Tuesday 29 October 2013

BDR Carnage - Inquiry Report by A Brigadier General


The day before the mutiny at the Peelkhana headquarters of the BDR started, I came back to Dhaka after a short visit to my district town in North Bengal. I have retired from the Bangladesh army almost a decade ago. Since then, I have been living the life of a pensioner, enjoying a life of leisure playing golf, reading books and journals and doing a bit of charitable work. On that day, as usual, early in the morning after Fazar prayer and a quick cup of tea, I went to play golf and came back home around half past nine. After shower, while having breakfast with my wife and browsing the morning paper, there came a telephone call. My wife took the call at the other end of the drawing-dinner. There was nothing unusual in having a telephone call or two at this hour of the day. I continued sipping tea and going through the newspaper without lending my ear to the conversation my wife was having. But she came back to the dinning table wearing an anxious look on her otherwise radiant face. I gave her an asking glance.

It was Nazma, our niece who lives in Dhanmondi, on the phone. Apparently, a mutiny has broken out at the BDR headquarters, next to Dhanmondi. Apart from giving us the news, Nazma was anxious to know whether our only son, a lieutenant colonel posted at the GHQ in Dhaka, was likely to be on the harm’s way. Even if there was a mutiny and the army were to be sent to suppress it, there was no particular reason to worry about the safety of our son. My wife and I had spoken to him the previous evening. He was due to leave Dhaka for Comilla early in the morning on official duty. Moreover, had he remained at the GHQ, it would have been most unlikely for him to be sent out to battle against the mutineers.

However, a mutiny by the principal para- military force of the country, if true, was an altogether different matter. It was an outrageous act of indiscipline, which no government could conceivably tolerate. Moreover, in the given political condition of our crisis-ridden country, it could not have been seen anything other than an ominous disloyalty to the newly elected govern-ment. It deserved to be quelled quickly, as was done in the case of the Ansar mutiny at Shafipur several years ago, regardless of whether their grievances had any merit or not. My immediate reaction was to rush to the TV to make sure that the news was true. After all, Dhaka is a city of wild rumours and since the national election it had become more so. The sordid news was, indeed, all over the BTV, the government owned channel.

I was sure in my mind that soon the army would be sent in and the mutineers would be quickly brought to their knees. Nothing of its kind happened. Instead, in the afternoon we saw the PM personally meeting the leaders of the mutiny at her official residence and offering them a blanket amnesty, together with an assurance that all their grievances would be looked at sympathetically. The Home Minister and other grandees of the government even went inside the BDR HQ to speak to the mutineers and oversee their agreed surrender. A number of mutineers were even allowed to justify their action before the TV camera. The next day we learnt, that instead of surrendering all the mutineers had melted away from the unguarded Peelkhana in the darkness of the night, leaving a horrific scene of utter carnage behind. Understandably, the army officers were outraged by the needless loss of so many colleagues and friends and the country was shocked by the despicable barbarity of the mutineers towards their commanding officers and their wives and daughters.

From the beginning, the government’s handl-ing of the mutiny looked strange. I do not know of any mutiny, military or paramilitary, any where in the world, which had been dealt with in the manner the Bangladesh government had dealt with the BDR mutiny. The government treated it, as if it was a kind of industrial dispute involving a discontent unarmed workforce with no one’s life and limb on the harm’s way. It was, to say the least, injudicious and inept. Although as a military man I had no doubt that the army, with a show of readiness by the air force to bomb if necessary, could have ended the mutiny within half an hour, I, like many at that point in time, thought this softness of the leaders of the govern-ment towards the mutineers was due mainly to their inexperience in handling such a matter as well as a well-meaning but misplaced eagerness to avoid bloodshed, borne out of their populist bend of mind. Furthermore, I thought the PM’s insecure grip on power and her deep-seated distrust of the army may have also played a part in her velvety approach towards ending the mutiny. I could not be more wrong.

The way the government proceeded with the inquiry with three parallel bodies and even before having their reports started talking loudly about de-linking the BDR from the army under a newly created officer crops recruited through the CSC and resetting it up under a new name and a new uniform started to give the sordid mutiny a new complexion. Moreover, the new DG BDR’s promotion to the rank of Major General and his hasty journey to New Delhi for the expressed purpose of thanking the Indian BSF for their magnanimity in protecting our borders during the mutiny looked odd to me. Even if that was his purpose, instead of leaving his station where his constant presence was needed, he could have telephoned or sent a letter of thanks to his Indian counterpart. If on the other hand, our government wanted to thank the government of India, the DG BDR was, as per protocol, patently a wrong person. More importantly, the mystrious absence of Sohel Taj, the Deputy Home Minister, from the day of the mutiny onward and the subsequent mysterious dash of Jahangir Kabir Nanak, the Deputy LGRD Minister who had acted as the principal negotiator on behalf of the PM during the mutiny, out of the country immediately after the arrest of Torab Ali, the AL president of Ward 48 of Dhaka and a former BDR Havildar, by the RAB utterly perplexed me. My disquiet grew further when a young relative of mine brought to my attention an investigative report in a New York based electronic media. It set out a detailed accusation against Sajeeb Wajed Joy, the PM’s son, of masterminding the mutiny together with a number of foreign intelligence agencies. It was difficult to think that Joy would seek to undermine the authority of his mother’s government. But a few years back he was at the head of a failed move to replace her from the leadership of the AL. Besides; in Bangladesh politics there is hardly anything straightforward. After all, our political stratagems have always been modelled on the game of chess. I felt, I must find out the truth, however unpalatable, for the sake of my beloved country.

