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2023-09-22 15:02:33

Killing of Bangabandhu, role of Zia in the eyes of Belgian journalist

Justice Shamsuddin Choudhury Manik

Killing of Bangabandhu, role of Zia in the eyes of Belgian journalist

I felt an urge to translate and publish the write up of Belgian citizen James Wilson, which was published on the periodicals named ‘International Foundation for Better Governance.’ The article focused on the killing of August 15 and 21. James Wilson is a renowned journalist and political analyst of Belgium.

He said, “From 48 years from now, people of Bangladesh saw the darkest hour of their history on 15 August of 1975. On the morning of that day, the founder of that country Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was regarded as ‘Bangabandhu’ with sheer reverence by the people of Bangladesh, had been killed brutally with other members of his family. Even, his 10 years old son has been killed mercilessly. His two daughters were saved from the August 15 carnage as they were staying abroad that period. The killers announced Major General Ziaur Rahman as the Army chief. However, Ziaur Rahman announced himself as the President of the state in April 1977 illegally. That massacre hasn’t been finished there. The four closest political aides of Sheikh Mujib have been killed inside the jail in November 1975 in the hands of the government formed illegally by the killers.  

The ideals of democracy, secularism, equal rights and justice established by the independence of Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were all changed with the assassination incidence of Sheikh Mujib. In fact, the main motive behind killing the architect of Bangladesh was to kill the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh, which was achieved just 3 years and 8 months before the assassination of Sheikh Mujib.”

Journalist James Wilson also wrote, “Freedom won by the hard sacrifices of 3 million martyrs and 2 million oppressed women was marred by the assassination of the father of the nation by the illegitimate usurpers of power. The ‘Joy Bangla’ slogan ('Victory of Bengal'), which was the main slogan of the liberation war, was banned by the murderous governments and replaced by the Pakistani version 'Bangladesh Zindabad'. Illegal military dictator Ziaur Rahman was bent on destroying the ideals of secularism from the country by completely distorting the history of Bangladesh. He injected the poison of bigotry into the veins of the less educated, simple people of Bangladesh, with the idea that if he could instill the seeds of religious bigotry into the brains of the simple minded people, it would give him many advantages.”

He wrote, “That illegal dictator Ziaur Rahman later founded a political party named Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). A puppet parliament was then formed under Zia's leadership, with Zia declaring himself as President. The 'puppet' parliament created by Zia passed the Indemnity Ordinance of 1975 under Zia's leadership in 1979. The history of the Liberation War of 1971, the 23-year struggle for independence led by the Father of the Nation, were all erased from the students' syllabus with this passing of ordinance. Even uttering the name of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was banned. The provision of secularism enshrined in the constitution, which was one of Bangladesh's state principles, was also removed. The illegal dictator Ziaur Rahman didn’t allow the two surviving daughters of the father of the nation to return to the country for six years. Finally, in May 1981, Sheikh Hasina, the eldest daughter of the father of the nation, was elected as the president of Bangladesh Awami League and returned to Bangladesh ignoring all fears.

“Ziaur Rahman not only spared the self-proclaimed killers of the Father of the Nation from prosecution, but also rewarded them with lucrative diplomatic posts. Zia completely destroyed the democratic and secular theory of Bangladesh. He was determined to strengthen friendship with Pakistan, while the people of Bangladesh fought to be freed from Pakistan's colonial rule. Zia was busy trying to destroy Bangladesh's friendship with India, even though India's contribution to Bangladesh's liberation war was undeniable. India even fostered the independence of Bangladesh by getting directly involved in the war in the latter stages of the Bangladesh’s Liberation War. On 16 December 1971, the defeated Pakistani troops surrendered to the joint command of Bangladesh and India.

“The father of the nation banned religious politics completely. But Zia lifted the ban and allowed religious fanatics to do politics. Zia stopped prosecution of war criminals and freed 11,000 anti-independence activists from prison. Notorious war criminal Golam Azam, who was involved with the massacre of Bangalis by the Pakistanis and a direct ally of Pakistan, has been cleared by Zia to enter Bangladesh. Besides Ghulam Azam, Zia allowed many more war criminals and anti-independence people to enter Bangladesh. Most of these war criminals were leaders of Jamaat-e-Islam, an extremist fanatic group. Ziaur Rahman gave top positions to countless anti-independence figures in his party and government. Zia gave the prime ministership to Shah Aziz, who in 1971 opposed the liberation war severely. Thus, he crushed the democratic and secular constitutions of Bangladesh. Zia's wife Khaleda Zia followed his footsteps by giving other Jamaat leaders important positions in the cabinet including Ali Ahsan Muzahid, Motiur Rahman Nizami. Zia's wife, Khaleda Zia, proved herself to be a good follower of her husband by appointing another notorious war criminal, Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, as a ministerial adviser, during her dark years of joint rule with the Jamaat from 2001 to 2006. Under the leadership of Khaleda Zia, a culture of impunity and religious militancy rose to alarming condition. On August 21, 2004, a heinous grenade attack was launched to kill Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the Father of the Nation, on the direct orders of the top leaders of the BNP-Jamaat government.

“The initiation of the trial for the murder of Sheikh Mujib and his family members was only possible after the Awami League government led by Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996. The Indemnity Ordinance/Act was repealed by a majority of Awami League members in November that year. BNP-Jamaat Members of Parliament abstained from attending Parliament during the vote on the Repeal Act. The trial of that murder could have been done long ago during the BNP regime, but they did not do it and the trial began after Awami League came to power after 21 years.

The trial was conducted in the customary law of the land, in the customary court. After a lengthy trial, the country's highest court, the Appellate Division, in November 2009 upheld the death sentences against the 12 murderers. Five of the 12 were executed. One of the seven fugitives died in Zimbabwe. Another fugitive was caught in 2020 and his sentence was executed that year. Among the five fugitives, Rashed Chowdhury is in the United States and Noor Chowdhury is in Canada. The US and Canada are not handing them over to Bangladesh despite repeated requests from the Bangladesh government. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said many times publicly that the country that shelters these convicted, recognized murderers, can they talk about human rights? Now is the time to return the escaped convicts in both countries to Bangladesh and prove that they really believe in human rights and rule of law. Otherwise, the world will think that these are their empty talks.”

(The writer is the retired Justice of Appellate Division)

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