Following are the excerpts from US embassy cables sent to Washington from Dhaka, New Delhi, and Islamabad regarding the events in 1975. These documents were published by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks!
* Sheikh Mujib: The New Mughal. 1975 February 4, 09:20. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
The fourth constitutional amendment (BAKSAL) effectively gives Sheikh Mujibur Rahman unlimited powers to control Bangladesh. The parliament, the judiciary, the politicians and public have been left with no realistic constitutional avenues to challenge, let alone reverse, any action that Mujib may wish to take.
The important question now is the extent to which Mujib will use these new powers and the degree of participation and criticism he is willing to allow to others. Initial reaction to Mujib’s presidency appears to be indifference among the masses, the sycophantic enthusiasm of party workers and some former critics, and the near silent dismay of advocates of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.
While the new change, and the underlying trend toward authoritarianism which it reflects, have potentially disturbing implications for our own policy, these are still down the road and a “wait-and-see” attitude seems indicated for the present.
* Bangladesh: Mujib’s dictatorial powers may invite his ouster. 1975 February 15, 00:00. Secret. By Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
NOTE: This document is not an electronic document, therefore the full content is not available online.
* Ek neta, ek desh: Mujib goes to the people. 1975 March 11, 01:53. Confidential. By G Cheslaw.
“Ek neta, ek desh: Bangabandhu, Bangladesh” – one leader, one nation: Bangabhandu, Bangladesh – is the new message of the one-party state that president Mujibur Rahman is taking to the people in a series of trips, most notably to Tangail March 8 where he received the blessings of Maulana Bhashani for his “second revolution.”
Preoccupied with this image building, Mujib is moving slowly to organize BAKSAL, the new party. The 320 members to date are principally old Awami league leaders and include no allied or opposition political figures. The independence day celebration March 26 is a likely time for the announcement of BAKSAL’S central committee, possibly to be followed by a reshuffle of the council of ministers. Mujib’s “second revolution” remains a political one; he has yet to turn his attention seriously to the economic and administrative problems of Bangladesh.
* The first hundred days of the “second revolution.” 1975 May 9, 02:15. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
Following is text of summary of Airgram assessing first one hundred days of Sheikh Mujib’s “second revolution.”
On January 25, the constitution of Bangladesh was radically amended to confer on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the form of what he already possessed in substance; virtually complete power to control, by acts of commission or omission, the destinies of Bangladesh and the Bangalees. By the amendments, Sheikh Mujib has almost completely eliminated individual liberties; he has also exercised his power to create a single party – the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) – which civil servants and military personnel may join, thus raising the spectre of a totalitarian state.
Dubbing the vast changes a “second revolution,” he set as his goals (a) ending corruption, (b) attaining self-sufficiency in factory and on farms, (c) controlling population growth, and (d) strengthening national unity.
The “second revolution” has been accompanied by extensive rhetoric, but its accomplishments are still sparse.
In the first hundred days of the “second revolution”
— Improvement in policy formulation and implementation has been negligible, despite much self-congratultion; demonetization was the most heartening display of decisiveness, but its after-effects suggest less attention to consequences than required.
— Administrative restructuring has been limited. While population control is assigned new importance in public statements, the administrative aftermath has only just begun and its effect remains to be seen. However, fundamental restructuring of government may lie just ahead, and with incalculable consequences.
— Corruption and smuggling have received increased attention; however, arrests for corruption, while more numerous perhaps, have caught no senior political figures and the check on smuggling may have been only temporary, reflecting the use of the army to supplement police and Rakkhi Bahini as well as the effect of demonetization. Internal security remains fragile. Although the BDG [Bangladesh government] claims greater success in capturing and checking terrorists, the murder of political leaders, dacoities and attacks on police stations continue, and there has been some looting of paddy godowns. Center of this trouble has been the districts bordering West Bengal.
Popular response to the”second revolution” has been tepid, at best. Few Bangalees seem prepared at this time to undertake outright opposition, recognizing that it must be extra-legal and thus highly hazardous. rather, the primary reaction has been passive acquiescence. Sheikh Mujib has endeavored to arouse enthusiasm for the “second revolution” through circuses, if little bread. However, Bangalees are reserving judgment pending concrete accomplishments demonstrating that the bdg can deal effectively with the issues which most concern them: shortages and high prices.
If performance is to be the criterion, the first 100 days of the “second revolution” offer small comfort. They demonstrate that its primary result has been the greater personalization of rule by Sheikh Mujib, and thus force consideration of his style and effectiveness. In dealing with individuals, he uses compromise, manipulation, promises, and accommodation (but will fall back on intimidation); none of these contributes to swift action. Regarding policies and programs, he seeks a range of ideas and advice, buthrelies on himself to determine finally on a given course of action, an approach which suffers from his limited ability to deal with complicated and technical subjects.
In this setting, Sheikh Mujib’s margin for error is narrower than ever. He has assumed sole responsibility for any shortcomings of the BDG, his popular support has been further eroded, and his own personal burden of proving accomplishment is increased.
* Press freedom waning. 1975 May 30, 05:50. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
Sheikh Mujib’s intention to establish a small, well-controlled press has long been rumored. The arrest of Enayetullah Khan and closure of his weekly Holiday were seen as first concrete steps in this direction. Subsequent “application” for BAKSAL membership by mixed bag of journalists now suggests pressmen reading writing on wall, and that some are endeavoring to insure their employment. All indications point toward early end to Bangladesh’s already feeable grip on press freedom.
* Mujib fires state minister for corruption. 1975 July 23, 05:10. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
On July 21, the opening day of the training course for newly appointed district governors, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman fired state minister for communications, Nurul Islam Manzoor, because of “grave charges of corruption.” Manzoor is first minister or politician of any stature charged with corruption publicly.
The president’s economic secretary, Dr. Sattar, told us shortly before announcement that an unnamed state minister would be so fired and that, if after a hearing he were found guilty of corruption, he would go to jail. Sattar said the corruption charges involved construction of a house in Gulshan residential area beyond Manzoor’s normal means.
However, we have heard from several good sources another version of the events: in Bangalee terms, Manzoor is a victim of a “conspiracy” instigated by flood control and water development minister Abdur Rab Serneabat, brother-in-law of Mujib. Serneabat supposedly resents the political power Manzoor is developing in Barisal, the home region of both men, and has been after Mujib for some time to fire the state minister. Allegedly, Manzoor appealed to Mujib to know the charges against him and in fact to have official charges filed so that he might defend himself.
According to one source, prime minster and communication minister Mansoor Ali, Manzoor’s superior, opposed the dismissal because Manzoor was handling so much of the ministry’s work for him.