I decided what I was going to do: start my own one-man inquiry commission. I started teasing out the relevant facts from a number of highly placed friends within the civil service, army and police by way of casual conversation about the mutiny and its inquiries. Through a writer friend, I also obtained from a prominent national daily a photocopy of all the relevant media clippings that it had. I then subjected all the gathered facts to systematic crosschecking and analysis. The findings were astounding and their implications profound and disturbing. To be double sure, I took my main findings in the form of a number of disjointed information to one of the current leaders of the army, who had served under me as a young captain and to whom I remained a well regarded fatherly figure ever since. I choose him not simply because he would never betray me. It was also dictated by the twin facts that he happened to be the most discerning source of information within the present army high-ups and my visiting him at his home would not raise any eye brow, since we regularly visit each others’ family. After reading my list, he handed them back with a gentle smile. When I asked, which of these he would cross out as untrue, he simply said ‘not many’. I did not see any further need to pursue the matter with him: I have what I wanted. After a little while I got up and bade his wife and children farewell. As usual, he walked me up to the car. But before taking his leave and closing the car door, I heard him saying in a low voice: ‘Believe me Sir, like you I’m deeply worried about the country’. During my drive back home, a dark fear overtook me, I started praying silently: Oh God Almighty, save this poor country of ours.

This small booklet is the result of my self-appointed one-man inquiry commission on the Peelkhana massacre. Obviously it is not the whole truth. Nonetheless, it is the bare bone of the truth. I am confident if and when we are able to know more about the incident, this bare bone truth would continue to stand up.

In bringing this bare bone truth and its ill omen to light, I have taken grave personal risk. This I have undertaken for the sake of our beloved country and its 140 million freedom loving people. If it serves as a wakeup call to the patriots of Bangladesh, regardless of their creed, vocation and/or political affiliation and helps them to see the dangers awaiting us all with added clarity, I shall consider my toils and risk taking worthwhile. Let Allah, the Almighty, be our witness and protector.

1. The Plan

The campaign for the Peelkhana mutiny and massacre began in earnest in November 2008, nearly two months before the general election and Sheikh Hasina’s rise to power. Surprisingly, it was done with her and her son Sajeeb Wajed Joy’s consent and connivance.

It is worth recollecting that the caretaker government of the former bureaucrat and World Bank official Fakharuddin Ahmed, which the elected government of Sheikh Hasina had replaced, was put in power by the CAS General Moeen U. Ahmed, in violation of the country’s constitution as well as his oath of commission, at the behest of a cabal of Indian, US, UK and EU diplomats. It came in the wake of Sheikh Hasina’s violent political campaign and, more importantly, with her agreement. She not only blessed it by her cheerful presence at its oath taking ceremony, on several occasions publicly described it as being the ‘fruit’ of her political campaign.

General Moeen and some of his foreign instigators had, on the other hand, justified their action by claiming that they were motivated solely by the desire to save Bangladesh from a civil war. It was all bunkum. These diplomats, for their own national interests, wanted a weak and subservient government in Bangladesh and used Sheikh Hasina’s violent campaign as their handle. They got Moeen’s service by promising him the ultimate prize, provided he could manage to crown himself ‘democratically’. That means he were to

(1) Vanish both Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina;
(2) Buy or drive out their ardent supporters out of politics; and
(3) Assemble his own climbing ladder in the form of a new party.

The much-publicised anti-corruption drive against politicians was meant to facilitate these. He was patently unsuccessful in achieving any of these objectives.

Meanwhile, since the life of the caretaker government could not be prolonged beyond 2008 without risking wide spread disaffection, even upheaval, the involved foreign powers were left with no option, other than to choose either Sheikh Hasina or Khaleda Zia. With India pushing, they went for the flexible Sheikh Hasina. It was also a relief for Moeen, for he had much to fear from Khaleda Zia, who had made him CAS and whose two sons were made physical wrecks by his henchmen. With the real election done, the general election went ahead.

It was in this context, preparations for the Peelkhana mutiny were taken up in earnest by the Indian RAW and the Israeli MOSSAD in the full knowledge of, and possibly with a nod from, the USA’s CIA. An article bearing the name of Sajeeb Wajed Joy and a certain Carl Siovacco, which was published in the USA in November 2008, signalled Joy and his mother’s readiness to go ahead with the planned massacre. In that article Joy accused Bangladesh army and other military and paramilitary forces of recruiting thousands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists.

This type of patently anti-state concoction by the son of a prospective PM, and that too, in the middle of a general election campaign, would have, elsewhere in the world, ruined the electoral prospect of the party and dashed its leader’s hope of gaining power. But not in Bangladesh; here Sheikh Hasina and her AL have always claimed the sole proprietorship of the Liberation War of 1971 and with it, her and her party’s right to run the country as they deem fit. In fact, to strengthen their claim they had often accused their opponents as unpatriotic and anti-liberationists. Moreover, as soon as the USA started its crusade against the so-called Islamic terrorism and both India and Israel joined in that crusade, they latched in and became its ardent subscriber. The phantom of the JMB mischief-makers enabled them to harp on the baseless fear of Islamic terrorism in Bangladesh.

In fact, Joy in his article maintained this very line and emphasised that the army and other paramilitary forces of Bangladesh needed to be cleaned up of the Islamic terrorists and reshaped, so that they could never obstruct the AL’s efforts to rescue the nation from the anti-liberationists and turn it into a secular haven. With Moeen underwriting AL’s victory at the general election, Sheikh Hasina and her son had no difficulty in signalling their willingness to go ahead with the mission of neutering the country’s security forces. In his article, Joy, who is married to a Zionist woman, reaffirmed his personal commit-ment to the Indo-Israeli cause by asserting that he envisaged a Hindu PM leading the secularised Bangladesh within the next 20 years. Sheikh Hasina’s connivance was bought by kindling both her voracious appetite for power and welknown fear and distrust of the army. But, in doing so the RAW and the MOSSAD planners were driven by their desire to neuter the army for undermining Bangladesh itself. Since the 1990’s the RAW had been actively working towards this end. Over the period, several retired army intelligence chiefs of Bangladesh have publicly spoken about it. Yet the irony is that instead of being mindful of such warnings, the sitting army chief and some of his lieutenants were now ready to connive in this nefarious game of our enemies.

