On 15 August 1975, Bangandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members were assassinated, and the Awami League government was deposed in Bangladesh. The coup was masterminded by the American CIA and Pakistan’s ISI, who used Trojan Horses in the Awami League and the Bangladesh Army. The news of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s death is believed to have been broadcast by the Voice of America an hour before he was killed. In Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution, Lawrence Lifschultz details the CIA’s involvement, while others detail the ISI’s involvement, even in choosing the day for the coup.
Zia established the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and gave legitimacy to the pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami, which his wife later became an ally. Through constitutional amendments, Rahman’s government replaced ‘secularism’ with ‘Islam,’ paving the way for post-colonial Bangladesh to become a secular state. To remain relevant, Ershad Mujib’s Jatiyo Party played musical chairs with both the Awami League and the Islamist Opposition, but, unlike the BNP, it was never able to gain power. Ironically, some of his assassins are still evading justice, hiding in countries such as the United States and Canada, despite the fact that his daughter, now Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been in charge of the country for more than a decade.
How US-Pak lobby troubles Bangladesh
According to Lawrence Lifschultz, the role of Bangladesh’s first dictator Zia-ur-Rehman in the gruesome assassination of Mujibur Rahman and his family on 15 August 1975 has not been adequately investigated. He claims that Zia would not have been bold enough to pass the ‘Indemnity Ordinance’ to absolve the killers without American support. Another veteran journalist, Mark Tully, provides insight into Bangladesh’s post-independence scenario.
The consequences of this assassination
Following its independence from Pakistan, Bangladesh saw the return of regressive, Pakistan-style military regimes that attempted to undo the secular, democratic polity established by the post-liberation Constitution. The country’s first military dictator, Gen Zia, rose to power after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975. Because of the covert support of the US and Pakistan, the infamous ‘Indemnity Ordinance’ was enacted to ensure the Mujib killers could avoid justice.
On July 9, 1979, Bangladesh’s first military dictator, Gen Ziaur Rahman, used parliament to pass the infamous ‘Indemnity Ordinance.’ The black law was enacted solely to protect the killers of the country’s founding father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Mujib and several members of his family were assassinated in a brutal military coup on August 15, 1975.
Bangladesh’s former Prime Minister Sheikh Ziaur Rahman enacted legislation in the fifth amendment to the Constitution that included indemnity for Bangabandhu’s assassins. According to experts, he was the mastermind behind the coup that ended the glorious legacy of the Liberation War and ushered in an era of re-Pakistanisation. The majority of these assassins were appointed as senior diplomats in Bangladesh missions around the world, and some even rose to become parliamentarians with complete impunity.
In 1975, Ziaur Rahman, the founder of the country’s Islamist Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), famously dismissed Bangabandhu’s assassination with a classic remark. After the coup, an Awami League government was formed, but Ziaur quickly rose through the ranks to become army chief, chief martial law administrator, and finally President — all within three eventful years marked by a ‘legacy of blood’ (Anthony Masceranhas’ famous book).
The day 7 March 1971 goes down in the history of Bangladesh as the day when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic speech set the ball rolling towards independence. But on the same day in 1976, military ruler General Ziaur Rahman made a nefarious attempt to revert to the ‘crescent and star’ flag of Pakistan. Anti-liberation narratives started taking shape with state patronage and even the founding father’s contributions were sought to be erased.
Ziaur Rahman floated Bangladesh National Party (BNP) with the purpose of putting his military regime on a political platform. He staged a farcical referendum to solidify his grip into power in 1977, marked by overwhelming public rejection. But the impunity did not shield the killers forever as Sheikh Hasina pushed for the trial of her father’s killers after her return to power. Tarique Rahman is accused of masterminding a 2004 grenade attack on an Awami League rally that left many party leaders and activists dead. Hasina escaped by the whisker with serious damage to her hearing, but died from injuries sustained in the blast.