Although Mujib is said to have reassured Manzoor that all would be well, the letter of dismissal was delivered soon afterwards. We have also heard that the president’s vigilance committee is now looking into Manzoor’s affairs. Among the cynical, Mujib’s timing of the dismissal to the opening day of training of the district governors is seen as a political move to ensure the governors do not abuse their new powers. Manzoor has a reputation for being a competent state minster and has not been among those popularly reputed to be corrupt. Until the facts of Manzoor’s case become clearer, we hesitate to see this step as the long awaited start of an anti-corruption campaign in earnest.
* Coup in Bangladesh. 1975 August 15, 01:20. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
Government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman appears have been overthrown. Bangladesh radio presents carrying taped announcement read by an army major which says Sheikh Mujib has been ousted and replaced by Khondakar Mushtaq Ahmed. Announcement states Mujib’s ministers have been seized. It also calls on Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) and Rakkhi Bahini to support army or risk consequences.
Coup apparently began just before 5:30am. Explosions were heard in area around Sheikh Mujib’s house in Dhanmondi. While they have ended, sporadic gunfire still heard as late as 7:00am. At 5:30am there was heavy gunfire at house of Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, Mujib’s nephew; neighbors assert he was killed but this is unconfirmed. Emboffs en route to chancery from outlying residential area encountered heavy concentration of tanks in area south of cantonment and in vicinity intercontinental hotel. Embassy’s Bangalee security assistant reports irrigation minister Serniabat, Mujib’s brother-in-law, has been killed.
We understand 24-hour curfew has been or is about to be imposed. at this moment, there appears be no threat to embassy personnel or property.
* Tofael Ahmed requesting refuge. 1975 August 18, 05:10. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
Tofael Ahmed, special assistant to the late president, has passed word through John Admans, U.S. census bureau specialist on loan to UN to assist BDG, that he wishes take refuge in an embassy house. Admans is next-door neighbor to Tofael.
According Admans, Tofael was seized at 0530 August 15 by uniformed men; Admans unclear as to whether they were army or not but we assume they must have been. At 0230 August 16, Tofael was returned to his house where he remains under guard. At 2200 august 16, Tofael asked Admansto come to his (Tofael’s) house and said he felt “insecure and unsafe” and asked Admans for refuge in an embassy house. Admans agreed to check and came to embassy at opening of business August 18 to tell us of Tofael’s request.
Since we have not talked to Tofael, we are not sure of reasons for his fear. Having been seized and then released by new regime (which must have know of Tofael’s growing alienation from Mujib as results Moni machinations), we think Tofael is being detained for his own safety in this period of uncertainty. We surmise that he places little reliance in courage and dedication of guards and anticipates that if someone sought settle an old score with him, guards would instantly bolt.
We are therefore passing word to Tofael that we do not see how we can assist him in the circumstances.
* Accusations of USG complicity in Bangladesh coup. 1975 August 19, 13:10. Confidential. William B. Saxbe (New Delhi). Full text:
Prime Minister Gandhi sent message to the All-India Peace and Solidarity Organization which held a condolence meeting in New Delhi August 18 for the late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. She expressed deep shock over the assassination of Mujib, his family and some of his colleagues and described him as a great national leader and statesman. She said that the Indian people held him in “deep respect and affection as a friend of this country…”
The meeting was addressed by Congress party and CPI MPs. Communist MP Bhupesh Gupta reportedly said that Mujib was killed by those who were “backed by American imperialism and the CIA.” Gupta claimed that the Sheikh’s death was part of a “conspiracy of right reaction and US imperialism.”
Romesh Chandra, General Secretary of the CPI front World Peace Council, told the meeting that when he visited Bangladesh in April this year, he knew that a number of CIA agents were operating there; many were working as volunteers in aid-giving societies. He claimed that when he mentioned this to Mujib, the latter said that he was aware of their activity. Chandra urged developing nations to unite against U.S. imperialism and said that Indians must realize that US finance was supporting the forces hampering growth in India. The USA, he said, had turned its attention to the sub-continent after getting burnt in Sotheast Asia.
CPI General Secretary Rajeshwar Rao also told the meeting that the CIA was behind the Bangladesh coup. According to the press, left wing Congress MPs, Sat Pal Kapoor and Vyalar Ravi, shared the views of Rao and Gupta but their comments were not quoted.
According to the Bengali language “Ananda Bazar Patrika” August 19, the chief of the West Bengal Congress party youth movement, Da Munshi, said: “Assassination (of Sheikh Mujib) once again proves how active CIA and China are in the sub-continent.” The statement reportedly was made at a Congress youth movement rally in Calcutta, August 18.
ADCM spoke to MEA joint secretary (Americas) Teja today (August 19) and told him that we would take the strongest exception to continued allegations in the Indian press of USG involvement in the Bangladesh coup. This was a slanderous and totally false accusation which clearly contravened the GOI’S own censorship guidelines and was calculated by the persons making the charges to damage Indo-US relations. It would be difficult, ADCM told Teja, for us to understand why GOI was not prepared to take measures to enforce its own regulations and halt publication of such accusations. Foreign correspondents in India were being cautioned by the GOI on what they wrote about Bangladesh and embassy assumed GOI proposed to do at least the same for ITW own pressmen. After attempting to brush off the press reports as matters the GOI was not able to do anything about, Teja agreed only to call ADCM’s observations to attention of “appropriate authorities.”
* First meeting with new president. 1975 August 20, 10:55. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
In my first meeting with president Mushtaque Ahmed today, called at his request, he emphasized his need of our assistance in helping him restore normalcy to Bangladesh. He specifically urged immediate US announcement of recognition as help in guarding against Indian intervention. He concluded by asking that his best wishes be conveyed to president Ford.
On an hour’s notice I was summoned at 1500 today to President Mushtaque’s office at Bangabhaban, the palace used earlier by president Mohammadullah. Although I had taken political counselor with me, president asked that we meet privately. He began by inquiring when I was leaving for Washington (I had told him at dinner before the coup last week that I was returning at the end of this month for selection board duty). I told him that I had just been informed that this duty had been cancelled and that I should remain in Dacca. He said he was delighted and that he had expected it.
He then spoke with great earnestness, repeatedly clasping my hand, of his need for us to help him restore normalcy in the country. He said he had not yet developed an agenda of his needs but we must not lose the opportunity today which we had lost in 1971, referring me to our conversation last May in which he had mentioned unsuccessful efforts in which he had been involved with US officials in Calcutta to reach a compromise between East and West Pakistan.
He said we would understand his geographical position and mentioned unfriendly references to him that had already appeared in the Indian press. He said that, as I had seen, he had been able to cope with the situation internally in Bangladesh where calm had been restored without the shedding of any blood but he was frank to say that he would be defenseless if India were to move by land or air, especially by air.
He had received a report, he said, that disaffected Bangalees were being gathered in refugee reception centers and he feared the use of a technique against Bangladesh now which the Bangalees and the Indians had used successfully against Pakistan in 1971. He said that “your people, of course, know everything that goes on”, I said I had noted the Indian statement that the EP NTS here were the internal affair of Bangladesh and had no reason to believe they would act otherwise. He said he hoped so.