In Bangladesh General Moeen and his lieute-nants’ unsavoury activities from the imposition of emergency onward had lowered the army’s standing before the common people. Taking advantage of the common people’s lack of awareness about the CAS and his lieutenants’ role in putting Sheikh Hasina in power, her followers among the intellectuals renewed their campaign to malign the army with a fresh vigour. Suddenly in February JMB operatives were arrested from a number of places and a section of the media started ballooning again the spectre of Islamic terrorism. But their target was the army. Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, a London-based AL columnist with long standing Indian connection, even said, if 30 per cent of the army were made up of Hindus, there would be no problem left. Following this assertion, Waliul Islam, a former civil servant-cum-diplomat, whose wife is a former AL MP, even claimed to have discovered, through his research, that about one third of all army recruits of the previous seven years were madrasa educated. The underlying implication was that

(1) The Islamic educational institutions were the breeding grounds of terrorism;
(2) The army is its godfather; and
(3) For stopping Bangladesh becoming a terrorist haven both have to be drastically clipped.

The campaign reached its peak on the 24th February, that is, only a day before the mutiny, when certain AL parliamentarians led by Mohi-uddin Khan Alamgir savagely criticised the army and demanded that it be put on leash. During the mutiny, a section of our pundits continued with the same propaganda and immediately after it, the Commerce Minister, Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Faruk Khan, echoed what Sajeeb Wajed Joy had said before hand.

When the mutiny broke out, a new DG, Brigadier General Moinul Islam, was already waiting to take the charge of the BDR. After he joined the BDR immediately after the mutiny he was promoted to the rank of major general and made a member of the government inquiry commission on the mutiny. In a matter of days, he begun proposing that to remove the stigma of the bloody mutiny, his security force be renamed and given new uniform and insignia. It should also be de-linked from the army and its command should go to a new cadre of officers recruited by the CSC. His proposal of getting rid of army officers from the command positions of the reconstituted border force was also the core demand of the mutineers. But here it was given a new rationale. It came from a member of the government appointed Inquiry Commission, which was yet to start its inquiry! What is more, the caretaker government had postponed the celebration of the annual BDR week indefinitely. It was given the go ahead by the new government once this would-be DG’s appointment had been finalised and the BDR week ended up in the massacre of army officers. Clearly, the BDR’s was not an ordinary mutiny; nor its new DG’s advance appointment or his paranormal ability for super quick prescriptions unbefitting of it.

The plan for the Peelkhana massacre was in two parts. Plan-A, an overt plan, was to create a hostage situation in the BDR Darbar Hall during the celebration of the BDR Week 2009. Accord-ing to this plan, disaffected BDR soldiers would make all officers attending the annual darbar on the 25th February hostage and put forward their 22 demands concerning ration, pay, UN mission etc, including the withdrawal of army officers from commands. The PM would then send CAS Moeen, Home Minister Sahara Khatun and Deputy LGRD Minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak to negotiate with the mutiny leaders. The soldiers’ demands would be met, making all their negoti-ators heroes.

The sitting DG BDR Major General Shakil knew part of this plan. He had no choice other than to accept the risk. Otherwise, he would have faced trial for his wife’s failed attempt to leave the country with Tk 6 crore in the late 2008. Naznin Moeen, the wife of General Moeen, had rescued her and her husband’s staff officer Major Mahbub. Mahbub was later allowed to resign his commission and leave the country. Moeen had an obvious share in that money and his wife’s abuse of her husband’s position and power in rescuing the culprit and covering up the crime had left him and his wife exposed to criminal charges as well. The tricky part of the plan, not known to the DG BDR, was that he and the DDG Brigadier General Bari could be shot in the legs, if the soldiers’ demands were not met immediately.

General Moeen, Major General Molla Fazle Akbar (DG DGFI), Major General Monir (DG NSI), Lieutenant General Sina Ibn Jamali (CGS), Lieutenant Colonels Quamruzzaman (communi-cation-in-charge, BDR), Shams (CO 44 Rifles), Mukim and Salam (Paramilitary wing, DGFI) knew about the Plan-A. Most BDR soldiers stationed at Peelkhana also knew about this plan. They were ready to create a hostage situation and demand withdrawal of army officers and realis-ation of other 21 demands. Their grievances against army officers were framed on a piece of paper that was to be faxed on the 25th February to the CAS’s secretariat, the offices of the DG DGFI and the PM and other important government establishments as well as the media by Lieutenant Colonel Mukim. But this plan was primarily a decoy.

Major General Shakil also had advance sign that the conspiracy was on course. Lieutenant Colonel Amin (CO Rifles Security Unit), who was later martyred, got the soldiers’ subversive leaflet on the morning of the 21st. He rushed to him immediately and showed the leaflet. He told Amin to quickly make a counter leaflet and circulate it. On the 23rd, it was discovered that three SMGs were missing from the armoury. Following that discovery, officers were put on duty at the armoury – a precaution never taken unless the situation is grave. Still the PM visited Peelkhana on the 24th!

The standard practice is when a PM visits a military or paramilitary outfit the SSF ensures that the firing pin of all weapons on duty are removed. Even officers posted as guard commanders for the PM are not allowed to have a weapon that can be fired. Only the PGR and the SSF officers carry usable weapons with ammuni-tion. Given the level of security for a PM visit, one might ask, how come the PM visited Peelkhana, where subversive leaflets were found circulating and three SMGs were reported missing?

Major General Shakil had no need to worry about the PM’s safety on the 24th. He knew that the PM had already taken care of it herself and cancelled her dinner appointment of the 26th night. This she was able to do, because she knew the script of the waiting drama by heart!

