days of rising Bengali nationalism or even after Bangladesh declared its independence in late March 1971 were chosen by Bangabandhu to be near him, and literally at that.It was these very men who destroyed the Father of the Nation.

Who Killed Mujib?
A L KHATIB
Vikas Publishing House

One of the earliest books on the tragedy of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (the work was published in 1981), it explores the wide network of conspiracy that was to take the life of the Father of the Nation in 1975. A.L. Khatib, a prominent journalist with roots in Sri Lanka but based for the better part of his career in the South Asian subcontinent, brings out some intricate details of the plans shaped to do away with Bangabandhu. The criticism is there that the book was written in haste. Perhaps, but what certainly is of importance is that there is hardly any instance Khatib cites about the tragedy that one can be dismissive of. A whole range of characters people the book. Apart from Bangabandhu, there are all the other characters, notably the ‘little sparrow of a man’ that was Khondokar Moshtaq as also the political figures who constantly used to be around Mujib but at dawn on 15 August were found in the usurper’s company.

From Rebel to Founding Father
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
SYED BADRUL AHSAN
Niyogi Books, New Delhi

The work is a recent assessment of the life and achievements of the Father of the Nation, beginning with his foray into student politics in pre-partition Calcutta and ending with his assassination in Dhaka. In the process, the writer touches on the philosophy that worked in Bangabandhu’s gradual rise to pre-eminence in Bengali politics. Emphasis has also been placed on some of the crucial, and fateful, moves he made in post-Liberation Bangladesh, especially the growing rift between him and his steadfast lieutenant Tajuddin Ahmad.

Distant Neighbours
A Tale of the Subcontinent
KULDIP NAYAR

A book published in the early 1970s, months after the emergence of Bangladesh, it is essentially a series of interviews the veteran Indian journalist conducted with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Dhaka and Islamabad. The theme focuses on the interaction between the two men in the aftermath of Bangladesh’s liberation in December 1971, when Bangabandhu was first placed under house arrest in Rawalpindi by his nemesis and then freed to return to a free Bangladesh. Nayar’s conclusion is revealing: he finds Mujib’s account of the talks to be truthful while Bhutto simply dissembles. The work is an interesting character study of the two men who played significant roles in the history of the subcontinent in 1971.

 

 

 

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JANUARY 06, 2015
Syed Badrul Ahsan is with The Daily Observer

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ACCOUNTS OF HOW THE COUP HAPPENED

ACCOUNTS OF HOW THE COUP HAPPENED

This family portrait of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with his wife and children hangs on a wall inside the Bangabandhu Museum on Dhanmondi 32. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana are the only ones who survived August 15, 1975. (Dhaka Tribune could not verify the identity of the photographer)

These are some of the witness accounts from court on how the coup was carried out from the cantonment

Forty four years after the black night of August 15, the cases filed in 1996 in connection the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the mortar attack in Mohammadpur in 1975 are still being tried. These are some of the witness accounts from court on how the coup was carried out from the cantonment.

Honorary Lieutenant Syed Ahammad (discharged) of the First Bengal Lancer Regiment:

Major Syed Faruque Rahman was the second in command the Commanding Officer (CO) was Major Momin at the time. The regiment was formed by A,B, C and Head Quarters squadron.

Syed Ahmed described that a few day before August 14, 1975, their CO went on leave and Faruque was acting CO.

“I was station sick and resting at the government quarters on August 14. This quarter was beside the regiment,” he said in his statement as witness in the Mohammadpur mortar attack case.

After 2am, early August 15, a sepoy of the Lancer Unit came to his residence and said that Regimental Dafadar Major had asked him to go to Junior Commanding Officer’s (JCO) mess.

As Ahammad sent the sepoy to inform RDM to meet him, the RDM arrived asking for key to the armory saying that the Two Field Artillery is coming for a co-operation training.

Ahammad asked if they have permission from the Quartermaster Captain Delwar and asked to bring to him QMJ and the quarter guard commander. Within ten minutes they arrived and handed over a permission chit from Quartermaster Captain Delwar. Since Ahammad had the right papers he gave the chit to be deposited to the treasury and handed over the keys.

“Then I realised that the treasury has thousands of takas and rushed to the quarter guard to see if the money was safe and locked up properly,” he said.

From the guard commander he heard that forces had left with arms and ammunitions. Tanks and artillery were also sent out for night training.

“I saw Major Faruque and his brother-in-law, Commanding Officer of Artillery Col Khandaker Abdur

Rashid was speaking near the quarter guard, standing next to a Jeep that had a armored gun,” he said.

Seeing Ahammad, Maj Fauque called him asked him to keep an eye on the regiment. “Close down all the gates. Make sure no outsiders are allow to enter,” he ordered.

When both masterminds of Bangabandhu’s assassination steeped into the Jeep, Ahammad asked, “Sir, where are you going?”

Maj Faruque, sitting on the driver’s seat started the vehicle and replied: “We have to oust the autocrat government.”

Ahammad asked if Shafiullah knew the this and Faruque replied: “I do not think that is necessary.”

They sped out of the gates while Ahammad began locking it down.

Tanks rolled out

Squadron Dafadar Major (retd) Risaldar Abdul Alim: He was with the First Bengal Lancer’s B Squadron in August, 1975. Major Firoz was the commander. Former Lieutenant Md Kismat

Hashem took the charge of Squadron when Firoz was on leave.

Around 2pm on August 14, senior JCO Shamsul Haque arrived at the squadron office and informed that there will a night training that day.

After 9pm, 35 army men fall-in in front of the tank garage, as per orders. They cleaned 10 tanks as or-

dered by Kismat Hasem. When Maj Faruque arrived around 11:30pm in front of the garage and spoke to Lt Kismat, the squad was once again asked to fall-in.

“Tanks will have to go outside. Those of you who have tank driving training, raise your hands,” asked

Faruque. Six drivers responded and they were separated into another line.

Faruque then read out the names of those who were to be inside the tanks and the officers who will lead

the tanks. Forces took arms, ammunitions, grenades with them.

Around 3:30am, forces and officers board the tanks and they begin to roll out of the garage and park in a line near the signal gate.

After about 30 minutes, Maj Faruque himself boards a tank along with Lt Kismat, Maj Ahammad Shar-

ful Hossain who also get into tanks themselves and head out of the cantonment.

How the armed military leaves the cantonment

Lance Dafadar (retd) Bashir Ahammod: In his case statement he described how lower tier staffs of the

First Bengal Lancers were kept in dark and abused during the assassination mission of the father of the nation. He was under the Headquarters Squadron. The then Major Mohiuddin was the commander and Maj Faruque was acting CO.

He said that around 4pm on August 14, Havilder Major Abdul Hai called a fall-in of the sepoys of Headquarters Squadron and said there will be a night parade.

At 8pm they fall-in in front of Ration Store, where Major Faruque and Major Mohiuddin were present. Bashir did not take part but was there.

Bashir while returning to the quarter guard, saw Faruque going there too. Risaldar Moslehuddin greeted him.

They were also joined by Major Mohiuddun, Major Ahmmad Sharful Hossain, Lt Kismat Hashem, Lt Nazmul Hossain, Major Nurul Haque, Dafadar Marfat Ali Shah, LD Abul Hashem Mridha and others.

All of them, following a brief discussion moved to Maj Mohiuddun’s office.

“My room was just in front of Maj Mohiuddin’s office. I saw some Artillery officers there too,” he said. Bashir saw, Major Mohiuddinleave his office with two other officers.

Mohiuddin saw him and asked: “Whose is there?” When Bashir identified himself, Mohiuddin asked him to make tea and pakoras. “Send them to the parade stand too,” Mohiuddin ordered.

MDS Abdul Hai went there and said: “There will be a parade fall-in during tonights training.”

Around 3:30am, another parade was called and from there everyone went to take ammo from the armory.

Bashir took a G-3 rifle, 18 rounds of bullets and one magazine.

All soldiers were lined up in groups where Maj Mohiuddin them a short brief.

“You people board this Ford car,” Mohiuddin ordered Bashir’s group.

“We heard the tanks moving out one by one,” Bashir said.

Mohiuddin threatens the groups’ job

Bashir said that seeing the preparations the lower tier military members thought that the troop was training for ‘First Light Attack’ or ‘Counter Attack’.

Maj Mohiuddin briefed the group in the Ford car that they will go to Dhanmondi: “You will be given certain duties which if you do not execute you will be court marshaled.”

“Sir, please tell us what is happening,” asked a frightened Bashir.

Angered, Mohiuddun replied: “ You will retire soon how do you not know how the army law works?”

Captain Bazlul Huda and Maj Nur also were in the car along with Risaldar Syed Sarwar Hossain.

