Government Policy

Zia was keen on military control in 1971, says author Sukharanjan Dasgupta

Bangladesh's first military ruler Gen Ziaur Rahman, who later founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to legitimise his hold on power, was always keen on military control of the country as he envisaged a Pakistan-style military rule for the country amid the country's battle against Pakistan in 1971, reports India Today.

In an interview with India Today, author and veteran columnist Sukharanjan Dasgupta said he was briefed about Gen Zia's political ambitions by a senior BSF officer during the 1971 war.

As the chief correspondent of Anandabazar Patrika, he reported on the Liberation War by gathering information from freedom fighters in Bangladesh.

Dasgupta is the author of the best-seller "Midnight Massacre" on the 1975 Bangladesh coup that killed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman anf most members of his family and led to Zia's emergence as the country's first military dictator.

"BSF troopers were fighting with freedom fighters under Zia's command from the very outset of the Pakistani crackdown on the Chittagong-Tripura border. Sometime in June 1971, he told a Bengali BSF officer that the country should be handed over to the army," says Dasgupta.

He says then BSF IG Golak Majumder had told him about this conversation, which was kept a secret but reported.

"Desh ta Swadhin hole amader hathe deyar chestha korben. Juddho amra korchi, Neta ra sudhu bhashan dicchen (we should be allowed to run the country.. the leaders are just lecturing around)," Zia had told the BSF officer whose report went up to BSF DG Nari Rustomji through Golak Majumdar.

Read: “BNP will form commission to identify Zia’s killers if we return to power”

The entire communication was secret but Dasgupta learnt of it from Majumder.

In 1971, Sukharanjan managed to make all his colleagues at the Anandabazar Patrika office in Kolkata donate one day's salary to wounded refugees sheltered in India, reads a story on his contributions in a leading daily in Bangladesh.

Ironically, the ramifications of this "midnight massacre" would open a new sordid chapter in Bangladesh's history as the successive military governments destroyed the secular credentials of the country, scrapping "secularism" and installing "Islam" through constitutional amendments.

Unlike Pakistan's military rulers, the two Bangladeshi military dictators founded political parties to cement their control and ensure their legacy, according to India Today.

Zia founded the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and legitimized the pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami, which his wife Khaleda later turned into an ally, the report reads.

The role of Gen Zia in the gruesome assassination of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family on August 15, 1975, has not been adequately probed and the role of several other actors in the conspiracy, including Pakistan, has not been investigated thoroughly, according to the report.

Lawrence Lifschultz said that the men behind that assassination would not have moved around freely without Zia's backing.

And Zia would not have been brazen enough to bring about the 'Indemnity Ordinance", that protected the killers of the country's founding father.

The celebrated author says that Indira Gandhi was made aware of this development that there were Bengali military officers who fancied Pakistan type army control rather than a free flowing Indian style ballot box democracy, the report reads.

Source: United News of Bangladesh