The brains and masterminds had a different plan of their own. That covert plan, which for clarity’s sake I shall call the Plan-B, was vintage RAW. Reportedly the RAW pumped in about Rs 60 crore for the entire operation. About 15 foreign gunmen were hired for the execution of the army officers. The RAW operatives and their Bangladeshi assets responsible for handling finances met at the International Club in the Gulshan suburb of Dhaka early in January, soon after Sheikh Hasina became PM. In that meeting the younger brother of Sohel Taj, the Deputy Home Minister, was also present. Both the organisers and the providers of the hired killers, which included a number of Indians and a Russian under-world boss by the name of Lazar Shybazan, met at the Hotel Bab-Al-Shams in Dubai on or just before the 19th. There they finalised the operational plan for the hired killers and their payment arrangements.

The hired gunmen entered Bangladesh not on the 11th January as reported by certain Dhaka dailies but after the 19th February. A few of them made their way through the Benapole border on the 21st, when it was open for five hours for the people of both sides wanting to exchange greetings. They carried 16,000 sweets to Dhaka out of the 100,000 sweets offered by the West Bengal government on the occasion of Ekushey February. How and through which border(s) others slipped in has remained unknown.

The plan was deadly but simple. The hired gunmen would get their fake BDR uniform as well as lethal weapons and ammunition before the operation. While BDR soldiers would execute Plan-A, these killers, taking advantage of the panic and chaos, would suddenly move in and kill about half of the red-tapers (that is, colonel and above). Then they would force other mutineers (Plan-A party) to join them in the killing spree. They were to use a Bedford truck and enter through Gate 4. A pick-up would be used to take in the arms and ammunition they were to use.

Frequent meetings took place involving BDR ringleaders and AL MPs Mirza Azam, Haji Salim, Jahangir Kabir Nanak, Fazle Noor Taposh and Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir. Torab Ali acted as a link between BDR soldiers and Taposh, Nanak, Azam and Sohel Taj.

Being the local MP, Taposh’s involvement was logistically vital. He got involved during his election campaign. About 5,000 BDR voters were registered under the Dhaka-12 constituency of Taposh. BDR ringleaders contacted Taposh through Torab Ali, a former BDR Havildar and the sitting AL president of Ward 48 under the Dhaka-12 constituency. They assured Taposh that the ‘Boat’ would win at Dhaka 12 and all BDR voters would vote for him. At that point in the election campaign, when Khaleda Zia was drawing far greater numbers at her public meetings than Sheikh Hasina, 5,000 voters meant a lot to the novice AL candidate facing a renowned lawyer and highly regarded sitting MP, Khandkar Mahbubuddin. In return, the BDR representatives wanted their demands to be met. Taposh agreed. While the planning for the mutiny was being finalised, Taposh agreed that he would assist BDR soldiers so that they were safely through with the mutiny and their demands realised. This he undertook, because as a member of the Sheikh family and being an orphan of Sheikh Fazlul Haq Moni, who was assassinated during the 15th August 1975 coup d’etat by the young army officers, he had a strong personal grudge against the army.

The last meeting before the mutiny and massacre was held at Torab Ali’s house in the evening of the 24th. On the same night, about 24 BDR killers took their final oath at the Dhanmondi residence of Taposh.

The covert plan was known to the PM, her cousin and Taposh’s uncle Sheikh Selim MP and Abdul Jalil MP, besides Nanak, Taposh, Sohel Taj, Mirza Azam, Haji Selim, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and a few other members of the PM’s inner circle. At least one meeting was held at the Banani residence of Sheikh Selim on 13th February. Sohel Taj, also a resident of Banani, joined the meeting. It finalised some outstanding issues and Sohel Taj’s duties. It was not without reason that Sheikh Selim stayed away from his house on the 25th and the 26th.

Alamgir, Nanak and Azam were in favour of total annihilation of army officers. As they approached the PM, she was initially hesitant about the mass killing. However, she gave her nod for eliminating the DG, his wife and Colonel Mujib (sector commander Dhaka) one week before the deadly mutiny. While interrogating the arrested BDR ringleaders on the night of 12th April, officers of the RAB at TFI Cell extracted this piece of information and later established its authenticity. They also learnt that General Moeen was told not to be emotional if the DG and his wife were accidentally shot dead. His silence indicated his acceptance and approval.

The ensnared general had good reason for approving the killing of the DG and his wife, for it also meant the elimination of his partners in crime in the failed attempt to smuggle out illicit money. Then no one could link him and his wife with that crime. Key BDR ringleaders, including DADs Towhid, Jalil and Habib, also knew about the Plan-B.

It was Jahangir Kabir Nanak’s responsibility to ensure the complete annihilation of army officers inside Peelkhana, while Fazle Noor Taposh’s task was to ensure the escape of the BDR killers through Hazaribagh and Jhigatola area. Nanak was also responsible, along with Taposh, to ensure a safe exit for the hired killers by ambulance on the 25th night and the escape of the entire Peelkhana killers by the 26th. On their way to the airport, the killers would be trans-ferred to microbus. Sohel Taj was given the responsibility to ensure their safe return to the Middle East, UK and USA. It was decided that BG flight 049 would be used for the purpose and, if required, delayed.
The success of Plan-B hinged on

(1) The ability of the government to prevent the army from going in for a military solution; and
(2) Maximum obliteration of evidence of murder from Peelkhana.

That is why Nanak, who had the reputation of possessing the cool-blooded murderer’s instinct and was a guest of the RAW in their safe house during the emergency, was given the responsibi-lity to assume command inside Peelkhana from the mid-day of the 25th, even though his duty as the Deputy LGRD Minister did not call for any role on his part during the mutiny. He is the person who ensured that the BDR sweepers cleaned the Darbar Hall and most bodies were buried into mass graves during the darkened night of the 25th and the 26th.

As noted before, the CAS was expected to keep the army inactive. But in the case of his failure to do so, the plan was that he, together with officers involved in the army intervention, would be sacked immediately and BDR soldiers in border posts would start killing their army commanding officers. Then the government would declare that they are faced with a ‘civil war’ situation and the Indian army would start moving in by air. With such a possibility in mind, to generate sympathy abroad, Joy told world media early in the morning on the 26th (UST) that the mutiny was due to the corruption of army officers.

