In one of the rare instances as I was sitting in the office of the Secretary to the Hon’ble President at Bangabhaban last year my attention was drawn to the honour list proudly displaying the names of the Principal Secretaries and Secretaries to the Hon’ble President of the country since its inception to date in chronological order. I have this peculiar habit that I go through the honour list whenever I go to any government office.
In fact, I have also made a beautiful honour board of the Chairmen of Hepatology Department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University after taking the office. As the son of a former senior government officer and with so many ex-government officers in the family, this is perhaps a habit that I have acquired from my family.
Anyway, as I was scrolling down my eyes suddenly became fixed on a particular name on the upper side of that honour list. It’s the name of Mahbub Alam Chashi, the notorious Director of Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development in Cumilla, who was not only a mastermind of Bangabandhu’s assassination, he also hosted several meetings of the conspirators away from the public eye in BARD, which has been so beautifully documented in the docu-drama ‘Polashi to Dhanmondi’ by eminent journalist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury. I was utterly shocked to see that the name of a conspirator was on display at the the office of the Secretary to the highest office bearer of the nation. And then, I suddenly realized that technically Chashi’s name appears nowhere in the list of convicts of the crime against the nation committed on the wee hours of August 15, 1975.
The reality is that posthumous trial is not permitted by law. Even if
that be the case, it is extremely important that an independent
commission is formed immediately to identify the exact events and
who contributed to the conspiracy from behind the scenes. Future
generations deserve to know the exact history.
Bangabandhu’s assassination along with his family members and extended family was no simple coup. Bangabandhu was no ordinary leader. In the history of the Bengali people, there was not a single ruler of Bengali descent, nor was the land of the Bengal ever independent. From the Pal dynasty to the so-called last independent Nawab of Bengal, Bihar and Odessa Sirajuddawla, all were foreigners.
Bangabandhu was the first leader in a thousand years who dreamt of an independent country for the Bengali nation and he realized this dream in his lifetime. Bangladesh is also no ordinary country. It boasts of the independent geographic existence of a homogeneous Bengali nation. A nation-state like Bangladesh is not only unheard off in the region, but also very rare in the present geographic distribution of the globe. At least I cannot site a second example.
It was, therefore, anticipated that Bangladesh will not only enjoy exponential growth as an independent nation, its leader was also expected to emerge as a regional, if not a global, leader and so did happen during the brief three and a half years tenure of Bangabandhu’s government.
Not only the country achieved a phenomenal GDP growth of 7%, Bangabandhu also emerged as a leader of the world. Bangabandhu and Bangladesh became a threat to the Western powers, who along with their new and proven allies from the Far and Middle East had vehemently opposed the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971. This is, in a nutshell, the reason why August 15 was staged.
And this could never have been possible without the active collaboration from agents within the bureaucracy and the military. Trial of the killers of Bangabandhu was barred by the infamous Indemnity Ordinance proclaimed by Khandaker Moshtaque on September 26, 1975. This was a direct violation of the constitution of Bangladesh that ensures right of all its citizens to equity and justice.
To the contrary, this ordinance was made part of our constitution when it was amended for the fifth time by the party from the cantonment - BNP headed by General Zia. Zia had rewarded the killers with lucrative postings at Bangladesh missions abroad and later his successors, General Ershad and his widow Khaleda Zia had also granted them access to the Parliament.
Zia had also declined visas to the international inquiry commission comprising of British Parliament Members, Nobel laureate and other eminent European citizens from entering Bangladesh in January 1981. They were ultimately forced to publish “Sheikh Mujib Murder Inquiry: Preliminary Report of the Commission of Inquiry” from London.
However, the unfortunate fact remains that Zia was not convicted of murdering Bangabandhu, nor were the conspirators like Khandaker Moshtaque, Taheruddin Thakur, Shah Moazzem, Mahbub Alam Chashi and many more, simply because of the fact that they had died because of natural cause and/or embraced unnatural deaths before the long awaited trial of the murderers of Bangabandhu could be initiated. And the reality is that posthumous trial is not permitted by law.
Even if that be the case, it is extremely important that an independent commission is formed immediately to identify the exact events and who contributed to the conspiracy from behind the scenes. Future generations deserve to know the exact history. We should not forget that the ones who have been sentenced are the minor pawns. The key players are yet to be named and prosecuted.
The writer is the Chairman, Department of Hepatology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University & Member Secretary, Samprity Bangladesh.