He then asked me about our position on recognition. I explained our policy, emphasizing that we were maintaining normal contact with his government but that we had deemphasized the question of “recognition.” He said he understood this from the standpoint of constitutional law but recognition also had important psychological implications. We would have to judge the necessity, he said, but he felt it was extremely important to his effort to assure normalcy and to guard against Indian action that we grant recognition at once –“today*” he added for emphasis. I said I would report his view to Washington. He said he hoped I would let him know immediately if I got a reply on this point.
When I asked if he were able to say anything yet about the new directions his government would take, he said that the redistricting into 61 districts was “all over.”
He said that this program had been linked to the BAKSAL one-party system and that by killing the mother, he would kill the baby too. I asked if this meant he were dropping BAKSAL and going back to a multi-party system and he said it did. He said the decision had been taken last night and would be carried out when normalcy had been restored in the country, which we must help him achieve.
I told him at the end of our conversation that I wished him well in his new responsibilities. I said that, as he would know from his conversation with assistant secretary Atherton, we intended to continue our economic cooperation and hoped this would be helpful.
He concluded by asking me to feel free to call upon him at any time and by asking that I convey his best wishes to president Ford. He added that he was not sure whether this was diplomatically appropriate at this point but he hoped it was. I said I would be glad to convey his good wishes.
Taken in conjunction with approach to me yesterday by ambassador-designate Siddiqi, it is clear that the question of our “recognition” has taken on exaggerated psychological importance on the new government and president personally who evidently believes it would have major deterrent effect on any disposition by India to intervene. As I understand our policy, ZBE are prepared at some point to acknowledge that recognition has been granted but normally would wish to wait a further period of time. Nevertheless, I believe this will be one of the most effective and easiest ways at our disposal to show sympathetic attitude to this new government whose president appears intent on policy changes which we would wish to see.
I therefore urgently recommend that we do now what we will undoubtedly be prepared to do in a few days and inform the press that we have recognized the new government. With the UK, Japan, Burma and others already having taken this step, I certainly see little drawback.
* Pak reaction to Bangladesh developments. 1975 August 20, 11:44. Confidential. Henry Byroade (Islamabad).
Analysis of Pak reaction to coup in Dacca is complicated and confused by great importance of the reported renaming of Bangladesh an Islamic republic in the shaping of official, press, and public views of the significance of developments there.
Initial press and public reaction to the coup here was emotional and strongly positive, with enthusiasm for return of BD to Muslim fold and applause for prompt GOP recognition and support principal themes. Difficulties BD will continue to face, particularly on economic front, and apprehension about Indian moves were secondary points generally overshadowed in general acclaim. MFA recognizes that enthusiastic public response, if sustained, will continue to be an important element in shaping Pakistan’s evolving relations with BDG. If report of redesignation of BD proves finally to be incorrect much of public elation could quickly deflate and Bhutto’s reputation damaged.
MFA continues to watch situation in BD carefully and remains concerned about Indian intentions. MFA official tells us that with removal of Mujib, viewed here as most hardlining in his government on Pak issue, BDG would almost certainly adopt a more forthcoming and flexible approach on the issues which have divided the two countries. He saw Pakistan playing a role in BDG efforts to establish a counterweight to Indian/Soviet influence but cautioned that GOI would remain of great importance to BD. Ability to assert its independence of Indian pressures would depend on strength and inner cohesion of its leadership, something he said one could not yet intelligently speculate about.
Political parties and leaders of all persuasions joined in hailing BD developments and GOP’s prompt reaction to them. Press has been full of statements by various prominent figures which echoed general enthusiasm. Jamaat-I-Islami spiritual leader, Maulana Maudoodi, called change God’s blessing and victory for Islam. Central action committee of United Democratic Front adopted resolution welcoming changes in BD. Resolution stated “happy” change would bring Pakistan and BD closer together, and urged all Islamic countries to ensure territorial integrity of BD and prevent “any foreign intervention”. It called on Islamic secretariat to convene meeting to consider matter. Not surprisingly, UDF also sought to find significance in BD developments for Pakistan: resolution warned that continuing “political suffocation” in this country could produce adverse consequences such as those in BD.
MFA tells us that it is aware that this enthusiastic public response, if sustained, will continue to be an important element in shaping Pakistan’s relations with BDG. Ministry is also no doubt painfully conscious, as Bhutto himself must be, that if the Islamic redesignation of BD proves finally to be incorrect and this becomes known much of the public elation may quickly deflate. The political impact on the PM’s reputation of what is coming to appear to be Bhutto’s premature recognition of a second Islamic republic in the subcontinent and his advice to the Muslim world to follow his lead has already become a major subject of speculation among the knowledgeable here. Though at this early stage no one is prepared to say how significant it will eventually prove to be.
In conversation with POL couselor afternoon August 18, director general (South Asia) Hayat Mehdi expressed cautious expectation that coup would lead to improved relations between Pakistan and BD including exchange of envoys. Mehdi’s view was that Mujib was most hardlining of BD leaders in his attitude toward GOP. With his departure the BDG would almost certainly adopt a more forthcoming and flexible approach on the issues which have divided the two countries. He thought that the new leadership might well ease the lot of the Biharis in BD, making it possible for them to regain their livelihoods there and thus easing pressure for their repatriation. He did not speculate about whether the repatriation issue and the assets/liability dispute would have to be settled before the establishment of diplomatic relations. Our assessment is that the Paks are prepared to move ahead quickly to establish relations if the BDG is willing.
* Coup in Bangladesh: One week later. 1975 August 22, 10:30. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster.
In the week that has passed since the slaying of Sheikh Mujib and his extended family, order in Bangladesh has been affirmed but stability has yet to be restored. the chief domestic actions of the new government have been taken at a measured pace. On the day of the coup, martial law was declared, and Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed was installed as president and announced formation of his cabinet.
On the third day, president Mushtaque exhorted Bangalees to return to work and ordered resumption of all internal transportation.
On the fifth day, the cabinet members were assigned portfolios, a few key administrative appointments were made, and a proclamation was issued, regularizing martial law and amending the constitution – unabrogated but made subsidiary to martial law enactments — to enable Mushtaque’s accession to the presidency.
On the sixth day, a government spokesman exphasized that the fundamental principles of the state – nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism – remain intact.
And on the seventh day, the cabinet, presided over by president Mushtaque, determined the national cap and the official dress (Achkan or Sherwani), both of which are identical with those habitually worn by Mushtaque.
* Army shakeup. 1975 August 25, 10:20. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
An extensive shakeup at the top levels of the Bangladesh Army was announced last night (August 24). The chief of army staff (COAS), Major General K.M. Shafiullah, was replaced by the deputy COAS, Major General Ziaur Rahman; as the announcement put it, Shafiullah’s “services…have been placed at the disposal of the ministry of foreign affairs.”