To make sure that the BDR soldiers would do their bits, about Tk 15-17 crore was distributed in Peelkhana between early and late February. Tk 4 lac was fixed per officer’s head. The ringleaders had a much larger payment. The killers who joined later enthusiastically did not receive any additional payment during or after the massacre. The distribution of money for the Plan-A parti-cipants was made mainly through the channels of Taposh and those for the DADs and their followers handled by Nanak. Sohel Taj and Joy arranged payment for the hired killers. Some advance payment was made earlier in Hotel Bab-Al-Shams in Dubai.

Contingency plans were also made in case the army could not be stopped from storming Peel-kahan or the AL involvement become known. In case the PM was unable to stop the army from storming Peelkhana, the Indian army, with the help of the Indian air force, was to get in as an assisting force in response to the PM’s SOS. This, together with the mutiny by BDR units across the country, would destabilise entire Bangladesh. The outside world would see it as a civil war situation and give the PM’s cry for foreign help a favourable nod.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherji had subsequently disclosed that had there been a distress call from our PM, the Indian army would have come to her government’s assistance. According to Indian newspapers, their air force was ready at Jorat air base in Assam with heavy and medium lift aircrafts to carry 30,000 assembled Indian soldiers. Of course, the Indian Foreign Minister did not say how the Indian authorities divined that Sheikh Hasina’s govern-ment was going to come under threat and made their army ready ahead of the mutiny. Nor the Indian newspapers sought its answer. The mutineers could hardly threaten the government; nor they did. Had there been a potential spoiler, it was the feared army intervention. The fact that India stood ready in anticipation was indicative enough of their prior apprehension that the mutiny might meet obstacle.

As stated before, in case the PM was unable to keep the army inactive, the contingency plan was for her to immediately sack the CAS along with other generals and officers participating in the feared military intervention. Following that the dismissed CAS would be put on trial for disobeying government’s order and also for the crimes he had committed during the state of emergency.

Alongside such trials, a propaganda campaign would be mounted against the army with the help of selected journalists, accusing its leadership of defying the lawful government with maligned aim and causing unnecessary death to innumerable innocent BDR soldiers for voicing their genuine grievances against corrupt army officers. Tk 5 crore was kept aside for this contingent propa-ganda campaign.

Besides, an all out effort would be made to create a fake link with the JMB, Jamat and BNP to the massacre. For this, helpful officers among the RAB, DGFI and Police would be posted in strategic positions within their respective organis-ations.

The appointment of an entirely inexperienced Sahara Khatun at the Home Ministry was part of this well thought out elaborate contingency plan. The key conspirators used Hotel Imperial, owned by her and her family and run by her wheeler-dealer brother, for several of their secret meetings. It was a pre-planned trap. If inad-vertently AL link with the killers becomes known, Sahara would be made the scapegoat. She would be removed from her post, leaving her deputy Sohel Taj in charge to plug the holes.

The Plan-A and Plan-B, together with the Contingency Plan, made the entire plan for the Peelkhana massacre. One cannot but admire the ingenuity of the planners behind these plans.


The entire Plan was executed with astonishing cunning and ruthlessness. Bangladesh will have to carry the painful agony of this fratricide for a long time to come. In the nine months of the war of independence a total of 55 armed forces’ officers were lost. Not all of them got killed in action; some died in road and other accidents. No sector commander was among these fatalities. Whereas in the mutiny 57 officers -- 1 major general, 2 brigadier general, 16 colonel, 10 lieutenant colonel, 23 major, 2 captain, 3 medical corps officers—were butchered in two days. The murdered accounted for two-thirds of the officers present. Before we think about the consequences of this horrendous episode, it would be appro-priate to examine how the Bangladeshi conspi-rators and connivers played their parts in executing the massacre.

On the night of the 24th February, between 10 pm and 11pm one Ataur, owner of a filling station at Jhikatala in Dhaka, made a telephone call from his mobile to the DG BDR. He told Major General Shakil, ‘Sir, apnakey kalkey Peelkhanay mere felbe. Apni kalker onushthaney jaben na.’ (Sir, tomorrow you will be killed in Peelkhana. You don’t go to tomorrow’s function.) The conversation was overheard by the RAB headquarter and Ataur was immediately taken into custody. Later he was released. Colonel Rezanur (ADG RAB) officially gave this piece of information to the TFI cell. Yet, the incident was left unmentioned, as far as I could gather, in any of the inquiry reports. It is inconceivable that the TFI cell could have ignore such a potential lead. While it was not possible to determine at what level the records relating to the incident were removed, that a cover-up did take place cannot be doubted. As we shall see, this was part of an extensive effort from within the very heart of the government to hoodwink the country and protect the culprits.

At about 8:45 am of the 25th, NSI informed the PM that in a few minutes’ time the mutiny would begin. The same information was also given to the CAS. The PM did not react. The CAS also kept quiet. Their inaction was an important clue about their willingness to allow the mutiny to take its planned course.

At Peelkhana itself, responding to the initial incident involving a single soldier, the DG BDR phoned the PM, the CAS and the DG DGFI and he was promised immediate help. Colonel Gulzar (?) also spoke to the CGS and the DMO and asked Lieutenant Colonel Zaman (CO RAB 2) to send five soldiers to help contain the situation. The bluffed DG ordered Colonel Mujib (commander, Dhaka sector), Lieutenant Colonel Enayet (CO, 36 Rifle Battalion), Lieutenat Colonel Badrul (CO, 13 Rifle Battalion) and other senior Peelkhana officers to go to their units and cool down the soldiers.

Although the DG knew that there would be a disturbance, had he and his officers present at the Darbar Hall knew that soon hell would be let loose and they were going to be made the sacrificial lamb surely they would have acted differently. Among them there were a number of trained commando officers, including the veteran Colonel Emdad (sector commander Rajshahi). They could snatch a few SMGs, break into small groups and mount counter attacks from different points and scatter, if not suppress, the mutinous soldiers. A number of officers’ wives also phoned Naznin Moeen, General Moeen’s wife, for help. They were told she is not receiving any in-coming call. Her disinclination was a further indication of her husband’s devious stand.

