The nationalist that was Mujib

#bangabandhu : Eminent scientist Professor Abdus Salam had been invited by the then Islamic Academy, Dhaka to give a lecture on religion and nationalism a couple of months before the presidential election in 1964. The Academy was housed in an old two-storey abandoned building. That house was demolished to construct Bailul Mokarram shopping complex in the late sixties. My friend Ahmed Safa, the late writer, and I attended the lecture.

After the seminar was over, the Director of the Islamic Academy, Abul Hashim, a politician and thinker, was chatting with Dr. Salam and some other distinguished persons including Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah and Dr. Qudrat-e-Khuda. All on a sudden, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Dr. Mofazzar Ahmed Chowdhury, a reader in the political science department at the University of Dhaka, showed up on the veranda of the Islamic Academy. Seeing Prof. Salam and Abul Hashim in the auditorium, they joined them. It was a Sunday morning. Perhaps they had gone to Awami League office, opposite the Academy, for party work. We were listening to their conversation from a considerable distance.

Almost all major political parties in East Pakistan had been supporting “provincial autonomy.” Their idea of autonomy was some kind of “political autonomy.” But Maulana Bhasani and Sheikh Mujib’s concept of autonomy was different from that of other Bengali leaders. They demanded full provincial autonomy and an “autonomous economy” for East Bengal.

I still remember the gist of this informal conversation. Speaking on the provincial autonomy, Sheikh shaheb pointed out the disparity between the two wings of Pakistan. He quoted from Dr. Mahbubul Huq’s newly published Strategy of Economic Planning in Pakistan, and said that in order to redress the economic disparity between the two wings it was necessary to dismantle the central Planning Commission to create two powerful regional planning bodies. He emphatically said that the region should have the authority to tax, and the power to make fiscal and monetary policy on its own. So far as I can recollect, Dr. Salam endorsed the views of Sheikh Mujib. Bangabandhu further said that the provinces should have the power to form foreign policy and conduct foreign relations. It was two years before the announcement of his Six Points.

By the early 1960s, Sheikh Mujib was known to all as the standard-bearer of Bengali nationalism. It was the period of military dictatorship of Field Martial Ayub Khan. Sheikh Mujib was his greatest opponent. He fought relentlessly for the revival of democracy in Pakistan and provincial autonomy for East Pakistan. From the nationalist and from the conservative standpoint, his role in power politics was unparalleled.

In 1963, Sheikh Mujib went to London to consult with his ailing political guru, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was in self-exile. The two had detailed discussions on the political situation prevailing in Pakistan. Mujib didn’t like foreign involvement in achieving the rights of the people of East Pakistan.

Suhrawardy wrote in his unfinished memoirs: “Mujib has doubts that national unity and national integration will solve the problems of East Pakistan. He is not interested in the field of foreign politics as he does not believe that any foreign country should become deeply committed here; East Pakistan must work out its own destiny. Hence, there is no point seeking foreign political involvement.” [Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, P. 71]

After the death of Suhrawardy in December 1963, it became difficult to keep the party together. Ataur Rahman Khan was a gentleman politician. He had neither courage nor charisma. Neither he nor any other leader had any command over the younger leaders and workers. At that crucial time, Mujib took over the helm of the party. Sheikh Mujib not only led the Awami League, but also led the nation to independence in seven years.

After liberation, Bangabandhu had to tackle multifarious problems. He faced severe opposition from various quarters at home and abroad. Anti-liberation parties like Jamat-e-Islami, Muslim League and Nezam-e-Islam, which were banned by the government, and other reactionary forces, communal elements, and underground ultra-Left outfits went on with their conspiracy and anti-government propaganda. The political and social elite did not cooperate with the government. Because of economic hardship the ordinary people were frustrated. In the meantime, creation of Baksal — one-party rule — angered the Western capitalist bloc.