In addition to the departure of Shafiullah and his replacement by Ziaur Rahman, the head of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), Major General Khalilur Rahman, was appointed chief of defense staff, a newly-created position. The deputy COAS posting has gone to an officer presently on training in India, brigadier H.M. Ershad (who has also been promoted to major general). Command of the BDR has gone to Brigadier Qazi Golam Dastgir (also promoted to major general), who has been brigade commander, Chittagong.
This flurry of transfers has been accompanied by another noteworthy appointment to the military. General MAG Osmani, who headed the Bangladesh armed forces in 1971, who was a member for a time in Mujib’s government, and who resigned from parliament last January in protest against Mujib’s constitutional changes, was appointed defense advisor to President Mushtaque, who holds the defense portfolio.
The ouster of Shafiullah completes at least one stage in the army’s efforts to sort itself out in the aftermath of the August 15 coup. Shafiullah may have been thought to have been overly identified with Mujib and was, moreover, generally regarded as a weak leader, a quality which was seen by some as contributing to a slackening of discipline and, thus, to the action of the majors. Some observers think that the army will now be able to reassert its authority over the coup perpetrators.
The reasons for the creation of the post of chief of defense staff, which is in the ministry of defense (and thus apparently senior to all of the service chiefs), remain to be revealed. however, the reason for the selection of Khalilur Rahman to fill the post is perhaps more certain. The former BDR head is senior to Ziaur Rahman (as he was to Shafiullah). Moreover, he is reported to have been critical of Mujib since his repatriation from Pakistan. (Following his return to Bangladesh, Kalilur Rahman was shunted off into the BDR command but was placated with promotion from brigadier (the rank which he reportedly held in March 1971) to major general.)
Were Osmani less senior and not a former full cabinet minister himself, he might have been appointed as state minister for defense under Mushtaque. The defense advisor title avoids the protocol problem and puts Osmani in a position to exercise whatever authority Mushtaque may delegate to him. thus, there is speculation that Osmani may serve as the de facto defense minister.
Missing in the spate of announcements is any reference to Brigadier Khalid Mosharraf, the chief of general staff and an active participant in the struggle within the army.
* China recognizes Bangladesh. 1975 September 2, 07:35. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
Dacca press and radio Bangladesh on September 1 carried news that the People’s Republic of China had announced its recognition of Bangladesh in a message sent the previous evening by premier Chou En-Lai to president Moshtaque.
According to the press account’s, the message read: “On behalf of the government of the People’s Republic of China, I have the honour to inform you that the Chinese government recognizes the People’s Republic of Bangladesh from this date. I am convinced that the traditional friendship between our two people will grow steadily.” (The date of the message was not reported.)
PRC recognition is decided feather in president Moshaque’s cap, permitting him to assert more than ever Bangladesh’s intention to follow a “balanced” foreign policy. Ties with china will be seen as a way to reduce Indian influence, a goal which Moshtaque will pursue far more diligently than did Sheikh Mujib whose reputation suffered in part as a result of his sensitive concern for Indian responses. Moreover, popular reaction to the Chinese recognition will be high (and probably involve some unwarrantedly high expectations of what will follow). Bangalees will see the move as a jab at India, a recognition of Bangladesh’s sovereign existence, and the harbinger of the many inexpensive Chinese consumer goods last available in the Pakistan period. And the newspapers already carry stories of jute sales.
* Arms assistance informally sought. 1975 October 22, 08:40. Secret. By Davis Eugene Boster.
Majors Farook Rahman and Khandakar Abdur Rashid, central figures in August 15 coup, called at their request on the political counselor at his home on evening of October 21. After exchange of pleasantries, majors launched into lengthy description of threat they assert Bangladesh now faces from India. They said information available to them reveals that Indians are endeavoring to undermine government of Moshtaque Ahmed. as examples, they cited reports that:
– Indian high commissioner Samar Sen is circulating stories that government confronts live possibility of a fresh coup.
– Calls had been made to some MPs just prior to their October 16 meeting with President Moshtaque warning parliamentarians to stay away from meeting; such calls were either made or inspired by Indians.
– Soviet Consul General and Indian Assistant High Commissioner in Chittagong had actively sought to hinder arms amnesty campaign by persuading Bangalees to ignore government’s program; in many cases, they purchased arms from those holding them illicitly.
– Tangail fiasco was undertaken by band with Indian encouragement.
– The Indians, with soviet encouragement, will seek to provoke other such incidents in order to undermine the government. A base has been set up at Tura in Meghalaya and it is from there that Qader Siddiqui and his followers have been operating.
The majors asserted that they are convinced that India will make every effort to prevent the government from fulfilling its promise to restore democracy. They went on to say that the police, whose demoralization began in late 1960’s, whose organization was shattered in 1971 and who were thoroughly corrupted during the Mujib era, are incapable of dealing with anything but the most ordinary law and order situation.
The military is very weak, and possesses only most limited capability to deal with internal security matters, much less any overt external threat. Weakness compounded by fact that soviets have halted shipments of spares to Bangladesh military; most important consequences has been to take many of soviet-supplied helicopters out of action. (Majors attributed one reason for Tangail fiasco to fact that only one helicopter was available where two would normally be used, with one providing backup and cover to the other landing troops.)
After stressing that they do not think such support as they might receive from china or Pakistan could be adequate to thwart the Indians, majors asked whether united states would be prepared to assist Bangladesh military with equipment, either directly or by permitting third-country transfers. clearly aware of American sensitivities from their period of Pakistan service, they said they not seeking weapons but need helicopters and surface transport.
Noting that they do not comprehend direct Indian military intervention, they said items are required to meet what they described as potential internal security threat of serious proportions which would be inspired and supported by Indians.
We are not able to comment on what the Indians are doing, but in any event that may be less important than what the Bangladesh government thinks they are doing. We operate on the assumption that the majors, while young, inexperienced and possibly naive, are not irresponsible and that have reflected fears also held by others in the government.
Ambassador had previously given army chief of staff Ziaur Rahman discouraging reaction to his sounding about possibility of U.S. military assistance. Please instruct if department wishes to respond to this more direct approach, although way political counselor left matter with the majors does not require US to respond further unless we wish to.
* Khalid Mosharraf Appointed Army Chief. 1975 November 4, 18:40. Limited official use. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
It was announced tonight Nov. 4 at 2300 hours on Bangladesh Radio that Khalid Mosharraf, who precipitated the present crisis in Bangladesh, has replaced Major General Ziaur Rahman as chief of army staff and has been promoted to major general. The appointment and promotion date from midday on November 3, as does Ziaur Rahman’s resignation.