At 10:30 officers of RAB 10 arrived near Gate 5 of Peelkhana with its low-height perimeter wall separating the BDR HQ from the nearby civilian area. It was the most suitable place for storming into, and a quick extrication from, Peelkhana. But at around 11:30 Colonel Rezanur (ADG RAB) ordered RAB 10, through its CO, to move away to Beribadh area, about 3km from Peelkhana. The question to be asked: on whose asking or advice he issued this order, and what for? Strangely, none of the inquiries looked into it. A cousin of Bahauddin Nasim, one of the closest sidekicks of the PM, she personally knows Rezanur. It is most likely that the Colonel was either asked by the PM or a member of her AL inner circle to do so. It suited the plan, since it enabled the mutineers to despatch looted arms and ammunitions to the house of the ward commissioner Torab Ali for onward distribution to BCL cadres and, more importantly, ensured the BDR killers unhindered escape through Hazaribag and Jhikatola. That it was a strategic redeployment in favour of the mutineers could be gleamed from the fact that alongside RAB 10, RAB 2 and 3 were also sent to Peelkhana at about the same time. RAB 2 and 3, who had taken position on the Dhanmondi side, were left unmoved.

The DG BDR was killed at about 10:30 am. The Indian TV channel Chabbish Ganta (24 Hours) reported his and his wife’s death in its scroll at 11:00 am. Another Indian TV channel, NDTV, showed the same news in its scroll at 12 pm and telecasted it in its news bulletin at 12:15 pm. Yet, this news was suppressed in Bangladesh until the evening of the 26th. Besides, the bodies of Colonel Mujib and Lieutenant Colonel Enayet were recovered at 2:30 pm of the 25th.

Yet, the PM received, in the full glare of the media, a team of 14 BDR, brought out by Nanak, at her official residence at 3:30 pm. The meeting lasted, amidst tea and biscuits, for about 150 minutes! Midway into the meeting, the PM received a phone call. After that she told the BDR delegates: ‘Tomra ta DG k mere felecho.’ (You have already killed the DG.) To this, the leader of the BDR delegation, DAD Towhid, replied, ‘Ta halle shambobata DG mara gachan.’ (Then probably the DG has got killed.) It is hardly believable that until then neither the PM nor her guest knew about the DG’s killing. After all, the news was on the Indian TV screen from 11 am onward and since than it was the talk of the town. Nor it is remotely likely that the PM was so supercilious to think that she could create such an impression. In all probability, it was some kind of a coded message for the assembled. The fact that after the phone call they resumed their meeting, as if nothing of consequence has happened, is indicative of this.

In keeping with this undisturbed calmness, throughout the remainder of the meeting, not even once the PM enquired from the BDR delegation about the fate of the DG’s wife and children or that of other officers and their families. Nor did she call for their safety. And, this was despite the fact that after the killing at Darbar Hall started, several times the National Monitoring Cell informed her about torture of officers’ families. They had also informed the CAS about conversa-tions between BDR soldiers and outsiders. In many of these conversations, soldiers were heard narrating how they were killing officers and torturing their families. Instead of seeking an end to this barbarity, the CAS asked the officers of the National Monitoring Cell to ‘stay calm and not be emotional.’

In keeping with the tacit connivance of her, and that of the CAS, the PM gave the BDR killer a general amnesty, together with an assurance of looking favourably at their demands. With the approaching nightfall, the smirking delegates went back to the BDR HQ, accompanied by Nanak, as brave and successful defenders of their right cause. Shortly afterwards, Taposh told the waiting media that DAD Towhid would hence-forth act as DG BDR. This announcement by the PM’s nephew appeared on the scrolls of TV channels. The killers and their abettors now knew, the apprehension of any army intervention had gone. Later Taposh went inside and asked BDR soldiers to complete the mopping up. In effect, it was a licence to kill. As we know now, it was not missed.

Colonel Emdad was alive in one of the toilets of the Darbar Hall. He offered his zohar prayer at his hideout and there after talked to his wife on his mobile. Colonel Aftab (sector commander, Rangpur) sent three SMS to his colleagues, one Brigadier and two Colonels, at 4:30 pm stating ‘I’m alive in darbar hall, pls rescue us.’ Gravely injured Major Mosaddek’s frantic calls for help were initially responded to with promise of help. He died from over-bleeding at about 5:30 pm. There was none out there to undertake the army officers’ rescue. Those who were meant to ensure their safety were busy discharging their duties towards a different patron.

Early in the night ambulances were seen taking ‘the injured’ out of Peelkhana. Under this innocent cover the hired killers were in fact taken out of the killing ground. On their way to the airport, the killers were transferred, as per the Plan, to waiting microbus. The BG flight 049 flew them out and they safely made their way to their various destinations in the Middle East, UK and USA.

That evening the IGP, Nur Muhammad, desperately wanted to get inside Peelkhana to rescue his newly married daughter. He asked Home Minister Sahara Khatun’s permission a number of times. But he was refused. Distort and desperate, he offered to go alone. At this point, Sahara staged the drama of receiving arms surrender and rescuing officers’ families. Actually she only visited Otoshi, the building where the IGP’s daughter was. Apart from the IGP’s daughter, she also brought out the wife of Colonel Qamruzzaman, a conniver, and Mrs Akbar. In fact, Sahara did not go above the first floor of Otoshi and left most of its inmates, along with the rest of Peelkhana, to their fate.

