Ziaur Rhaman, the first military dictator of Bangladesh, was born in 1936 in Bagbari village under Gabtoli upazilla, Bogra, a northern district of Bangladesh. His father, a settler from India, was a district science officer. In his teens, Zia was in West Pakistan. Zia joined the Pakistan army in 1953 and was commissioned from Kakul military academy two years later. In the India- Pakistan war of 1965, he led a company and was said to have sent to Germany for higher training. Later in his career, Zia was appointed as the instructor of Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul.
General Zia was the reincarnation of Aurangjib in Bangladesh politics. Like Aurangjib who ostensibly killed his own brothers for Islam, Zia being a self proclaimed freedom fighter, was instrumental to nip in the bud the very spirit of liberation war by distorting and destroying everything associated with the war. Zia:
a. revived Islamic fundamentalism by
removing secularism from the constitution
b. rehabilitated the anti liberation forces (Muslim leaguers and Islamic fundamentalist groups i.e. Jamat) in our politics and society.
c. amended the constitution of Bangladesh in order to make a virtual Pakistan of independent Bangladesh.
Date of birth
|19 January 1936. Bagbari village under Gabtoli upazilla, Bogra|
|Education||HSC, Commissioned from Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul|
|Family background||Settler (Mohajir, ghoti) from India after 1947|
|Wife||Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of BNP, twice prime minister|
|Khaleda's dates of birth||5 August, 1944 (Marriage certificate); 5 Sept, 1946 (transcript); 19 August, 1947 (record of prime ministerial oath); 15 August 1947 (press secretary); 15 August, 1946 (application form, electoral candidacy)|
|Son: Tarek Rahman||The youngest billionaire of Bangladesh who out of his dad's torn vest and empty suitcase made billions of dollars. People of Bangladesh are unsure of his fatherhood. Many believe that he may not be Zia's son as he is not as boorish as Zia was and his younger brother is. Some believe his appearance is closer to his mum and Paki army officers. But some bet their life searing Zia's progeny with regard to Tarek because they argue Tarek inherited Zia's criminal mind. Tarek is one of the biggest investor in Malaysia and various western countries. The most powerful person of BNP apart from its ISI clique.|
|Son: Arafat Rahman Koko||Young tycoon. He unfortunately inherited a sluggish combination of his parents: Zia's appearance and Khaleda's brain. It is quite remarkable about Koko that he has been kicked out from all the schools he attended in his life. Despite Zia's threat, the Head teacher of Dhaka Laboratory expelled him from school since he failed all the subjects and all forms of pampering failed to pass him even in a single subjects.|
|Power manipulation||Started since 1973|
|Rise to power||1977|
|Death||30 May 1980 by a pro liberation army officers' group led by General Manjur in Chittagong. Manjur's coup failed and he was later killed in Chittagong cantonment by Gen Ershad's men.|
Like Shakespeare's Macbeth, Zia had always been a ambitious army officer. But unlike Macbeth, Zia never showed any military prowess in his whole career. He was a third grade soldier but a keenly opportunist officer. His induction and training in the military intelligence core yielded him few deadly but effective skills: how to ride tides of opportunity (exploiting the opportunity in 1971 to wear freedom fighter tag) and back stab to rise to the crust of power (Colonel Taher). Zia's naked ambition was first exposed when he announced himself as the president of Bangladesh in his version of the declaration of the war of independence on March 27,1971 from Chittagong. Zia was actually going to receive weapons from the Chittagong dock as an officer of Pakistan army. His controversially acclaimed role as the announcer of the war of independence came upon him as he was stopped and forced by the rebel Awami leaguers (led by Mr. MA Hannan) in Chittagong. A shrewd intelligence officer Zia understood the significance of the event and its potential for his future. This freedom fighter tag later afforded Zia immense credentials contributing to the political image of himself as well as his party, BNP. He survived the series of coups and counter coups following the murder of Sheikh Mujib. His freedom fighter image duped Col Taher and his comrades. One should remember that neither Khaled Musharaf, nor Colonel Taher, but Zia was the beneficiary of Sheikh Mujib murder.
