During the government of Ershad too, the killers continued to be given promotions in the embassies abroad and receive all sorts of assistance. Not only that, but with the support of the Ershad government, they returned to the country and formed political parties, including Progotisheel Gonotantrik Shakti and Freedom Party. They were even facilitated to join the parliament.

After 1990, the Khaleda Zia government in both of its terms extended cooperation to them. Her government did not allow the Supreme Court to complete the trial of Bangabandhu's killers.

Diplomatic postings

We have information that after 8 June 1976, 12 of the accused killers involved in the 15 August assassination were appointed to various diplomatic missions of the country overseas. Mid-November 1975, they were living in Colonel Gaddafi's Libya. They were given diplomatic postings in various countries. They were 1. Lt. Col. Shariful Haq (Dalim), first secretary, China, 2. Lt. Col. Aziz Pasha, first secretary, China, 3. Maj. AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, first secretary, Algeria, 4. Maj. Bazlul Huda, second secretary, Pakistan, 5. Maj. Shahriar Rashid, second secretary, Indonesia, 6. Maj. Rashid Chowdhury, second secretary, Saudi Arabia, 7. Maj. Nur Chowdhury, second secretary, Iran, 8. Maj. Shariful Hossain, second secretary, Kuwait, 9. Captain Kismat Hashem, third secretary, Abu Dhabi, 10. Lt. Khairuzzaman, third secretary, Egypt, 11. Najmul Hossain, third secretary, Canada, 12. Lt. Abdul Majed, third secretary, Senegal. Foreign ministry official at the time and later foreign secretary, Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, had taken their appointment letters and handed these over to them in Libya.

Prior to that, in February-March of 1976, Brig. Gen. (later Maj. Gen.) Nurul Islam (Shishu) went from Dhaka to Libya for discussions and negotiations with them. This was revealed by sources within the foreign ministry at the time.

However, while 12 of the army officers were willing to take up these posts, the two main figures of the 15 August killing, Col. Syed Faruque Rahman and Col. Khandaker Abdur Rashid, refused to compromise with the government and take up such postings. Libya's president Col. Gaddafi had provided them with all sorts of support and cooperation.

After president Zia, even during the rule of Ershad's government, Bangabandhu's killers were posted as diplomats in various countries around the world and were even given promotions. Foreign ministry sources said that Maj. Dalim was sent from Beijing to Hong Kong as Charge d'Affaires. He was later appointed as Charge d'Affaires to Poland, but the socialist government in Poland at the time refused to accept him. He was then sent to Kenya as high commissioner.

Maj. Nur at the time was Charge d'Affaires in Brazil. Earlier he had been counselor in Algeria. Maj. Rashed Chowdhury was counsellor, Tokyo. Maj. AKM Mohiuddin was deputy chief at the embassy in Saudi Arabia. The Benazir Bhutto government in Pakistan did not accept him in the same post in Karachi. Maj. Shariful Hossain was Charge d'Affaires in Oman.

All of them were promoted as ministers in the foreign ministry. At one point, Lt. Najmul Hossain and Captain Kismat Hashem left their jobs in the embassies abroad. They took up Canadian citizenship and are reportedly living there.

Lt. Col. Abdul Majed came back to Dhaka and joined the planning ministry. At one point he fled the country and there was no news of him for long. Suddenly on 6 April last year the police said that he had been arrested in Gabtali, Dhaka. On 11 April, the execution order against him was implemented. He was hanged.

Their aim was to carry out a coup, kill Ziaur Rahman and establish 'Islamic socialism' in the country

After the killing of August 1975, Faruque and Rashid several times attempted to carry out a coup by stirring unrest within the army.

We later came to know that the killers staying abroad - Shariful Haq (Dalim), Aziz Pasha, Bazlul Huda, Nur Chowdhury and others had attempted a coup on 17 June 1980 in Dhaka cantonment. The army had learnt about this advance and managed to abort the attempt. Col. Didarul and certain political activists were arrested and tried under martial law. We learnt about all this from political sources in Dhaka.

Army investigations found the involvement of Shariful Haq (Dalim), Aziz Pashha, Bazlul Huda and Nur Chowdhury's involvement in the attempt. The authorities also found evidence of the direct involvement Faruque and Rashid with them. They had wanted to carry out this coup along with left-wing extremists. The killers had planned their plots in May 1979 in Islamabad, and later, at various times, in Tehran and Ankara. They held several meetings in Dhaka too. They had their final meeting in May 1980 in Dhaka where Dalim, Aziz Pasha and Bazlul Huda were present. They were joined by Col. Faruque Rahman who had just been released from jail.

Killers attempt coups

Incidentally, in 1977 Faruque had secretly come to the country and was living in Banani, Dhaka. He was arrested and sent to jail. Their aim was to carry out a coup, kill Ziaur Rahman and establish 'Islamic socialism' in the country. Further details can be found in Brig. (retd.) Sakhawat Hossain's book 'Bangladesh: Roktakto Odhyay'. Brigadier Sakhawat Hossain (former election commissioner and columnist) was appointed as state prosecutor from the army for the post-uprising trial of the army officers.

After the coup failed, Dalim, Huda and Nur left their respective foreign postings and fled to various countries. Aziz Pasha was arrested in Dhaka. He agreed to be a state witness and was later reinstated in service and sent to Rome as a diplomat. Later he was given posting in the foreign ministry and the finance ministry in Dhaka.

Dalim, Huda and Nur were also reinstated as diplomats in various countries and they were promoted several times. After president Zia, even during the rule of the autocrat Ershad, their service and facilities remained intact.

