About the Book
On 15 August 1975, several junior officers of
the Bangladesh Army stormed the residence of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's killing
the nation's founder and most of Contrary to popular myth that the violent putsch
was orchestrated by those countries which had opposed the creation of
Bangladesh, American declassified documents suggest that the as assassination
was the culmination of a home- grown plot, but the United States had advance
knowledge of it.
In tracing the events leading up to the murders,
The Bangladesh Military Coup and the CLA Link narrates the untold stories of two statesmen of
Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman, whose legacies continue to
dominate Bangladeshi politics to this day. It documents the events that
occurred/between 1971 and 1977- beginning with coup perpetrators, Major
Shariful Haque Dalim! and Major Nur Chowdhury's
defection from Pakistan, to General Ziaur Rahman's rise to power.
The book also details the events that took place
in India during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, events which shaped the
Bangladesh military which would eventually pit itself against the nation's
founding leaders. It also seeks answers to several vital questions: Did Mujib
favor a confederation with Pakistan after Bangladesh's independence? Why did he
authorize the release of Pakistani war prisoners, reneging on his vow to put
them on trial in Bangladesh? What prompted Mujib to form a Communist-style
political system, discarding his life-long crusade for parliamentary democracy?
And, most importantly, did his one-party policy catapult the grisly putsch that
shook the foundation of the fledged nation?
Well-researched, insightful and illuminating, The Bangladesh Military Coup and the CM Link is a decisive account of
one of the most turbulent events in the political history of Bangladesh.
About the Author
B.Z. Khasru is an award-winning journalist and editor of The Capital Express in New
York. He was previously managing editior of the Business Journal. He was also a
reporter for the Journal News, a New York daily. His first book, Myths and
Facts Bangladesh Liberation War, was published in 2010. He holds a master's
degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston.
This book reveals the mystery surrounding the
first military coup in Bangladesh in which the nation's founding president,
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated. Contrary to the popular myth that the
violent putsch was orchestrated by those countries that opposed the South Asian
nation's creation and its flirting with the
Communist-style political system, recent declassified documents suggest that it
was in fact home-grown, although the United States had known about the plan
long before it was carried out.
The narrative chronicles the bloody upheavals
that shook Bangladesh to the core as a result of the coup. It documents the
unprecedented events that took place between 1971 and 1977, starting from the
defection of coup perpetrators-Major Shariful Hague Dalim and Major Nur
Chowdhury from Pakistan-to Bangladesh army chief General Ziaur Rahman's rise to
It strives to examine America's role in the
putsch. It traces the coup's origins, citing fascinating details of what
transpired in India during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, and how those
episodes shaped the nascent Bangladesh armed forces and eventually put them on
a collision course with the nation's founders. It explains why the junior
officers self-appointed themselves as Bangladesh's moral guardians and reveals
why soon after independence the majors formed a secret cell within the military
that ultimately organized the mutiny.
This book is based on once-secret US government
documents. Some data stemmed from interviews with such sources as former
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who played a crucial role in shaping South
Asia's history under the Nixon and Ford administrations; General K.M.
Shafiullah, who was army chief of staff when his subordinates toppled the Mujib
government; Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed, who became president following Mujib's
assassination; and Justice A.M. Sayem, who assumed power after Moshtague was
overthrown in a counter-coup.
It relates to my first book, Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation
"War-How India, US, China, and the USSR Shaped the Outcome, published
in 2010. In fact, my initial research focused on what
happened in Bangladesh in 1975 rather than on the events that occurred before
and during the Bangladesh Liberation War. But as I continued my research on the
assassination, I uncovered lots of previously unknown pre-Bangladesh stuff that
I thought would make fascinating reading and help readers better understand
what actually happened during that chaotic period. So, I finished Myths and Facts: Bangladesh Liberation Uilr before
writing this book.
These two books combined are an attempt to
record some facts of a tumultuous era in Bangladesh that was shaped greatly by
external forces, but left a lasting imprint on the traumatized Bengali nation
to ponder about for decades to come.
Soaked in blood at birth in 1971, Bangladesh
saw yet another bloodbath in 1975, when junior military officers led a mutiny
against the nation's founding president, killing him and most of his family members.
President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's death was followed by several other grisly
military insurrections, ultimately leading to the killing of the military-
man-turned-president, General Ziaur Rahman, in 1981. The demise of Zia, who had
managed to restore a semblance of stability to the chaotic war-ravaged country,
shocked the Bengalis all the more.
