A glimpse into the dark design | The Daily Star
02:37 PM, November 19, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:39 PM, August 14, 2016

Righting The Grievous Wrong

A glimpse into the dark design

ITV Interview with Lt Cols Farooq Rahman (FR) and Abdur Rashid (AR) on August 2, 1976 by Anthony Mascarenhas (AM)


A TV Interview with Lt Cols Farooq and Rashid about the first coup in Bangladesh and killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 15th August 1975 broadcast by the ITV.

Having not been a witness to the coup which none could describe accurately it is possible to have a glimpse from the interviews given by the ringleaders. Thus an interview report received from London is reproduced below. The report is not edited and given as it has been received:


"The following interview with Lt Cols Farooq and Rashid was broadcast by the ITV on 2nd August 1976. They were interviewed by Anthony Mascarenhas of the Sunday Times for the current affairs programme "World in Action."


Narrator: A year ago this month, this man, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the President of Bangladesh was killed in a military coup. The act was all the more tragic because four years earlier he (had) led his country to independence. (Slogans).


Narrator: Tonight, two Bengali army Officers Lt. Col. Farooq Rahman and Lt. Col. Abdur Rashid tell why they overthrew and killed Mujib, the man who had been called the Father of Bangladesh. (Slogans).


Narrator: One man close to the tragic events in Bangladesh over the last five years as journalist. Anthony Mascarenhas. He himself was a close friend of Sheikh Mujib and it was he who first broke the story of Bangladesh's bloodly struggle for independence over Pakistan in 1971. Tonight he traces the story of last year's coup and talks to the two army officers who murdered Mujib.


A.M. Did you make any effort to make it know to Mujib that this should be changed?

A.R. Well, no, I cannot make any effort because. I am just a junior officer in the army. I have no hand to tell him that you should correct yourself.


A.M. In these circumstances, could you have forced him to resign or was it necessary to kill him?

A.R. As I said earlier on ..........but he is not an administrator, the only thing that he has got a very good quality to agitate the general mass. So he (had) remained alive it would have been very difficult for us to conclude the situation -- he is being more experienced on the political side. (Slogans)


A.R. So just to stay in power he would have done any sort of mischievous act at the cost of even the country.


A.M. So you would think that had Mujib remained alive he would have turned the tables on you?

A.R. Yes, that would have been his first effort.


A.M. So you had to kill him.

A.R. Yes, I had to.

F.R. I decided that he should go, but then in March 1974. I was until then a purely professional soldier, I didn't have any political understanding and one thing I did know was that if you removed him what would happen, what would be the reaction, I had to talk, read a lot, catch up on various, subjects, including economics, because up until that time people had been saying that Bangladesh is not viable State. So, I had to prove to myself that, is it not a viable State or is it because of Sheikh Mujib it is not a viable State.


A.M. Once set on removing Mujib, the young Colonels had to find someone to put in his place. Their obvious choice was a man of their own kind, an army man, so they approached Major General Zia.

F.R. The first obvious choice was General Zia, because, at least, he was not furnished. So after a lot of arrangements I managed to see him on 20th March 1975 in the evening. General Zia said I am a senior officer, I cannot be involved in such things. If you junior officers want to do it, go ahead.


A.M. Did you specifically tell General Zia that your intention was to overthrow Sheikh Mujibur Rahman?

F.R. Remember that I was meeting the Deputy Chief of Army Staff, a Major General, and if I bluntly put it that I wanted to overthrow the President of the country, straightway like that there was a very good chance that he would arrest me with his own guards there and then and put me into jail. I had to go about it a bit roundabout way. Actually, we came around it by saying that (there is) a lot of corruption, everything is going wrong, the country requires a change … Yes, yes let us go outside and talk in the lawns.


A.M. Zia told you this?

F.R. Yes. Then we go up to the lawn and I told him that we are professional soldiers, we serve the country, we do not serve any individual. The army, the civil (service), the Government, everybody is going down the drain. We have to change it, we the junior officers, have already worked it out. We want you support and your leadership; and he said, I am sorry, would not like to get involved in anything like that. If you want to do something, the junior officers should do it themselves.


A.M. He didn't report you to the President, for even suggesting this?

F.R. No, but he did tell his ADC that I was not to do or if I asked for interview anytime, not to be given.


A.M. You mean, after this meeting he let it be known to you that he didn't want to meet you again?

A.M. So the first man to be approached from the army backed out but General Zia waited and watched while the junior officers plotted Mujib's downfall. Within eight months the strategy would pay off. General Zia would be running the country. Denied leadership from the army, the Colonels turn to a civilian and a politician, the man on the left, Khondakar Moshtaque Ahmed.