The Bangladesh liberation war got active support from the Soviet Union and its East European allies. Both the US and the Soviet Union were trying to gain influence in the impoverished nation. The influence of US was more than that of the USSR as the US was able to pour in more aid and assistance and its intelligence was more efficient and pro-active. Pakistani intelligence was also active and got support from the US. China and Muslim countries were against the Bangladesh freedom movement because of India’s total support to Bangladesh. In these circumstances, Bangabandhu had become a victim.

The people of Bangladesh had experienced the military coups of Ayub and Yahya Khan. Both were bloodless. But the August 15 coup was the worst possible military savagery.

Who killed Sheikh Mujib? Dalim-Faruk and others in the army were mercenaries. And Mushtaq? Brutus was better.

Samar Sen, an astute diplomat, was India’s high commissioner to Bangladesh in 1975. He saw the political developments in Bangladesh from close quarters. Twenty-three years after the coup, Sen told the Frontline journalist Sukumar Muralidharan in 1998: “We had been keeping in touch with all elements within Bangladesh. India’s intelligence services — whose operations few of us know much about — retained contact even with elements hostile to Sheikh Mujib. He felt that these contacts were uncalled for and asked us to stop them. We did so. As a result, until the time of the coup, we had no idea that things had deteriorated quite so badly. In retrospect, it is clear that the August coup, apart from being a rude awakening, was perhaps a logical outcome of the situation of chaos that prevailed.”

The August 15 military action was a coup with a difference. It changed, among other things, the secular and democratic character of Bangladesh.

I saw Bangabandhu for the first time in 1954 on the banks of the mighty Padma at Aricha ghat. The last I saw him was in the Bangabhaban Darbar Hall on July 31, 1975. To him, personal relationship was very important. He maintained excellent relations with his opponents and adversaries. Two weeks before the 1973 elections, National Awami Party chairman Maulana Bhasani was admitted to PG Hospital. Bangabandhu rushed to visit him. Hearing the voice of Bangabandhu, the Maulana sat up from the bed. Bhasani touched the hands of Mujib and wished him all success in the election. He stressed on “a stable government” under his premiership.

While in the IPGMR, the Maulana did not have the chance to eat any food supplied by the hospital. Admirers sent home-made food for him. Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib herself went or sent somebody to the hospital almost everyday with big tiffin-carriers. She cooked small fish curries with hot green chilly and spices to the taste of the Maulana. This gesture of the Mujibs annoyed the leaders and candidates of NAP.

I would like to cite another anecdote. A couple of months before the August tragedy, poet Jasimuddin asked me: “Bhai, could you accompany me to Dhanmondi? I’ve an urgent talk with Bangabandhu.” I gladly agreed. So far as I can recollect, the rickshawalla demanded taka two. It was exorbitant. The poet got angry. He haggled with the rickshaw-puller over the fair and hired the rickshaw from Bangladesh Bank to Bangabandhu Bhavan for taka one and a-half.

On reaching Bangabandhu Bhavan, the poet paid and patted the rickshawalla and walked straight to the drawing room. I followed him. Bangabandhu came down from the first floor. The two great Bengalis exchanged warm greetings and sat down on a sofa.

The poet said: “You’re from Faridpur, I’m also from Faridpur (district). I’ve come to you for a tadbir (a favour). My son-in-law is your son-in-law. Isn’t it?” “Of course,” Bangabandhu laughed and quipped: “Your son-in-law (meyejamai) is my son-in-law. I do understand what you want to say. You and Bhabi should not worry for Maudud. He is alright in jail. He will be released as soon as possible. I’m giving the order.”

Then they chatted for some time. The poet was highly gratified by the gesture of the president and supreme leader of the nation. Bangabandhu knew very well that the palli-kavi shouldn’t be entertained with tea or coffee. So, he asked his servant to serve him with muri, gur (molasses) and coconut — favourites of the poet.

This was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As a politician and statesman, he was not above mistakes or follies. As a mortal human being, he had his weaknesses and limitations. History will absolve all his mistakes and weaknesses. As the independence hero and nationalist leader, he is second to none.

Author : Syed Abul Maksud is a noted writer, researcher and columnist.