Other than the coup attempts, there are allegations against these killers of involvement in all sorts of irregularities and even misappropriation of funds. Finally after Awami League formed the government in June 1996, Shariful Haq (Dalim), Aziz Pasha, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, Rashed Chowdhury, Nur Chowdhury and Major Khairuzzaman were dismissed from their jobs for violating service rules.

Participation in politics

It is quite surprising that during autocrat Ershad's rule, the killers Rashid, Faruque, Shahriar and Bazlul Huda were allowed to return to the country and also given the scope to enter politics.

Even after the involvement of Shahriar Rashid and Bazlul Huda in the 17 June 1980 coup was proven, no steps were taken against them and they were allowed to come to Dhaka. They formed the political party, Progotisheel Gonotantrik Shakti. It came to be known that the Ershad government and the intelligence agency were behind this initiative. Bazlul Huda later joined Freedom Party.

We later saw that in 1985, Col Faruque and Col Rashid began political activities in Dhaka under the banner, 'Implementing the ideals of the 15 August revolution.' In 1986, Col. Faruque contested in the election as presidential candidate. On 3 August 1987, at a press conference in Sheraton Hotel, Col. Rashid announced the launch of Freedom Party with Col. Faruque Rahman as president. Bazlul Huda was elected member of parliament in 1988 from the Meherpur-2 seat as a Freedom Party candidate. Earlier, on 16 December 1983, Col. Rashid and Col. Faruque had published a book, 'Muktir Path', describing their political aims and objectives.

It was clear that autocratic Ershad wanted to use Freedom Party as a militant political party to foil the democratic forces. After Freedom Party was launched, at the orders of Col. Rashid, Freedom Party cadres on 7 November opened fire from a Pajero at a meeting being held on the National Press Club premises and a young boy was killed in the incident. On 11 February the next year, a businessman was similarly killed in Mymensingh when Bazlul Huda and his cadres opened fire. The newspapers had reported on these incidents at the time.

During the rules of president Zia, autocrat Ershad and Khaleda Zia's government, the trial of Bangabandhu's killers was kept at bay. The killers, in fact, were given all sorts of protection and support too.

Next, even during the rule of Khaleda Zia, the head of these killers, Rashid, was elected as member of parliament from Cumilla-6 as a Freedom Party candidate in the 15 February 1996 election. He was given a place in the opposition bench in parliament. Faruque and Rashid were involved in all sorts of business at that time. They had even submitted a proposal to Bangladesh Bank to establish a bank in the country. During Khaleda Zia's rule (1991-96), Dalim, Nur Chowdhury, Rashed Chowdhury and others were ambassadors and consul generals in Kenya, Hong Kong and Brazil.

It was learnt from various sources that Faruque and Rashid, while in Libya, had arranged armed training of Freedom Party activists with support from the Libya government. A few hundred young men were given armed training for 3 to 6 months, even 9 months, in Libya. They were trained in all sorts of arms, from pistols to machine guns and other modern weaponry. These trained cadres were Freedom Party's strength. This information was provided by several cadres who were trained in Libya. But there is no report of this matter being investigated by any government.

These activities indicate that Bangabandhu's killers were given all support and facilities during the governments of president Zia, autocrat Ershad and BNP's prime minister Khaleda Zia as well as the opportunity to take up service and diplomatic postings at home and abroad, to do business, become members of parliament and carry out all sorts of criminal activities.

In the two decades after 1975, Bangabandhu's killers conspired against Bangladesh wherever they were in the world. They did this sometimes under the banner of political parties, sometimes aided and abetted by quarters within the armed forces or government. It was only when prime minister Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996 that the conspiracies of this group of Bangabandhu's killers came to a halt.

It must be mentioned here that the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were particularly active during the election of 12 June 1996. Faruque, Rashid, Dalim, Shahriar and the others were engaged in all sorts of plots within the Dhaka cantonment and outside. When news of their activities leaked out, security was beefed up for the caretaker government's chief advisor Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina.

Awami League, under the leadership of the present prime minister Sheikh Hasina, won the 12 June 1996 election and formed the government with the support of Jatiya Party. As soon as the new government was formed, Col. Faruque and Col. Rashid, who were in Dhaka, were arrested. Major Dalim and the others fled overseas before they could be arrested.

The trial

The 7th national parliament on 12 November 1996 passed the proposal to rescind the Indemnity Bill which had obstructed the trial of the killers. That paved the way to the trial of the killing Bangabandu and family.

On 2 October 1996, Mohitul Islam submitted an appeal with the Dhanmondi police station for the trial of the killing of Bangabandhu and family. On 8 November 1998, a lower court sentenced 12 persons to death for the killing. The High Court on 30 April 2001 upheld the verdict. The final verdict was then held up at the Supreme Court because in October 2001, Khaleda Zia won the general election and formed the government. The BNP government once again blocked the way to carrying out the verdict against Bangabandhu's killers.

In 2007 under the caretaker government the judicial procedures began again and one of the convicted persons was brought back from the US. Then again at the outset of 2009, when Awami League came to power again, the way to implement the death sentence of Bangabandhu's killers was cleared.

Thus it has been observed that most of the time during the rules of president Zia, autocrat Ershad and Khaleda Zia's government, the trial of Bangabandhu's killers was kept at bay. The killers, in fact, were given all sorts of protection and support too.

(This report, based on a previous write-up has been developed further with new information, changes and modifications.)

* Matiur Rahman is the editor of Prothom Alo