A.M. Col. Rashid you and Cornel Farooq made Mr. Moshtaque, President after Mujib's death. Did you bring him into the front before that?

A.R. Yes, I had the first talk with him during the first week in August and subsequently I met him on 12th, 13th and 14th.


A.M. Did you discuss the killing of Mujib with him?

A.R. Not the killing, but it has been shown in a way that they are to be removed by force from the power and it may lead to a killing of Sheikh Mujib.


A.M. Could you give me some idea what you talked about?

A.R. Yes, after the discussion I asked him two particulars questions, that according to him, as he was close to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I asked him that could you feel that this country can progress under the leadership of Sheikh. He said there is no possibility, and then I asked him that it there was no possibility, as you feel so as another political leader then why didn't you advise him to current him. He said that, for us it is very difficult.


A.M. You mean difficult to remove or difficult to advise him?

A.R. Difficult to remove him and difficult to advise him also.


A.M. Did you give him any indication of what you were planning?

A.R. He said. Well, if somebody had that courage and guts to do it, well, that's a good think probably for the future leaders whom we are going to choose... So we just wanted to know that he had no programme of immediately going outside the country anywhere.


A.M. Did he specifically asked you whether you would be available the next few days?

A.R. Yes.


A.M. Is that what you asked? Is that your intention of going on 13th?

A.R. Yes.


A.M. You didn't give him any idea of the date of the coup?

A.R No… because how could I trust, he also might tell it to Sheikh and become his right-hand.


A.M. Did you get the impression that he was playing along with you?

A.R. Yes.


A.M. So, here was another man, one of Mujib's ministers, also waiting and watching for the big moment when he knew the leader would die.


Farooq and Rashid were ideally placed in Dhaka to carry out the coup. Rashid commanded the 2nd Field Artillery conveniently based in the capital and Farooq led the Bengal Lancers, Bangladesh's only tank regiment. Between them they had more fire power than anything Mujib could hope to muster.


A.M. Did you have any date in mind?

F.R. Then I started thinking when it would be the best but at that time I had already started a series of training, unit training, by which every month, twice every month, we had night-training.


A.M. You are referring to your Bengal Lancers?

F.R. Yes, the Bengal Lancers and the 2nd Field.


A.M. But this was the normal training exercise and nothing specifically to do with the killing of Mujib when this exercise was started?

F.R No, it was specifically with the operation in mind that I started to build up this thing, because you had to start the operation.


Unnecessary movement or unprogrammed activities, suddenly on odd nights, would be noticed, so from March I had started this night-training business so that twice a months.


A.M. Night-training of the tank regiment the Bengal Lancer.

F.R. And also the 2nd Field.


A.M. Coordinated with the 2nd Field Artillery, which is Colonel Rashid's regiment.

F.R. He had come back from India by that time, and I told him to do it so that if we ever did anything, we would have a convenient time and place which to everybody it would look and sound normal.


A.M. Why did you pick August 15th 1975 as the day for Mujib's assassination?

F.R. First, it was a night-training. 14/15 night was one of the night-training nights. Second, monsoon. In monsoon, Bangladesh is very difficult place to attack, and India, even if it did, would have tied up 6 to 8 India Army Divisions.


A.M. So you thought that if Mujib was removed on 15th August in the middle of the monsoon the Indians couldn't react fast enough.

F.R. Yes.


A.M. Why did you have India in mind? Did you anticipate some trouble from India?

F.R. Yes, because one of the treaties Sheikh Mujib had signed with India was (that) in case of any trouble he would call in the Indian army.


A.M. So you thought that Sheikh Mujib, before he died, may have summoned the Indian troops to protect him?

A.M. Lancers had the tanks....

A.R. Yes.


A.M. That is all the tanks that Bangladesh had.

A.R. Yes.


A.M. How many tanks was that?

A.R. That was 20/30 tanks.


A.M. 30 tanks -- how many people involved?

A.R. It was about a total of 700 men.


A. M. 700 men, 30 tanks, how many guns?

A.R. I had about 18 guns?


A.M. What guns were those?

A.R. 105 mm.


A.M. You were planning to overthrow Mujib with 28 tanks, eighteen 105 mm guns and 700 men.

A.R. Yes.

F.R. But Colonel Rashid through that it would be better to have some officers with personal grudge. So we got in some of those officers who had been retired prematurely on the 14th, night.


A.M. You bought them into the... on the night of the 14th, that is only hours before Mujib was killed.

F.R. Yes. They were told that we were planning something. You come to the new airport.