Begum Mujib: A tribute

Begum Fazilatunnesa

It is said that behind every successful man, there is a virtuous woman. For our father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the woman behind his success was his wife, Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib. August 8 was the 80th birth anniversary of this great woman who had been with the father of the nation from an early age and had departed to the hereafter along with him.

Begum Mujib (also named as Renu) was born in Tungipara of GopalGanj district in 1930. Her early schooling was in a missionary school, followed by religious education at home. She lost her father and mother at the age of five and was groomed by her future mother-in-law. She was married to Sheikh Mujib at the age of eleven and had three sons and two daughters.

The new generation, which did not see the war of independence or encounter such hardships, will never understand how and in what magnitude Begum Mujib had contributed towards the freedom of this nation. Sheikh Mujib was a born politician and had spent most of his life in jail. This lady had not only looked after the family but had also lent her hand in keeping the Awami League organised.

During hard times, she never expressed her worries or dismay. Instead, she encouraged and frequently advised the leaders and party men on how to proceed in times of trouble.

During the Agartala Conspiracy case, Sheikh Mujib was in custody in the cantonment. There was an uprising of the people for withdrawal of this case and freedom of the captives. In order to tackle the situation, the then army dictator Ayub Khan proposed a round table discussion.

It was anticipated that Bangabandhu would go to Lahore for the round table conference on parole. There was also pressure from politicians like Ataur Rahman Khan, Abul Mansur Ahmed, Tofazzal Hossain, and others to sit in the meeting. But Mrs. Mujib, who was very much a housewife, vehemently opposed the Sheikh’s release on parole and taking part in the round table discussion.

She was so firm on her decision that Sheikh complied, and refused to attend the conference. History indicates that this incident paved the way for the release of all the captives and revival of one man one vote system. These were mainly attained by the stance taken by Fazilatunnesa Mujib

Mrs. Mujib was also known for her immense patience and her capability to recall any event of the past. Besides, she also had the ability to lead. The killers of Bangabandhu and his family propagated the lie that the Sheikh had a huge amount of money in local banks and immense wealth. However, even 21 years after Sheikh Mujib’s death, a local bank discovered only a single bank account of the late president and found that it had a balance of roughly five hundred taka.

His house had no luxurious fixtures and fittings. It was an ordinary man’s house. If Mrs. Mujib had desired, being the wife of a president, she could have anything she wanted, but she was not like that. It may be worth mentioning that Mrs. Fazilatunnesa Mujib sold her jewellery for collecting the money for the war of independence.

Understanding Sheikh Fazilatunnesa’s contribution to the nation is difficult for a person who was born in the post-independence period of Bangladesh. Looking at the chain of events that led to independence, this writer reached the conclusion that it would have been difficult for Bangabandhu to achieve freedom for the Bengali people if he did not have a lady like Fazilatunnesa Mujib with him.

After independence, Sheikh Fazilatunnesa’s role in building international relationships becomes apparent in her intimacy with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India. Moreover, she had always been besides Sheikh Mujib when different world leaders visited Bangladesh.

Sheikh Fazilatunnesa was an excellent homemaker. She groomed her children to be good citizens and worthy children of a great father. Not only that, she was also courageous, determined, painstaking, and a true and ideal daughter-in-law.

Thirty-five years have elapsed since the death of this great lady. The nation has shown respect to this lady only by erecting a dormitory in her name in Dhaka University. This would have not been possible if it had not been proposed by the then Senate member Professor Dr. Abdul Mannan Choudhury. We are fortunate to have a commemorative book on her.

However, we are longing to see that her contributions are recognised and to see the next generation pick her as their idol for she was a true friend of the nation, a philosopher, and a guide and mentor to the father of the nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Author : Dr. Musfiq M. Choudhury is Assistant Professor, University of Dhaka.

The men who killed Sheikh Mujib?

Greatest Bengali of all time

BACK in 2003, the History Channel in the United States aired a 9-part documentary titled The Men Who Killed Kennedy. When the documentary directly implicated former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in its last episode, it stirred an outcry in the political circuit. The Channel apologised to its viewers and to Mrs. Johnson and her family for airing the show. The moral of the story is that conspiracy theories are like a minefield. Even the most cautious step can land on a pressure plate, exploding in outrage.

