bangabandhu.com.bd : A jailer hid the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, by whose name the nine-month long War of Liberation was fought, in his personal apartment for two days to avoid Bangabandhu’s execution in Pakistan jail. It was told in a report published in British newspaper ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ titled “Sheikh Mujib flies in and sees Heath, Plea for aid” with a sub-heading “Gaoler ‘Hid Sheikh'” by its diplomatic correspondent Ronald Payne on January 9, 1972.
The report said, “A Bangladeshi official said in London last night that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman avoided execution with the help of a gaoler (jailer). He knew Yahya Khan was about to abdicate, and he hid the Sheikh in his personal quarters for two days.”
A spokesman with the Bangladesh delegation at Claridge’s said a shallow grave was dug in the cement floor next to the Sheikh’s cell in the closing days of the war, according to the report. The Sheikh was told later that Yahya Khan’s execution squad arrived with false documents intended to show that the Sheikh had been hanged at the end of October, the report added. The report quoted Bangabandhu as saying “I was ready to die. The day I went to gaol (jail), I didn’t know whether I was to live or not, but I knew that Bangladesh would be liberated.”
According to the report, Bangabandhu admitted he was not physically harmed in prison but the intense heat and solitary confinement were almost unbearable. Another report titled “Bangladesh: ‘I’m Alive!’ Is Still Big News” published in ‘The New York Times’ on January 23, 1972, by Sydey H. Schanberg, quoted Bangabandhu as saying, “…and how in December his jail superintendant in West Pakistan whisked him out of his cell into hiding less than two hours before the other inmates, all West Pakistanis, who had joined in a government plot, were scheduled to murder him.”
The Pakistan army arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmandi residence at 1:10 am and whisked him away to Dhaka cantonment. On 26 March he was flown to Pakistan as a prisoner. The same day, General Yahya Khan, in a broadcast banned the Awami League and called Bangabandhu a traitor. Earlier, between August and September of 1971, the Pakistani junta held a secret trial of Bangabandhu inside Lyallpur jail in Pakistan. He was sentenced to death.
The Pakistan government freed Bangabandhu on 8 January 1972. Bangabandhu was seen off at Rawalpindi by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, by now Pakistani’s President. The same day Bangabandhu left for London en route to Dhaka. In London, British Prime Minister Edward Heath met him. On his way back home from London Bangabandhu had a stop-over in New Delhi, where he was received by Indian President V.V. Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandi.
A memorable reception was accorded to Bangabandhu when the Father of the Nation reached Dhaka on 10 January. From the airport he drove straight to the Race Course ground where he made a tearful address before the nation. On 12 January, Bangabandhu became Bangladesh’s Prime Minister. On 6 February he left for a visit to India at the invitation of the Indian government.
… By Asraful Huq and Mahmudul Hasan Raju …