577Published on September 29, 2022
At the heart of Bangladesh's long culture of impunity lies an infamous decree, introduced by turncoat Khondaker Mostaque Ahmed and later institutionalised by successive military governments which helped safeguard the killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members, researchers say.
Within a span of forty days into that gruesome assassination of the killers of the country's founding father, this black law came into being with the singular objective to protect the murderers from the realm of justice, says Ajoy Das Gupta, an eminent researcher.
Introduced by Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, who grabbed the state power to become the president moments after the assassination of Bangabandhu, the ordinance came into effect on September 26, 1975.
After Mostaque’s reign which lasted till November 6 1975, Gen Ziaur Rahman, who later founded Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), kept in place the Indemnity Ordinance and embraced those killers by offering them jobs in different Bangladesh embassies across the world.
Not only did those killers enjoy immunity but they were even allowed to float a political party, contest national elections, run newspapers, perhaps the most glaring abuse of human rights and a sheer mockery with the spirit of freedom, earned through an ocean of blood.
In the aftermath of Bangabandhu's assassination, Zia, who was the deputy army chief back in 1975, rose to the rank of the army chief, even allowed those killers to hold first class government jobs and hobnob with foreign intelligence agencies conspiring against Bangladesh.
During the tenure of second military ruler Ershad , another self confessed killer Col Farooque was allowed to contest presidential elections in 1986, during which he even used the national broadcast channel and radio to relay his national address. Another Mujib killer Bazlul Huda also made it to the parliament.
Both the generals—Zia and Ershad—oversaw the making of Islam as “state religion” through constitutional amendments , says Dasgupta.
Zia’s successor Begum Khaleda helped this group emerge as “Freedom Party”. They opened a newspaper called “Daily Millat” ( now defunct) while Major Rashid, another self-confessed killer, was made a MP for a brief stint following the controversial election held on 15th February 1996.
But all the while till 1996, failure to get justice haunted the family of Bangabandhu—Sheikh Hasina, Sheikh Rehana and their three children who escaped the massacre as they were overseas on that fateful night.
Only after she was voted back to power in 1996, Sheikh Hasina went ahead to get the trial started under the due process of law. Some of the killers were brought to book after she returned to power in 2009 .
But though forty five years have elapsed, some of those killers are still able to find shelter in countries like USA and UK, despite the repeated pleas of the pro-liberation people of Bangladesh and the family of Mujib. And these countries then have the temerity to sermonise Bangladesh on human rights.