What happened outside Bangabandhu’s house

Bashir in the statement described what he had seen around Bangabandhu’s house on the morning of August 15, 1975.

He said, the car carrying Bashir and others reached the house around 4:45am. Bashir and Sarwar got off.

“Listen to the major’s order. He has asked you to restrict any person’s movement to the house from the

lake’s northern side. Ask police to surrender their arms there.”

Sarwar before going to the house asked Bashir to shot anyone trying to get into the house. Soon, the sound of gunshots and grenades started coming from the house. A machine gun fired and stopped.

After a while, Maj Bazlul Huda, Maj Mohiuddin and others went inside.

The sound of guns firing continued from with intervals.

He saw Maj Noor come outside and tell an army man that he shot Bangabandhu.

“When I asked Risalder Sarwar if Noor himself shot the president, Noor heard me speak,” said Bashir.

“What are you whispering about? I shot the president. Now, go,” Maj Noor said.

People gathered on the southern bank of Dhanmondi lake. Bazlul Huda noticed and told Sarwar, “Ask Bashir to tell these people to leave. Otherwise he will shoot them.”

“I shouted at those people to leave and they did,” he said.

Bashir noticed a tank coming from the west side of the house. Maj Faruque was on board.

“Maj Faruque and Huda asked Maj Noor something, that I did not hear. I went closer to the tank and peered into the house from the left. I saw some people standing in a queue,” Bashir said.

Bashir then asked Sarwar what happened inside and Sarwar said: “All are finished.”

From a distance, Bashir saw a little boy standing near the house’s gate. He was talking to an officer. Someone held his hand and him took inside. “Then I heard a single gun shot come from the house.”

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AUGUST 15, 2019

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‘CIA INVOLVED IN 1975 BANGLA MILITARY COUP’

‘CIA INVOLVED IN 1975 BANGLA MILITARY COUP’

Evidence ‘CIA involved in 1975 Bangla military coup’

Lawrence Lifschultz’s findings about assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are being published in Dhaka’s Daily Star and Prothom Alo newspapers.

An American journalist’s disclosure that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in the 1975 military coup and the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding father, has added a new dimension to the shameful episode that many here recall with dismay, disgust and hatred.

Lawrence Lifschultz, who was present here during the coup, as a correspondent for Hong Kong’s Far Eastern Economic Review, has investigated the events for the last 30 years. Dhaka’s Daily Star and Prothom Alo newspapers are serialising his findings.

“What (the) USA started during the Liberation War in 1971 with attempt to split the Awami League using Khandaker Moshtaque and his accomplices continued after the independence following a direct US instigation, resulting in the carnage on August 15, 1975,” the Daily Star writes in an introductory note to Lifschultz’s pieces.

An impression was given to the people that the coup and the murders were the result of a conspiracy by a few hostile leaders within the Awami League party who joined hands with disgruntled military officers. Some believed that there was a foreign hand involved. None was sure about the role of any country in particular.

“In India, Indira Gandhi, speaking of the tragedy of Mujib’s death, spoke of the sure hand of foreign involvement,” Lifschultz writes. “As usual, Mrs Gandhi was graphically lacking in details or specifics. However, the pro-Moscow Communist party of India (CPI) were more explicit: “the CIA,” said the CPI, “was behind the coup.”

“I dismissed this as propaganda based on no specific evidence.” Sheikh Hasina, Mujib’s one of the two surviving daughters, who became Bangladesh’s prime minister in 1996, also believed that her father fell victim to an international conspiracy. Lifschultz’s findings have confirmed their beliefs.

US Secretary of State

Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger also figures prominently in Lifschultz’s writings. In his opinion, along with Salvador Allende of Chile and Taiyoo of Vietnam, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in Kissinger’s political vendetta. Newly born Bangladesh could not save itself from Kissinger’s wrath.

The US government is yet to comment on CIA’s involvement in the 1975 coup and the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 15 others. A spokesman of the US Embassy in Dhaka said, “No comment,” to the UNB news agency after the first installment of the articles appeared on Monday. According to Lifschultz, Eugene Booster, then US Ambassador to Bangladesh repeatedly objected to the conspiracy and even issued written instruction in this regard, but then CIA Station Chief, Philip Cherry would not listen to him.

Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmad, a minister in Mujib’s Cabinet, played the leading role. Coup leaders made him the country’s president, but a counter-coup overthrew him three months later.

‘Execute case verdict’

Lifschultz’s writings are being published at a time when there is a nation-wide demand for the execution of the Mujib Murder Case verdict and bring home seven convicted killers who are absconding abroad.

After the High Court confirmed death sentences of 12 people and acquitted three others, the case is now pending in the appellate division of the Supreme Court.

The hearing is being delayed due to shortage of judges. Lawyers say if no new judges are appointed, the case would not come up for hearing before 2007. Of the 12 convicted killers, four are already in jail here.

Incidentally, the Opposition Awami League observed August 15 as the national mourning day, describing it as the ‘blackest day’ in Bangladesh’s national life. The nation paid rich tributes to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the 30th anniversary of his death on Monday, though governing BNP cancelled the government holiday and celebrated Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s 61st birthday.

Whether the CIA was involved or not in the 1975 coup is a debatable question. The writings have certainly evoked mixed reactions. The US Government’s admission or denial will not matter much to those who are aware of CIA’s global activities. They will probably believe what Lifschultz has said.

There is another section which will give a benefit of doubt. A third group that is opposed to Awami League and is critical of the Mujib era (1972-1975) will give a damn.

One thing is, however, clear that those managing statecraft-— present and future — will be more cautious in their dealings with the United States. Whether the government agrees with Lifschultz or not is not important. Its immediate task is to ensure speedy hearing of the case by appointing more judges. By doing so, it can prove its neutrality.

Or else, the proverb ‘justice delayed, justice denied’ may come true. At the same time, efforts should also be made to bring the convicted absconders to Bangladesh.

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DECEMBER 11, 2011
Hassan Shahriar, DH News Service Dhaka

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A LONG ROAD IN SEARCH OF THE TRUTH – AUGUST 15, 1975

A LONG ROAD IN SEARCH OF THE TRUTH – AUGUST 15, 1975

Over the last four decades, American journalist Lawrence Lifschultz, who reported on the military coup d’etat that killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and much of his family, has written a series of investigative stories that have provided new insight and understanding into the tragic events of August 15, 1975 and their aftermath. The former South Asia correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and writer for The Guardian once again opens a door to an unknown chapter of the 1975 coup d’etat

August 15, 1975 

Anniversary dates both joyful and tragic remind us of events and people we once knew.

Each year when a particular date approaches, we recall what happened on that day. Sometimes we do not dwell on the past. We remember briefly and then our thoughts move on.

There are other times when we pause. We may stop to consider past events. We take stock and assess.

The work of a writer is like that. To think about what happened long ago and reconsider. If possible to bring new facts to light.

August 15 is one of those dates in my life.

Once before I noted that August 15 illustrates the dictum of William Faulkner that the past is never dead, it is not even past.

Some years I just pause. Remember. And, then go on with other tasks and obligations while certain memories linger.

However, this year I decided to stop and open a new chapter of an old story which has importance not only for Bengalis but also for Americans like myself.

Murders took place in Dhaka on August 15, 1975.

There was a sequence of events that led up to those murders. Were only Bangladeshis involved? Or, were certain actors encouraged, even enabled?

In Bangladesh and in the United States there are people who oppose murder as a tool of international politics and believe that those who commit a crime like murder should be held to account.

Today we remember the violence of August 15, 1975.  However, even after all these years there are still gaps in our understanding of the role of certain individuals in the planning and execution of the killing that took place on August 15 in Dhaka and on November 3 at the Dhaka Central Jail.

We know a good deal. Yet, new information is now in our possession. Perhaps, it will provide additional insight and broaden our understanding of the past.

This family portrait of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with his wife and children hangs on a wall inside the Bangabandhu Museum on Dhanmondi 32. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana are the only ones who survived August 15, 1975. (Dhaka Tribune could not verify the identity of the photographer)

A Dhaka meeting precedes the coup d’etat

Some time ago on a brief trip to Dhaka I decided to call a man who I had been thinking about for more than thirty years. As luck would have it we were both still alive.

The last time I saw this individual — more than three decades previously — he sat down beside me and quietly told me there was something important he needed to tell me. Although at that point he had only said one sentence, he was very serious.

We knew each other. Not well. However, I knew about an act of great courage on his part. I respected him for the risk he had taken to save another man’s life.

I was at his home that evening in Dhaka. He is a businessman. He had invited me to a gathering. It was very crowded and thus impossible to have a private conversation. He suggested that I should return the next evening. I told him I would show up at the agreed time the following day.

