Mournful Month: 15 August plotters, killers earned eternal shame

What happened to the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the conspirators of the murder is an extreme example of poetic justice. They were aspiring for hot seats in the administration and an honoured life after the assassination of the country’s founding father. Initially, their dream came true after the August 15, 1975 carnage in which they killed most of the members of Bangabandhu’s family and many of his kin. 

But subsequently, almost all of them had to live a disgraceful and detested life. After grabbing power, the conspirators did everything for awarding impunity to the self-proclaimed killers from legal action and even awarded them the positions of their choice. 

Khandker Mustaque Ahmad, Bangabandhu’s long-time associate, who later became a key player in the conspiracy of assassination, assumed the presidency with General Ziaur Rahman pulling the wires from behind.  

Mustaque promulgated the notorious Indemnity Ordinance for protecting the killers but he could not continue as the president for long. He had to quit in two and a half months clearing the way for General Zia to take over officially. 

Zia followed in the footprints of his fellow conspirator Mustaque Ahmad. He made the Indemnity Ordinance a formal statute and eventually had it passed by Parliament through the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, desecrating the national charter.

Unlike Mustaque and the disgruntled Army officers who took part in the assassination, Zia denied his involvement in the plot, but he himself proved his link with the conspiracy by his acts. Zia did not confine his misdeeds only to protecting the killers; he banned uttering the name of Bangabandhu in the state-run radio station, TV channel and other media outlets and in any state functions. A question naturally crops up why General Zia was bearing malice against dead Bangabandhu, if he did not consider him enemy when he was alive. 

Why did Zia forget Sheikh Mujib’s role in reconciliation with wife Khaleda Zia? Who does not know Bangabandhu stepped in when Ziaur Rahman’s nuptial bond with Khaleda was about to snap after the Liberation War ended? At his intervention, they reunited. And Zia paid off the debt by giving go-ahead to Bangabandhu murder mastermind and harbouring the killers. 

Successive governments led by General Hussain Muhammad Ershad and Zia’s widow Khaleda Zia continued to protect the killers until the Awami League, led by Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina, came to power in 1996. One of the self-proclaimed killers, Khandaker Abdur Rashid, was given the chance to contest and win the election in a parliamentary seat in the controversial national polls on February 15, 1996 that was held during the Kheleda-led regime with major parties, including the Awami League, boycotting it. 

The heyday of the killers and conspirators, however, ended after Awami League returned to power in 1996. Several of them were arrested in a case filed the same year following the repeal of the notorious statute. 

 And on court verdicts, several killers – Faruk Rahman, Shahriar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin and Abdul Majed – were hanged. One killer, Aziz Pasha, died abroad while others – Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haq Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Moslemuddin and Rashed Chowdhury – are on the run. 

The killers who are still at large are living the life of absconders with fear of extradition and execution haunting them. They cannot return to their roots. And those who were executed could not get rid of the hatred, anger and wrath of the people even after death. Several of the hanged killers faced obstruction to be buried at their places of birth. People usually do not bear any grudge against anyone after death, but these killers earned so much hate of the people that they cannot forgive them even after their death. 

From one point of view, Khandker Mustaque was lucky. He died a natural death in March, 1996, a few months before Sheikh Hasina became the prime minister of the Awami League government. He would have to walk gallows, had he been alive until that time. 

Mustaque earned similar notoriety as Mir Jafar [Ali Khan] did by betraying Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah during the Battle of Plassey to help British victory. Mir Jafar’s name has been synonymous with traitors and his house has become a symbol of betrayal. Similarly, the house of Mushtaq in Dhaka has been a place of expressing hatred. His children living abroad cannot visit his grave in Cumilla, even the country, for fear of facing public anger and wrath. 

Most of the killers and conspirators faced the consequences they deserved. 

- Shiabur Rahman is the executive editor of Bangladesh Post. He can be reached by email --