Subsequent simmering public uproar pushed the
army into retreat for the time being, and the military leadership let an ailing
Vice President Abdus Sattar to succeed Zia. General H.M. Ershad, who was
Bangladesh military chief when Zia was assassinated, wised up not to
immediately take over the government because he feared a strong public backlash
could make governance a nightmare. He broke the lull in 1982 and sent the
president packing home.
Eight years later, a popular upsurge brought
Ershad's military rule to an abrupt end, and Bangladesh once again resumed its
journey toward parliamentary democracy. In 1991, Zia's widow, Khaleda, became
the prime minister. Mujib's daughter, Hasina Wazed, replaced Khaleda Zia in
From Mujib to Hasina, in a matter of a just
quarter century, the Bengali nation went through a series of traumatic
upheavals, but details about what triggered those cataclysmic events are few.
Since Mujib returned home in early 1972 from
prison in Pakistan, he inherited a country mired in both political and economic
chaos - a situation he never contemplated confronting when he agitated for
political autonomy for the Bengalis. He sought autonomy, but got independence.
He was ill-prepared to deal with it. Even in 1973, when he secretly met
Pakistan's parliamentary opposition leader, Shaukat Hyat Khan, the Bengali
leader appeared to be reeling from his shock. He denied that he broke Pakistan
and insisted that Bangladesh was pushed away from Pakistan by a conspiracy.
A pro-American crusader of Westminster-type
democracy, Mujib found his position at odds with realities in Bangladesh
because of Washington's hostility toward the new nation. He saw a political
landscape swept by red air because of Moscow's direct support for Bangladesh's
independence. He discovered signs of schism in his power-base-his political
organization, the Awami League-and feared that folks within his own fold might
challenge his supreme authority.
On the domestic front, Mujib embarked upon
consolidating his position by relying more and more on his trusted lieutenants.
Prominent among them was his ambitious nephew, Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, leader
of the Awami League youth front. Moni, who aspired to one day succeed his uncle
as Bangladesh's ruler, pulled the strings from behind and steered Mujib off the
parliamentary road to a one-party political system. So ambitious was Moni that
he even unwittingly agreed to help a man linked with a US intelligence agency,
in exchange for a promise to aid him to further his political ambition.
Despite embracing the new mechanism to deal
with potential challenges to his power, Mujib repeatedly assured Americans that
he was not a Communist and that Bangladesh would not turn red. US diplomats,
however, feared that Mujib's move toward the one-party rule had removed the
safety valve to let out political steam and increased the possibility of his
Mujib strived to keep America-his impoverished
nation's economic life line-in good humor. He was more than eager to forge
strong ties with Washington, but sought to balance his act lest he antagonized
his left-leaning comrades. He, however, refused to be a pawn in the Cold War
game; he knew very well whom he needed to court to keep his country afloat and
himself in power. He asked the US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, to
create a Marshall Plan-an American program to rebuild European economies after
World War Two-for Bangladesh.
He wanted strong trade ties with Pakistan, but
India stoked fear in the fiercely independent-minded nationalist leader's
heart, so he meticulously crafted his moves. He confided to an American
journalist his fear that India might annex Bangladesh and bitterly complained
that New Delhi sought a contract to rebuild Bangladesh railways as a way to
improve India's own engineering business-an overture he summarily rejected.
Distrust of New Delhi is embedded in
Bangladesh's psyche, perhaps a legacy of the age-old rift rooted in the Indian
caste system, a social structure that forced many lower-class Hindus to jump
fence and embrace Islam. When the Bengalis took up arms against Pakistan, they
did not intend to transfer their country's capital from Islamabad to Delhi; they
rather harbored a romantic dream of creating a socialist nation that would
flourish outside India's sphere of influence. But India's war-time expediency
left Bengali military officers with the impression that they had fallen into
the pond they fervently sought to avoid- they have escaped Pakistan's tyranny
only to fall under Hindu India's domination. Bangladesh's nascent army, with a
Muslim majority, distrusted India from its inception and gradually became
resentful of Big Sister's hegemonistic attitude toward her Little Brother. The
Bangladesh military, which perceived Mujib to be subservient to New Delhi, put
the blamed many of the nation's woes on India. Religion eventually superseded
nationalism in Bangladesh.
The coup's origin can be traced to the Bangladesh
Liberation War. For historic reasons, many Bengali Muslims tend to be
anti-Hindu and thus, anti-Indian. Bengali guerillas waged a campaign against
Pakistan's armed forces in East Pakistan to create their independent homeland.
