Syed Ziaul Haque

Zillul Haque was taken aback to hear the frantic voice of his daughter-in-law over the phone mid- January. His son Syed Ziaul Haque could not be found. He lived in such a protected place that it was hardly possible that he could go missing! He thought his son was stuck in work somewhere and would return.

However, his son was not returning. After two days the father came to know from newspaper reports that his son had gone into hiding. There were various headlines in the newspapers on 20 January 2012. Prothom Alo's headlines read "Attempt to oust the government fails, army resists attempted coup, two arrested. "

The father of this brilliant Bangladesh Army officer, who was awarded the Sword of Honour and two gold medals, turned into a father of traitor within a span of a short time.

Zillul Haque talked to Prothom Alo on Sunday. He is the father of Syed Ziaul Haque, who was once a brilliant army officer and later became the chief of the banned militant organisation Ansar al-Islam's armed wing.

This sacked Major Zia is a convict in the murder cases of science writer Avijit Roy, Jagriti Prokashon's Foysal Arefin Dipon and Kalabagan's Julhas-Tonoy.

The US state department had declared million US dollars for information about him on 20 December. The Bangladesh government, however, declared Tk 2 million for tracing Zia in 2016.

Till Monday last, there is no information about Syed Ziaul Haque with the counter terrorism and transnational crime of police. CTTC chief Asaduzzaman confirmed this to Prothom Alo. The law enforcement did not get any information about him after the arrest of an associate of Zia in 2020.

Zillul Haque said he had not been able to meet his son since December 2011. He along with wife and daughter went from Baridhara residence to Ziaul Haque's DOHS residence in Mirpur to meet his grandchildren. Afterwards he did not meet his son, and didn't even talk over the phone. This fugitive in the past had scored highest numbers in all areas, including parade, drill, shooting and studies and became the best in the military academy. His 73-year-old father is distraught and angry.

Speaking to Prothom Prothom, Zillul Haque said, "Zia is my son, but we were different. Everyone must abide by the law. I cannot support any violation of the law. If you ask me, I will say Zia was not pious, he was a bigot and an extremist."

An explanation was given about Zia at a press conference at the Army Headquarters on 19 January. The issue of bigotry came up there too. Army personal services department then director Brigadier General Md Masud Razzak said, "Recently at the instigation of some expatriate Bangladeshis, some former and current army officers cashing in on bigotry tried to create disorder in the army to disrupt the democratic process. But the Bangladesh Army did not allow that to be succeed."

It was also said in that press conference that two army officers were arrested based on information. A serving officer fled. That officer is the today's accused fugitive Syed Ziaul Haque.

Syed Ziaul Haque, son of Zilul Haque, was born on 6 December 1978 in Moulvibazar. He would work in Saudi Arabia while his wife and children were back home. He left them home to take care of his old parents.

As a child, it was difficult to manage Syed Ziaul Haque till he was eight to nine years. He was very restless. When he was ten, he began to calm down. But he was also stubborn. He was good at studies, it was not difficult to get admission to Sylhet cadet college.

Zillul along with wife and a daughter migrated to Saudi Arabia. The son went to Saudi Arabia several times on leave from the cadet college. Them there was a problem with the visa and he was unable to go to Saudi Arabia.

Zillul thought it was better to keep him at the cadet college rather than bringing to Saudi Arabia. He would study properly and would be able to have a disciplined life. It was this perception that led him to decide that Syed Ziaul Haque would go to his grandmother's house in Mostafapur of Moulvibazar during the holidays.

When they came home from Saudi Arabia, they met their son, sometimes for an hour on the parents day of cadet college. But a distance grew between father and son. In the meantime, Zillul Haque grew suspicious over certain incidents.

Zillul learnt his son had become excessively religious. Cadet colleges have their own rules and regulations. His son called other cadets for prayers, defying the rules. The managers were angry. He was doing brilliantly in his studies, sports and other activities. Zia passed SSC in 1995 and HSC in 1997 with credit. He then joined the army.

Zillul returned home with his wife and two daughters in 1999, three days before son Zia was commissioned upon completion of the 41th long course. The son was the topper here, bagging sword of honour and two gold medals.

Syed Ziaul Haque was first posted in Rangamati’s Marisha. He then worked in Dhaka, Cumilla and Chattogram. After he was promoted to captain, his family married him off in a grandiose ceremony. His wife had a Bachelors and Master's degree in political science from Dhaka University. His father-in-law was a judge. They were from Sylhet. Everything was going fine. Zia also became the father of a son.

When the son was three, his wife was diagnosed with blood cancer. She was taken to Thailand for treatment; she did not survive. She died at the Combined Military Hospital.

Zillul started getting annoyed by the behaviour of son Syed Ziaul Haque from beforehand. A man with a PhD degree would come to his son’s residence regularly. Zia had little spare time at the afternoon. That person discussed Holy Quran and tafseer. He was no Islamic scholar, he just downloaded information from internet. But, Zia could not be held back from his company.

As Zia insisted, Zillul himself also joined the discussion for several days and asked some basic questions. That person could not give the right answer. So, he did not join them anymore.

Zillul told Prothom Alo, “I had told my friend I did not feel good about him. Could the military be informed anyhow on the matter? ”

Zillul Haque was called by the authorities after the press conference on the coup attempt. Did he inform the authorities about that person? In reply, he told Prothom Alo, “I did not need to tell anything. Other people noticed the excess time he spent with that person too.”

How did other people notice it and when? In reply, he said that certain person conducted all religious rituals including janaza after Zia’s first wife died. “Zia’s father-in-law and I were there but we could not go near at all.”

Syed Ziaul Haque married again shortly after his first wife died. This marriage happened at the will of that suspected person. The bride was from Sabujbag of Patuakhali and his disciple. Zia pressured his parents to get him marries to this woman.

Zillul had learned if they do not agree to Zia marrying with this woman he would marry her without them. Finally, the marriage took place. Zia has a son and a daughter from this wife.

Syed Ziaul Haque came to Dhaka to join a long course fleeing from the cantonment. He first lived in Banani DOHS and then Mirpur with his family.

According to the press briefing by the army headquarters, a former military official contacted Syed Ziaul Haque on 13 December 2012. On 22 December, Zia asked another army official to join him. When the army official informed the appropriate authorities, Zia’s leave and transfer order was cancelled, and he was instructed to join the log area headquarter of Dhaka. But, he never returned.

Zillul said he has no news of his son since mid-December of that year. Since then, whatever he learned he knew it from various court arguments as well as verdicts in various killings.

Zillul had a distance with his son since Zia’ childhood but what does the mother say. Has she not been anxious over her only son? In reply, Zillul said, “Yes, she used to cry, but I am a very tough man. I have convinced her, told her everything. Law of the land must be obeyed.”

Zillul further said his wife had felt guilty. He told her that their son was in a disciplined and protected place; he is an adult. They are not partners in his crimes.

Asked whether he becomes annoyed with all the questions and bitter remarks, Zillur replied he gets annoyed sometimes. “Again, I have to tell the people too. I tell the guardians please, do not stop looking after your sons even when they are adults,” he added.

This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam and Hasanul Banna