Ziaur Rahman: The Mastermind Behind The Assassination of Bangabandhu & His Family


Published on August 9, 2021
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Bangladesh has executed six murderers for killing the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on August 15, 1975. Some are also on run. But those who were behind the barbaric massacre have misled the ordinary people by claiming themselves as pro-liberation forces. However, their role has become clearer after diplomatic and intelligence documents from the United States and India got leaked and journalists began exposing vital information. The truth can never be suppressed in history. And thus, the role of General Ziaur Rahman has emerged as the main culprit behind the assassination of Bangabandhu. Now it is as clear as day that Ziaur Rahman handled the whole incident with his support for the Mostaq gang from behind and keeping the junior army officers in the front.

Zia's role in the assassination of Bangabandhu in killers’ confession 

Following the assassination of Bangabandhu, two killers Farooq and his brother-in-law Rashid talked to local and foreign journalists about this incident at different times. Khondaker Mostaq's relationship with Major Rashid was like uncle and nephew. From those interviews, it has been known that Ziaur Rahman was involved in the plot to kill Bangabandhu for a long time.

In response to a question, they said that Ziaur Rahman took over as the Chief of Army Staff from the Deputy Chief of Army Staff immediately after the August 15 coup. Then he neither wanted to see any civilian government nor was even against the rapid introduction of any political process in the country. Unsatisfied desire, ambition and greed got General Zia in such a way that he wanted to be sworn as the country’s president at any cost. He was the main patroniser of the August 15 and November 3 killings. They even made it clear in a book jointly written by Rashid and Farooq later.

Meanwhile, Shahriar, another assassin of Bangabandhu, also mentioned Ziaur Rahman’s name in an interview with the weekly Meghna in 1985. In response to a question, he said: “Ziaur Rahman was the deputy chief of the army at that time. He had many functions to do. So, we have talked to him many times. These meetings have been held in many places.”

Meanwhile, after the assassination of Bangabandhu, the two murderers Farooq and Rashid gave an interview to foreign journalist Anthony Mascarenhas in 1976. There, Farooq Rahman said, “I met Deputy Chief of Army Staff Ziaur Rahman in the evening of March 20, 1975. He then listened to everything and instructed us to move forward. However, as a senior officer, he expressed his inability to be in front.” Farooq also said that he had several meetings with Khondaker Mostaq. Anthony Mascarenhas later asked Ziaur Rahman if he wanted to talk about the matter. Ziaur Rahman said he would consider it later, but he did not respond.

Majed is another killer of Bangabandhu. He had fled to India for a long time hiding his identity. After his arrest, he also said that Ziaur Rahman had directly patronised the army members involved in the assassination of Bangabandhu. He allows them to go abroad with their families. Zia even offered a job at the foreign ministry as a prize posting.

Zia instructed to kill four national leaders in jail after Bangabandhu 

Day after the assassination of Bangabandhu, Khondaker Mostaq declared himself the President and Ziaur Rahman took over the charge as Chief of Army Staff. Mahabub Alam Chashi, who was once known as a close associate of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a Pakistani foreign ministry official, was made the chief secretary. After that, the army led by its new chief Ziaur Rahman started a crackdown on Awami League leaders and freedom fighters all over the country. During the tense period, Khondaker Mostaq used to maintain regular visits at Bangabhaban to keep himself at the centre of power. However, his fate was ruined in less than three months.

But before that, Mostaq and Ziaur Rahman had already taken four national leaders of the Liberation War - Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Kamaruzzaman and Captain Mansur Ali – to jail. Ziaur Rahman even used a Bengali ISI spy to arrest Tajuddin Ahmed who tried to go into hiding. He later sent the ISI man abroad with a reward of one lakh dollars and a scholarship. Later, the officer hid his identity and took a job in the BBC Bangla department. From there, he continued his conspiracy against Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina and Awami League. But he was sacked after the Awami League came to power in 1996 and produced all evidence and information of his activities before the BBC authorities. 

Meanwhile, Mostaq considered the four jailed national leaders a threat to himself. At the same time, Army Chief Ziaur Rahman decided to remove these leaders forever to ensure his long-term power. Zia sent troops to the jail to assassinate the national leaders. Even after the assassination of Bangabandhu, those who refused to join Mostaq's cabinet were threatened by Zia's soldiers with weapons. Also, when Mostaq entered parliament for the first time after illegally declaring himself president, many lawmakers angered Ziaur Rahman's troops for not standing up to greet him. The next day, six people were picked up from their homes and put in jail on Zia's orders.

Ziaur Rahman rewarded the killers of Bangabandhu with impunity

Backed by Ziaur Rahman, Khondaker Mostaq emerged as the self-proclaimed President of the country after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and his family on August 15, 1975. In the last week of September, Mostaq issued the infamous Indemnity Ordinance to protect Bangabandhu's killers. It was originally called Ordinance No. 50 of 1975. Later in 1979, after declaring himself the President of the country through a dramatic vote, General Ziaur Rahman turned this ordinance into law. He approved it in his self-decorated parliament.