However, the next day I was placed under arrest and I was unable to keep the appointment. I was present in Dhaka to report on Colonel Abu Taher’s secret trial at Dhaka Central Jail. One could hardly call it a trial. It was a mechanism by which General Zia had decided to execute his old friend, Abu Taher, who had once saved Zia’s life.

I was filing reports for the Far Eastern Economic Review, The Guardian, and the BBC. In Dhaka and throughout Bangladesh there was a total press blackout on Taher’s trial. The first news of the trial had come through on the BBC’s Bengali language service based on my reporting.

I had found a way to get my reports to the Reuters office in Bangkok which forwarded them on to my respective editors in Hong Kong and London. All transmissions of my stories from the Dhaka telex office had been blocked for over a week. I was detained for three days and then deported to Bangkok. Censorship was now complete, domestically and internationally.

I never made it to my appointment to hear what this gentleman had wanted to tell me. More than thirty years later, I was briefly visiting Dhaka and I decided to call this person and apologize for missing our meeting. It seemed the least I could do.

Yet, I was also very interested in finding what he had wanted to tell me all those years ago. I reached him at his office and he insisted I come over immediately.

When I arrived, he greeted me warmly. He reprimanded me for not showing up that evening in July 1976. He asked: “Did you have to get yourself arrested on that particular night? I was waiting for you.”

Ultimately, he forgave me for missing the meeting. Tea was served. He arranged for someone he trusted to join us. I asked him if he remembered having said to me that he had something important to tell me. “I remember as if it were yesterday,” he said. He then became quite serious.

In the next hour he told an important story. Over the next several days we would go over the details several times while having dinner or lunch at his residence. His wife was a witness. She confirmed her husband’s account while adding specific additional details that she recalled. This is what he had to tell me.

The time when these events took place happened in the weeks immediately preceding the August 15 coup when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family were murdered.

This gentleman had many friends among the diplomatic community in Dhaka. These friendships and relationships were in the nature of the businesses he owned and ran.  He told me he had a friend at the American Embassy, a political officer, named Philip Cherry.

He described the American as a personable and charming individual who seemed to have a great love for Bangladesh. Sometimes they went for drives together to visit factories that this individual owned. He remembers Phil Cherry saying how Bangladesh was such a beautiful country.

Towards the end of July or early August in 1975, Philip Cherry called this gentleman and asked him if the businessman could organize a dinner at his home. The businessman said he would be glad to do so. Did Philip Cherry want some particular guests to be invited?

Cherry confirmed to the prospective host that he only wanted one guest to be invited. Naturally, the guest would also bring his wife. That guest was General Ziaur Rahman. The host knew Zia and he said he would be glad to arrange the dinner. Cherry suggested specific dates.

The dinner was arranged. General Zia arrived with his wife Khaleda. Phil Cherry arrived with his wife. The only other participants in the dinner were the host and his wife. The host says the dinner took place a week before the coup. His wife thinks it was probably more like ten days. It became clear as soon as both men arrived that they had things to talk about on their own.

General Zia and Philip Cherry went into the garden and spent nearly an hour talking with each other before dinner was served. Zia and Cherry seemed to know each other.  After dinner they again went into the garden to continue their discussion. All seemed innocent enough at the time. However, after the coup, as one family member put it, the host and his family felt they had been “used.”

The day after the coup the host was so upset that he drove to Philip Cherry’s house in Gulshan and a dramatic scene ensued. The host was angry and in tears. He kept demanding how this could have happened. He described Mujib’s wife as being “like his own mother.” They killed her. Why? The host was furious and heart-broken that the entire family that were in Dhaka had been murdered. He kept repeating: “How could this have happened?”

Cherry’s wife tried to calm him down and served him tea. Cherry said to him: “I know you were very close to the family.” After expressing his grief and his anger the businessman got into his car and left.

He never saw Cherry again after that day. The family are politically sophisticated. They understand that the dinner they hosted and the Zia-Cherry meeting was not for social purposes. They clearly understand what Zia’s role was in the coup in keeping the army from turning on Major Farooq and Major Rashid as they undertook targeted murders in the pre-dawn hours of August 15.

Like many people they understood that Zia had played a critical role in the coup. Had General Zia opposed the coup d’etat it could never have happened. The evidence increasingly points to the fact that Zia was one of the principal architects of the coup and played a much more significant role than Khondaker Mustaque Ahmed.

One evening on a subsequent visit to Dhaka when I went over the Cherry-Zia meeting that took place at their house, I asked my businessman acquaintance if he knew that Philip Cherry was the CIA station chief in Dhaka at the time of the meeting with General Zia. He looked stunned, saying he thought Cherry was just a political officer at the US embassy.

That Cherry was indeed the CIA station chief is beyond question. As I revealed in an earlier article I wrote on the August 15 killings, my knowledge of this piece of information comes directly from an unimpeachable source: the US ambassador to Bangladesh at the time, Davis Eugene Boster.

The personal desk of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Bangabandhu Museum in Dhanmondi 32  Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka TribuneOn whose authority?

What we now understand is that approximately a week before the coup d’etat which killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a meeting took place between the deputy chief of army staff of the Bangladesh army and the American CIA station chief.

This is a fact of utmost significance. It has particular meaning in that the US ambassador to Bangladesh, Davis Eugene Boster, had six months earlier issued precise instructions to all US embassy personnel to break off any contact with any official or person engaged in an attempt to overthrow the Mujib government.

A series of meetings took place between November 1974 and January 1975 between officials at the US embassy in Dhaka and individuals hoping to secure American backing. We will be examining these contacts in greater detail in a future article.

A week or ten days before the coup, Philip Cherry and General Ziaur Rahman were meeting in a private residence in Dhaka. Cherry could not have held this meeting or continued contacts with actors planning to stage a coup unless he had authorization. Since he had instructions from Ambassador Boster not to engage in any such contacts, the orders must have come from elsewhere. The CIA station chief would have been operating theoretically on orders from Washington or Langley.

The British writer Christopher Hitchens devoted a chapter to Bangladesh in his book entitled The Trial of Henry Kissinger. It was Hitchens’ view that in August 1975 after Nixon’s demise there was only one “center” of power capable of providing authorization to support and encourage a coup d’etat in Dhaka to bring down Mujib. As Hitchens has written in his chapter on Bangladesh:

“Ambassador Boster became convinced that his CIA station was operating a back channel without his knowledge. Such an operation would have been meaningless, and pointlessly risky, if it did not extend homeward to Washington where, as is now notorious the threads of the Forty Committee and the National Security Council, were very closely held in one fist.” (The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. London: Verso, 2001, p 52.)

The “fist” that held the threads, in Hitchens view, belonged to Henry Kissinger.

The import of the meeting that took place between Philip Cherry and General Ziaur Rahman raises a significant issue of who was instructing Cherry in the American government. Were his actions authorized by the Forty Committee or was Cherry receiving instructions directly from Henry Kissinger’s team at the State Department. These are issues that will be explored in a forthcoming article.


AUGUST 14TH, 2018
Lawrence Lifschultz was South Asia Correspondent of the Far Eastrern Economic Review. He has also written for The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, The Nation (New York), Economic & Political Weekly(Mumbai) and the BBC, in addition to numerous other publications. He is the author/editor of Hiroshima’s Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History & the Smithsonian Controversy, Why Bosnia? Writings on the Balkan Wars(with Rabia Ali) and Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution. He can be reached at: OpenDoor.Lifschultz@gmail.com.

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HOW MEDIA REPORTED BANGABANDHU’S ASSASSINATION

HOW MEDIA REPORTED BANGABANDHU’S ASSASSINATION

The assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most members of his family on Aug 15, 1975 failed to make the headline in the Daily Ittefaq on the following day.

It was the same for the other media.

Ittefaq, the best-selling Bangla newspaper of the day, prioritised the army takeover over the killings in its Aug 16 edition.

Its six-column lead headline screamed: “Military takes power under Khandakar Mushtaque’s leadership”.

And the lead read, “The Bangladesh armed forces led by President Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed took over the power in greater interests by toppling former President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman yesterday morning.”

“During the takeover, former President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed in his home,” it went on.

Next to the lead, there was a two-column editorial headlined “Historic New Journey”.

Nurul Islam Patwary was editor of the newspaper at the time. Asafuddowla Reza was the news editor.

Daily Ittefaq, edited by Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia, was known to be a mouthpiece of the Awami League before independence.

The other headlines on the first page of that day’s edition of the newspaper included “Vice president, 10 ministers and 6 state ministers take oath”, “Return of up to Tk 8,000 of invalid currency”, “Takeover in the greater interest of nation”, “US to continue normal diplomatic operations”, “People heave a sigh of relief”, “Felicitations by several quarters”, “Status of foreign embassies to remain unaffected”, “BA Siddique becomes Red Cross Chairman” etc.

After Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League or BKSAL was founded through the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in January, 1975, Ittefaq and three other newspapers were being published nationally at the time.

The headline of the eight-column lead story of Dainik Bangla, edited by Ehtesham Haider Choudhury, was: “Khandaker Mushtaque new President”, with a shoulder: “Sheikh Mujib assassinated: Martial law and curfew declared: Armed forces express loyalty”.

The headline of its editorial on the front page was “A Historic Step”.

The top daily also reported on the front page: “No compromise with corruption”, “Alliance-free policy will be followed: President”, “10 ministers and 6 state ministers take oath”, “US to continue diplomatic operations with new govt”, “Up to Tk 8,000 of invalid Tk 100 currencies will be refunded”, “Pakistan decides to give recognition”.

Like Ittefaq, Dainik Bangla also published Khandaker Mushtaque’s photo along with the lead story.

The Bangladesh Times’ eight-column lead story read: “Mushtaque Assumes Presidency”. The shoulder of the headline was: “Martial Law proclaimed in the country: Mujib killed”.

In its op-ed section – ‘Our Comments’ – a write-up was headlined: “On the Threshold of the New Era”.

The other headlines on the front page of the newspaper edited by Abdul Ghani Hazari included: “People thank Armed Forces”, “Mujib’s picture’s removed”, “US ready for normal ties”, “Vice-President, ten Ministers, six State Ministers sworn in”, “Values have to be rehabilitated”, “Help make Bangladesh a prosperous country”.

Photo of Mushtaque taking oath was published with the lead story.

The most-circulated English newspaper The Bangladesh Observer’s main headline was “Mushtaque becomes President”.

The shoulder read: “Armed Forces take over: Martial Law proclaimed: Curfew imposed”, while the kicker was: “Mujib killed: Situation remains calm”.

The eight-column story also contained a photo of Mushtaque being sworn in.

The editorial was headlined “Historical Necessity”, flanked by the reports with headlines: “Special prayers” and “Mushtaque calls for co-operation”.

The other stories were “People hail take-over”, Pakistan accords recognition”, “Inviolability of foreign missions assured”, “Justice must be established: President/Work hard to improve condition quickly”, US ready to conduct normal diplomatic business”, Curfew relaxed for Juma prayers”.

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AUGUST 15, 2018

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1975 BANGLADESH COUP: WHAT INDIA KNEW…

1975 BANGLADESH COUP: WHAT INDIA KNEW

B. Z. Khasru, an award-winning journalist, is editor of The Capital Express in New York. His first book, “Myths and Facts, Bangladesh Liberation War, How India, U.S., China and the USSR Shaped the Outcome” was a bestseller in 2010. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston.

U.S. officials believed that given New Delhi’s intelligence resources, the “general coup plotting over the last eight months was certainly known to” the Indian government. Samar Sen, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh when the new nation’s founding president was assassinated, disputed this notion. India’s foreign office, however, admitted having some vague knowledge of the August 1975 putsch in which President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with most of his family members.

Near the end of 1974, India started worrying that Bangladesh’s economic difficulty could lead to a gradual breakdown of political and administrative systems.

Sen explained that India lacked foreknowledge of the coup because it had no intelligence agents in Bangladesh. India had stopped spying in Bangladesh at Mujib’s request. He wanted them out because RAW agents were monitoring his followers and keeping in touch with opposition politicians, at the same time.

Near the end of 1974, India started worrying that Bangladesh’s economic difficulty could lead to a gradual breakdown of political and administrative systems. Indian officials could not identify an agent for change. They did not think Mujib faced serious threat from his party or the opposition. They also dismissed the military as a threat because it was too divided. Extremist groups were too small and isolated.

On top of all this, the Bengalis were known for their proverbial ability to absorb great economic hardship. Thus, they were left with an inchoate concern that somehow things might begin to fall apart. India was directly concerned with two possible byproducts of turmoil in Bangladesh.

First, anarchy in Bangladesh might ultimately throw up an anti-Indian regime or invite involvement of others. Second, the ten million Hindus in Bangladesh might be affected disproportionately. The Hindus would be squeezed hard and even physically threatened, forcing them flee to India as they did in 1971. Such an outcome would severely strain both Indo-Bangla relations as well as Hindu-Muslim relations in India.

However, Indian officials as a whole were not yet overly concerned about the either situation. Officials willing to speculate predicted India would intervene at Mujib’s request to save him from a real threat. U.S. diplomats in New Delhi agreed with this assessment.

During Mujib’s rule, according to the U.S. assessment, Indian policies in Bangladesh did not conflict much with those of the United States. “India has come to appreciate our stance of non-interference in subcontinental bilateral problems and the low profile we maintain in Bangladesh.”

India was not concerned about Bangladesh having diplomatic relations with Pakistan and China. In fact, it had recommended this to Mujib. Its concern was that the new government would change its policy toward Islamic extremism.

Things were, however, entirely different a year later. On 7 October 1975, Y.B. Chavan, India’s external affairs minister, expressed concern about the Bangladesh events when he met U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Washington.

Mujib’s killing shocked India

“India was shocked by the killing of Mujib and his family, although it was treating this as an internal matter,” he said. “The new government had assured India it was not changing its policy, but Delhi was concerned about the potential strength of ‘extreme Islamic’ elements and also revolutionary left Communists.”

India was not concerned about Bangladesh having diplomatic relations with Pakistan and China. In fact, it had recommended this to Mujib. Its concern was that the new government would change its policy toward Islamic extremism. This would lead to trouble for the Hindu minority. Delhi also worried that China would try to stir up trouble with help of the pro-Chinese Communist groups in Bangladesh.

Kissinger, on his part, assured that Chavan: “We saw a requirement for good relations between Bangladesh and India. We had no interest in trying to weave Bangladesh into some complicated power game. Bangladesh should concentrate on economic development. What influence we have there, we will use to encourage good relations with India.”

Chavan was among those in Gandhi’s cabinet advocating a more cautious approach toward East Pakistan during the Bangladesh war. His position created lingering doubts about his goodwill toward Bangladesh. He reiterated that Indian concerns were that the radical groups were already active in Bangladesh and if the Pakistanis and the Chinese began meddling, there could be a new regional problem.

Kissinger noted that the Chinese had been down on Bangladesh in the past. He reiterated that the United States favored good relations between Bangladesh and India. Kissinger then asked whether India had known about the plot against Mujib in advance.

In India, the public in general widely believed the United States was involved in Mujib’s murder.

Following Chavan’s trip, the State Department sent a note to the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, summing his discussions.

“In response to the secretary’s query, Chavan said the Indians had no foreknowledge of the recent coup in Dacca,” the memo said. “He also agreed that the problem in Bangladesh for India was a potential one and that at present, relations with the new government were good.”

At the end of the first week after Mujib, Bangladesh confronted much uncertainty. Fear of India was in the air. Mujib’s successor, Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, found himself in a position that required a great deal of balancing act.

In India, the public in general widely believed the United States was involved in Mujib’s murder. On 19 August 1975, Ananda Bazar Patrika published a story, quoting the West Bengal Congress Party youth movement chief, Priyoranjan Das Munshi. He said the assassination once again proved how active the CIA and China were in the subcontinent. Mujib’s assassination sparked a flurry of protests rallies in India. The All-India Peace and Solidarity Organization held a meeting in New Delhi. Communist MP Bhupesh Gupta accused the CIA of backing the Mujib killers. Mujib’s death, he fumed, was part of a rightist conspiracy supported by U.S. imperialism. Ramesh Chandra, general secretary of the CPI front World Peace Council, claimed he had learned when he visited Dhaka in April 1975 that several CIA agents worked in Bangladesh as volunteers in aid-giving societies. He had mentioned this to Mujib, who said he knew it.

Indians blame CIA

These allegations enraged America. The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi was livid by an article in the Congress Party newspaper Jugantar, implicating Davis Boster, U.S. ambassador in Dhaka, in the coup. The public affairs officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata protested to Jugantar editor. The editor claimed he was unaware of the article or how it got in the paper.

The Chinese were trying to isolate India. There was already Hindu repression before the coup; India was now very concerned over the possibility of increased repression and the refugee migration that might cause.

The editor, D.R. Bose, explained that he had left his office early in the evening on 17 November – the day before the article appeared. The story was brought to Jugantar by an Indian who had just returned from Dhaka. He was not a correspondent. But the editor did not identify him. Subeditor Deb Kumar Gosh had the story prepared and approved by the censor about midnight.

The editor tried to pacify the irate American official, saying he had a “stack of material” on America and Bangladesh, but would not “print anything without checking with” the consulate. “In particular, he said, he had a story about large-scale demonstrations in front of the American embassy in Dacca calling for Ambassador Boster’s withdrawal.”  He apologized and agreed to “run anything you want” in Jugantar.

