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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2790

Indo-Bangladesh Relations and Coup in August 1975 –Part-III

By Rabindranath Trivedi - for Asian Tribune from Dhaka

Part-III Coup in August 1975 : An Analysis by BBC

Dhaka, 06 August , ( Bangladesh President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, along with all, but two daughters, of his family members, was killed by a group of young officers of the Army , said BBC, on 15 AUGUST 1976 after just one year. Richard Open Haimer of the Eastern Division of the BBC reviewed the causes of his killing in the context of development and present situation in Bangladesh. The Bangladeshis and the people abroad were equally shocked and terrified at the way Sheikh Mujib had been killed.

Whatever criticism is labeled against his rule and corruption, there is no doubt that this great personality had helped much in the liberation struggle of Bangladesh four years ago. Still, Sheikh Mujib was killed at a time when he wanted to establish Democracy, Nationalism, Socialism and Secularism the four basic pillars of the Constitution. Doubts have been expressed about it and the economy of the country was almost collapsed at that time.

Obviously, Sheikh Mujib was only partially responsible for the miserable economic condition of Bangladesh. There was no magic to fulfill the promises overnight which were made during the liberation for the economic freedom and to be free from the clutches of West Pakistan. Besides this, the hope for rapid economic revival and recovery after the liberation met with a severe blow following the world wide economic depression caused by the oil crisis in 1973 and 1974.” Richard Open Haimer continues and added: “But some new trends had appeared in the political and economic horizon of Bangladesh for which Sheikh Mujib was responsible. Some of these trends came to an end abruptly after his death and some are still going on in a changed form. But all these trends made him hostile.It was basically Sheikh Mujib who introduced parliamentary form of government. Again, Sheikh Mujib himself introduces one-party presidential system of government which he termed in January, 1975 as the Second Revolution.Sheikh Mujib’ s predecessor Khandakar Mushtaque Ahmed banned political parties as a condition for preparing a time schedule for the resumption of political activities and holding general elections in February, 1977.

The election time schedule remained unchanged despite coups after coups by the shipahis (soldiers). Now it is to be seen as to what extent the political parties can carry out their activities, how fairly the election is held and what role the Army play in any future government.It now appears that the twin policy of nationalism and secularism is the cause of Sheikh Mujib's death.

The plotters of assassination of Sheikh Mujib and the leader of the so-called Majors, Lt. Colonel Farooqur Rahman said several times that the killing of Sheikh Mujib was inevitable because he deviated Bangladesh from the Islamic path and placed it in the hands of India and the Soviet Union After the death of Sheikh Mujib, Bangladesh established diplomatic and trade relations with Pakistan and China. Sheikh Mujib, however, was also gradually approaching towards that direction. The economic policy adopted by the present government is quite different to that of Sheikh Mujib's socialistic policy.

Following the adoption of some liberal policies in the field of industrial ownership, jute industry and foreign investment, it appears that the pattern of nationalization is being changed. The powers which Sheikh Mujib handed over to his party workers from political point of view are now being practically given back to the professional bureaucrats and Martial Law Administrators. This is such a peculiar stability in the trend of events that has not been discontinued even after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman or the military coup of November 1975." (BBC, 15 August 1976).

Aftermath the August Coup in Bangladesh

It is worthy to mention here that after the government was formed to project a civilian appearance, power lies with the coup leaders. They made Bangabhaban their own permanent residence and operated from a martial law control room located there. They replaced Major General Shafiullah with Major General Zia as the Army Chief of Staff. General (retired) MAG Osmani was appointed Defence Adviser to the President, which created a mixed reaction in the minds of the people and a respectable image so far it was learnt.

