Death Warrant against Bangabandhu’s Killer Abdul Majed, Who Arrested after 45 Years
| Virendra Kumar Gaur, Former IG, BSF - 10 Apr 2020

By VK Gaur

A Dhaka court on Wednesday issued death warrant against Abdul Majed, the convicted fugitive killer of Bangladesh’s founder President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Abdul Majed was arrested on Tuesday by the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Bangladesh from Mirpur area in Dhaka.

Abdul Majed is among the 12 former army personnel who were awarded death sentence in 1998. It was later confirmed by the High Court in 2009. Five of the convicted army personnel were hanged in 2010 while one died. Six of the convicted army personnel have been absconding. Abdul Majed is one of them.

Earlier, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal had said on Wednesday that the ‘self confessed killer’ of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was also involved in the subsequent murder of four top leaders of the country in Dhaka central Jail on 3 November 1975, reports the official news agency BSS. He said that Majed claimed to live in hiding in Kolkata for the last 23 years after fleeing the country.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members on 15 August 1975 by some army personnel at his residence in Dhaka. The trial for the killing started 22 years later in 1997 after the incident.

The Father of Bangladesh  Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s killer Capt (dismissed) Abdul Majed was arrested from Dhaka’s Mirpur Cantonment area by Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime(CTTC) in the early hours of 7 April 20. He was produced before Dhaka chief metropolitan magistrate who sent him to judicial custody. Abdul Majid is one of 12 killers of Bangbandhu and most members of his family members in a coup d’état on August 15, 1975.

The Supreme Court on November 19, 2009, upheld a High Court verdict, confirming capital punishment to 12 killers.Col (dismissed) Khandaker Abdur Rashid, Lt Col (relieved) Shariful Haque Dalim, Maj (retired) Noor Chowdhury, Maj (retired) Rashed Chowdhury, and Risaldar Moslehuddin Khan five of 12 convicted killers continue to remain fugitive.To locate and bring them back, a taskforce comprising of ministers and high officials of the foreign, law, and home ministries was formed in 2010. Earlier, Bangladesh government had made global appeals in bilateral, regional, and international forums to track down the culprits. Two law firms from America and Canada were also appointed to bring the killers back to the country.

Col Rashed was traced in the US and Maj  Noor in Canada. Among 12 convicted, five were executed on January 27, 2010. They were Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed.

Meanwhile, another killer, Aziz Pasha, died in Zimbabwe in 2001.

 Abdul Majed cannot appeal against his death sentence as he was absconding.  Supreme Court Bar Association President Advocate AM Aminuddin said, “According to the law Majed is a convict and cannot appeal against his death sentence because he was absconding for a long time, after the verdict was given.According to Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc) and other related laws, Mazed failed to appeal against his sentence awarded by the trial court and review petition against the verdict given by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. It may be recalled that at the start of the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, Mujib was arrested  by Pakistani soldiers. Later on 17 April 71  the provisional government of the Bangladesh, the Mujibnagar Government, was formed. Following the independence of Bangladesh on 16 December 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from custody from Pakistan.He flew to Bangladesh via India. Mujib led the government as Prime Minister of Bangladesh for three years thereafter.

The armed forces, Freedom Fighters (FF), political leaders of Awami League( AL) AL were brimming with discontent. Armed Forces had three groups-the freedom fighters who were recruited as officers during freedom struggle, officers who rose in revolt in 71 against Pakistan and repatriates. Those who fought for liberation war71 were given ante date seniority and superseded senior repatriates who were interned in West Pakistan and returned after71 War. Armed force officers wanted lion’s share in power and so also FF and political leaders. Army had significant number of officers with communist leanings. Bureaucracy was inexperienced and naïve in ruling an independent country that was ravaged by war. Economy was in shambles and law and order situation had literally crumbled. Liberators thought they were supreme and same was thinking of Awami League( AL) AL leaders. Interference in state administration by one and all was endless.