1. In 1971, during the war of independence and backed by the Indian military intelligence RAW, Zia, in collaboration with Osmani, wanted to form a War Council to undermine the authority of the provisional (Mujibnagar) government headed by Tajuddin Ahmed in order to subvert the independence war from within and replace the civilian leadership with a military one. Tajuddin Ahmed sensing Zia's plot quickly took some diplomatic steps to foil Zia's conspiracy. In 1973, however, when Tajuddin was deserted by Mujib, Zia sided with the ISI and CIA and did the same thing he wanted do do in 1973 to fulfill his personal ambition.
2. In 1975, Zia imposed the concept of Bangladeshi Nationalism in order to accommodate the anti-liberation forces (Muslim Leaguers, Islamic fundamentalist groups, pro-Chinese leftists ) in national politics so as to subvert the mainstream secular political trends achieved through the liberation war.
3. Literally made politics difficult by investing large amount of foreign aids to buy over opposition political leaders in order to form his own political party the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
4. As a part of his political scheme, Zia rehabilitated all the returned Bangladeshi (from Pakistan after 1975) civil and military bureaucrats in top administrative positions to change the orientation (pro establishment like in Pakistan as opposed to democratic character it gained due to the impact the liberation war) of the state machineries. In 1975, Zia formed an administrative reorganization committee to rehabilitate the anti liberation forces in administration. The convener of the committee was Kazi Anwarul Haque, (later Zia's personal adviser). All the members of the committee were well-known pro-Pakistani civil and military bureaucrats: Commodore MH Khan, Air Vice Marshal MG Towab, Dr MN Huda and Zia himself. Prof Emajuddin Ahmed pointed out that out of 31 top advisers /ministers of Zia 19 were strongly anti Bangladesh. In this regard a comment by Prof Musharaf Hossain is relevant: "......the most distinguished people Zia invited to join his government, after his rise to power in 1975, were Justice Sattar, Kazi Anwarul Huq, Hafiz Uddin, Mirza Nurul huda, Mohd Shamsul Haque, Shafiul Azam, Azizul Huq, Zahirul huq and so on. All of them worked as loyal associates of General Ayub /Yahyah during Pakistan period. They were famous for their so called "honesty and "efficiency". They were experts on "Pakistan Model" and did not have any qualms about the methods of realizing "Pakistani Development Model" in Bangladesh. But it was difficult to know about their attitude to an event called liberation war..."
5. Zia ruthlessly eliminated the remaining Muktijoddha (pro liberation) officers in the army, navy and air force (in 1977, a total of 1143 air force officers and soldiers, former freedom fighters, were killed in firing squad under Zia's instruction ).
6. Zia removed secularism from Bangladesh constitution and replaced it with Islam (Bismillah), and socialism with social justice.
7. Zia ruined the system crucial for democracy: the election system. He was first to use bureaucratic machinery to manipulate votes: in the referendum of 1977 Zia got 98.88% votes (88.5% registered votes) whereas in the 1970 election, at the height of the nationalist movement, Sheikh Mujib received only 55.09% of the registered votes.
8. On November 9, 1975 Zia dissolved the commission for investigation of the murder of four national leaders in Dhaka central jail.
9. During Zia's regime the size of the defense forces was increased by 300 times.
10. By May, 1976, Zia conferred the war criminals constitutional rights to vote and involve in political activities in Bangladesh. General Zia's:
|a. Second proclamation order no.3 of
1976 overwrote section 38, which had abolished religion based politics.
b. Second proclamation addressing section 122 reestablished the right of war criminals to vote
c. Proclamation order no.1 of 1977 overwrote certain points in section 66, which addressed the rights of war criminals to contest elections.
d. On 18 January, 1976, the war criminals were asked by the ministry to apply for citizenship
e. Proclamation Order no.1 of 1977 eliminated section 12 of the constitution
11. Zia let the killers of Sheikh Mujib escape from Bangladesh and rewarded them with diplomatic posts and status in various foreign missions of Bangladesh.