Brigadier Khaled Musharraf staged a coup with apparent success on November 3, 1975. The President sent the coup leaders abroad. Musharraf, after a hot exchange of words, compelled Mustaque to hand over power to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. But when the killer majors with the help from certain quarters murdered four national leaders in the central jail on 3rd November, 1975 before they flew out, big demonstrations were staged by AL and others against the killing of Bangabandhu and four national leaders. The killers claimed that they were acting on president Mustaq’s orders

After 15th August, 1975, many leaders and workers were detained by the military junta and tried by military courts.The DCMLA Air Vice Marshal M G Tawab was ousted as he had participated in an Islamic Jalsa held at Race Course on March 7,1976 where followers of Jaamat fundamentalists and banned rightist political parties raised slogan “Tawab Bhai, Tawab Bhai, we want flag of crescent and star,” (i.e., Pakistan)They raised 6-point demand;Islamic Republic of Bangladesh; Change of national flag; change of national antheme, demolision of Shahid Minar of language movement -1952.and so on (Ittefaq , 08 March 1976).

Air Vice-Marshal M G Toab , a Pakistan Air Force Officer, was serving as an instructor in a NATO air force school ,and made the Air Force Chief of Bangladesh on 16 October,two months after the Coup. He had settled down with his German wife in West Germany. " It is assumed that after the dismissal of his colleague and the Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator, Air Vice Marshal M.G.Tawab, the de facto leader of today's Bangladesh, General Ziaur Rahman, is the supporter of secularism alike Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed. He is also opposed to the idea that Bangladesh is an Islamic state. General Zia has given his firm support to nationalism and particularly he is very much vocal at the Colombo conference during the last few days against the alleged Indian interference in the affairs of Bangladesh.” ( BBC reported on 15 August’76)

Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan, the great revolutionary leader, also known as the prophet of violence, who was then on the sick bed at P G Hospital, made a clarion call to resist these elements. That worked promptly, and compelled Tawab to quit Bangladesh." Zia faced several attempted coups and counter coups. He crushed these and removed fast to forcibly oust his main rivals Air vice Marshal M G Toab and also executed Lt.Colonel (retired) Abu Taher on July 21, 1976 at Dacca Central Jail. By removing Tawab, known to be an extreme rightist, and Taher known to be an extreme leftist, Zia managed to win over moderates and centrists and consolidated his own power by gaining majority support in the army." (Hussein Golam,1988, p-17).In Pakistan, the army was bound to gain ascendancy sooner or later; and the tune of ‘Islam in danger’ is the harmony with the genesis of Pakistan. A Tradition of changing the government through Coups! On the other hand, the people of Bangladesh have along tradition of political struggle, and they had totally rejected politicians and generals who traded on communal passions Yet the Pakistani tunes of ‘civil war’ and ‘Islam in danger’ were piped in Bangladesh on the day Bangabandhu was killed and afterwards.

The conspiracy against Bangladesh began even before it was liberated, and some of those men who plotted against Sheikh Mujib were in the conspiracy. If the coup had been staged by-rather through-men who had openly opposed the liberation struggle, there would have been greater resistance immediately. The killers were a part of Pakistan’s ‘Operation Phoenix’, who participated in the liberation of Bangladesh did create confusion and was helpful to camouflage the real enemy. This anti- Bangladesh force came out later on . After assuming office as head of the state Major-General Ziaur Rahman, Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA), issued a proclamation order amending the Constitution of Bangladesh framed by elected people's representatives in 1972, to insert Bismillah-ir- Rahmanir Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the merciful) and other Islamic principles in the of the Constitution in place of secular ideals, which was subsequently ratified in the form of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution in April 1979.Zia’s amendment gave a clear signal about the regime’s political ideology and support base. Through the amendment, Zia started a revisionist process on the identity question and the Liberation movement. These debates would dominate the political discourse of the country for the next two decades. (Rounaq Jahan, 2005, p-281)

Rabindranath Trivedi is a retired civil servant, author and columnist.

- To Be Continued –

- Asian Tribune –

Part- I: Coup in Bangladesh Killed Bangabandhu on 15 August 1975

Part-II The Coup in Bangladesh in August 1975 and News coverage in World Media

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