Mournful Month: Bring back and punish fugitive killers of Bangabandhu

It supersedes human imagination that a man will boast that he has killed someone without a reason or for any reason whatsoever. But the assassins of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did it. They bragged about one of the worst homicides they perpetrated without an ounce of remorse. Human sense and sensibility did not work in their case. Just after committing the most diabolical murder of the country’s history on August 15, 1975, one of the killers and murder-plotters, Shariful Haq Dalim, announced on the state-run radio station in Dhaka that they had killed Bangabandhu. The radio station kept broadcasting Dalim’s statement intermittently for quite a long time.  

The Father of the Nation was not the only victim in the fateful night. Bangabandhu's wife Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, brother Sheikh Abu Naser, sons Sheikh Kamal and Sheikh Jamal, daughters-in-law Sultana Kamal and Rosy Jamal, nephew Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni and Moni’s wife Begum Arju Moni, and brother-in-law Abdur Rob Serniabat, Serniabat’s daughter Baby Serniabat, son Arif Serniabat, grandson Sukant Abdullah Babu and nephew Shahid Serniabat were also killed.

A year later, the whole world witnessed making of a similar statement on August 2, 1976 when British television channel ITV broadcast an interview of two other self-proclaimed killers of the Bangabandhu. In the interview taken by Pakistani journalist and author Anthony Mascarenhas for the London-based TV channel, Khandaker Abdur Rashid and Faruk Rahman gave accounts of how they mercilessly killed the Father of the Nation, most of his family members and a number of the kin. 

It is unfortunate for Bangladesh that five of the killers are still dodging punishment thanks mainly to their staying abroad. The higher court upheld the death penalty for 12 of the assassins in a case that could be filed only after the repeal of the Indemnity Act during the 1996-2001 Awami League government. Military ruler Ziaur Rahman made the Indemnity Ordinance, promulgated by August-15 conspirator Mustaque Ahmad to award impunity to the self-proclaimed killers from legal action, a formal statute and eventually had it passed by Parliament through the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Of convicted killers, Faruk Rahman, Shahriar Rashid Khan, Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin and Abdul Majed have been hanged while Aziz Pasha died in Zimbabwe. Abdur Rashid, Shariful Haque Dalim, Noor Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury and Moslehuddin Khan are still at large. 

Media reports suggest Rashed Chowdhury has made his fortune staying in the United States. Dalim does not live permanently in any country; he shuttles between the United Kingdom, Libya, Kenya and Thailand and was last seen in Spain in 2017. Noor Chowhdury sought political asylum in Canada in 2004. The Canadian government rejected his appeal and expressed its willingness to extradite him but the BNP-Jamaat government at the time did not show any interest to bring him back. The asylum issue is now pending with the court where Noor moved against the government decision. Rashid reportedly set up huge business establishments in Libya during Muammar al-Gaddafi’s regime but later moved to Pakistan. Moslehuddin is living in Germany.

The Sheikh Hasina-led government managed to bring back Huda from Thailand in 1996 while AKM Mohiuddin was deported to Bangladesh from the United States during the caretaker government in 2007. 

Though the government has long been expressing hope that they will be able to bring the remaining killers of Bangabandhu back to Bangladesh and execute the court verdict, no tangible progress is evident. The law minister, however, said Canada’s extradition of Rashed Chowdhury to Bangladesh is just a matter of time.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina talked to Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau on several occasions about Noor Chowdhury’s extradition, but the matter is yet to be settled as it is now sub-judice. To know if Rashid is living in Pakistan, Dhaka wrote to Islamabad, but the efforts turned futile as Islamabad did not respond to the communication. We are unaware of any government efforts for bringing back the other killers 

Forty-five years have elapsed after the August 15 carnage. Bangladesh cannot afford bearing any more the stigma the killers of the Bangabandhu have left on the nation. All the death-row convicts should be executed to get rid of the disgrace. So a more vigorous effort should be made to bring the killers back and execute the verdict. Our missions abroad and the expatriate communities can play a vital role in this regard.

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