12. Under Zia's instruction the history text books in schools and colleges were altered and the political events between language movement and 27 March, 1971 were deleted. Sheikh Mujib was portrayed as the agent of the Hindus, a tyrant and an anarchist (same perception by Yahyah and his cronies).
13. Zia's pretext for taking over the political power was to declare war against the corruption by the politicians. Stamp corruption out was his slogan, but ironically Zia regime took the least actions against corruption as the following table shows:
Cases of corruption and punishment in four regimes (1972-94)
|year||regime||case||c'sheet||charge||Case c/s||Punishment against ch'ge sheet||Punishment against cases|
14. Zia turned the historical racecourse ground where Sheikh Mujib organized one of the largest protest rallies of human history, into a children's park (financed by Saudi Arabia) in his process to distort the history of Bangladesh.
15. In 1977, all the recorded (celluloid ) documents on liberation war (1952-1971) were destroyed from the FDC archive under the express order by the then president, General Ziaur Rahman
16. Zia set the trend of cutting trees and concretization of Dhaka city. This urban jejuneness is the projection of Zia's inner void.
17. Like a tin soldier Zia was a coward despite his outward appearance of a military mucho man. Inspired by the spirit of the liberation war, many freedom fighters married helpless, socially rejected Bangalee women, victims of the war. But being a self proclaimed captain of the war, Zia refused to accept his wife as she was confined in Dhaka cantonment during the war. After the war Sheikh Mujib had to convince Zia to accept his wife. But Zia never accepted his wife wholeheartedly and maintained a palsied relationship with her until his death.
18. Both Khaled Mosharraf and Zia did military coups to rise to power. But the difference between Khaled and Zia was: Khaled had no political ambition whereas Zia cherished political ambition since his accidental participation in the liberation war. Khaled declared himself as the chief of armed forces, not as the president of the republic. But Zia, in his first declaration of the liberation war on 27 March 1971, declared himself as the president of Bangla Desh. Later in 1977 he removed his puppet president and declared himself as the president of Bangladesh.
19. After independence AL government allocated a house in Dhaka to Moni Singha, the president of CPB, because Paki army burnt down his house after bulldozing it with elephants. Zia evicted Moni Singha from his house when he came to power.
20. It is a matter of scholastic speculation to determine who is more powerful: live or dead Zia? Zia always loved to glorify himself as he did during the liberation war. His cronies, always powerful behind the screen, fed Zia's urges for mythopoesis. After his death Zia was spiritualized in Bangladeshi politics. Sheikh Mujib's dead body was taken to Tungipara and buried in the same day. But Zia's dead body wasn't taken to Bogra. Instead a big monument was erected overnight on Zia's grave next to the parliament house at the heart of Dhaka city. Why so much honor was accorded to an ordinary major or a sector commander of 1971 while the architect of the liberation war was literally buried out of sight of the whole nation? The answer is simple: to spiritualize Zia into fine political ideology. To let his apparition haunt the nation in the perpetual medievalism. In Bangladeshi culture tombs are more powerful than the living men. The present being an irrecoverable squalor, the past appears to wield a more glittering prospect. Due to these cultural factors it was important for Zia's mentors to perpetuate his tomb in our political culture and drive Mujib out of the national phantasmagoria. Zia stands for an ideology and is represented by an oligarchy (pro Pakistan) determined to perpetuate Islamic culture in Bangladesh. For last 15 years this group deified Zia cult, as part of their process, to obliterate Mujib and liberation war from our history. In order to secure their political hegemony, this group created a myth with Zia's corps. For the fact is Zia's dead body was never brought to Dhaka. His dead body, due to the impact of heavy brush fire, was so much enmeshed with flesh, blood and other dead bodies (his body guards) that it was unidentifiable. Here is an account of the burial of Zia's dead body by an eye witness: ".......Due to the heavy fire we (me and my friend in whose quarter I was sleeping) could not sleep at night. I woke up at the sound of heavy knocking on the door of the Imam sahib's quarter (our next door neighbor). I could not remember what time of the night it was. But presumably it was between 2-3:30 in the morning. We peeped out through the window and saw that two military soldiers were taking the Imam