Mosharraf’s move to top command of the Bangladesh Army and Ziaur Rahman’s removal, coming on top of the exile of the majors, appears intended to establish Mosharraf’s control of the government in Bangladesh. It may come too late, however, to undo the effects of the rivalry between the two officers which has contributed so materially to the current crisis.
Whether the changes come in time to prevent any possible clashes between elements loyal to Mosharraf and Rahman remains to be seen. For exampple, there have been unconfirmed reports this evening (November 4) that troops from Comilla, Chittagong and Jessore supporting Ziaur are en route to Dacca.
* Bangladesh military officers in Thailand. 1975 November 6, 02:18. White House.
Following is text of Reuters interview with Ltc Farooq Rahman, one of group of Bangladesh officers who fled to Bangkok Nov 3-4, as published in Bangkok World Nov 5.
Three Bangladesh army officers who led the coup against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman last August left the country this week on orders from president Khondaker Mustaque Ahmed following a “counter-coup” by disgruntled colonels, one of the three said here today. Lieutenant-Colonel Sayed Farook Rahman said that he and two other leaders of the august coup, in which Mujib was killed, left their country because president Mushtaque Ahmed did not want any bloodshed. They left Dacca late on Monday night after a 21-hour confrontation with a group of senior officers who had been close to Mujib, the “father of Bangladesh” who led his people to nationhood in 1971, Col Farook said.
With 12 other officers, two non-commissioned officers– including the president’s personal bodyguard– seven women and five children, they arrived in Bangkok early yesterday in a Bangladesh Biman airlines Fokker Aircraft ordered by the president and allowed to leave by the opposing military faction. Col. Farook identified the other leaders of the August coup who were with him here as lieutenant-Colonel K.A. Rashid and Lieutenant-Colonel Shariful Huque, also known by the nickname “Major Dalim. Col. Farook said they had informed the united states and Pakistan embassies of their presence and intended applying to them for asylum. They had been granted 15-day visas for this country.
He said the counter-coup started at about 2a.m. on Monday and was led by Brigadier Khalid Musharaf, chief of the army general staff. Bangladesh radio said last night that Brigadier Musharaf had been promoted to major-general with effect from yesterday and appointed army chief of staff. (He replaced Major-General Ziaur Rahman, who was arrested during Monday’s action, along with Air Force Commander Air Vice-Marshal G.M. Tawab, Col Farook said.) Col Farook also named other officers who he said were dissatisfied with their roles since president Mushtaque Ahmed took power and wanted more political influence.
Asked if the counter-coup meant a comeback by men close to Mujib, he said, “possibly…. Khalid was close to Mujib. He said other officers in the counter-coup movement also had important positions under the slain leader but were in the process of being transferred to low-grade posts. Asked whether there was any international involvement, he said last August’s coup and subsequent announcements by President Mushtaque Ahmed of plans for a return to democracy in Bangladesh had been “a slap in the face for India.” “The Indians were very active,” he added.
Colonel Farook said that by about 5 p.m. on Monday, the military situation and negotiations were at stalemate and not a shot had been fired. The president refused to allow him and other loyal officers to counter-attack and told them to leave the country. He told them, ” If i can get out later. I will come… “They can kill me, they can throw me out or accept me as president. If I am to be president, I must have the prerogative to give the orders. If I’m not the president, I should leave.”
Col. Farook said there had been advance hints of a countercoup before last Monday, but the first word of action came when a poloceman ran into the palace to say that two companies of infantry which had been guarding the building “had packed up and left.” An armoured corps major and other officer–both of whom were arrested and later released during negotiations– tried to subvert troops of tank units stationed in the Dacca cantonment (military area) about six miles (nine kms ) from the palace, he said. Three infantry battalions then moved from the cantonment into the city, blocked all entrances to the cantonment and seized Dacca air base and the airport.
By this time–two hours after the counter coup started–two companies of troops had arrived to guard the palace. In contacts by telephone, the counter-coup leaders demanded that tanks stationed at the palace and Dacca racecourse should offload their ammunition and be sent back to garages in the cantonment.
The president turned down the demand and said he would negotiate, “but not at gunpoint,” Col Farook said. Col Farook said he asked the president’s permission to counter-attack, but he refused. “There will be no fighting,” he quoted the president as saying “if they want to run the country so much, they are welcome to run the country, but there must be no bloodshed.” Around 5:30 a.m. a helicopter armed with rockets made “threatening passes” over the tanks stationed at the racecourse, Col Farook said. Half an hour later, a Mig-21 armed with missiles made “mock strafing runs” over the tanks at supersonic speed. The tanks, equipped with anti-aircraft missiles, were ordered not to open fire.
Contacts continued between the rival factions, with situation at stalemate, until three in the afternoon, Col Farook said. “Apparently, President Mustaque Ahmed told the countercoup leaders if you want to run the country so much, let me and these officers leave the country. They refused to let him go, but said they would allow the officers to leave, Col Farook said.
Col Farook said that after the August 15 coup, he and other officers behind it relinquished their commands immediately and became aides of the president.
“We acted mainly as his eyes and ears. If he’d given a bit more notice to it, he would not be in this trouble,” he added. He said he himself had drawn up the tactical plan for the coup. President Mushtaque knew roughly what was going to happen, but not the plan. He said he regretted “the unnecessary killings” during the coup. But asked whether he regretted the killing of Mujib, he said, “no– not him… they (the late president and a few people every close to him) had to go. “But we had no intention of killing any other individuals.”
* Trouble In Bangladesh: Mosharraf Ousted, Rahman Restored. 1975 November 6, 23:00. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
Radio Bangladesh just carried an announcement that Major General Ziaur Rahman, forced out as chief of army staff on November 3, has taken over as chief martial law administrator. According to the embassy’s Bangalee political assistant, Major General Khalid Mosharraf, who had replaced Zia, may well have been killed in the fighting which began three and one-half hours ago. We have, however, no rpt no confirmation of this report.
* Confirmation of Ziaur Rahman’s control. 1975 November 7, 01:10. Secret. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
Mahbule Alam Chashi called ambassador at 0630 hours this morning, November 7, to say that, as we knew, General Ziaur Rahman has taken charge as martial law administrator. He said the fighting was over, the forces of Ziaur Rahman were in complete control of the city, and the firings to be head now were celebratory.
Chashi also said that Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed has been taken to the radio station where he was consulting with forces loyal to Ziaur who were asking him to resume the presidency. He had not yet reached a decision. He added that, in view of this situation, there would be repercussions among other countries, and therefore wanted us to be informed. Department may pass as desired.
* Trouble In Bangladesh: Zia In, Mosharraf Out. 1975 November 7, 01:30. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
Troops loyal to ousted chief of army staff, Major General Ziaur Rahman, moved against his successor, newly promoted Major General Khalid Mosharraf at approximately 0100 this morning (November 7). There was considerable gunfire, punctuated by mortar blasts, at the Dacca cantonments as the night passed. Shortly before 0400 Radio Bangladesh announced that Ziaur Rahman had been named chief martial law administrator, thus taking over control of Bangladesh.