Mujib after three year was elected President of Bangladesh and established a national unity government of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League( AL) AL (BAKSAL), on 7 June 1975 by banning all political parties and independent press. Although the BAKSAL was created to bring stability to Bangladesh and uphold law and order, it also engendered hostility among the bureaucracy, military, and civil society. Opposition groups, as well as some of Mujib's supporters, challenged Mujib's authoritarian, one-party state. The period of the BAKSAL's one-party rule was allegedly marked by widespread censorship and abuse of the judiciary. General populace, intellectuals, and all other political groups were discontented. BD was in chaos, corruption was rampant,  food shortage and poor distribution led to famine. Nationalization of industry failed to yield any tangible progress. Not only was the government weak and with no clear goals, but the country was also nearly bankrupt.

A left-wing insurgency from 1972 to 1975 led to the assassination. In 1972, a leftist group the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD)  propagating  scientific socialism was branched off from the Bangladesh Chhatra League, the student wing of Bangladesh Awami League( AL) AL.  The JSD, through its armed wing Gonobahini led by Colonel Abu Taher and politician Hasanul Haq Inu, began a political massacre of government supporters, Awami League( AL) AL members, and police.  (Major Abu Taher was regular Pak Army officer who fought as a battalion commander of East Bengal Regiment against Pak army. He lost a leg in operation against Kamalpur Pak defences opposite Mahendraganj of Garohills in 1971).

  JSD campaign contributed to a breakdown of law and order in the country and culminated in the assassination of Mujib.

Major Syed Faruque Rahman; Khandaker Abdur Rashid; Shariful Haque Dalim; and Mohiuddin Ahmed, along with A. K. M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Bazlul Huda, and S. H. M. B. Noor Chowdhury (three majors in the Bangladesh Army and veterans of the Bangladesh Liberation War), planned to topple the government and establish a military government of their own. They were previously part of the opposition to BAKSAL and viewed the government as too subservient to India and a threat to Bangladesh's military. Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, an Awami League( AL) AL cabinet minister under Mujib's government, agreed to take over the Presidency. It is alleged that the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Kazi Mohammed Shafiullah, and the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence Air Vice Marshal, Aminul Islam Khan, were aware of the conspiracy.

In the early morning of 15 August 1975, the conspirators divided into four groups. One group, consisting of members of the Bengal Lancers of the First Armoured Division and 535th Infantry Division under Major Huda, attacked Mujib's residence. Mujib was asked to resign, but he refused to resign. Mujib was shot dead.

Other people killed in the attack were Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib, wife of Mujib,; Sheikh Nasser, younger brother of Mujib Sheikh Jamal, the second son of Mujib and an army officer; ten-year-old Sheikh Russel, the youngest son of Mujib; and two daughters-in-law of Mujib . 

In Dhanmondi, two other groups of soldiers killed Sheikh Fazlul Haque Mani, Mujib's nephew and a leader of the Awami League( AL) AL along with his pregnant wife, Arzu Moni, and Abdur Rab Serniabat, Mujib's brother-in-law. They also killed a minister of the government and thirteen of his family members.

The fourth and most powerful group was sent towards Savar to repel the expected counter-attack by the security forces stationed there. After a brief fight and the loss of eleven men, the security forces surrendered.

Four of the founding leaders of the Awami League( AL) AL, first Prime Minister of Bangladesh Tajuddin Ahmed, former Prime Minister Mansur Ali, former Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam, and former Home Minister A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman, were arrested. Three months later, on 3 November 1975, they were murdered in Dhaka Central Jail.

Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad assumed the presidency, and Major General Ziaur Rahman became the new Chief of Army Staff. The leading conspirators were all given high government ranks. They were all later toppled by yet another coup led by Brigadier General Khaled Mosharraf on 3 November 1975. Mosharraf himself was killed during a counter-revolt four days later on 7 November, which freed Major General Ziaur Rahman.

Major Syed Faruque Rahman, Rashid, and the other army officers were promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Nevertheless, they were exiled to Libya, China, Rhodesia, Canada, and other countries, although they were given several diplomatic posts in Bangladeshi missions abroad. Lieutenant Colonel (Retired.) Syed Faruque Rahman later returned and founded the Bangladesh Freedom Party in 1985 and took part in the presidential election in 1987 against the military ruler Lieutenant General Hussain Mohammad Ershad but lost .