Colonel Aftab was killed soon after Sahara Khatun left Peelkhana. Apparently, believing that the Home Minister’s presence in Peelkhana meant that a settlement had been reached, he came out from hiding to look for his wife and daughter. He knew they were in the Officers’ Mess. But, by then, they were taken to the Quarter Guard. While approaching the Quarter Guard, he was gunned down. Colonel Reza (?) was killed after 3 am. Colonel Elahi was also killed after the departure of Sahara Khatun, when he came out from his hiding inside a manhole. In the like manner, a lot of officers died during the night.

Betrayed by the head of their country’s government and their own army chief, the lives of these defenders of the country’s security were cut short. Their helpless and humiliated comrades in the army could do nothing for them, except shading a few drops of tears in silent rage.

While these abominable killings were in progress, Mirza Azam was heard frequently talking to his BDR contacts inside Peelkhana on cell phone. He specifically instructed the killers to gouge out Colonel Gulzar’s eyes and break his spinal cord. His morbid order was, in part, to avenge the death of his brother-in-law Shaikh Abdur Rahman, the hanged JMB chief. Colonel Gulzar, at that time posted in RAB as its Director of Intelligence, had led the arrest of Abdur Rahman from a house in Sylhet rented by an AL activist. He had also earned the Jubo League president Nanak and general secretary Azam’s enmity by establishing their role in deliberately burning alive 11 innocent passengers of a BRTC bus near Sheraton Hotel, using gunpowder for the first time in the history of hartal in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina gave the two Jubo League top brasses this task under her dictum, ‘yield power or else roads would be soaked with public blood.’ While in RAB custody in 2008, it was Gulzar who extracted from Sheikh Selim a detail confession about that murder and Sheikh Hasina, Nanak and Azam’s role in it. The audio clip of this confession of the PM’s cousin is now available in youtube (search ‘Sheikh Selim confesses of setting fire on bus Part I and 2’). By sending Gulzar to a horrible death they have not only taken revenge for his insolence but have also put all patriots on notice.

While the afternoon shilly-shally at the PM’s residence was going on, Nanak, through loud-speakers, had already instructed that all residents around a 3km radius of Peelkhana to stay away. Later in the night he ordered electricity in the BDR HQ be switched off. Keeping Peelkhana dark was necessary to allow the killers to com-plete their tasks and make their escape.
Through Torab Ali and his son ‘Leather’ Liton, a reputed thug and illicit arms dealer who had been freed from the RAB custody in January at the intervention of Taposh, Nanak had already kept civilian cloths and travel money for the escaping BDR ringleaders ready. During the night 7 to 9 white speedboats were used to let the fleeing BDR killers cross the Buriganga. Haji Selim, on whose pitch the crossing point is, coordinated the entire effort. Local civilians were asked to move away from the scene by the associates of Haji Selim. One of the Dhaka TV channels reported this incident at its 1:00 am news on the 25th night. In this TV report eyewit-nesses told the reporter that they had seen a few speedboats plying across the river but some political workers forced them out of the scene.

Haji Selim was also the man who in mid February bought the arms and ammunition used by the hired killers from abroad. A journalist of the Dhaka daily Prothom Alo spotted this. He went to the NSI and informed them that something was cooking up against Peelkhana involving the BDR and the AL politicians. As expected, NSI asked him not to talk to anyone else. However, without enquiring its veracity, the NSI hushed it up.

Next morning, Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Mirza Azam told the just rescued wives/families of the officers, ‘Don’t talk to media because your husbands are still inside.’ By injecting a fresh dose of fear mixed with hope to the already terrorised and disoriented, the duo wanted to

(1) Stop the country hearing immediately about the torture, rape and other barbarities that went inside Peelkhana; and
(2) Make sure that there was no army interference as the tasks of removing the dead bodies and obliteration of evidence needed more time.

During the night of the 26th Nanak again kept Peelkhana dark. Hindu BDR soldiers were used for removing bloodstains from the Darbar Hall and burning slain officers’ bodies to eliminate evidence. Monoranjan, who is in custody now, was such a soldier. The Hindu soldiers were used, least the Muslim soldiers find burning dead bodies too disagreeable. The same night these cleaners and the rest of the mutineers made their escape. It was a job well done.

3. The Cover-Up

Next day, the 27th, official search parties were allowed in. Ambulances kept ferrying the dead and the injured. Neither the anxious BDR kith and kin waiting at Peelkhana’s main entrance gate, nor their loved ones inside were allowed to go in or come out. The bewildered and grief stricken people saw nothing sinister in any of this. To them, it appeared entirely reasonable to keep the killing field out of bound until the victims, dead or alive, were taken out with due decorum and the search for the killers and the evidence of their crime was completed. Hardly anyone thought of the possibility of the involve-ment of their government and army’s topmost leadership in the massacre. Moreover, they were faced with an additional tension because of the news of restlessness among a number of BDR units across the country.

But what the unsuspecting public did not realise at the time is that in addition to their privileged position, this gave the involved great and good of the country an enormous advantage in covering up their treachery. How it was done is as ugly and yet fascinating as the planning and execution of the massacre were.

On the same 27th February, when the second mass grave was discovered and the enormity of the mutineers’ crime and savagery begun to emerge, Jahangir Kabir Nanak proposed to Brigadier General Mamun Khaled (Director CIB, DGFI) to handover the mutilated and decomposed bodies to their families immediately without media coverage and state funeral. The motive behind Nanak’s sly proposal did not go remiss with the other army officers present. An officer of the Engineering Corps got so furious that he went to hit Nanak. Other army officers on duty had to restrain him. To avoid any flare up, Nanak quickly left the scene.

In the GHQ the waiting DG BDR, Brigadier General Moinul Islam, was also active. He assembled a group of officers and discussed the Peelkhana incident with them. He told them that he personally thinks the government and the CAS had failed to handle the incident. Otherwise the death of so many officers and humiliation of their families could have been prevented. To support his view, he gave them his reasons. When the officers expressed their own mind, he told them to type down their points of concern and volunteered to take them up with the army high ups. He took the unflattering typed list to the sitting CGS Lieutenant General Aminul Karim, and requested him to discuss those with the CAS. Moinul also asked the officers to raise their points in an organised way during the next day’s scheduled CAS address at Senakunja. At that meeting officers severely criticised their chief at his face and a panick stricken CAS had to be assisted out of the meeting hall by the army security unit. He had to change his dress to attend the nama-e-janaza scheduled immediately after the meeting. Later Karim, not Moinul, was charged with instigating the officers against the government and failing to proper command. He was immediately sacked. With one honourable patriot removed from the army’s top, Moinul went to take up his pre-agreed duty of reshaping the BDR.