Although no such explosion has happened yet, a former general is being prodded for his role as the army chief when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed thirty-four years ago. Fingers are being pointed at him for his mysterious inaction even after he knew that the life of his commander-in-chief was under mortal threat. What the general has said in his defense so far failed to clear the smoke.

That, however, doesn’t mean the general is guilty as accused. Some people lie through their teeth; others can’t tell truth with a straight face. A retired army heavyweight recently defended the general when he claimed that the failure wasn’t the general’s alone; all of us were to blame for it. It resonates the title of Arundhati Roy’s article published in 2005 in Outlook Magazine: “Who Pulled The Trigger…Didn’t We All?”

In that case, the conspiracy to kill Sheikh Mujib was organised in a theater-style setting. Those who fired the guns sat at the front. Behind them were those who approved of it and collaborated. How could Shafayat Jamil stay in bed when the tanks rolled behind his house in Dhaka Cantonment! Colonel Faruq, who commandeered those tanks, was a nephew of Brigadier Khaled Musharraf!

Now we hear that others sat in the rear stall. They neither had a hand in the killing, nor did they do anything to stop it. Then comes the balcony where sat the people. They were the quiet observers, who didn’t feel empowered to do anything.

Between committing, collaborating, compromising and condoning, the motif of the killing comes in four different varieties: retribution, ambition, convenience and indifference. Some of the killers wanted revenge. There were masterminds who harboured ambition. All others condoned and stayed indifferent.

The general, of course, falls under collaboration and convenience. He proved it again and again through his concern for safety and penchant for comfort. The contrast is Colonel Jamil, military secretary to the president, who was pulled by his semper fidelis, which means “always faithful.” When the president told him on the phone that his house was under attack, he went alone and died in the line of duty.

What did our man the general do when he got the news? Late Lieutenant Colonel M.A. Hamid, who was the station commander in Dhaka Cantonment, gives an account of that crucial moment in his memoirs published in 1993. DGDFI Brigadier Rauf briefed the general on the situation between 2:00 and 3:00am. The general’s first reflex was to rush with his family and take cover under a mango tree behind his residence.

Hamid vouches he never had reason to believe that the general played any role in the plot to kill Mujib. But he was confused as to why the general didn’t take action when he knew hours in advance that his president was in danger. Shafayat Jamil’s 46 Brigade was located only 500 yards from the general’s residence. Hamid wonders why the general didn’t bother to go there and mobilise troops.

By now it’s a foregone conclusion. On August 15, 1975, the general wasn’t a hero. He worried more about his own safety than anything else. Then he left the country and worked under the killers because, as he said in an interview, he had no choice. Choices don’t make a hero. A hero makes his own choice.

A piece of advice to the general. He should stop digging when he is already in a hole. The more he tries to defend his position, the more poignant becomes his failure. He may not have conspired to kill his boss, but he didn’t fight to save him either. Yes, that could be considered a dereliction of duty. Not an honourable thing at all.

Khaled Musharraf lay dead in front of the CMH morgue and soldiers spit on his body. Khondoker Mushtaq died in bed, but his remains a hated name. Ziaur Rahman was killed in a coup, his memory racked by controversy. Lucky for the general, he still lives to tell the tale.

And, he must tell exactly what he should have told in his defense if Mujib were to survive that day. Time has changed, but Mujib still lives in the hearts of millions. For the general’s information, if leader is convinced, it will convince them.

Author : Mohammad Badrul Ahsan is a columnist for The Daily Star. / Email:

The sinister darkness in which Sheikh Mujib died


THE evening of August 14, 1975 did not seem different from any other evening in August. Dhaka University was preparing to welcome Mujib the next day. Mujib was arrested in March 1948, when he was a law student, for leading a black-flag demonstration against Jinnah on the highly emotional issue of making Bengali one of the two State languages.

Mujib was arrested again next year for leading a strike of lower grade university employees. When he was released, he found that he had in the meantime been rusticated from the university. He would be visiting the university the next day as the chancellor.

