Government Policy

Bangabandhu put on plane by Bhutto amid tight secrecy

Asraful Huq and Mahmudul Hasan Raju

DHAKA, Jan 7, 2017 (BSS) - "The bird has flown", reported the Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a cryptic bulletin as he put undisputed leader of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman aboard a chartered plane for London in the early hour of January 8, 1972.

"Amidst tight secrecy, the Pakistani President escorted Mujib (Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) to Rawalpindi Airport in the middle of the night and put him abroad a chartered plane," said an article of Newsweek dated on January 17, 1972.

Bhutto, notorious for his tantrums, became President of Pakistan on December 20, 1971, four days after the birth of Bangladesh. Since the day he assumed the top office of Pakistan, he was acting as if he were a one-man information bureau on the welfare and whereabouts of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

According to newspaper reports, Bhutto held a series of private talks with Bangabandhu regarding latter's release and his destination.

"...Mujib's plane arrived at London's Heathrow Airport, and the world got its first look at the 51-year-old Bengali leader since he was thrown in jail last spring by Pakistan's former President Mohammed Yahya Khan," the Newsweek article titled "Mujib Flies to Freedom" said.

"I was a prisoner in the condemned cell awaiting...hanging. From the day I went into jail, I didn't know whether I was to live or not. I was mentally ready to die. But I knew Bangladesh would be liberated," a tired and drawn Bangabandhu spoke emotionally of his ordeal in Pakistani prison in a news conference at Claridge's, London's most elegant hotel.

When asked about the possibility of some sort of association with Pakistan, he said, "Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to live together because of the way they have behaved with my people."

In the meantime, Bangabandhu, a loving father and husband as well, had telephoned his family back in Bangladesh during his London stopover.

"Are you still alive? How is your mother?" he asked his son Sheikh Kamal.

But Begum Fazilatunnesa Mujib, the pillar of Bangabandhu's mental strength, was too choked with emotion to speak to her husband during the first call.

According to a Time magazine article titled "Mujib's Road From Prison to Power" dated on January 17, 1972, Bangabandhu also made phone calls to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi and acting President of Bangladesh, Syed Nazrul Islam in then Dacca.

On the Pakistani army's slaughter of Bengalis, "Mujib declared: "If Hitler could have been alive today, he would be ashamed.""

When asked why had he flown to London instead of Dhaka or some closer point? Bangabandhu said, "Don't you know I was the prisoner? It was Pakistan government's will, not mine."

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)