The embassy decided to take up the editor on his offer. It decided to ask Bose to print a rejoinder on the front page as was the article along following lines: An article carried in the 18 November issue of this paper concerning the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh was unauthorized for publication and did not represent Jugantar’s views. Jugantar regretted and disavowed any implication of improper activities on the part of the American ambassador to Bangladesh.

The State Department supported the consulate’s efforts to obtain retraction from Jugantar. It told the embassy to express America’s displeasure at a high level in New Delhi. The public affairs officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata spoke to Bose in the morning of 19 November 1975. Bose agreed to run a retraction, but in the body of an editorial or news comment on the Bangladesh situation in the next few days.

The same, the deputy chief of mission in New Delhi protested newspaper articles blaming the CIA for the coup when he met J.S. Teja, joint secretary for Americas at the foreign office. “We would take the strongest exception to continued allegations in the Indian press of the U.S. government involvement in the Bangladesh coup. This was a slanderous and totally false accusation.” Teja first attempted to brush off the press reports as matters the government could not control. He later agreed to inform authorities.

India feared Hindu exodus

Following the coup in Bangladesh, India feared the danger of Hindu repression and outside meddling in Bangladesh. There was deep concern in New Delhi that the change was destabilizing. The Chinese were trying to isolate India. There was already Hindu repression before the coup; India was now very concerned over the possibility of increased repression and the refugee migration that might cause.

To ease India’s fear, Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, who succeeded Mujib as president after the coup, was making every attempt to be evenhanded and take Indian sensitivities into consideration. India demanded that the Moshtaque government must “disassociate itself from the murderers of women and children.”  India made it clear it would not accept 10 million Hindu refugees. Indian public opinion would be outraged. “We would turn them back at the border,” Teja said.

…it needed mainly trucks and jeeps as well as light and medium artillery. They ruled out China and Pakistan as a source of supply because both were considered “politically volatile.”

India’s second problem was Bangladesh’s recognition by Saudi Arab, Pakistan and China. These countries did not recognize Bangladesh in the past. So, their interest was in influencing the Moshtaque government, not in establishing friendly relations. India feared Pakistan would play on the Muslim theme.

India was convinced that the Pakistanis and the Saudis were pressuring Bangladesh to become an Islamic state. Because of its economic needs, Bangladesh might do this. Such a move would be very shortsighted, because in the long run India could help Bangladesh more than those countries. India hoped that U.S. aid would enable Bangladesh to resist pressures of those who sought to make Bangladesh an Islamic state.

India, for its part, was doing everything to maintain good relations with Bangladesh. Economic and military training assistance were being continued at their pre-coup levels. But New Delhi did not think that Bangladesh was sufficiently concerned about keeping good relations with India. Attacks on India in the Bangladesh press and on the government radio to supported this contention. India saw certain pro-Pakistani appointments within Bangladesh as evidence of an anti-Indian attitude.

Bangladesh diplomats in New Delhi reported a softer tone in India and started reciprocating. On 24 October 1975, Bangladesh Counselor Ataul Karim, who was always low key in his discussions, asserted there were no problems in Indo-Bangla relations. But the first secretary for political affairs, Ziaus Shams Chowdhury, indicated a great anxiety about possible Indian reactions to Bangladesh establishing diplomatic ties with Pakistan and China. Chowdhury took exception to the attacks on Bangladesh in the Indian Communist press and blamed the Indian government for it. He accused India of supporting anti-regime groups within Bangladesh without giving details.

The same day, Brigadier M.A. Manzur, the Bangladesh military adviser, and Major General H.M. Ershad, deputy chief of staff of the Bangladesh army, who was then attending the Indian National Defense College, reported that the two sides had adopted a “wait-and-see” policy. They indicated that an anti-Indian – and a pro-Pakistani and pro-Chinese – position might give rise to an Indian intervention in Bangladesh. Although it would be foolhardy for India to do this, Manzur said it was a possibility that could not be excluded.

The Indians had expressed their strong desire for continued good relations with Bangladesh. Moshtaque emphasized that America should not equate India and Bangladesh.

As for the Bangladesh army’s material needs, they revealed that the army already had many Chinese small arms. It needed mainly trucks and jeeps as well as light and medium artillery. They ruled out China and Pakistan as a source of supply because both were considered “politically volatile.” Yugoslavia had been considered a possible source. But this also had been dropped. Both dismissed America as a source. They would only say that the equipment would have to come from unnamed third countries.

“We continue to believe that there are circumstances under which India would intervene – covertly and ultimately overtly, if necessary – in order to protect its interests in Bangladesh and that these circumstances would include massive migration of Hindus or the emergence of a government which appeared to be pro-Chinese and pro-Pakistani,” the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi commented. “As indicated above, and in other recent reporting, the government of India does not now see problems which cause it serious concern; it is only worrying about potential problems. Finally, we would assume that the government of India is now developing and maintaining assets within Bangladesh for the purpose of influencing the situation should the feared problems arise.”

On 29 October, U.S. ambassador in Bangladesh, David Boster, told Moshtaque that Kissinger and his aides had discussed Indo-Bangla relations with Chavan during his recent visit to Washington. The Indians had expressed their strong desire for continued good relations with Bangladesh. Moshtaque emphasized that America should not equate India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh was a small country that only wanted to live in peace and couldn’t harm anyone, even if it wanted to.

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MAY 01, 2016
Courtesy: This article is based on B.Z. Khasru’s book, The Bangladesh Military Coup and the CIA Link.

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A NATION MOURNS…

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BANGABANDHU AND BANGLADESH: CORRECTING CONTRIVES AND CUNNING CORRIDORS

BANGABANDHU AND BANGLADESH: CORRECTING CONTRIVES AND CUNNING CORRIDORS

Lamartine — that mediocre poet but cunning politician in France during the revolutions of 1848 — once remarked that history is a trick that we, the living, play upon the dead. One part of the implied argument in this extraordinary book, Bangabandhu, Epitome of a Nation, is to correct some of those tricks, and mend some of the many contrived passages and cunning corridors that have delivered so many unkind cuts to the father of the young nation of Bangladesh. It is a noble and largely successful effort, one might readily admit.

After the brutal murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members on the black morning of August 15, 1975, historical mendacity reached a new low in Bangladesh. Volumes were written to delete the contributions of Bangabandhu and his fellow fighters and elevate the previously unknown figures to the status of the makers of our Liberation Movement. At the end it proved futile. Such a large truth as the liberation of millions of people cannot be obliterated by hack writers of history no matter how numerous they happen to be. It does, however, show that Voltaire was at least sadly and partially correct when he defined history as nothing but a record of the crimes and misfortunes of mankind. Yet, beyond the crimes and misfortunes in the sad golden land of Bangladesh there are always the people and some leaders of integrity and courage like Bangabandhu. This can never be erased.

At the very outset it is imperative to remind the potential reader of this timely book that the integral and larger purpose of this project is ultimately the heartfelt plea for Bangladesh historiography’s self-determination that will lead to a genuine history of its own self-determination. It is a project of self-emancipation of Bangladeshis. Our still “colonialist knowledge” is collusive through and through in every field from philology to political economy. Certainly, in my own field — the mainstream political economy echoes songs of praise for the top rulers of the system while ideological justifications, global inequality and unjust social formations obliterate any attempts at an objective inquiry into the real causes of wealth and poverty in our world.

It was Bangabandhu’s and his fellow fighters’ sincere commitment to genuine development that led to his and his most important comrades’ violent murder carried out by a group of plotters in the armed forces supported by a group of unscrupulous politicians who opposed Bangabandhu’s dreams and programs for a just society. The book under review describes graphically Bangabandhu’s lifelong struggle for and with the suffering masses in the then East Pakistan. Many stirring photos and touching vignettes illustrate not just his political leadership but also the suffering of his nearest and dearest- his wife and children. For those of us who were lucky to know him personally, the warm sympathetic Sk. Mujib emerges as he was in life everyday with family and friends beyond the truly larger-than-life founder of a nation. I want to argue in light of the book under review that he was also the harbinger of a new type of tolerant modernity and secularism open to all religions and indigenous cultures as well as internationalism. Although Bangabandhu spent much of his adult life in turbulent politics, he thought carefully about modernity and its problems from people’s perspective all his life. His unfinished autobiography shows this clearly. The present book does this also with graceful competence. Indeed, he was the harbinger of a new type of modernity quite different from those of the so- called 19th century Bengal Renaissance.

