Ziaur Rahman: Liberator of the War Criminals and Executioner of the Freedom Fighters

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Published on February 22, 2021
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Sharif Shahab Uddin:

A tree is known by its fruit, and a man by his acts and deeds. And General Zia is no exception. He is also known for his acts and deeds. It has been a fact that Major Zia, as a loyal officer of the Pakistan Army, was going to help unloading arms that had arrived at the Chittagong Port from West Pakistan just before the start of the Liberation War in 1971 to conduct genocide in Bangladesh. 

But under pressure from some Bengali officers, Zia was compelled to be back and join the Liberation War. The happenings have been narrated in ‘A Tale of Millions’, a book authored by Major (retd) M Rafiqul Islam. When Zia found that all the Bengali officers and soldiers were already engaged in the Liberation War against the Pakistani military in East Pakistan, and finding no other alternative, he joined with the Bengali officers. 

The officers then took him to the radio station at Kalur Ghat to read out the declaration of independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and he did it. Before that he was trying to play a foul game -- at Kalur Ghat, Zia first read out the proclamation of independence without naming Bangabandhu -- but it was taken care of by freedom fighters, the book reads. 

Ziaur Rahman was made a sector commander but because of his suspicious move, he was seized and was kept under the watchful eye of the revolutionary government in exile. Zia was in a conspiracy to create confusion among the embattled forces and was instigating to form a war council, in an ill motive to confine the war to only a military affair, defying the political government. And because of that, he was seized by the government in exile. Zia had a lot of acts and deeds. 

 After the liberation, he was regularly paying visits to the houses of political leaders of the ruling Awami League to get extra benefits and promotion and he was successful in achieving his selfish end. He became a General from the rank of a Major only in one and a half years.

 It is mentionable that General Zia was oath-bound to protect the country, its people and the President of the republic. But when the killers of Bangabandhu went to him for sharing the design to stage the tragedy of 15 August, he replied that whatever you want, you do it, but don’t come to me. And what does it mean? It means it was a clear endorsement to kill the Father of the Nation by the army chief, who took the oath by touching the Holy Koran that he would protect the republic and the President of the republic even at the cost of his life. By not arresting the killers immediately, Zia broke his oath. 

Rather he exploited the killing and captured state power. He rewarded the killers. Zia destroyed the four-state principals achieved through the Liberation War and the ideals upon which independent Bangladesh was founded. He introduced Pakistan styled “Bangladesh Zindabad” slogan replacing Joy Bangla, which was the great source of inspiration for the freedom fighters during the War of Liberation. That’s what were the acts and deeds of General Zia. 

Not only that, Zia gave corruption an institutional shape by introducing bribes among government officials only for getting support for his misdeeds. He made a rubber-stamp parliament to support him for giving legitimacy to his illegal power. He brought the judiciary and administration loyal to him by bribing them. Zia helped Jamaat leader Ghulam Azam, who took the opposing of the newly-created Bangladesh as a crusade. Zia brought back Ghulam Azam, who had been engaged in campaigning against independent Bangladesh throughout the Muslim countries, and gave him citizenship of Bangladesh back. 

He helped Jamaat to bring illegal money from abroad and worked against the interest of the country which is still a serious headache for the government to bring back peace in the country. That means General Zia himself made it clear that he was directly against the concept of independent Bangladesh.

 Yes, I am raising the issue with the reference to the on-going debate if Zia should be stripped of the gallantry Bir Uttam award for this anti-liberation role after the tragic 1975 carnage, in which Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family. I think Jatiyo Muktijoddha Council (Jamuka) has rightly suggested the taking away of the honour from Zia and the government should execute it immediately. 

The Bangabandhu, a personality with the virtue of unmatched forgiveness, confided in crooked Zia. And Zia replied to the generosity of the Bangabandhu with his innate crooked inner self. Statements of witnesses and convicts in the Bangabandhu murder case and several books highlighted how Zia gave go-ahead to the murderers of the Father of the Nation to execute one of the most brutal murders in history. Zia himself proved correct all their statements by his acts after the carnage. 

He joined hands with the main plotter of the murder Khandker Mustaque Ahmad and together harboured the self-proclaimed killers, including infamous Faruque Rahman and Abdur Rashid. It was he who placed them in high-profile jobs at Bangladesh missions abroad to save them from the public wrath. He got the notorious Indemnity Ordinance passed by the Parliament to include it in the Constitution through the fifth amendment to protect the killers from the trial. 

If anyone wants to know the real Zia, they have to more meticulously look into his activities after he secured absolute power through all possible means; no matter how much they were illegal and immoral. He ruined the secular character of the new state by demeaning the fundamental four state principles, and initiated schemes to make it East Pakistan again.

Zia was the man who gave several infamous Razakars including Shah Azizur Rahman, who wielded arms and fought against the birth of Bangladesh, cabinet berth. He legalised (and gave new lease of life to) politics of anti-liberation Jamaat-e-Islam.

Because of their anti-liberation role, the government had banned Jamaat and cancelled Ghulam's citizenship after independence.

Another notoriety of Zia which will remain written vividly in history is his killing of numerous freedom fighter officers in the army without trial, which was aimed to end their supremacy in the force and destroy the liberation war spirit among army personnel.

I believe Zia lost all his qualifications, long before, for enjoying the status of Bir Uttam by his anti-liberation war and anti-Bangabandhu acts throughout the period he was in power. And I thank Jamuka has taken the right decision to strip him of the status. It will remain as an example for all and our posterity will not make a mistake in choosing the real heroes of the nation.