But they grew disillusioned during the war when they discovered India called
the shots. This simmering resentment ballooned into massive discontent in the
military circle soon after the war ended. Multiple factors fueled the fire,
including India's carting away of arms left behind in Bangladesh by the
Pakistani soldiers who surrendered in Dhaka, rampant smuggling of jute and food
from Bangladesh and the Bangladesh government playing second fiddle to India.
Contrary to the popular notion that the violent
putsch that toppled Mujib was orchestrated by the United States, which opposed
Bangladesh's creation, newly available documents suggest that the military
action was, in fact, home grown. America had known about the coup plan long
before it was carried out, but the US official records made public so far do
not indicate Washington's direct complicity. The view that the United States
had actively participated in the coup surfaced immediately after Mujib's
killing because of successor, President Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed's reputation as
a pro-West politician, and America's anti-Bangladesh role during the liberation
war. Because of the proclivity of the Bengalis to see a hidden and external
hand in every major event, a small residue of United States role in Mujib's
The planning for the coup had begun years
before the actual event.
However, Mujib's decision to remove some
mid-ranking officers from the military broke the camel's back. Majors Abdur
Rashid and Farook Rahman, who masterminded the coup, recruited the dismissed
officers to put their plan into action. The role of Khandaker Moshtaque,
Mujib's cabinet colleague who is widely believed to be the political ringleader
behind the coup, still remains shrouded in mystery.
Moshtaque never directly addressed the lingering
question of his involvement in Mujib's assassination. In an interview in 1979,
when asked to respond to the accusation, he chastised his accusers. He claimed
he rather saved his party colleagues by accepting the majors' offer to assume
the presidency after Mujib's death. The US Embassy reports from Dhaka suggested
that Moshtaque had no direct knowledge of the coup until he was asked to serve
as president, "nevertheless, there is a sizable body of opinion which
concluded that he was aware that the death of Sheikh Mujib was planned."
The two majors-Rashid and Farook-indicated Moshtaque and Zia tacitly endorsed
the coup, but both denied their direct participation in the plan.
Moshtaque's name popped up as the chief
architect of the mutiny because of an obvious reason- he succeeded Mujib as the
president. Then there was his flirting with the Americans during the liberation
war to strike a deal with President Yahya Khan. If Syed Nazrul Islam or
Tajuddin Ahmed-two other top Awami League leaders-were made president after the
coup, would Moshtaque still be blamed for plotting to overthrow Mujib? In such
a scenario, Nazrul and Tajuddin would have been accused of betraying Mujib, who
had reportedly blamed both of them a year earlier for creating problems for him.
Moshtaque's well- known tilt toward the United States was yet another factor to
link him with the anti-Mujib conspiracy. Ironically, there is plenty of
evidence to suggest that Moshtaque was ideologically much closer to Mujib than
many other Awami League leaders, his inclusion in the Baksal politburo being
Zia's rise to power was more fortuitous than
pre-planned. Coming from the military, Zia had no backing of socio-political
institutions that traditionally support politicians and to which people are
accustomed. His home base-the military-was a treacherous and an unreliable
instrument, at best. Like a new Machiavellian prince, he faced a daunting task
in ruling. He had to first stabilize his new-found power to build an enduring
governing structure. Such a task required him to be concerned with reputation,
but also to be willing to act immorally. In line with Machiavelli's dictum, Zia
quickly learned that an imaginary ideal society was not the model for this
prince to follow to keep himself in power.
Mujib Freed From Prison: Favored Confederation with Pakistan?
US-South Asia Relations: Post-War Game Plan
US Recognizes Bangladesh: Geostrategic Duel in Dhaka
Why Mujib Freed paws: Mujib-Bhutto Saga
America and Mujib: Old Allies or New Foes?
Bangla-US First Crisis: Attack on USIS
US Grades Bangladesh: Performance Satisfactory, But
Mujib in America: Mujib-Kissinger Talks
Lahore Islamic Summit: How Mujib Got Invited
Bhutto Visits Bangladesh: All Talk, No Substance
Second Revolution: Why Mujib Formed Baksal
Mujib and the Military: Uneasy Co-existence
Origin of the Coup: Liberation War and India
15 August Coup: CIA Conspiracy?
CIA in Bangladesh: Facts and Fallacies
Coup Post-mortem: What India, US Knew
7 November Coup: Zia in, Mosharraf Out
Majors in Exile: Revolutionary Torment
Zia's Turbulent Years: Did India Plan to Invade Bangladesh?
Zia-India Confrontation: A Political Ploy?
Post-Mujib Bangladesh: Only Change-Mujib's Absence
JSD, Taher and Zia:
Bangladesh and India: Friends with Issues
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