Ziaur Rahman made the 5th amendment to the Constitution of Bangladesh on July 9, 1979, only to protect the assassins of Bangabandhu and four national leaders. Also, he made arrangements for the safe repatriation of Bangabandhu's assassins while he was the Chief of Army Staff and the de facto head of state under military conditions. Later he rewarded the killers of Bangabandhu with jobs in embassies of different countries on a hefty salary from the state fund. Here is a list of the 12 assassins of Bangabandhu who were rewarded by Ziaur Rahman with their jobs abroad:

1. Lt. Colonel Shariful Haque (Dalim) - first secretary in China,

2. Lt. Colonel Aziz Pasha - the first secretary in Argentina,

3. Major AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed  - the first secretary in Algeria,

4. Major Bazlul Huda - Second Secretary to Pakistan,

5. Major Shahriar Rashid - Second Secretary in Indonesia,

6. Major Rashed Chowdhury - the second secretary in Saudi Arabia,

7. Major Nur Chowdhury - second secretary in Iran,

8. Major Shariful Hossain - second secretary in Kuwait

9. Colonel Kismat Hashem - third secretary in Abu Dhabi,

10. Lt. Khairuzzaman - Egypt's third secretary,

11. Lt. Nazmul Hossain - third secretary in Canada

12. Lt. Abdul Majed - third secretary in Senegal.

The illegal Zia government also assured Major Farooq and Rashid, two of the key killers of Bangabandhu, to lead a luxurious life in Libya. Under the patronage of Ziaur Rahman, they settled in Libya but opened one business after another in Bangladesh, worth crores of money. It should be noted that Farooq and Rashid are brothers-in-law in relation. Again, Rashid is the nephew of Khondaker Mostaq and both were very trusted officials of Ziaur Rahman. In subsequent interviews, the duo admitted having meetings with Ziaur Rahman on more than one occasion before the assassination of Bangabandhu and a coup with the direct support of Zia.

Zia compensated the Pakistanis after taking state power

After the assassination of Bangabandhu, Khondaker Mostaq was able to keep himself in power for less than three months as the self-proclaimed President with the backing of Army Chief Ziaur Rahman. Meanwhile, Ziaur Rahman took control of the whole country. He took control of the administration with the officers returning from Pakistan and cornered the freedom fighters. He then sent Taheruddin Thakur to Islamabad for a special agreement with Pakistan. Killer Zia even returned the citizenship of those whose citizenship was revoked by Bangabandhu due to their anti-Bangladesh stance.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman confiscated the assets of Pakistani industrialists and took them under the control of the state after the independence. But to please Pakistan, Ziaur Rahman arranged for the return of those assets. He not only moved away from the compensation that Bangladesh had been demanding from Pakistan but also compensated Pakistan.

The rise of extremists under Zia's direct patronage 

Bangabandhu cancelled the citizenship of those who were involved in genocide, murder, rape and looting of Bengalis during the Liberation War. He even banned all anti-national and communal political parties for their role during the Liberation War. But following the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu and his family, Ziaur Rahman restored the citizenship of those anti-national criminals and arranged for their return. It paved the way for Razakar leader Ghulam Azam to return to Bangladesh and revive the politics of Jamaat.

Zia’s decision gave the scope to the religion traders like Muslim League, Jamaat, Nezame Islam, Al Badr, Al Shams to revive in independent Bangladesh. He also violated the national policy of the Constitution. By removing secularism from the Constitution, killer Zia helped the extremists walk freely in the country.

The controversial role of Ziaur Rahman during the Liberation War

Ziaur Rahman joined the Pakistan Army and trained in intelligence before independence. He then worked as a special intelligence agent of the notorious ISI for the Pakistani junta from 1959 to 1964. A few months before the Liberation War, he was posted to the 8th East Bengal Regiment in Chittagong as one of their trusted troops. At that time, the Pakistani junta had finalized a plan to launch a massive operation in this territory. It should be noted that it was Ziaur Rahman who supervised the intelligence activities as a captain under West Pakistan's ISI-boss General Zia-ul-Haq (later Pakistan's dictator).

Even during Liberation War, Major Zia had regular contact with some special officers of ISI. For this reason, Ziaur Rahman was completely inactive in the Shabrum sector while other sector commanders appeared on the battlefield and engaged in regular battles, Due to his controversial role during the war, Chief of Army Staff Ataul Goni Osmani gave him two show-cause notices and even decided to dismiss him. During the war, Ziaur Rahman even established personal contacts with agents of various intelligence agencies among international aid organizations who came to the country to provide relief. That communication became more evident in the post-independence course of events after his connection with the US embassy, the CIA and Pakistan's ISI unfolded over time.

As he read out the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu, he got the special attention of the foreign organizations. However, even in that critical period of the nation, former ISI officer Major Ziaur Rahman tried to be cunning. On March 26, 1971, the Awami League leaders of Chittagong distributed Bangabandhu's declaration of independence as a leaflet throughout the day and themselves broadcast the declaration on behalf of Bangabandhu on the radio. They then decided to read the proclamation with an army officer to rejuvenate the trained Bengali army. Since there was no senior officer then, the Awami League leaders called Major Ziaur Rahman and asked him to read Bangabandhu's declaration. On this occasion, Zia tried to read the declaration in his own name. But when the leaders present asked him to read the declaration correctly, he later corrected it and read the declaration of independence on behalf of Bangabandhu.

Later, when Ziaur Rahman seized power in Bangladesh after the assassination of Bangabandhu, his former ISI boss General Zia-ul-Haq also took over the power in Pakistan. At that time, Ziaur Rahman took the initiative to run Bangladesh with Pakistani ideology as per the wishes of the former boss dictator Zia-ul-Haq by sacrificing the interests of Bangladesh. For this reason, General Zia-ul-Haq announced to give 50,000 pairs of shoes and socks as gifts to Ziaur Rahman's soldiers. Meanwhile, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan and one of the masterminds of the genocide in Bangladesh on the night of March 25 was overjoyed to hear the news of Bangabandhu's death on August 15. He congratulated the army chief Ziaur Rahman and Mostaq Ahmed soon and sent a ship filled with rice as a gift. Ziaur Rahman also promised to maintain good ties with Pakistan.