In particular, the sections entitled “The Quintessential Bengali” and “He belonged to all Bangladeshis” show the great leader in this light. “The Statesman in Bangabandhu” and several other sections on his politics show him as both a nationalist and internationalist. As a person who was privileged to see his culturally engaged side on several occasions, the present reviewer can attest that Bangabandhu was deeply engaged in the defense of Bangalee culture and values but also profoundly respectful of all cultures of the world- particularly those of the oppressed indigenous peoples and other minorities. In this he was a valiant defender of universal human rights.

Although the main heroic character in the book is Bangabandhu and rightly so, there were many other heroic characters such as Tajuddin Ahmed who are also mentioned. Sadly, on 15 August, 1975 the people who were around Bangabandhu in the corridors of power, were not of the same caliber as Tajuddin and people like him. Many were co-conspirators with the cabal in the armed forces, and none would come to his aid on that black morning except one loyal man. He is indeed another heroic Bangladeshi who gave his life in the hour of need of Bangabandhu and the country. His name is Colonel Jamil. He could not save Bangabandhu or his own self, but his name will be forever written in golden letters as a loyal servant of our new nation.

All in all, the book is a wonderful addition to the growing archive of books on Bangabandhu. It is exceptional in its wide and compact coverage. It even has a section of Bangabandhu as a writer. The photographs themselves are to be treasured with several quite rare reproductions. The cover and binding are exceptional given the weakness of our publishing industry in these areas of physical production. Finally, the portrait by the great Bangladeshi painter Shahabuddin enhances the visual appeal tremendously. This book deserves to belong to the bookshelf and table of every person with interest in Bangabandhu and Bangladesh.

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AUGUST 09, 2019
Haider A. Khan is John Evans Professor of Economics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

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THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF BANGABANDHU

THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF BANGABANDHU

A leader who was always one with the people

For our generation who witnessed the birth of Bangladesh, it is a daunting task to express in words the unique role played by the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman in the creation of the new state. It is even more challenging to analyze the political ideas underpinning his life’s work. Whenever I think of Bangabandhu I first remember those exciting and memorable days of March 1971.

I consider myself to be very lucky that I was able to witness the events of March 1971 and Bangabandhu’s role in creating history. Very few people are fortunate enough to see the making of history. I witnessed the transformation of our movement for autonomy into our struggle for independence. I witnessed how the main actor of this historic transformation, Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman, realized an impossible dream. There have been leaders in other countries who led their nations. But few could create history. Bangabandhu was one such rare grand actor of history.

It is unfortunate that even after 48 years of our independence and 43 years after his assassination there is no well-researched comprehensive biography of Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman. Fortunately two recent books, based on his personal diaries, have been published which can serve as original source that help us understand his ideals and political philosophy.

The first book, The Unfinished Memoirs, published in 2012, throws light on his childhood, and early political life. Though The Unfinished Memoirs does not include events after the late 1950s it still illuminates his political thoughts very clearly.

The second book, Karagarer Rojnamcha (prison diaries) which was published in 2017, is based on his diaries when he was in prison after he launched the six point movement in 1966. Here again his political thoughts are made very clear. He discusses at length the different methods of suppression of people’s movements pursued by an autocratic state. He highlights the importance of fundamental civil and political rights, particularly the need for ensuring freedom of expressions for sustaining democracy.

In this article I quote extensively from his writings so that we can hear his own voice. To understand his political philosophy we should always keep in mind that Bangabandhu spent most of his life as a political player outside state power. He struggled against colonial and undemocratic state power, first against the British and later against the Pakistan state to establish the economic, political, and cultural rights of the Bengalees.

He exercised state power only for a limited period of time — barely three and a half years after independence. His political discourse, as illustrated in these two books, is that of a leader fighting authoritarian state power, not that of a leader who was using state power to govern a country.

One of the remarkable features of his political life was his transformation from an ordinary rank and file worker of a political party to an unparalleled leader of millions of people. Bangabandhu possessed outstanding organizational capacity; at the same time he was a great orator. Generally we do not find such a combination of qualities in one leader.

In his Unfinished MemoirsBangabandhu notes that he was more interested in party organizational work than in discussing theoretical and ideological issues. Though he was not a political theoretician, Bangabandhu had a few specific political ideals and goals and he worked consistently to achieve them. His values are best captured in three sentences which Bangabandhu penned on May 3, 1973. He writes:

“As a man, what concerns mankind concerns me. As a Bengalee, I am deeply involved in all that concerns Bengalees. This abiding involvement is born of and nourished by love, enduring love, which gives meaning to my politics and to my very being.”

The above quote makes it clear that Bangabandhu identified himself both as a human being and as a Bengalee.

This self-identification helps us explore the main features of his political philosophy, such as nationalism, secularism, socialism, and people-orientation.

Nationalism

Independence, liberation, and democracy

From the beginning of his political life, Bangabandhu was proud of his Bengali national identity. He was involved in the Pakistan movement but he believed that Pakistan should be established on the basis of the Lahore Resolution which envisaged two Muslim majority independent sovereign states.

He perceived the nationalist movement not simply as a struggle to gain independence from the rule of an external colonial power but also as a struggle for the economic and political emancipation of the down-trodden masses from various forms of oppression.

He joined the Pakistan movement in the hope that poor Muslim peasants will be liberated from the exploitation of the landlord classes. He had always viewed the Bengali nationalist movement as a movement for the achievement of democracy as well as liberation of the oppressed people. Thus on March 7, 1971 he called upon the people to launch simultaneously the struggle for independence and liberation.

Prior to the establishment of Pakistan, when as a student in Kolkata, Bangabandhu joined the Muslim League. He belonged to the Shaheed Suhrawardy and Abul Hashem faction of the party which was known as the progressives group. In his Unfinished Memoirshe writes:

“Under Mr Suhrawardy’s leadership we wanted to make the Muslim League the party of the people and make it represent middle-class Bengali aspirations. Upto that time Muslim League had not become an organization that was rooted in the people. It used to serve the interests of landlords, moneyed men, and Nawabs and Khan Bahadurs.”

After the creation of Pakistan, Bangabandhu returned to Dhaka and became involved in various progressive movements and organizations which championed the linguistic, cultural, and economic rights of the Bengalis. In 1948 he was imprisoned for participating in the movement demanding recognition of Bengali as one of the state languages of Pakistan.

He was also involved in other social and political protest movements, such as the movement of poor peasants against prohibiting inter-district trade in rice known as the “cordon” system. He supported the movement of the fourth class employees of Dhaka university and was again imprisoned in 1949.

Within a relatively short period after the establishment of Pakistan he became convinced about the need for establishing an opposition political party not only for championing the rights of the Bengalis but also to challenge the authoritarian rule of the Muslim League. In his Unfinished Memoirs he explained the rationale for the establishment of the Awami League in the following way:

“There is no point in pursuing the Muslim League any longer. This party has now become the establishment. They can no longer be called a party of the people … if we did not form an organization that could take on the role of the opposition the country would turn into a dictatorship.”

In 1949, the Awami Muslim League (AML) was founded and Bangabandhu was elected the joint secretary of the party though he was still in prison. In 1953 he became the general secretary of the party. The demand for self-rule gained increasing popular support in East Bengal from the mid-1950s. In 1955 Bangabandhu became a member of the Pakistan National Assembly (NA). In one of his speeches in the NA we already find a strong articulation of various demands of the Bengali nationalists and his strong sense of Bengali identity. He said:

“They want to place the word ‘East Pakistan’ instead of ‘East Bengal.’ We have demanded so many times that you should use Bengal instead of Pakistan. The word Bengal has a history, has a tradition of its own. You can change it only after people have been consulted. If you want to change it then we have to go back to Bengal and ask them whether they accept it … what about the state language Bengali? What about joint electorate? What about autonomy? … I appeal to my friends on that side to allow the people to give their verdict in any way, in the form of referendum or in the form of plebiscite.”

In the council session of the party in 1955 the Awami League (AL) dropped the word “Muslim” from its name and Bangabandhu again became the general secretary of the party. In February 1966, Bangabandhu presented his historic six points demand which put forward a very radical notion of provincial autonomy leaving only limited powers in the hands of the central government.

In March of that year he became the president of the AL and began a country-wide campaign to popularize the six points which soon became the sole agenda of the party. Six points captured the aspirations of the nation and it was billed as the charter for the liberation of the Bengalis. Following the launch of the six points, Bangabandhu was again imprisoned and he was charged with treason by the Pakistan government in the Agartala conspiracy case.

In 1969, Ayub fell from power in the face of massive students’ movement. Bangabandhu was released from prison and the students conferred on him the title of Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal). During the 1970 election campaign Bangabandhu started using nationalist slogans such as “Bangladesh” and “Joy Bangla.”

Thus, within a relatively short span of four years, between 1966 to 1970, Bangabandhu was able to unite the whole Bengali nation behind his demand for liberation and independence. I do not think any other nationalist leader had been so successful in mobilizing such a huge number of people within such a short period of time.