Mujib's two daughters, Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, were in West Germany at the time of his assassination. After the coup, they flew  to India, instead of Bangladesh and took refuge . Sheikh Hasina returned to Bangladesh on 17 May 1981.

The military officers who masterminded various assassinations and military coup were never tried by military courts.  The assassin conspirators could not be tried in a court of law because of the Indemnity Act passed by the government under President Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad.  Awami League( AL) AL, led by Mujib's daughter Sheikh Hasina, came to power in  1996.Awami League( AL) AL repealed Indemnity Act. Soon after the Bangabandhu murder trial began.

Colonel (Retired.) Syed Faruque Rahman was arrested from his Dhaka home, and Colonel (Retired.) Bazlul Huda was brought back from Bangkok, where he was serving a prison sentence for shoplifting as part of a criminal exchange program between Thailand and Bangladesh. Lieutenant Colonel Mohiuddin Ahmed was in active military service when he was arrested. Colonel (Retired.) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan had been appointed to active diplomatic service by previous Prime Minister of Bangladesh Begum Khaleda Zia, but he was recalled and  arrested. Colonel (Retired.) Abdur Rashid and other accused individuals had already left Bangladesh. Colonel (Retired.) Rashid now reportedly shuttles between Pakistan and Libya. All these men were also involved in Jail Killing of AL leaders on 3 November 1975.

The first trial ended on 8 November 1998. The District and Session Judge of Dhaka, Mohammad Golam Rasul, ordered the death sentence by firing squad to fifteen out of the twenty accused of conspiring in the assassinations. The sentences were not carried out immediately, because five of the convicts sought to file appeals in the high court division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The Supreme Court, consisting of Justice Mohammad Ruhul Amin and Justice A. B. M. Khairul Haque, who was the former Chief Justice of Bangladesh, gave a divisive verdict. Senior Justice Amin acquitted five out of the original fifteen accused, whereas Junior Justice Haque upheld the lower court's verdict. A verdict from a third judge became necessary. Later, Justice Mohammad Fazlul Karim condemned twelve out of original fifteen, including two acquitted in Justice Amin's verdict.

One of the convicts, Major (Retired.) Aziz Pasha died in Zimbabwe on 2 June 2001. Although the five accused appealed to the appellate division of the Supreme Court, their decision remained pending from August 2001. Several judges refused to hear the case, which meant the government lacked the three judges required to hold a hearing session. On 18 June 2007, one of the conspirators who had been sentenced to death, Major (Retired.) A. K. M. Mohiuddin Ahmed was extradited to Bangladesh from the United States following a series of failed attempts to gain asylum or permanent residency in the United States. On 7 August 2007, the murder case hearings resumed after a six year delay. The appellate division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh gave its verdict on 19 November 2009, after a five-member special bench, headed by Justice Mahammad Tafazzal Islam, spent 29 days hearing the petition .

The appeal of the convicts was rejected, and the death sentence was upheld. Before the verdict, approximately 12,000 extra policemen were deployed to guard strategic buildings, including the Supreme Court building, to prevent disruption of the proceedings by the convicted men's supporters.

Captain (Retired.) Qismet Hashem, Captain (Retired.) Nazmul Hossain Aanssar, and Major (Retired.) Abdul Majid were acquitted through the high court division and appellate division verdicts and now live in Canada. Taheruddin Thakur, former Information Minister and one of the suspects, was cleared during the Hasina Government, acquitted in trial, and released. He died in 2009. Conspirators Major (Retired.) Bazlul Huda, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired.) Mohiuddin Ahmed, Major (Retired.) A. K. M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, Colonel (Retired.) Syed Faruque Rahman, and Colonel (Retired.) Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan were executed on 28 January 2010.

Image Courtesy – Lehren / Republic World / Daily Bangladesh

Caption - Police escort Capt (retired) Abdul Majed at a Dhaka court on Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (Dhaka Tribune)

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INDIAN OBSERVER POST (IOP) is a Class, Creative, and Constructive News platform which publishes ONLY exclusive and Special News / Views / Interviews / Research Articles / Analysis / Columns / Features and Opinions on the national and international issues, politics, security, energy, innovation, infrastructure, rural, health, education, women, and entertainment. Email – editor@indianobserverpost.com


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