sahib to an army jeep parked in front of his quarter. There were two or three army jeeps altogether. The whole situation was so much packed with tension that we realized something very serious must have happened. So when the jeeps started, out of intense curiosity, we came out of our house and started following the jeeps. The jeeps stopped two blocks away from our quarter, in front of the cantonment mosque. From our hide out we saw couple of soldiers were digging the ground near the mosque. We felt like to be in a terrible nightmare. When they finished digging, one soldier opened the back door of the jeep and other two rolled out a big chunk of something wrapped with (hogla) mat. We did not know what it was. But knew instantly when we saw, a booted feet popped out of the chunk as it fell on the ground and some sort of fluid streamed out of it and wet the ground. In a flash we realized that the wrapped chunk was nothing but dead bodies. The size was so big that we guessed it may have had contained at least five bodies. However, the military men rolled the chunk next to the grave they dug a minute ago. Then they stood in a line, the Imam in front, and said prayer (janaja). When they finished two soldiers pushed the chunk and put it into the ground. The others filled the grave with earth and neatly smoothed it out when finished. Not until next day we knew what a great national secret we had witnessed in that terrible night." (Chittagong CMH, where the incident was recounted in May 1989, by an officer of Bangladesh defense forces who requested his anonymity as he is still serving)
The fans of General Zia swear for his: a. modesty b. honesty c. patriotism d. his commitment for national development programs (i.e. canal digging) d. his Calvinism
Zia's honesty reached its mythical height in the BTV representation of Zia's torn vest and a broken suitcase after his death in 1980. The tokens were meant to indicate Zia's modest life style despite his being the president. Again the Aurangjib theory: making caps and selling them for a living. If that damn emperor cherished plain living why he killed all his brothers for? One doesn't need to occupy the throne to advertise for modesty or kill his brothers to preach Islamic virtues. Modesty or hypocrisy? If Zia was so poor how come his son is the richest young man in Bangladesh now. Neither Zia nor Khaleda inherited any family fortunes. Both of their fathers migrated from India penniless. Zia's father was a district scientific officer in Bogra and his father- in- law owned only a corner shop in Dinajpur (for selling crackers: chira, muri etc).
But unlike Aurangjib, both the tokens representing Zia's modest lifestyle rather underscores the shortcomings of his personality. It is not at all decent for a general and the president of a country to wear dirty and torn underwear's. In military terms it is called un-officer like quality. If it was done in Kakul, Zia would have been kicked out from the academy. It's not modesty but an indication of crass personal taste.
The other element of Zia's honesty is his disassociation with corruption. He let hired (bought over) politicians wallow in the slime but personally stayed away from it. This apparent honesty is applauded by both the naives and the motivated ones. The naives do not have the ability to probe deeper into Zia schemes. Whereas the motivated ones propagate it as it helps Zia's successors to discredit the civil politicians which in turn further contributes to the validity of dictatorship in politics.
The essence of Zia's patriotism was anti Indian sentiment. Without Indian support in 1971, Major Zia could neither become a Major General or a president. Without the support from the Indian army and the morale of the freedom fighters the Bangladesh regular army could never win the war against the Pakistani army. Not only in warfare, India also provided shelter to millions of refugees during the war. Zia should have been grateful to India for his life and career in Bangladesh. But as a typical representative of the Mohajir (settler from India) community, Zia rather upheld the ideology of his class: anti Indian sentiment and pan Islamism. Both of them stemmed from the same root and contribute to the Mohajir hegemony on the native Bangladeshis or the Bangals. India stands for democracy and secularism. Pakistan stands for Islam and feudalism. Islamic Bangladesh stands for Islam and Mohajirism which secures the hegemony of the Mohajir's or the settler Muslims in Bangladesh from India after 1947. The British created Pakistan to retain it as their market, USA supported Pakistan because they did not want to loose their market and their pocket against suspect India and China. They used Mustak, Zia and Ershad as tools to open Bangladeshi market for western capital and to disrupt the economic independence of Bangladesh.
