The sinister aftermath of a most heinous killing

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Published on August 16, 2021
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Shakhawat Liton:

After three and a half years of the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members, the second parliament dominated by BNP--a newly formed political party led by then military ruler General Ziaur Rahman, who was the biggest beneficiary of the heinous crime, passed a strange condolence motion to "mourn" the death of Bangabandhu.

The parliament, constituted through a manipulated election in 1979 under the martial law regime led by Gen Zia, refrained from condemning the cruelest murder that shocked the conscience of humanity. And without paying proper tribute to the Father of the Nation, it rather described his assassination and the overthrow of his government as "a political changeover".

It also kept mum about the band of disgruntled army officers who emerged as the killers to derail the journey of the independent country by eliminating the entire leadership who had led the Liberation War in 1971.

In the condolence motion, the House mentioned Bangabandhu as "former president of Bangladesh". But in fact, Bangabandhu was the sitting president when he was murdered on 15 August, 1975.

"He [Bangabandhu] had to die as a result of a political changeover on 15 August 1975," reads the condolence motion passed by the House on April 4 1979. "Through his death, Bangladesh has lost a notable personality in the political arena."

That's all for Bangabandhu!

But on the same day, the parliament paid a gushing tribute to BNP senior leader and minister Mashiur Rahman alias Jadu Mia, describing him as "a selfless, committed patriot".

Mashiur was a senior minister in Zia's cabinet and a lawmaker of the second parliament when he died on 12 March 1979. He was not called a former minister like the way Bangabandhu was mentioned.

Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, who extended his full support to the regime installed after the 15 August massacre, also received high praise in the condolence motion. "His death is an irreparable loss to Bangladesh. The country has lost an extraordinary personality and pro-people leader."

The language used in the condolence motion exposed the psyche of the politics of the then martial law regime presided over by Gen Zia. With an ill-motive, it glorified Bhashani to belittle and bury the image of Bangabandhu.

The Parliament took up the motion to condole the deaths of 11 other eminent personalities between August 1975 and early April 1979, according to the second parliament proceedings.

As per convention, the Parliament passes condolence motions at the beginning of each session to mourn the deaths of eminent persons and victims of any tragic incident that occurs during its recess.

After the assassination of Bangabandhu, the Khandaker Mostaq Ahmad government installed by the killers dissolved the first parliament which was formed through the first general election in independent Bangladesh in 1973.

The country was without a parliament until the second parliament was constituted in 1979. And the second parliament at its inaugural sitting passed the despicable condolence motion.

The condolence motion also hid other heinous crimes. It completely ignored the brutal assassinations of the four national leaders -- Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Mansur Ali and Kamaruzzaman -- inside the Dhaka central jail on 3 November 1975.

Let alone mourn their deaths, there was not even a mention of their names in the obituary motion in the Parliament. There was no mention of Bangabandhu's family members and others who were murdered on 15 August.

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

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

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

Then president Gen Ziaur Rahman, in his address at the inaugural sitting of Parliament on 4 April 1979, also refrained from paying proper tribute to Bangabandhu.

He just said, "I remember those great personalities who inspired the country's people through Bangladeshi nationalism and the ideals of independence. Among them, I mention the names of Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and Janab Sheikh Mujibur Rahman."

Interestingly, Zia still held the post of chief martial law administrator when he addressed the new parliament as the president of the country, setting a bizarre record in parliamentary history.

Awami League MPs strongly protested the language of the condolence motion, the president's address and removal of Bangabandhu's portrait from the House.

They said Bangabandhu was still the Father of the Nation constitutionally, and demanded that his portrait be reinstalled in the House. But their protests fell on deaf ears.

The reasons behind the reluctance of the then martial law regime led by Gen Zia to pay proper tribute to Bangabandhu are clear.

The regime installed after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu rewarded the self-confessed killers with indemnity through promulgation of an ordinance in September 1975. The Indemnity Ordinance justified the heinous crimes as it says: "Whereas it is expedient to restrict the taking of any legal or other proceedings in respect of certain acts or things done in connection with, or in preparation or execution of any plan for, or steps necessitating, the historical change and the proclamation of martial law on the morning of the 15th August, 1975."

Gen Zia was made the army chief by the killers replacing Gen Shafiullah after the 15 August bloodbath.

Grabbing the post of army chief, Gen Zia found the door opened for him to capture the state powers. He became chief martial law administrator in November 1976 removing Justice Sayem from the post and later the president in April 1977.

His desire to get legitimacy for his illegal rule and actions and to transform himself into a civil leader gave birth to the BNP that grabbed two-third seats in the 1979 election.

On the first sitting of the second parliament, his government placed the nefarious Fifth Amendment to the Constitution bill in the House minutes after the despicable condolence motion was passed.

In the bill, the Zia-led government sought to give constitutional protection to the September 1975 Indemnity Ordinance that granted Bangabandhu's killers immunity from the charge of assassination and unlawful overthrow of his government.

The bill also sought to condone and validate all actions and deeds by the disgruntled army officers and successive governments from 15 August to 9 April 1979.

The next day, on 5 April, the House passed the Fifth Amendment bill amid protests by the AL and some other MPs in the opposition.

The Fifth Amendment consolidated the indemnity of the killers of Bangabandhu for 21 years until the Awami League returned to the power in 1996 and scrapped the heinous ordinance clearing the way for holding trial of the killers who had been rehabilitated in different foreign missions by Gen Zia and subsequently by another military ruler, Gen Ershad under state patronisation.

The Fifth Amendment has validated numerous other nefarious wrongdoings.

During his rule, Gen Zia threw open the gate for ant-liberation forces to bounce back. A few hundred freedom fighters either were hanged on various charges or sacked from the armed forces, clearing the way for officers repatriated from Pakistan after the Liberation War to take control of the armed forces.

In breach of the country's constitution, numerous people and opposition leaders were tried under martial law tribunals during Gen Zia's regime.

All the wrong doings were validated by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution denying people the right to seek justices against the injustices they had to endure.

The Constitution was ruthlessly amended through martial law orders. Secularism was deleted. Constitutional ban on religion based politics was lifted allowing anti-liberation forces such as Jamaat-e-Islami to resume their activities.

Rehabilitation of anti-liberation forces in politics by Gen Zia began by the installation of Pakistani collaborator Shah Azizur Rahman as the prime minister and leader of the House in 1979 and such acts continued for the following decades. And the politics of rehabilitating anti-liberation forces reached a new height as his party BNP led by his widow Khaleda Zia, took Jamaat-e-Islami to state power by forging alliance with it.

The celebration of Khaleda Zia's controversial birthday on 15 August, the National Mourning Day, is a perverted manifestation of the politics that had risen after the cruelest assassination of Bangabandhu.

Source: The Business Standard