It is noteworthy that though throughout his life Bangabandhu was involved in movement politics and talked about people’s emancipation from exploitation and oppression, he believed in peaceful non-violent political movements. From 1947 till 1970 the Bengali nationalist movement became stronger day-by-day under his leadership but he stayed within the bounds of democratic politics.

Whenever Pakistani rulers gave opportunities for election he participated in them, though the elections were often not free and fair and attempts were made to foil the election results. In Karagarer Rojnamchahe points out repeatedly that by limiting the democratic space an autocratic regime ultimately leads the country towards terrorist politics. He writes:

“Newspapers arrived. I was alarmed that they [the Pakistani government] are trying to shut down democratic politics … If anybody criticizes the government there will be cases against them under the proposed secret act … I myself am facing five cases under article 124, section 7 (3) for making public speeches … My fear is they are leading Pakistan toward terrorist politics. We do not believe in that politics. But those of us who want to do good for the people through democratic politics, our space is shrinking.”

Secularism

Non-communalism and equal rights for all citizens

Though he was a Bengali nationalist, Bangabandhu never tried to create division and hatred between different identity groups. Many nationalist politicians use provocative languages and symbols that encourage violence between different groups. These days we are witnessing the rise of such nationalist leaders even in Western democratic countries who are trying to instigate intolerance and violence towards minority groups. But Bangabandhu’s nationalist politics was different. He believed in co-existence and mutual tolerance of different identity groups and talked about equal rights of all citizens. He always stood against communal violence.

Though he was involved in the Pakistan movement he believed that in India, Muslims and in Pakistan, Hindus should enjoy equal rights as citizens and live together in peace and harmony. He talked about equal rights of all groups to practice their respective religions.

He witnessed the communal riots in Kolkata on August 16, 1947. He points out that Suhrawardy asked his supporters to observe the day in a peaceful way so that no blame could fall on the Suhrawardy government. But unfortunately, communal riots did break out in Kolkata and later spread to Noakhali. Bangabandhu saved both Muslims and Hindus from acts of communal violence in Kolkata. Later when Suhrawardy joined Mahatma Gandhi in efforts to bring back communal harmony, Bangabandhu joined them.

After returning to Dhaka he joined Gonotantrik Jubo League and took up the cause of building communal harmony as his main mission. He was against all forms of communal violence, not simply between Hindus and Muslims but also between different Muslim sects and between Bengalis and non-Bengalis.

In his Unfinished Memoirs he strongly condemns the anti-Kadiyani riots that took place in Lahore in 1953. In 1954, when riots broke out between Bengali and non-Bengali workers in Adamjee jute mills in Narayanganj, he rushed to the area to calm the situation. In 1964 when Hindu-Muslim riots spread in India he started a civic campaign to prevent communal riots in East Bengal. Even in his March 7, 1971 speech he asked people to remain vigilant against the threat of communal violence. He said:

“Be very careful, keep in mind that the enemy has infiltrated our ranks to engage in the work of provocateurs. Whether Bengalee or non-Bengalee, Hindu or Muslim, all are our brothers and it is our responsibility to ensure their safety.”

In his personal life he followed the preachings of Islam. But Bangabandhu was against the political use of religion. He condemned the Muslim League’s practice of using the slogan of Islam and not paying attention to the economic well-being of the people which he argued was the goal for which “the working class, the peasants, and the labourers had made sacrifice during the movement for independence.”

Socialism

Equality, freedom from exploitation, and oppression 

In his Unfinished Memoirs Bangabandhu writes:

“I myself am no communist, but I believe in socialism and not in capitalism. I believe capital is a tool of the oppressor. As long as capitalism is the mainspring of the economic order people all over the world will continue to be oppressed.”

By socialism he meant a system that would free people from exploitation and oppression and remove inequality. He visited China in 1952 which left a deep imprint in his mind. He found great differences in the living conditions of people in Pakistan and China which he attributed to the differences in the two political systems.

Bangabandhu believed that the government has a role to play in removing inequality and freeing people from exploitation. He admired the priorities set by the Chinese government in improving the socio-economic conditions of the people. He writes:

“Everywhere we could see new schools and colleges coming up. The government has taken charge of education.” He further writes:

“The communist government had confiscated the land owned by landlords and had distributed it among all farmers. Thus landless peasants had become land owners. China now belonged to peasants and workers and the class that used to dominate and exploit had had their day.”

He did not want to see inequality grow in Bangladesh. In the council session of the AL held during April 7-8, 1972, he reiterated his commitment to promote an exploitation-free socio-economic system and socialism was formally adopted as one of the ideals of the party. In the next council session of the party held in 1974 he, again, pledged to work for freeing the nation of exploitation and oppression.

People Orientation

People’s issues, people’s politics 

Often we find leaders who lead people towards great goals but they do not become emotionally involved with the people. Bangabandhu was an exception. When I compare the speeches of various leaders of the world with those of Bangabandhu, one of his off-repeated expressions — “love for people” — stands out as unique. He often talked about his love for people and people’s love for him in return.

He always prioritized the issues that are upper-most in ordinary people’s lives. His politics was people’s politics. During the campaign for Pakistan when famine struck, he worked in feeding centres for the famine victims. He worked to rescue the victims of communal riots in Kolkata. He participated in street rallies demanding food security for the poor in East Bengal. His political philosophy was not centred only around the goal of getting state power: He developed his political ideas by being involved with the concerns of the ordinary masses.

This people’s orientation made him a pragmatist. In his diaries he constantly refers to issues that would affect ordinary people’s everyday life such as the rise in essential commodity prices or tax increase or flood or famine.

At one level, Bangabandhu was a man of the masses. He learned about people’s aspirations from them. At another level he was the leader of the people. He carried forward ordinary people’s aspirations. He had faith in people. That is why he could call upon people on March 7, 1971 to join the liberation struggle with “whatever little they have.”

Four guiding principles of state

We see the reflections of Banganabdhu’s political philosophy in the four guiding principles of state adopted by our constitution: Nationalism, democracy, secularism, and socialism. He defended these four principles in various speeches delivered in the parliament, in the party forums, and in addresses to the nation.

Bangabandhu used to articulate the goals of his life’s work in two simple words. He would either say he wants to build again “Shonar Bangla” or he would say he wants to bring “a smile on the faces of the poor and unhappy people.” Bangabandhu never talked about GDP growth or other theoretical issues. He knew very well how precious a smile was and his goal was to achieve that priceless objective.

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JUNE 10TH, 2019
Rounaq Jahan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Posted in - KNOW YOUR ENEMY -, - REVOLUTIONARY VOICES -, BANGABANDHU - Father of our Nation, HISTORY OF BENGAL, IDENTITY & PATRIOTISM, LEADERS - IN ITS TRUE SENSE, Poverty, REFLECTION - Refreshing our Memories, RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN & DUTY, SOCIETY, SOCIO-ECONOMY -- Inequality | Leave a comment

AUGUST 15 KILLINGS: LONG WAIT FOR JUSTICE

AUGUST 15 KILLINGS: LONG WAIT FOR JUSTICE

Although 44 years have passed, justice for the killing of 25 people in three more attacks on the night of August 15 remain elusive due to inaction and negligence of the government

After a 35 year wait, the nation got justice for the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, but the justice for the killing of 25 other people on the night of August 15 in 1975 is yet to see light.

Although 44 years have passed, justice for the killing of 25 people in three more attacks on the night of August 15 remain elusive due to inaction and negligence of the government.

According to case documents, some disgruntled army personnel killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s nephew and founding chairman of Awami Jubo League, Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, and his wife Arzu Moni, at their Dhanmondi residence on the same night.

In other attacks, Bangabandhu’s brother-in-law and former water resources minister Abdur Rab Serniabat was also killed at his Minto Road residence in the capital while a mortar assault by a group of army personnel killed 14 in Mohammadpur, taking the death toll to 34 on that fateful night.

Three cases were filed for these killings in 1996. Of the cases, two are still on the backburner while all the accused in the case filed for Sheikh Moni’s murder have been acquitted by a lower court following a final report of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Earlier, law Minister Anisul Huq and Attorney General Mahbubey Alam had said several times that they would take steps for disposal of the pending cases, but their offices are yet to make any move in this regard.

Ministry sources said they could do nothing about the Sheikh Moni murder case as the police had already given their final report in the case.

However, legal experts said the government can revive this case by conducting a further investigation, if they want.

Serniabat murder

According to the case, a group of army personnel led by Maj Shahriar Rashid, Maj Aziz Pasha, Capt Majed, and Capt Nurul Huda stormed Serniabat’s residence on 27 Minto Road at about 5:00am.