Following the exploding of a hand grenade on the university campus, security arrangements for Mujib’s visit to the university were tightened. Bomb blasts and grenade explosions had, ever since the Pakistani army’s crackdown on Bengalis on the night of March 25/26 , 1971, become almost a part of life in Dacca and did not disturb one’s sleep. But there were rumours

Mujib returned home from Gano Bhaban around 8.30 pm. Russell, Mujib’s ten-year-old son, was all excitement. He was one of the six boys chosen by the principal of the University Laboratory School to welcome Mujib when he visited the university the next morning.

Kader Siddiqui, better known as Tiger (Baga) Siddiqui for his exploits in the Liberation War, was one of the governors-designate. When he was going to the Post Graduate Hospital in Dhaka to see his ailing mother on the evening of August 14, he saw a tank near Karwan Bazar. There was another tank near the hospital, which is almost opposite the Radio Station. After seeing his mother, Kader drove down to Motijheel. Yet another tank; three tanks within a radius of one kilometre. He turned back. There was still another tank near the Engineer’s Institute, hardly two hundred metres from the hospital. It was a little past 11 pm.

Kader Siddiqui drove on to the Rakkhi Bahini camp near Gano Bhaban in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Anwarul Alam Shahid, Deputy Director of the Rakkhi Bahini, told Kader Siddiqui that the Bengal Lancers had been authorised to take out three tanks. But why were there four tanks? Shahid said, “You may have seen one tank twice.” Could be. Shahid was a former student leader and had fought in the liberation war. There was no reason to doubt what he said. Tank manoeuvres were a Thursday-night routine and twice a month the Bengal Lancers and the Second Field Artillery held combined exercise.

It was late by the time Kader Siddiqui returned home. He asked his sister not to wake him up in the morning. He had been leaving home early for many days now, but the training program for governors-designate would end the next day with a lunch meeting at which all the ministers would be present. He could take it easy. Brigadier Jamil, the president’s security chief, spent a restless night. His wife was ill, and he had to escort the president to the university in the morning. It was not a new duty for him, but he was very uneasy. He had been appointed director of the Field Intelligence Unit, but handing over charge of the Unit to him had somehow not been completed still. Jamil’s wife asked him to go to sleep. “I can’t sleep,” he said.

Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed too spent a sleepless night. There were a number of visitors to 54 Agha Mashi Lane, Moshtaque’s house in old Dhaka. One of the visitors was his nephew Major Rashid. Taheruddin Thakur was like a cat on hot bricks that night. Any call would make him jump. He tried to calm his nerves with prayers. He had a bath and got ready as if he had to keep an appointment at an unearthly hour. A guest in the house wondered why Taheruddin was so tense.

Kamal, Mujib’s son, came back home after midnight from the university campus, where last-minute touches were being given to the preparations to welcome Mujib. At the same time finishing touches were being given to a plot at the Dhaka cantonment.

When it was still dark, Col. Farook addressed the Bengal Lancers, whom he had trained to hunt in killer packs. The Lancers in their black overalls were like the hordes of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Farook spat fire and venom. He said that Mujib had sold the country to foreign powers and was going to break up the army and disband the Lancers. He played on their fears and incited them in the name of Islam. It was time to strike.

They moved out in three columns. Their targets were less than two kilometres away. In the glimmering before dawn, the Rakkhi Bahini hurriedly took up positions in front of their camp near the MNA’s hostel in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Most of them were wearing lungis and were bare-footed. While some living in the area were still wondering what was happening, the Rakkhi Bahini were withdrawn. A tank raced down the airport runway, bridged a wall and trained its gun on the camp. Thirty tanks were deployed at strategic points in the city.

The houses of Mujib, his brother-in-law Abdur Rab Serneabat and his nephew Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni were surrounded simultaneously. Soldiers started shooting at Mujib’s house from all directions. Bullets were whizzing in through the windows on the first floor, where all the bedrooms were. A bullet grazed the hand of Sheikh Nasser, Mujib’s younger brother.