There has been considerable movement of military throughout Dacca. Troops have been in heavy evidence in outlying Gulshan, which lies parallel to the Dacca Cantonment. Other troops have been moving through the city. We do not rpt not yet know what resistance may have been encountered from forces loyal to Mosharraf. We suspect, as of this moment, that it could not rpt not have been extensive. From the embassy we can, at this moment (0620) see large numbers of trucks filled with soldiers who are firing into the air as they are acclaimed by jubilant crowds.
This morning’s putsch seems to have aroused a degree of enthusiasm not rpt not observed on either August 15 or November 3.
Zia has just broadcast a brief address in which he said that the armed services and the people had called upon him to serve as chief martial law administrator. He said that he had accepted this responsibility as well as that of chief of all armed forces. After stating his intention to fulfill his responsibilities, he urged all Bangalees to get on with their work, stressing that ports, factories, shops, transport must continue to function.
It now seems quite certain that Khalid Mosharraf is dead.
* Status report from principal secretary of president. 1975 November 7, 08:20. Secret. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
Chashi telephoned me at 1215 to give me a new status report and to try to elicit some form of assurance with respect to any external threat to Bangladesh.
Chashi said that things were now settling down and that they had a very strong expectation that there would be continuity in the government with the present president, Chief Justice A.M. Sayem, remaining in office.
He said president Sayem will continue with the strong backing of all concerned, including former president Moshtaque Ahmed and Major General Ziaur Rahman. This meant, he said, that there was no split within the political or military here and they hoped that this would come as a great relief for all their friends who were interested in Bangladesh’s peace and stability.
While there were various steps that needed to be taken to restore and strengthen the country, both inside and outside, Chashi said they would want assurance from their friends that they would have no external worry so that Bangladesh could achieve the goal of peace and stability.
He said he hoped that an assurance to the effect would be available, adding they were using their forces to achieve internal stability but could not handle any developments from outside.
I said that it was not for me to comment on Bangladesh’s internal arrangements but we certainly endorsed their desire for stability and peace in the area. I said I hoped our record on this was clear enough for them. I said I would of course inform my government of what he had said.
Chashi repeated that they had their eyes focused on settling internal matters and hoped their friends would have their eyes focused outside, and that any assurances would reduce their worries so that they could do the job at hand.
Although Chashi’s formulation was vague, what he clearly had in mind was an assurance from us that we would help deter India from intervening in the current situation. While he also would obviously like some explicit assurance along these lines, I do not see that we need to go beyond my generalized assurance to him.
* Meeting with acting foreign secretary. 1975 November 7, 09:40. Secret. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
Acting foreign secretary Nazrul Islam called in DCM to say he was instructed to request USG support that might checkmate any Indian move and also to convey the worried feelings of Bangladesh government regarding current situation to governments of China and Pakistan.
Nazrul Islam opened with a long emotional description of the demonstrations today by people from all walks of life and by all elements of the armed forces in support of both General Ziaur Rahman and Khondakar Moshtaque Ahmed. He said this wave of spontaneous enthusiasm began to be heard in the early hours of the morning as soon as word began to spread that General Zia would be coming on the air to speak to the people of Bangladesh.
Processions also formed to meet Moshtaque, to take him from detention in the presidential palace to his own house in old Dacca and then along with former minister of state for information Thakur, also just released from detention, to the radio station where both made public appearances and received the cheers and applause of thousands.
He said General Zia’s call on the radio for unity was a further cementing factor, launching more processions around the city to the accompaniment of slogans of support as well as slogans which Nazrul Islam was afraid bore a distinct anti-Indian overtone.
Islam characterized this public mood as a total reversal of that which marked the end of the war of liberation when the mood was explicitly anti-Pakistani and secular.
Now, according to the acting foreign secretary, it is explicitly pro-Pakistani, pro-Islamic, pro-US and pro-west. The BDG is now trying to mobilize the military, political and administrative elements into a unity that will restore peace and calm to the domestic scene.
However, Islam said, the nature of the upsurge will leave no doubt about current public sentiment, and will be obvious to all including all foreign missions. The BDG authorities do not rule out the possibility of direct intervention from across the borders, as well as efforts at local subversion. As regards the latter, he thought the chances were dim, especially as they would have no popular support.
But as regards the international implications, Nazrul Islam said the BDG has instructed him to convey their request for USG support which will be meaningful in check-mating any Indian move. This needed to be given the highest priority as everyone was worried and time was urgent. He said the form or substance of such a response would have to be left to the best discretion of the USG.
He was also instructed to request that the USG convey the feelings of the BDG regarding the situation to the governments of China and Pakistan and, in particular, to request the government of Pakistan to mobilize support from the Muslim countries also.
DCM replied only that he would convey this message as quickly as possible to the department of state.
* Press reaction to Bangladesh developments. 1975 November 7, 13:35. Limited official use. William B. Saxbe (New Delhi). Full text:
The morning press November 7 gave prominent play to the various wire service articles on Bangladesh developments reported reftel which are more emotional than materials appearing thus far. All papers headlined president Sayem’s decision to dissolve parliament. Although the press coverage was out of date by the time the papers appeared on the street because of this morning’s fighting, the editorial comment is significant as further indication of how the GOI evaluates the players in the current drama. We strongly suspect official guidance on editorials but have not confirmed this.
Three of the six New Delhi morning papers editorialized on Bangladesh November 7. Perhaps the strongest language is used by the “Indian Express” which captions its editorial “assassins abroad” and refers to the majors who murdered Mujib and his family as “brutish.” Implying that some foreign power was behind the majors, the paper asks: “how and with the help of which foreign embassy the assassins escaped from Dacca is not yet clear…” “these men are seeking what they call political asylum in the US, Pakistan or other unnamed countries. They did no service to the two countries they named. Their statement only provokes speculation that whether these two countries provided them with inspiration and assistance or not, the perpetrators…are pressing a certain claim to protection from them.” The editorial concludes that it is inconceivable that any country will accept them.
The CPI daily “Patriot” sees the replacement of Mustaque Ahmed as indicative of the restoration of Mujib to this rightful place in Bangladesh history. The “patriot” praises President Sayem as a man with a “great reputation for honesty” and concludes that the people of India wish the new leaders of Bangladesh success.
The unofficial organ of the congress party, “the National Herald,” stated that “this week’s military coup has been no surprise.” The new president will, according to “the national herald,” be largely a “figurehead” with the real political power residing within the military council. The paper urges the council to proceed with its tasks “secure in the knowledge that it has the support not only of the people of Bangladesh but al so of all others who have her good at heart.”