The myth of Zia's being the declarer of independence war spiced up his so-called patriotism and transformed into legend what was nothing but a opportunistic gesture in his part. For last 20 years Zia and BNP, through government controlled media, made people believe that Zia was the key person for our political independence and the independence of Bangladesh is nothing more than an event caused by an unknown major's declaration from the corner of the country. Nothing existed before his declaration and what ensued was but a miracle of God. Prof Mazharul Islam carried out extensive research to demystify the myth of Zia's so-called leadership and heroism in the independence war
" ............ As per the statements of the witnesses present in the Kalurghat radio station (Belal Mohammad, Abul Kashem Swandeep, MA Hannan and AK Khan) and Zia's article "The Birth of a Nation" published in weekly Bichitra on 26 March 1974, we can come to the following conclusion: While Bangabandhu was formally declaring the liberation war against Pakistan, Zia with his troops was marching toward the Chittagong port from their base at Sholashahar to unload the weapons from the ship (Swat) and unloaded weapon all through the day (26 March) and returned to their base at Sholashahar just before the dusk on March 26. It should be mentioned here that the Pakistani authority first ordered colonel Chowdhury to unload the weapons from the ship. But colonel Chowdhury refused to carry out the order as he knew that the weapons were to be used to kill the Bengalis. For his refusal he was arrested and killed (in the night of 25 March) by his superior Pakistani officers. Zia did not have the moral scruples that Colonel Chowdhury had. So the Pakistani high command replaced Zia to carry out the dirty job colonel Chowdhury refused.
At 2300 hrs on March 26, Zia received another order from the Pakistani high command to go to Chittagong port for unloading more weapons the next day. Zia realized that it was nothing but his death sentence and he had no other choice than to revolt to escape execution. Thus convinced Zia, on his way to Chittagong, revolted and fled from Agrabad and reached Patia before midday on March 27.
By the morning of March 26, the president of Chittagong Awami League Mr. Zahur Chowdhury received the wireless message of Bangabandhu's declaration of liberation war. The general secretary of Chittagong Awami League, Mr. MA Hannan then took the copy of the message from Mr. Zahur Chowdhury, translated it into Bengali and read it for the nation from the temporary radio station at Kalurghat around 1330 hrs. Later that afternoon when the Kalurghat radio station was fully set up both Mr. Hannan and Mr. Abul Kashem Swandeep read out the declaration of independence couple of times.
On March 27, in their pursuit to organize armed guard to secure the Kalurghat radio station, Belal Mohammed and his friends found out major Zia at Patia and requested him to protect the station. Zia's nobility, perhaps the only nobility he was capable to offer in 1971, lies in the fact that he instantly agreed to help them to protect the radio station.
Entering the radio station with Zia, Belal Mohammed, urged by sheer common sense, requested Zia to read out the declaration again (as it would help organize the scattered armed Bengali members of regular forces). Belal Mohammed and his two friends then translated the declaration into English. By the time it was ready it was almost evening of March 27. So in the evening session of Kalurgahat radio station on 27 March 1971, Zia's version of declaration of independence war was first broadcast from the Swadheen Bangla Biplabi (dropped later) Betar Kendra (Independent Bengal Revolutionary radio center). Here is the photocopy version of Zia's declaration of independence war broadcast on 27 March, 1971:
Declaration of Independence War by Major Zia on 27 March, 1971
...." The government of the Sovereign State of Bangladesh On behalf of our Great Leader, the Supreme Commander of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, we hereby proclaim the independence of Bangladesh and that the Government headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has already been formed
It is further proclaimed that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the sole leader of the elected representatives of seventy five million people of Bangladesh and that the government headed by him is the only legitimate government of the people of Independent Sovereign State of Bangladesh, which is legally and constitutionally formed and is worthy of being recognized by all the governments of the world.