A.M. On the 15th morning between 5.00 and 5.30 you sent your teams out to their allotted targets. What did you do? What role had you assigned yourself?

F.R. My main role was to neutralise any opposition.


A.M. The plotters expected that the opposition would be coming from the Rakshi Bahini, Sheikh Mujib's personal bodyguard. There were 3,000 men of this paramilitary force in Dhaka. But they were armed with only light weapons. So the plan that Colonel Farooq devised was simple.

F.R. Killing Sheikh Mujib, Serniabat and Sheikh Moni, I was 99% sure that would be achieved. What I have not sure was the aftermath. For that I was used the tanks as a psychological threat.


A.M. How many tanks did you have?

F.R. We had on the road on that day 28 medium tanks.


A.M. And what armaments and ammunition did you have?

F.R. We were not issued with ammunition.


A.M. Do you mean the tanks were unarmed?

F.R. Yes.


A.M. In fact, no ammunition at all in the tanks?

F.R. No.


A.M. How did you … why did you take them out?

F.R. I did not expect that everybody would had common knowledge that we didn't have ammunition. I thought, it would be just a knowledge to a few important people that the tanks didn't have ammunition... I mean it was of game of sheer bluff.


A.M. Colonel Farooq's tanks may have had no ammunition, but the field guns of Colonel Rashid were amply supplied. His guns began firing over the top of Mujib's house. The objective was to over-awe the Rakshi Bahini and to prevent them form going to Mujib's assistance.


A.M. So you moved on the Rakshi Bahini headquarters with 30 tanks.

F.R. I left the garage with 28 tanks, but when I actually came out of the second capital I had only one tank following me when I crossed the airport.


A.M. You lost the other 27?

F.R. Got stuck up some where in the cantonment or in the airport.


A.M. And what did you do?

F.R. I didn't do anything. I just went on -- broke through the wall, the perimeter wall, of the airport, smashed a couple of trees, crossed and I found a brigade of 3,000 Rakshi Bahini lined up, 6-deep. They were battle-equipped, full helmets... and all that sort of things… the driver said, what am I supposed to do, and I said you drive past right 6 "in front of their nose: told the gunner to keep his gun pointed towards them and told the rest of them, the other chaps to look brave, and we just did it like that and those chaps kept on looking at us, and we kept on looking at them and I told the driver if they did start something, you just steer right and drive on.


A.M. So you were going to run over them if any opposition took place?

F.R. That was the only one thing I could think of, there was nothing else I could do.


A.M. So in point of fact, you reduced Sheikh Mujib's private elite force of 3,000 men with a single, unarmed tank?

F.R. Once a troop does not react normally, it takes them quite sometime to react again. As far as I was concerned, psychologically I was sure that they were not going immediately to react. They would, you know, start studying the situation, and once somebody starts studying situation, they didn't take any action.


A.M. So you went on to your other targets.

F.R. I then on to Sheikh Mujib's house. At Sheikh Mujib's house they… stopped me and said that everything is all right.


A.M. All right meaning what that Mujib had been killed?

F.R. Yes.

... From there I went to the Radio Station to check if the Radio Station had been seized, I saw that the Radio Station was secure. And at the Radio Station Mr. Khondakar Mushtaque had declared himself President and had made some announcement.


A.M. So, the man you selected before the coup, Mr. Moshtaque Ahmed had made himself President?

F.R. I was introduced to him. It was the first time I was introduced to Mr. Mushtaque. He told me to sit down but I was feeling uncertain I had to do regrouping. After a military operation, you have to do regrouping.


A.M. So the first of the men who had quietly waited on the side-lines. Moshtaque Ahmed, became President.

On 15th August when he handed over to Khondaker Moshtaque Ahmed, as new President in succession to Sheikh Mujib, he was 83 days in office. Did he fulfill your expectations?

F.R. No, he, promised, but he did not.


A.M. Did he continue Mujib's polices or did he make a change in them, in the polices?

F.R. He said he would but, he did not at that time.


A.M. On 3 November last year Moshtaque Ahmed was removed by Brigadiar Khaled Musharraf who immediately promoted himself to General. Within four days Brigadiar was dead, killed in yet another military uprising. Then the second man who had bided his time. General Zia, was brought to power. Only this time, for his own safety, he removed Farooq and Rashid. Such is the law of the jungle. They have been kept in exile and Bangladesh's brief history has learned to live with the coup d'etat. After Moshtaque was removed in November 1975 and General Zia, to all intents and purposes, is running the Government has he changed in any way Moshtaque's polices?

F.R. General Zia has done absolutely nothing and he is not capable of doing anything.

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