Four National Leaders

Preferred Martyrdom to Treachery

Dr. Akhter Hussain

10 November, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Preferred Martyrdom to Treachery

Dr. Akhter Hussain

In the early November of 1975 the heinous crime of jail killings was committed. The four national leaders who were under the protective custody of the state was mercilessly murdered inside the Dhaka Central Jail at the instruction of Khandokar Mustaq Ahmed and his cohorts, the masterminds of Bangabandhu killing and who usurped the state power through unconstitutional means. Khandakar Mustaq implemented his evil design with the help of some disgruntled elements of the Bangladesh military. The killing mission sent by Mustaq killed Syed Nazrul Islam, the Vice-President of the Republic, Tajuddin Ahmed, the first Prime Minister of Bangladesh and also a member of the Parliament, AHM Qamruzzaman, member of the parliament and also the Minister of Relief and Rehabilitation and Captain Mohammad Mansur Ali then the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Such heinous crime under state patronage has no parallel in modern day history.

Here it should be mentioned that Bangabandhu and the four national leaders were in their 50’s. If their lives were not cut short by the bullets of the conspirators and their killers they in all likelihood would have served the nation for a much longer period of time. With their maturity, vigour, zeal and patriotism would have led the country to come out of miseries of hunger and deprivation long before.

During the Liberation War, their contributions have been monumental. When everywhere there were deaths and destructions caused by the sinister Pakistani occupation forces and the supreme leader Bangabandhu were under custody, these national leaders stood to the occasion. Under their leadership, the independence of Bangladesh was proclaimed and the Provisional Government in exile was formed with Bangabandhu as its President, Syed Nazrul Islam, Acting President in his absence, Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Ministers and Captain Mansur Ali and AHM Quamruzzaman as cabinet ministers. Throughout the Liberation War they directed all war efforts and took every initiative to master support for the Liberation War around the world. The war of independence was fought in an organized manner under their efficient leadership. However, it needs to be mentioned here that many authoritative sources alleged that Khandokar Mustaq Ahmad though was also a member of the Provisional government conspired with his cronies against the Liberation War and used to maintain relationships with forces and authorities those were acting against the cause of Bangladesh. The victory was achieved on the 16th of December, 1971 with the surrender of the Pakistani occupation forces to the ‘Mitro Bahni’ a combination of the Indian forces and the ‘Mukti Bahini of Bangladesh’. Here it should be mentioned that about 93,000 Pakistani forces under their Commander General Niazi surrendered to the ‘Mitro Bahini’.

Soon after the surrender, the Provisional Government of Bangladesh returned to Dhaka, the capital and took over the rein of the new country. Different administrative measures were taken by them first to ensure peace and security and running other affairs of the state. However, the country was waiting eagerly for the return of Bangabandhu who was languishing in Pakistani jail during the whole period of the Liberation War. Pakistanis also initiated trial of Bangabandhu for treason against the state of Pakistan. However, under mounting international pressure and demands of the people of Bangladesh the Pakistanis had to release Bangabandhu from jail and allow him to return to his homeland, Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu returned to Dhaka on 10th January 1972 with brief stopovers in London and New Delhi. He received a thunderous welcome in Dhaka. Immediately after reaching Dhaka the Provisional Constitution Order was promulgated and the form of the government was changed to the Parliamentary form of which Bangabandhu became the Prime Minister. This Order served as the interim Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh till the framing and subsequent adoption of the new Constitution in December, 1972.

The slain national leaders along with others were inducted with important portfolios (Finance and Planning, Industries, Home and Relief and Rehabilitation) into the new cabinet formed by Bangabandhu. Tajuddin Ahmed became the first Finance and Planning Minister of the independent country. They, under the leadership of Bangabandhu, steadied the new country with measures like prudent economic policies, reorganizing the state administrative system, bringing back about ten million refugees from India and revitalizing the economy and framing and adopting a very forward looking Constitution of the new Republic. But the conspirators within the cabinet, the Awami League and others became unnerved with these developments. They apprehended that their evil design to transform Bangladesh into another Pakistan is going to be foiled forever. With them, some alleged foreign hands joined in the conspiracy to dislodge the elected government. But at the same time, they were also well aware of the fact by keeping Bangabandhu alive these forces cannot achieve or implement their disdainful plan. So they killed Bangabandhu along with his family members and next of kin on the night of 15th of August, 1975. His two daughters the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her sister Sheikh Rehana survived the carnage as they were out of the country. Khandokar Mustaq led the coup and captured the state power.

Many of the Bangabandhu’s cabinet members joined hands with Mustaq with the exception of Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain Mansur Ali and AHM Quamruzzaman. Here it should be mentioned that many other Awami League leaders and workers from different parts of the country did not accept traitor Mustaq as the leader of the country. Mustaq was fully aware of the fact that unless he could gain the support of the four national leaders, he would not be successful in his mission in turning Bangladesh into another Pakistan. The national leaders were put into Dhaka Central Jail to put pressure on them to toe his heinous lines and objectives. It is alleged that Mustaq and his cronies tried their best to allure the national leaders to their side with different promises. But they failed in their efforts.

The national leaders could not even think of siding with Mustaq at the cost of the life of Bangabandhu. They with their leader fought for establishing the rights of the people of Bangladesh. They preferred death or martyrdom to treachery with Bangabandhu and his ideals. The sacrifices of these national leaders will always be remembered in history with the highest honour and dignity and will inspire others to acknowledge their great deeds and uphold their high ideals for which they laid down their lives.           

(The different sources of information are acknowledged with gratitude)


The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka.