Shortly after midnight this morning — local time at Dhaka Central Jail — five officers who in 1975 assassinated Bangladesh founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (and most of his family) were hanged for the crime.
The 34 1/2 years were mostly passed with the killers safe under an Indemnity Act predictably granted by the coup government that profited from the murder. (Though that government wasn’t afraid to hang members of its base.)
That act was revoked after a generation’s military rule with the 1996 election of Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina Wazed, who was lucky enough to be in West Germany when her family was slaughtered.
Once it finally reached the terminus, the government did the hemp necktie routine with dispatch just this side of seemly. Only hours after the doomed men’s last appeal was turned aside, Lt. Col. Syed Faruque Rahman, Lt. Col. Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Lt. Col. Muhiuddin Ahmed, Maj. A.K.M. Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Maj. Bazlul Huda were hanged.
Their hanging does not close the book on the Mujib assassination.
Seven other death sentences in absentia remain; six of those condemned are still alive, and at large abroad. Bangladesh is trying to get them back.
This date’s observance marks the systematic execution by (West) Pakistani forces of the intellectual class of East Pakistan at the end of the civil war which would detach the east as the independent nation Bangladesh — an unavenged war crime as cynical as it was brutal.
Executed intellectuals in the Dhaka Rayerbazar, 1971.
This was not a single discrete massacre, but a continuing policy during the March-December 1971 war. December 14, just two days before the Pakistani army surrendered, was the peak date of a dreadful endgame paroxysm that saw hundreds of scholars, teachers, lawyers, doctors, artists, writers, engineers, and the like rounded up and summarily executed in a bid to decapitate the new Bengali state’s intelligentsia.
Though the martyrs were subsequently venerated in Bangladesh, the higher-stakes regional geopolitics have always made effective redress a nonstarter.
At 4 a.m. this date in Dhaka Central Prison, Lt. Col. Abu Taher was hanged for treason.
A series of coups in the mirrored-sunglasses era of military governance shook the young state of Bangladesh:
The autocratic Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was toppled by a revolt of junior officers on August 15, 1975;
Senior brass in turn felled the ruling junta on November 3, 1975, jailing powerful officer Ziaur Rahman;
A quick counter-coup of junior officers — also remembered as the “sepoy mutiny”* — mounted by leftist war hero Abu Taher on November 7 put Ziaur Rahman’s hand back on the helm of state.