They all took shelter in Mujib’s dressing room, which was the least exposed. It was a repetition of March 26, 1971, when Pakistani troops had encircled the house. Mujib rang up some officers. Begum Mujib tore a strip from her sari and bandaged Nasser’s hand.

Kamal came down and asked the guards to take action, but they had been ‘neutralised.’ While Kamal was still trying to persuade the guards to act, Major Huda entered the house with some men. The guards saluted him. One of the men with Huda shot Kamal.

Meanwhile, Brigadier Jamil was hurrying to Mujib’s house. When his jeep was only a few hundred metres from Mujib’s house, some soldiers who were waiting near Subhan Bagh mosque barked: “Halt.” Jamil identified himself. They knew who he was; they had been posted there to intercept him. “We have orders to shoot anyone who passes this way,” they threatened. When Jamil did not heed their warning, they shot him. Soldiers were by then swarming all over Mujib’s house. They found a room closed on all sides — it was Rehana’s bedroom. They forced a door open, sending a cupboard full of things crashing to the floor.

“Let me see what they want,” Mujib said and came out of the room as he had done on the night of March 26, 1971. He had faced the Pakistani soldiers. These were his own men.

Mujib was wearing a checked lungi and a white kurta. Mujib met Huda on the staircase. “It is you. What do you want?” Mujib asked. “We have come to take you,” Huda said. “Do you think it is fun?” Mujib thundered. “I will not allow the country to be ruined.” Huda was unnerved. A servant cried: “Kamal Bhai is dead.” Havildar Moslemuddin, who was coming down from the terrace, swore and opened fire from behind with an automatic weapon, riddling Mujib’s body with bullets. Soldiers were picking up whatever they could. “Take whatever you want but don’t kill us,” Begum Mujib pleaded. But hearing the burst of firing, she came out. “You have killed him, kill me,” she wailed. She was silenced forever.

Jamal, his wife Rosy, and Sultana, Kamal’s wife, were still in the dressing room. A burst from a sten gun and the three were dead. The gunmen found Nasser in a bathroom and shot him. Russell was cowering in a corner. “Take me to my mother,” he whimpered. “We will take you to your mother,” one of the homicidal maniacs said. A police officer pleaded for Russell’s life: “He is only a child.” The officer was killed. One arm of Russell had been shot off, yet he begged: “Don’t kill me, don’t kill me.” The answer was a bullet. Russell lay dead by his mother’s side.

The article is an extract from the work, Who Killed Mujib? by the eminent journalist (now deceased) A.L. Khatib.
This piece was first printed in The Daily Star, August 15, 2008.

Author : A.L. Khatib

The Trial


Here comes another August 15 and brings with it the shocking memory of the most gruesome murder in the history of Bangladesh. It was the 15th August of 1975. A group of disgruntled blood-thirsty mid-level army officers stormed into the two-storied building at road number 32 in Dhanmandi. When the killers came out of the house the greatest Bangali political hero who led the Bangalis to their greatest achievement- independence- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was lying dead in a pool of his own blood in the staircase of his home. Along with him almost all his family members, 10 in all, met the same fate. Only his two daughters–Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana survived the massacre.

As the nation mourns the killing of its greatest political hero its sense of grief is deepened by the fact that justice has not yet been dispensed to the killers. Not even after 28 years. In fact it took 21 years to bring the murder case to the court. Khandakar Mustaque enacted an indemnity ordinance that would bar any legal action against those who were involved in the chilling murders of Bangabandhu, his family members as well as his relatives and senior Awami League leaders. Subsequently, during Ziaur Rahman’s time this was incorporated into the Constitution through the 5th amendment.

Thus the killers were secured from being tried for the next 21 years. In fact, early in the day they were awarded diplomatic assignments. Sixteen years of military rule, parts of it under civilian garb, was followed by 5 years rule of a democratic government led by Begum Khaleda Zia, but the indemnity act remained intact. It was only when Awami League came to power in 1996 that the murder case was finally taken up for trial.