The above editorials were written presumably without the knowledge of the latest struggle within the military which apparently has resulted in Major General Ziaur Rahman’s coming out on top.
* Text of president Sayem’s address to nation. 1975 November 8, 06:35. Unclassified.
“Bismillaher rahmaner rahim. my dear countrymen, brothers and sisters:
“Assalamu alaikum, in my address last night I had given you some idea of the circumstances under which I had to take up the responsibility of the office of the president. I have agreed to continue to carry on the responsibility, of the presidentship at the specific request of Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed despite the fact that there is a spontaneous demand for his resumption of the office of the president. Even though Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed enjoys a countrywide popularity, the example of transfer of power that he has set up is rare in any developing country and is a source of inspiration for us all.
I had thrown some light on the state policy and the method of administration in my address last night. I had also informed you of the efforts to achieve a democratic social order through the rule of law, an impartial administration are free general elections.
Together with our efforts to achieve a democratic social order we must endeavor to strengthen and build up a self-reliant economy. For this is the only way to free our people from the curse of poverty and unemployment.
What we need most at this hour is discipline, hard labor, increase in production in fields and factories and sustained efforts to earn more foreign exchange through increase in volume of exports. Only this way we can check the rising trend of prices and bring about stability in the economy and price level.
All-out efforts by different sections of the people are absolutely essential for building up a happy and prosperous society. For this we must inspire the students and youth to take up constructive work, and we must also provide them with facilities for useful activities to
develop their latent faculties in healthy directions.
Under the changed circumstances we have taken some measures to run the government. a proper martial law administration has been set up. under this set up the president himself assumes the functions of the chief martial law administrator.
There will be three deputy chief martial law administrators to assist him they are: chief of the army staff, major-general Ziaur Rahman, chief of the naval staff, commodore Mosharraf Hussain Khan and chief of the air staff, air vice-marshal M.G. Tawab. There will also be four zonal martial law administrators for the four divisions of the country.
An advisory council will be formed with leaders of the people. This council will advise the government on the basis of the people’s aspirations.
Permanent civil servants will have the responsibility to implement the policies of the government.
It is our firm decision that all political leaders who have been detained solely because of their political beliefs will be released immediately.
In conclusion, I hope imbued with a new sense of duty, we will discharge our responsibilities in our respective fields with honesty and efficiency and will utilise the present opportunities fully. only in this way we can achieve the desired progress in different sectors of life in the shortest possible times.
I firmly believe that with your all-round cooperation, Inshah-allh, we will soon be able to reach our cherished goal. Khuda Hafiz, Bangladesh Zindabad.”
* MFA view of Bangladesh developments. 1975 November 8, 08:25. Confidential. Henry Byroade (Islamabad)
In discussion on morning November 8 with POL counselor, MFA director general (South Asia) Hayat Mehdi said that while any judgement was necessarily premature given both fast-changing circumstances and limited information available to GOP, it was his view that it would be some time before the political situation in Bangladesh reached a new state of equilibrium. He remarked that no one could be certain at this time about military units in outlying areas and called attention to continuing presence of pro-Mujib sentiment as evidenced in Dacca demonstrations earlier in week. He was grateful for the information we had been able to share with MFA during week.
Mehdi made it clear that GOP preferred Ziaur Rahman to Khalid Moshtaraff as de facto power in BD. He said it was generally felt at MFA that Moshtaraff had been “anti-Pakistani” (read pro-Indian). (this view had surfaced at MFA Thursday evening when Moshtaraff had evidently come out on top and was reflected in some press editorials Friday morning which warned against changes in the “non-aligned” foreign policy established by Mushtaque Ahmed.) Like others at MFA we have talked to, Mehdi provided only flimsy evidence to back this assessment of Moshtaraff’s alleged political sympathies.
Mehdi said that while he was somewhat concerned about the contents of statements made by pm Gandhi and an MEA spokesman about BD situation, he though Indian intervention there most unlikely at this time. He said that GOI would have little to gain and much to lose by any overt move. He noted that in light of her presently strong position domestically, Mrs. Gandhi did not need such a move politically and would be aware of danger that it could easily backfire. He said he believed that in any event Indians would make no move until there was some immediate cause for their intervention such as flight of Hindu.
On question of Pak-BD diplomatic relations, Mehdi said GOP would now await confirmation from BDG that candidate already given Pak agreement as first Bengalee ambassador to Islamabad would still be coming here. Once this received, GOP would send its own nomination to Dacca: Mehdi said short list now before pm. Meanwhile, offloading of second Pak relief supply ship is continuing at Chittagong and third ship is being loaded at Karachi.
MFA has to date issued no statement on Bangladesh developments and Mehdi gave no indication it planned to break this careful public silence.
* Last week in Bangladesh in retrospect. 1975 November 10, 10:10. Secret. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
It may be useful to offer a capsule summary of the chaotic events of last week in Bangladesh which saw three different governments, much killing, and the avoidance of civil war, with attendant possibility of Indian intervention, by the narrowest of margins. This account is based on the best information available to the embassy from all sources.
The confrontation between brigadier Mosharraf, chief of the army general staff, who had been embittered by his failure to share in the promotions received by some of his colleagues after the assassination of president Mujib by the majors on August 15 and who was also believed to be on a list of army officers to be investigated which had recently been drawn up by the majors, began in the early hours of Monday morning, November 3.
We do not know positively whether Mosharaff was the architect of the confrontation, as many contend, or whether, as one good source has told told us, he simply went along with subordinates who were determined to end the special role of the majors in the Moshtaque government, a role which had resulted, among other things, in the harassment of some of the military officers. This source also held that one of Mosharraf’s objectives–although he was undoubtedly mindful of the personal glory that might await him–was to take control of his subordinates’ plans in such a way as to avoid major bloodshed.
Mosharraf and his allies quickly took control early Monday morning of the army cantonment as well as most of the city of Dacca and pressed their confrontation with the Moshtaque government by flying a Mig fighter and armed helicopter over the city in a show of strength which was also intended to intimidate the tank crews loyal to the government.
Against this background, Mosharraf levied four demands on Moshtaque: 1) that Mosharraf replace major general Ziaur Rahman, his personal rival, as chief of staff; 2) that the majors be returned to regular army discipline; 3) that the tank forces loyal to the government be disarmed; and 4) that Moshtaque remain in office.
Outgunned and apparently intend above all on avoiding bloodshed, which would also have invited Indian intervention, Moshtaque eventually yielded after negotiating during the course of a long day a compromise with Mosharraf by which the majors and some of their colleagues, to whom Moshtaque was indebted for his presidency, were permitted to depart Bangladesh.
Before this compromise had been reached, the Moshtaque government had called on the army forces at Comilla to come to its aid but had been refused on the grounds that the Comilla commander would only respond to the orders of the chief of army staff (who was then under arrest) or the chief of the general staff (i.e., Mosharraf).