They went up to the first floor and broke open the door. Confused, Serniabat made a phone call to the residence of Bangabandhu.

The army officials rounded up the residents to the drawing room on the ground floor. Shahriar and Majed fired shots at them.

Frightened, Beauty Serniabat caught hold of her father, Abdur Rab Serniabat. Shahriar Rashid, Aziz Pasha, and Nurul Huda fired shots again and left the scene.

Abdur Rab Serniabat, his nephew Shaheed Serniabat, daughter Baby Serniabat, son Arif Serniabat, grandson Babu Serniabat, who was four, domestic helpers Potka and Laxmir Ma, and Abdur Naim Khan alias Rintu, died on the spot.

Abul Hasnat Abdullah, son of Abdur Rab Serniabat, survived hiding behind a door.

The case statement said Shahan Ara Begum, wife of Hasnat, her mother-in-law Amena Begum, brother-in-law Abul Khair Serniabat, sisters-in-law Beauty and Rina Serniabat, and domestic helpers Rana, Rafiqul Islam, Golam Mahmud, and Lalit Das, were seriously injured.

After the incident, Shahan Ara Begum filed a case with Ramna Police Station on October 21, 1996.

After the trial started against the 18 accused, including Bazlul Huda, the proceedings of the case were stayed by the High Court in November 1999 following a criminal revision filed by one of the accused, against the order of charge framing.

Public Prosecutor Abdus Sattar Dulal of Dhaka First Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge Court told Dhaka Tribune: “The case is still pending with this court due to the stay order of the higher court.”

Sheikh Moni killing

A group of 25 to 30 army men surrounded Sheikh Moni’s House 170 on Road 13/1 in Dhanmondi at around 1:30am on August 15, 1975. Carrying Sten guns and Chinese rifles, eight to ten of them in black uniform went up to the first floor and came down after firing shots, said the case statement.

Moni’s close aide, Mohammad Shahabuddin, who was on the ground floor, went upstairs and found Moni and his wife Arzu lying on the floor in a critical condition.

Moni’s parents, younger sister Sheikh Rekha, and brother, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, were crying.

Sheikh Maruf, younger brother of Moni, turned up there. Arzu cried to Selim for help and asked him to save them and their two sons, Sheikh Fazle Shams Porosh and Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh.

Shahabuddin, Selim, and Maruf, took Sheikh Moni and Arzu to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, where the doctors declared them dead.

Long after the incident, Shahabuddin filed a case with Dhanmondi Police Station on November 20, 1996, accusing 16 people, including former deputy minister Taheruddin Thakur in the case.

After investigation, CID gave a final report clearing the accused in the case on August 22, 2002.

Accepting the CID’s report, the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court on December 30, 2002, acquitted all the accused without notifying the complainant in the case.

Neither the investigation officer nor the court concerned informed the plaintiff about the fate of the probe. Later, no initiative was taken for further investigation to date.

Mortar attack in Mohammadpur

According to the case, Mohammad Ali, of Sher Shah Suri Road in Mohammadpur, woke up with wounds in his left thigh at about 5:30am. He heard the sound of mortar fire.

Hearing cries, he went to a nearby house on Road-9 and found Rezia Begum, wife of the house owner, Musa, and their daughter Nasima, dead.

He then went to House-196 and 197 on Shahjahan Road in the neighbourhood where he saw the bodies of Habibur Rahman, Anwara Begum, another lady by the same name, Moyful Bibi, Sabera Begum, Abdullah, Rafiqul, Safia Khatun, Shahabuddin, Kasheda, Aminuddin, and Honufa Bibi, all killed by mortar fire.

Later, he came to know that 14 people had been killed in Mohammadpur by mortar shells fired by some military personnel.

Fourteen people were killed by mortar shells fired by military personnel in the Mohammadpur area on the same night.

Mohammad Ali filed a case with Mohammadpur Police Station on November 29, 1996, accusing Syed Farooq Rahman and 10 others for the incident.

The trial started with the Dhaka Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judges Court on November 1, 2006, against the 11 accused.

So far 14 out of 58 prosecution witnesses have testified in court.

The case was stuck in trial court due to non-appearance of witnesses and the alleged negligence of prosecution lawyers. The prosecution failed to produce any witnesses in the last five years since the witness Ramij Uddin had testified before the court on April 24, 2014.

Expressing frustration with the sluggish proceedings, complainant Mohammad Ali, also a freedom fighter who was injured in the attack, told Dhaka Tribune: “I want justice and want to die only after seeing judgment in the case.”

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AUGUST 15TH, 2019

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AWAMI LEAGUE RETURN: INTACT POLICY TO ACCELERATE ECONOMIC GROWTH

AWAMI LEAGUE RETURN: INTACT POLICY TO ACCELERATE ECONOMIC GROWTH

They also believe that this will help policy continuation which will eventually be conducive for development and contribute to growth acceleration.

“The country’s growth rate increased from once 4-5 percent and 6 to 7 percent plus now. The growth will get momentum in future with the continuation of power,” eminent economic analyst Dr Zaid Bakht said. “Policy continuation is very important for development as it will be helpful for growth and development,” he added.

With the Awami League’s victory in the 11th national election, the country’s development efforts are likely to get a boost as mega projects will have some positive impacts with faster implementation.

Awami League has assumed office for the third consecutive term with a vision to lead the country to a prosperous nation. In its last 10 years’ rule, the nation witnessed a   socio-economic progress, driven by favourable policies and pragmatic steps. In the period, the country also saw 6.6 percent average growth against 5.1 percent global average that helped raise its status from a low-income LDC to a lower middle-income country ready to take off as a non-LDC country by 2024.

The growth rate climbed to over 7 percent rate in the last three consecutive years, while it hit 7.86 percent in the last fiscal year with per capita income rising to $1,751 from $759 in 2019

The government’s long-term Perspective Plan 2010-2021 and the sixth and seventh five-year plans were the driving force behind the success, according to analysts.

Economists think the increased public investment actually played the catalytic role in achieving the higher growth in the context of an apparently stagnant private investment.     Public investment now reached 7.8 percent of GDP. In the last 10 years foreign exchange reserve increased more than four times from $ 7.5 billion to $ 32.2 billion. The Bangladesh parliament has a record Tk 5.23  trillion (about 62 billion US dollars) national budget targeting an economic growth of 8.2 percent in 2019-20.

A major development indicator was lowering poverty. The poverty rate has come down to 21.8 per cent in 2018 which was 31.5 per cent in 2009 with extreme poverty rate slipping from a whopping 17.6 per cent to 11.3 per cent.

In the process of economic transformation, agriculture sector’s contribution to GDP, which has traditionally been large contributor, has weakened while the contribution of industry and service sectors is on the rise.

In the wake of achieving remarkable economic progress, time has now come to sustain the growth, Dr Zaid Bakht said. He thinks that the key challenge for the new government is going to raise the quality of public investment alongside increasing private investment.

Improving physical infrastructure, energy sector and skill level of workforce, and human resource development, lowering poverty further and narrowing inequality will be the major challenged in the coming days, he listed.

Another eminent economic analyst Dr Zahid Hussain, lead economic at World Bank’s Dhaka office, said bringing back discipline to financial sector, rationalizing public investment plan, more revenue earning and reforms to public administration will be the major challenges for the new government.

The government has to ensure that mega projects like Padma Bridge, metro-rail and construction of LNG terminals are completed during its present tenure so that the people as well as economy get benefits of those mega infrastructure projects, he noted.

The projects hurriedly approved on political consideration prior to the polls should be revisited, project management should be fixed and project priority should be set according to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he also suggested.

He said both tax policy and administration require reform to make them taxpayers’ friendly so that domestic revenue mobilization increases, which is also pre-requisite to achieving SDGs.

Efficiency and accountability of the public administration should be enhanced through some reforms including introduction of performance based promotion and salary increase system, he suggested.

“If a government coming to power  consecutively for three terms with a landslide victory can not bring reforms to the administration, then who’ll do this?” he said, in a reply to a question whether it will be possible for the new government.

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JUNE 22, 2019

Posted in ACHIEVEMENTS - SUCCESS, AGRICULTURE, CHALLENGES, CURRENT ISSUES, DECENTRALIZATION, DEFENCE & SECURITY, Distribution & Poverty, ECONOMY, ENERGY - NATURAL RESOURCES, FOREIGN RELATIONS & POLICY, G-8, GLOBAL INDICATORS & BENCHMARK, GROWTH & TARGET, INDUSTRIES, N-11, NGO'S, SHEIKH HASINA, STOCK MARKET, STRATEGY & POLICY, TOURISM, TRADE BODIES | Leave a comment

BANGLADESHIS WILL BE RICHER THAN INDIANS BY 2030: STANCHART

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