On October 2, 1996, a FIR was lodged with the Dhanmondi Police station and thus the government initiated the trial under the ordinary law of the land through the arrest of the accused murderers. Eminent criminal lawyer Serajul Huq was appointed as the special Public Prosecutor by the government. He was assisted by Anisul Huq, Barrister Mosharraf Hossain Kajal, Sahara Khatun, Nurul Islam Sujan and Syed Rezaur Rahman. The chargesheet was submitted accusing 23 persons, 3 of them already dead, on January 15, 1997. The hearing took around 18 months to be completed and District and Sessions Judge Kazi Golam Rasul gave his verdict on November 8, 1998. Fifteen of the accused were given death sentence while five others were acquitted.

Bangabandhu with his family members: (from left) Sheikh Kamal, his oldest son, younger daughter Sheikh Rehana, youngest son Sheikh Russel on his lap, wife Fazilatunnesa, second son Sheikh Jamal and daughter Sheikh Hasina. All of them were brutally killed on the night of August 15, 1975, except Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana.

As required by law the case was then referred to a two-judge High Court Bench. After almost two years the High Court delivered its judgement on Dec 14, 2000. It was a split verdict — while Judge ABM Khairul Huq upheld the trial court verdict, Justice Ruhul Amin confirmed the death sentence against nine, gave life imprisonment to one and acquitted the remaining five of their charges. The case was then referred to a third Bench of the High Court. The hearing started on February 12, 2001 and Justice Md Fazlul Karim pronounced his judgement on April 30, 2001. He confirmed death sentence against 12 of the accused and acquitted three others. Those who are facing death sentence are Lt. Col. (Rtd) Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Noor Chowdhury, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Shariful Huq Dalim, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Abdul Aziz Pasha, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Rashed Choudhury, Major (Rtd) AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Syed Faruq Rahman, Lt. (Rtd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan and Major (Rtd) Bazlul Huda, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Mohiuddin Ahmed, Capt. (Rtd) Abdul Majed, and Lance Dafadar Moslehuddin. He acquitted Capt. (Rtd) Kismet Hashem, Capt (Rtd) Najmul Hossain Ansar, Major (Rtd) Ahmed Shariful Hossain of their charges. However, only four of them are now in custody who are Lt. Col. (Rtd) Syed Faruq Rahman, Lt (Rtd) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Major (Rtd) Bazlul Huda and Lt Col (Rtd) Mohiuddin Ahmed while others are believed to be abroad.

The convicted persons then appealed to the Appellate Division (AD) of the Supreme Court against the verdict. The law requires a three-judge Bench to hear an appeal. The crisis began when 3 of the 7 judges of the AD felt ’embarrassed’; while the other 2 judges had already heard the case when they had been in the High Court, which disqualified them to hear it again. Thus a Bench of three judges could not be constituted till now.

Meanwhile, AL lost the general election in October 2001 and BNP came to the power. On October 28, 2002, Serajul Huq, the Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the AL government for this particular case passed away. Anisul Huq, his son and associate throughout this case, then wrote to Chief justice Mahmudul Amin Chowdhury regarding the appointment of ad-hoc judges so that the case can be resolved. Chowdhury passed on the request to the concerned authority, but in vain. Barrister Moudud Ahmed, Minister for Law, declined to comply saying that they had already raised the number of judges in the AD from 5 to 7. In an interview he also argued that the constitution doesn’t permit appointment judges on ad hoc basis.

Anisul Huq however differs with him. Article 98 of the constitution does have the provision of appointing an ad-hoc judge, he says emphatically. “The government is simply not sincere about seeing this case being completed smoothly,” he says. Huq’s allusions echo the more explicit accusations of the Awami League of the BNP’s attempts to delay the completion of this trial.

Apparently the present government’s sincerity regarding the completion of the Bangabandhu murder case is not beyond question. Its record concerning appointment of judges and absolute inaction regarding the extradition process of some killers living abroad gives some justification for the AL position.

The Bangabandhu Murder Case needs to be resolved not just for the consolation of the bereaved family or to satisfy a certain political party, but mainly for the sake of establishing the rule of law and justice.