Military coups in Bangladesh
Part of a series on the
|History of Bangladesh
The coup of 15 August 1975 was organized by junior officers of Bangladesh Army. They were led by Major Syed Faruqe Rahman and Major Rashid. The coup resulted in the assassination of the country's president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, of the Awami League; his family except for daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who were in Germany; and several ministers and party leaders.
The government set up by Major Faruque, Major Rashid and Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad was overthrown in a coup on 3 November 1975. This was organized by Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, Bir Uttom, a decorated freedom fighter. Mosharraf was seen by many as a supporter of Sheikh Mujibir's government. He put Major General Ziaur Rahman, the Chief of Army Staff and fellow freedom fighter, who was believed to have supported the August coup, under house arrest but did not execute him. Some commentators said that the personal friendship between the two officers led to Mosharraf sparing Rahman's life.
Led by Lt. Colonel (Retd.) Abu Taher, soldiers of the Bangladesh Army overthrew the 3-day coup of Mosharraf and freed Major General Ziaur Rahman from house arrest. They killed Khaled Mosharraf and his associates. Rumors about Mosharraf's affiliation with India (a FEER cover at the time carried the headline "The Indian Coup?") aggravated army suspicion of this coup.
Former Army Chief Major General Shafiullah alleged that many JSD (Jatiyo Shomajthantrhik Dol: National Socialist Party) elements infiltrated the army in early 1975. On 6–7 November 1975 some of the JSD elements distributed leaflets and agitated soldiers against the officer class of the army. JSD tried to control the counter-coup organized by Abu Taher.
Taher rescued Ziaur Rahman (known as Zia) from captivity, who later, in the process, became president (not prime minister) of the country. Zia later conducted a secret trial, in which Taher was convicted. He was executed for his part in the coup. The special tribunal was described as a "kangaroo trial" by journalist Lawrence Lifschultz and led to his expulsion from the country by the military junta of Ziaur. Lifschultz later documented the tumultuous coup and counter-coup of this period in his book, Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution.
Coups between 1977-1980
Ziaur Rahman survived as many as 21 coup attempts during his five years as leader of the country until he was killed by the coup of 1981. Most of those coups were led by the 1971 freedom-fighter officers who were irked by Ziaur's liaison with anti-liberation pro-Islamic quarters. 30 September 1977 a coup was held in Bogra Cantonment. 22 East Bengal Regiment participated in this coup. But it failed.
2 October 1977 another coup erupted, led by the airmen of Bangladesh Air Force. Six Air Force officers died in this coup. No one knows why this coup was begun. Witness says that on 2 October five members of the "Red Army" of Japan were trying to hijack a Japan Airline DC-8, including 156 passengers. But they failed in the attempt. Following this, the coup was begun. An estimated 2500 armed forces personnel were executed following convictions in courts martial for their part in the coup. Officially 1183 soldiers were convicted. 561 were Bangladesh Air Force airmen and rest were Army soldiers. Army soldiers were killed for 30 September coup.
During his term of power, Zia was criticised for ruthless treatment of his political opposition. At the same time, Zia rehabilitated some of the most controversial men in Bangladesh, but he continued to enjoy overall popularity and public confidence. Supporters of the Awami League and veterans of the Mukti Bahini criticized his actions. Amidst speculation and fears of unrest, Zia went on tour to Chittagong on May 29, 1981 to help resolve an intra-party political dispute in the regional Bangladesh National Party. Zia and his entourage stayed overnight at the Chittagong Circuit House, a rest house. In the early hours of the morning of May 30, he was assassinated by a group of army officers, who also killed six of his bodyguards and two aides.
Zia's assassination was part of a failed military coup led by Major General Abul Manzoor, who announced the killing and his take-over of the government on radio. Manzoor had earlier been a senior army commander and had been transferred to Chittagong in 1977. He was scheduled for a transfer to a non-command position in Dhaka and was reportedly disappointed over his impending demotion.
After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman on 30 May 1981, the then Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad remained loyal to the government. He ordered the army to suppress the coup attempt of Zia's associates led by Major General Abul Manzoor. Manzoor surrendered and immediately he was taken in cantonment. Twelve hours later he was executed.
Zia was buried at the Chandrima Uddan in the locality of Sher-e-Banglanagar in Dhaka. Large processions of supporters and BNP activists attended the funeral. Vice President Abdus Sattar immediately succeeded him as the acting president.
Lieutenant General Ershad maintained loyalty to the new president Abdus Sattar, who led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in elections in 1982. Lt. Gen. Ershad allotted two houses to the widow Mrs. Khaleda Zia and her two sons, one of in Dhaka Cantonment. In 2010, the Awami League government reclaimed the residence, which was owned by the Bangladesh National Army.
However the BNP government was not doing well and pressure increased from high-ranking army commanders for the military to take over the reins of state. Lt. Gen. Ershad came to power in a bloodless coup on 24 March 1982 and proclaimed himself Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA), President Sattar was replaced. He took over as president on 11 December 1983 by replacing A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury.