The confrontation brought another bloody result which, we have good reason to believe, had been part of an earlier contingency plan to be carried out in the event that Moshtaque were to be killed, i.e., the murder of his former colleagues in the Awami party leadership who were now his political enemies–former prime minister Mansoor Ali, former vice president Syed Nazrul Islam, former prime minister, finance minister and indiophile Tajuddin Ahmed, and former industries minister Kamaruzzaman.
These leaders were killed, evidently at the order of one or more of the majors, early Monday morning at Dacca jail. The event added a note of mystery to Mosharraf’s acquiescence later in the day to the departure of the majors, one version having it that Mosharraf did not yet know of the deed when the plane left Dacca at midnight Monday. Many observers also noted that one effect of the murders was to remove the logical leadership of any pro-Indian government.
With the explosive situation defused to a degree by the departure of the majors, negotiations between Moshtaque and Mosharraf continued on Tuesday and Wednesday, resulting in Mosharraf’s designation as chief of staff late Tuesday night, and eventually in Moshtaque’s resignation early Thursday morning with the simultaneous announcement that a non-political figure, chief justice A.S.M. Sayem, would be appointed president. Sayem was sworn in on Thursday and promptly dissolved the parliament. reports, which we accept, were rife that the cabinet had already resigned in protest against the murder of the former government leaders.
But it now became clear that Mosharraf’s assumption of power in the army was unpalatable to most of his fellow officers and enlisted ranks, both because general Zia evidently held a much wider popular following among them but also, and very importantly, because Mosharraf was widely seen, whether accurately or not, as an instrument of Indian policy. This perception was buttressed by the pro-Mujib procession on Tuesday and Wednesday’s hartal to protest the killings at Dacca jail.
The lower ranks revolted in the early hours of friday morning, quickly overthrowing the Mosharraf forces and, according to virtually all accounts, killing Mosharraf. Extensive firing went throughout the city all night and all during the day Friday, most of it celebratory after Mosharraf was ousted. one authoritative source has told us that only about thirty were killed in the overthrow; other reports have reached us which put the figure in the hundreds.
The successful revolt of the lower ranks now brought a new problem, the rampant indiscipline of the enlisted men, many of whom now turned on officers against whom they might have grudges and others began presenting demands on the army leadership for a better deal in their future treatment. Widespread reports were current throughout the weekend that large numbers of military officers had fled or were at least staying away from the cantonment out of fear of the rampaging sepoys, and several reports reached us of the murder of military officers and of their wives.
Meanwhile the post-Mosharraf government took shape in a meeting early Friday morning between general Zia, Moshtaque and presumably other principal aides. Moshtaque was offered the presidency anew but declined on the ground that, in the still explosive situation, the country required a non-political, non-controversial president. Consequently the decision was reached to keep justice Sayem in the presidency and to turn over to him as well the functions of chief of the martial law administration, a role which had been filled briefly by general Zia. We were pointedly assured that these arrangements enjoyed full support both within the military and within the political leadership so that the way was now clear for the restoration of stability in the country.
As of Monday morning, November 10, the situation had returned to an apparent normalcy, with international air service resumed on Sunday, but the general uneasiness was still being fed by reports of continued killings among the military and of possible Indian actions along the border. The prospect was for, at best, a continued state of tension and uncertainty.
Three conclusions implicit in the above account should be underline. the first is that the actions of the main participants in the coup and counter-coup appear to have been non-political, except in the sense that Mosharraf had the additional disadvantage of appearing to be pro-Indian. the army forces which overthrew Moshtaque and the majors appear to have acted primarily out of a sense of grievance against the majors. the counter-coup was the work of lower ranks who far preferred Zia to Mosharraf and who were also concerned where Mosharraf’s loyalty might lie. We have no reason to believe that any of the regimes of the past week were anti-American, pro-Indian, or pro-soviet in character.
The second is that we have no evidence that India was responsible for any of the week’s actions.
The third is the confirmation of how strongly and pervasively anti-India antipathies are felt here – from the top of the leadership to the lowest groups of the society. Although we have no evidence that Mosharraf was pro-Indian, and some that he was not, he was widely identified as such and the wild celebrations here of his overthrow carried distinctly anti-Indian overtones.
* Majors reportedly seeking return to Bangladesh. 1975 November 13, 10:15. Confidential. By Davis Eugene Boster. Full text:
An American businessman and former employee of Major Rashid’s wife returned to Dacca November 13 from Bangkok and supplied the following information concerning the desire of the majors to return to Bangladesh. Source stated he had met with majors in Bangkok.
The majors are very eager to return to Bangladesh, said source, and have been in regular contact with former president Moshtaque Ahmed and Major General Zia; both of the latter had telephoned the majors November 12. Source bore letters from majors for delivery to Ahmed, Zia and others in Dacca.
According to source, all the majors will be permitted to return to Bangladesh except Farooq and Rashid who were too prominently associated with the August 15 killing of Mujib’s family.
* Article in Congress party paper implicates ambassador Boster in Bangladesh events. 1975 November 19, 06:21. William B. Saxbe (New Delhi)
Congress party Calcutta daily Jugantar (Bengali language) November 18 carries following story datelined Dacca on front page under headline “Main actor of Chile now in Dacca:” A lot of people here know the American ambassador David Boster in Dacca. Well built, 35 to 40, Boster took charge soon after Bangladesh came into being. He is always busy. He always carries an attache case which he never leaves. For a long time, he was seen around many places in Dacca including the cantonment. From time to time, he used to have journalists for dinner. all night parties like these at times had military officers. On August 15 happened the most dishonorable act of history. Mujib was killed with his entire family. Then came the military uprising brought about by Brig Khalid Musharoff. But Musharoff was tardy in taking decision.
Maj. gen. Zia Rehman with the help of army garrison in Comilla and Jessore captured power. Boster is now very busy but his activities are now confined among the pro-Zia circle. Didn’t Mr. David Boster have a significant role to play in what recently happened in Bangladesh? Of course, answer would be long in coming. But the information is that this Mr. Boster was the charge de affaires in the U.S. embassy when the Chilean army organized the armed uprising by killing the popular president Allende.
On learning of this article this morning I called GOWB chief secretary Gupta to express serious concern over a Calcutta newspaper’s–particularly one associated with the Congress party–carrying an article implicating the united states ambassador in Dacca with the unfortunate events in Bangladesh, which I said are deeply regretted by all. I recalled that I had some time back spoken to chief secretary about press stories alleging USG involvement in the murder of Sheikh Mujib and had been gratified when shortly thereafter press had ceased carrying such stories. I said allegations made personally against an American diplomatic officer were particularly offensive and I very much hoped chief secretary could take action as I assumed he had previously done. Gupta said he had not seen the article in question but would look at it right away and “do whatever is appropriate.”