The arrest of Abdul Majed, one of the self-proclaimed killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, forty five years after the criminality committed in August 1975, is occasion for us to return to an issue that will not go away anytime soon. And it will not go away until all the absconding assassins are rounded up and brought back to Bangladesh to face justice. A wider issue we must now deal with --- and by 'we' we mean the state --- is to delve deeply into the question of how murderers like Majed were protected and patronized by the anti-historical coterie successively represented by General Ziaur Rahman, General Hussein Muhammad Ershad and Khaleda Zia.
In the twenty one years between August 1975 and June 1996, these three individuals presided over regimes designed to overturn history. Worse, they operated on political immorality by overtly supporting the killers while keeping their grip on the country. These assassins were sent off abroad as diplomats. Majed was imposed on the civil administration, first at the embassy in Dakar by Zia and then at the secretariat by Ershad. That poisonous legacy was perpetuated by the regime Khaleda Zia led between 1991 and 1996 and again between 2001 and 2006.
It goes to the credit of the nation's security agencies that they were able to nab Majed on the streets of Dhaka, were able to identify him and haul him away to prison. Before he walks the gallows, this assassin must be thoroughly interrogated on the plot that led to the murder of Bangabandhu and his family as well as the killing of Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni and Abdur Rab Serniabat. He needs to be questioned too on the murder of Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, M. Mansoor Ali and A.H.M. Quamruzzaman in the supposedly secure confines of Dhaka central jail in November 1975. Before he hangs, it should be for the security authorities to elicit from him the nature of the wider conspiracy involving politicians and military officers in 1975.
So many decades after the traumatic incidents of August-November 1975, it becomes necessary for comprehensive action by the government in the matter of inquiring into the failure of senior military officers --- in all the three armed services and the Bangladesh Rifles --- as well as the leadership of the Rakkhi Bahini to take action in the minutes after Bangabandhu was gunned down at his home. New research and new works have been making their way into the public domain, raising uncomfortable yet valid questions about the inability or unwillingness of men like Shafiullah, Khaled Musharraf, Zia, Khalilur Rahman, M.H. Khan and A.K. Khandakar to go for swift action against the assassins. The absence of action on the part of these and other men, indeed the alacrity with which they swore fealty to Khondokar Moshtaq, remains an undying shame. The nation needs to know more of the helplessness or concealed happiness of these men and their loyalists on the day the Father of the Nation died.
Questions also abound about the role of the ministers who joined Moshtaq and took part in the first cabinet meeting he presided over. We need to know whether, if at all, any of these ministers (till dawn of 15 August part of Bangabandhu's government) raised any question at the cabinet meeting on the killings. Moshtaq apparently told them that if anyone among them wished to travel to Tungipara with Bangabandhu's remains, he could. No one said a word. The role of these ministers, the roles of Moshtaq and Taheruddin Thakur also call for inquiry and investigation today if we mean to bring a closure to the tragedy which engulfed us forty five years ago.
There are the other questions which call for answers. How much did Khaled Musharraf and Shafaat Jamil know --- and when did they know --- about the murder of the four national leaders on 3 November even as they remained embroiled in negotiations with Moshtaq? If they knew about the killings, how did they permit the assassins and their families to fly out of the country and to Bangkok? And then there is more. Who ordered the killing of Khaled Musharraf, Khondokar Najmul Huda and A.T.M. Haider on the morning of 7 November?
Too many questions remain unanswered about the sinister happenings of August-November 1975. Besides the majors and colonels who led the murder mission on 15 August were the general soldiers who with them led the assault on the residences of Bangabandhu, Serniabat and Moni. These soldiers need to be identified and brought to trial, posthumously in the case of those who have since died and in real terms in the matter of those who have grown peacefully old in these forty five years.
There is that other question: why did Khaled Musharraf take the kind of action he did on 3 November and not on 15 August?
Finally, Majed's arrest should now be reason anew for the government to speed up its efforts in locating and bringing home the remaining assassins hiding somewhere around the globe. One is in the United States. Another is in Canada. One or two may well be in Pakistan, which is a good reason why the Imran Khan government in Islamabad must be told that better relations with Bangladesh depend on a flushing out and handover of these absconding assassins. And if India is the place where Majed lived undetected for years, the government should ask Delhi to comb the country for any other assassin tucked away somewhere in its vastness.
Ziaur Rahman attempted to airbrush Bangabandhu out of history. H.M. Ershad lost his temper when he saw Bangabandhu's portrait at the Bangladesh high commission in Delhi on the morning of 15 August 1975 and ordered the diplomat on duty to pull it down. Khaleda Zia stopped the trial of Bangabandhu's assassins when she returned to power in October 2001.
These and other black truths must not be forgotten in our People's Republic. They must be placed officially on record.