To improve rural administration, Ershad introduced the Upazila and Zila Parishad system and held the 'first democratic elections for these village councils' in 1985. In an election held in 1986, Ershad was nominated by the Jatiya party, which had been created by him and his supporters. One of the major political parties BNP founded by his predecessor CMLA & later elected President Major General Ziaur Rahman led by his widow Khaleda Zia boycotted the elections; however the other major party Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina participated in Bangladeshi general election, 1986. The Jatiya Party led by HM Ershad won the elections winning majority in the Jatiya Sangshad. In 1987 Bangladesh’s Land Ministry launched the 'Land Reforms Action Program', an initiative to distribute khas – unoccupied state-owned land, to landless families. A noble element of the land reform was the establishment by the Ministry of Land.
Ershad's regime finally fell in December 1990; however he still managed some support as he was elected Member of Parliament three times and his Jatiya Party is the second largest party in Bangladesh's coalition government as elected in Bangladeshi general election, 2008.
Coup in 1996
Lieutenant General Abu Saleh Mohammad Nasim staged an abortive coup in 1996. On 19 May 1996, Abdur Rahman Biswas, the President of Bangladesh during a caretaker government, ordered Nasim to force the retirement of two senior army officers. The President believed that they were involved in political activities with opposition parties. Nasim refused to comply.
The next day, Biswas sacked him and sent soldiers to control the state radio and television stations. On noon that day, General Nasim ordered soldiers of Bogra, Jessore and Mymensingh divisions to march towards Dhaka.
The Ninth Infantry Division's Major General Imamuzzaman, who commanded the division located closest to Dhaka, remained loyal to the President. He directed the removal of all boats and ferries from Jamuna River in Aricha port, so that Bogra and Jessore divisions could not cross the river. He sent a contingent of troops with tanks to blockade the Dhaka-Mymenshing highway. This prevented Mymensing Division Army from entering Dhaka.
In the meantime, Major General Mohammad Anwar Hossain, General Officer Commanding of the 33rd Infantry Division located in Comilla, also came to the aid of the president. He mobilized a fully geared 101 Infantry Brigade, under the command of Brig. Shah Ikram (later Maj. Gen.) to Dhaka to fortify Bangabhaban, the presidential palace. The 33rd Division was deployed, using an Infantry Battalion and a company of tanks from the 7th Horse Armoured Battalion at the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, to create a blockade against the 24th Infantry Division located in Chittagong.
The government broadcast announcements asking all soldiers to stay at their own cantonment. After some hours, Mymensing Division soldiers returned to their barracks. The Chittagong Division never mobilized towards Dhaka. The General Officer Commanding of the Chittagong Division realized that the military coup was highly unlikely to succeed. That night Nasim was interviewed by the BBC and, in reference to troop movements, he said that as Army Chief, he could move troops any time he wanted.
Nasim was arrested by the Brigade Commander of 14 Independent Engineers Brigade and put under house arrest in the Army Mess behind Army Central Library, Staff road, Dhaka Cantonment. Later the Awami League government, which was elected to power in 1996, granted him a formal retirement. Since then he has remained a private citizen.
Coup in 2007
Army Chief Lt. Gen Moeen U. Ahmed with the help of Military Secretary to the President (MSP) Maj. Gen. Aminul Karim staged a military coup on 11 January 2007 in Bangladesh. Aminul Karim made united dissident or rival groups in army in favour of that coup. GOC of 9 Division Maj. Gen. Masud Uddin Chowdhury and then acting DG of DGFI Brigadier General Chowdhury Fazlul Bari were mediated by Aminul Karim while DG Special Security Force Maj. Gen. Syed Fatemi Ahmed Rumi supported Moeen group's coup. DG DGFI Maj. Gen. Sadik Hasan Rumi gave scope to Moeen by accepting a trip to London. Only Adviser and Minister Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury was against that coup and he stopped that since 29 October 2006. Sheikh Hasina gave green signal to army in favour of coup and Khaleda Zia showed anger in number of times why Mukhles Chowdhury was against that. Moeen convinced Hasina that she will be made Prime Minister even without elections and at the same time convinced Khaleda that minusing Awami League he will bring back BNP to power. Army group listed one thousand suspect corrupts from different sections of people of the country. On 11 January 2007 when Mukhles Chowdhury became powerless, Brigadier Fazlul Bari decided to impose a curfew and press censorship with the consent of Major General Masududdin Chowdhury at Advisor's Office. It was promoted as Mukhles Chowdhury's decision by a section of press deliberately. This way the certain quarter worked against democracy and for autocracy openly According to Moeen's book, Mukhles Chowdhury was the most powerful man in the Presidency. He was offered to be the President and later to be the Chief adviser and finally, through Brigadier Bari, who went to his office, was requested to run the country for two years and arrange trial of alleged corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, media-men etc. Chowdhury refused such offer for the sake of democracy as he disagreed with such formula saying democracy must continue with following the system to check corruption.
Later army coterie gave same kind of chance to Fakhruddin Ahmed to head the government. The military-backed Caretaker Government (CTG) was formed outside the constitutional provisions. It performed all responsibilities of the regular elected government and continued for 2 years. Ruling autocratically, the Army chief used to attend the advisory council meetings and pressured the cabinet to make decisions he wanted Adviser to President, Mukhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, was ousted as he was against the Army's actions. Commandant of President Guard Regiment (PGR) Brigadier General Abu Sohail supported Adviser Mukhles Chowdhury's move and he had a meeting with Chowdhury on 1/11 morning and Sohail was also ousted from the force and later he was transferred to Bangladesh Embassy in China as Defence Attache. Counter Intelligence of DGFI sent a report about Moeens move on 7 January and Mukhles Chowdhury could not make understand the top politicians about that coup beforehand. Khaleda Zia said, we can't believe a typed or composed white paper as predicting a coup to happen. Against the backdrop Adviser Chowdhury convinced UN and other diplomats headed by US Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis. As a result, instead of a Martial Law a State of Emergency was declared following the constitution. At Chowdhury's initiatives, special envoy of UN Secretary General and Assistant Secretary of US State Department Richard A. Boucher visited Bangladesh. Then Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns spoke with Mukhles Chowdhury on this. After Chowdhury left Presidency, later Brigadier Bari was sent to US State Department seeking a support to declare Moeen President with proclamation of a short period Martial Law, which was turned down by US administration following the stand they took at the request of Mukhles Chowdhury. This time it helped US Government with the documents.
President Iajuddin Ahmed had to run the presidency at gun point during said army rule. Lt. Gen. Moeen upgraded the Army Chief of Staff's rank to General. Moeen extended the rule of the CTG for two years while his tenure for one year as army chief without lawful authority, in the absence of regular elected government following receiving NDC being the Lt. General and army chief which is designed for Lt. Colonel level officer. The senior adviser and minister of state Mukhles Chowdhury tried to solve the political problems. He brought the rival political parties to the planned parliamentary elections of 22 January 2007. But, by cancelling H M Ershad's nomination, Moeen staged a military coup on 11 January 2007., where he used ex-state minister for home Lutfuzzaman Babar as tool. They were involved in facilitating killing people on Logi-Boitha event of 14 Party Alliance led by AL on 28 October 2006 night by withdrawing police forces from the spot and rewarded then IGP Anwarul Iqbal as Adviser later. Babar was untouched by army initially and he was saved by Brigadier Bari initially which was reversed by Brigadier Amin later which was Moeen's another hand. Later Masud and Bari wanted to stage another coup while Moeen was visiting Korea and Moeen ousted both from army. Masud was first made Commandant of NDC, then he was replaced to MOFA and finally mad Bangladesh High Commissioner to Australia and Bari was appointed as Defence Attache to Bangladesh Embassy to Washington DC.
Mukhles Chowdhury was the de facto President and Prime Minister from 2006 to January 2007. Although strongly criticized by civil, military, political, media and the inner circle of President's office and President's family, a later investigation demonstrated that he had run the government honestly. The then PM's political secretary was dead against his induction in the government publicly. Mukhles Chowdhury stopped the process of MPO of his father's Technical Institute, approval of a government building in the institution and ensured his cousin's arrest for a car accident while was in power. As army group did not do anything to Chowdhury legally, they arranged attack by DGFI, PGR and Army in Dhaka on 26 February 2007 and 7 September 2007 in Dhaka. After one year and three and half months of military takeover Chowdhury left Bangladesh. He was under attack publicly in New York City and in London, including 15 September in London 2008, by Brigadier A. T. M. Amin.
Although Moeen U. Ahmed was running the government for 2 years, he could not say so as it was unconstitutional. He overthrown constitutional government by force and wrote in the book that President did that. The military backed extra-constitutional government of 2007-08 handed over power to the Awami League through an election. Earlier Sheikh Hasina openly said that the military government is their street movement's product. The Awami league promised to legalise the activities of the illegal government. The BD News portrays the Awami League government as an extension of the military-backed administration.
Mukhles Chowdhury divulged that General Moeen, Army Chief, was the main force in the military intervention and declaration by President Iajuddin Ahmed of a state of emergency on 11 January 2007. He started speaking against army-backed government on 12 January and his interviews were published by the Manabzamin, Naya Diganta and Amader Shomoy. According to Amar Desh reporting in 2009, Chowdhury said that Moeen had intended to capture the country's presidency through the interim Caretaker Government headed by Fakhruddin Ahmed, formerly with the World Bank Aminul Karim united army dissident groups and also used Gen. Masud and Brig. Bari to achieve this.
In 2008, outspoken Minister Mukhles Chowdhury's interviews were published in Thikana, Akhon Samoy, The Independent, Amader Shomoy, Naya Diganta, Amar Desh, Probashi Voice, Bangla Patrika and Probashi barta of New York and Voice of America and Euro Bangla, Bangla Post, BBC, Channel S and Bangla TV of London. "Military coup in Bangladesh: Dateline 2007", one of his fact-finding write-ups about the One Eleven conspiracy, was published in the weekly Akhon Samoy of New York. Mukhles Chowdhury resigned under pressure after being the last advisor to President Iajuddin Ahmed.
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