I, therefore, appeal on behalf of our Great Leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the governments of all the democratic countries of the world, specially the big powers and the neighboring countries to recognize the legal Government of Bangladesh and take effective steps to stop immediately the awful genocide that has been carried on by the army of occupation from Pakistan.
To dub out the legally elected representatives of the majority of the people as secessionist is a crude joke and contradiction to truth which should befool none.
The guiding principle of a new state will be first neutrality, second peace and third friendship to all and enmity to none.
May Allah help us.
Zia re-read this declaration from the same station again on 28th and 29th March. But in both announcements, Zia presented himself as the head of independent Bangladesh. Everybody in the radio station strongly objected to Zia's presumptuous statements. Mr. AK Khan also resented Zia's naked ambition and warned him against the dangerous consequences his rashness may precipitate.
On 10 March 1971, Brigadier Majumder refused General Mittha Khan's order to unload weapons from the ship (Swat). Zia's 8 EBR (East Bengal Regiment) was based in Sholashahar. On 25 March night, Zia marched towards the (Chittagong) port to unload weapons. On 26 March, in association with the cadet officer of Bengal Regimental Center, Major Zia, General Mittha Khan unloaded weapons from the Swat.
Khandaker Abdus Samad: Banglar Bani Supplement, 10 April 92, Page 12
Zia's So-called Nation Building Program
Zia is hailed as an idol for national redevelopment. Among the zealous followers of Zia his canal digging program is seen something as historic an even as prophet Mohammed's Ahud war or like Mao Zedong's redevelopment of China after the communist revolution. But Zia actually mimicked Sheikh Mujib's national development program. Zia controlled TV and radio propagated this so-called program so much that most of the people forgot that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, not Zia, initiated such project in 1972 (see the photos below). Zia simply copied Sheikh Mujib's development initiative in order to gain popularity and to network with the anti liberation forces around the country.
Zia digging canals in 1977
Canal digging program to enhance agro economic development was first launched by Sheikh Mujib on 23 February, 1972 at Paikgachha, Khulna
It is very unlikely for an ex-Pakistani officer to be Calvinist (who oppose joy, aesthetic and sensual pleasures). But Zia is hailed as a very modest person. Stories about Zia's plain life style or his wearing torn and old underwear's abound among people spelled by Zia's media constructed images. Zia was a drinking buddy of famous TV actor Mustafa. Mustafa was said to have surprised seeing his drink partner Zia declaring jihad against wine and women as the chief martial law administrator. Unlike Ershad, nothing much is heard about Zia's sexual promiscuity( he might have been a limp dick or even a bi-sexual as most of the officers of military intelligence are). Ershad is smarter than Zia, as he can attract many women. In this regard Zia could not beat his successor, Ershad. Women swarmed to Ershad for muny and for a good fuck and his saggy wife Rawshan never left him whereas Khaleda Zia was sexually so frustrated that she even stayed with the paki officers leaving her husband at the Dhaka cantonment. Calvinism, as the psychologists agree, tend to contribute to monstrous cruelty and brutality especially if it is bolstered by power as was in the case of Aurangjeb and Khomeni.
Ershad: the successor of General Zia.
Khaleda Zia: Zia's Widow
Killers and Collaborators of 1971: An Account of Their Whereabouts, compiled and published by the Center for the Development of the Spirit of the Liberation War
Commission on War Criminals of Bangladesh
Saiduzzaman Raushan: Speeches and Statements of Killers & Collaborators of 1971
Muyeedul Hasan: Muldhara: '71
Major Rafiqul Islam: Tales of a Million
Muntassir Mamoon: Democracy in Bangladesh: Elements of Consensus and Process.
Muntassir Mamoon: Je deshe Razakar Bara
Dr Mazharul Islam: Mujiber Atmajibani
Bangla articles on Zia:
1. Zia and the genesis of Pakistanization of Bangladesh by Prof Abu Sayeed
2. Zia and the myth of liberation hero by Wahidul Huq
3. BNP and disaster management
4. Zia and the suppression of Newspaper and media by Prof Abu Sayeed
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