On the day Karim had committed his make-belief crime of instigating army officers against the government, the government was also active in covering up, with the help of its other connivers in the army, its own Deputy Home Minister Sohel Taj’s role in getting the hired foreign killers out of the country. Sohel was not seen either at his office or in public from the 18th February. Certain media reported that on the 25th and the 26th he was with his family in the USA. This was a lie. He went to India on the 18th and secretly came back two to three days later. Thereafter he kept out of sight in Dhaka and on the 25th night, as per the Plan, helped the hired killers to escape by air. On the evening of the 28th, Sohel was flown to Sylhet by an army aviation helicopter and the same night he left for the USA on a passenger plane from the Osmani Airport. The pilot of the army aviation helicopter that flew him to Sylhet was Lieutenant Colonel Shahid. A few days later Shahid was killed. He died, along with Major General Rafiqual Islam, GOC 55 Infantry Division, when the helicopter he was piloting crashed near Tangail. The helicopter was sabotaged. For making Sohel safe, not only innocent Shahid was killed. In the same stroke, another patriotic senior army officer was also removed.

Later on, Brigadier General Mamun Khaled of DGFI was tasked to prepare the list of the officers who had shown the courage of standing up to the CAS at the Senakunjo meeting. From this list of 50 odd officers, some have already been sacked and others sent on peripheral duties away from Dhaka.

Lieutenant Colonel Shams (CO 44 Rifle Battalion) was among the few officers who had come out alive from Peelkhana. He alone was shown in TV and became an instant celebrity to the public. In his media interviews he not only made a big song and dance about the torture and torment he and his brother officers had suffered, but also stated that all the officers were gunned down by 11 am of the 25th. His ‘eyewitness’ account gave both the PM and the CAS a much needed justification for their policy of ending the mutiny without calling the army. For, by sending the army to quell the mutiny would not have saved the officers life, instead it would have cost more lives. Indeed, the PM’s admirers lost no time in congratulating her for the sagacity of her judgement in handling the mutiny. Both the PM and the CAS quickly repaid their debt by releasing Shams to join the elite SSF.

But soon the army inquiry team began to have a different picture. They discovered that the core of the Peelkhana mutineers was from Shams’s 44 Rifle Battalion and none of its commanding army officers, Shams, Major Mahbub and Major Ishtiaq, was killed. Nor their offices were ransacked like other officers. More revealingly, a few minutes after the mutiny had begun Shams was seen briefing a large group of BDR soldiers near gate 5. When some one shouted, ‘Officer ra shoinik thekey alada hoye jaan’ (Officers stand apart from the soldiers), he hurriedly finished the briefing and went away. Some of the arrested soldiers of the 44 Rifle Battalion confessed their part in the killing. However, they insisted that Colonel Shams be asked about the planning, as they did not know its details. The Army Board of Inquiry asked for Shams’ statement and wanted to question him. But the PM’s office refused permission.

Likewise, none of the officers of the Communication Unit of the BDR was killed. Its CO, Lieutenant Colonel Qamruzzaman, was also shielded from the investigation by the PM’s office.
During the initial stage of their inquiry, from the call records immediately before and after the mutiny young officers of the RAB started discovering important clues linking AL leaders with the massacre. The most significant of these call records showed Torab Ali regularly exchanging information about the planned mutiny with some one abroad. Without government’s help the military board of inquiry could not find out the overseas telephone number and the recipient’s identity.

Another of its kind was the call record of the 204 minutes conversation between Nanak and DAD Towhid on the 24th February. Guided by this and other incriminating evidence, the Army Board of Inquiry wanted to interrogate Nanak to know his whereabouts on the 25th night, when the Home Minister Sahara Khatun was staging the drama of arms surrender at Peelkhana. Sensing trouble ahead, Nanak suddenly developed chest pain, got himself admitted into Labid Hospital and from there went to Singapore. Within a few days Indian Foreign Secretary Menon made an unscheduled visit to Dhaka and had urgent meetings with both the PM and the CAS. The PM refused the Army Board of Inquiry permission to interrogate Nanak. Moreover, Brigadier General Hasan Nasir who had pressed for Nanak’s interrogation was removed from the inquiry board. Nanak came back confident that he would remain unquestioned and above the law. On the other hand, the diligent Nasir was made a target of vendetta. Lately the DGFI has circulated anonymous letter to many army officers defaming him. It is likely that he would soon be sent on retirement.

In another of the call records discovered by the RAB, Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Mukim Sarkar (CO 25 Rifle Battalion, Panchagar), who was in Peelkhana attending the Darbar and survived unharmed, was heard telling his Subedar Major at 9:30 pm of the 25th, that is shortly after Taposh’s announcement regarding the appoint-ment of DAD Towhid as the acting DG BDR: ‘Amader nirdesh holo sainikder jatey kono khoti na hoy. Jara paliye geche to geche … apnara DAD shaheb k niya valo thaken. Aar kono bahini jatey vitorey dhuktey na parey. DAD shaheb ke enader sathey kotha boltey bolben …’. (The order we have is to keep the soldiers out of harm’s way. Those who have fled have after all gone … All of you keep well together with the respected DAD. [Stay alert] so that no other force could get in. Tell respected DAD to speak to them.) Obviously, Sarkar was involved in the conspiracy. But, whose order he was passing on? The fact that Lieutenant Colonel Sarkar, like Lieutenant Colonels Shams and Qamruzzaman, has remained untouched and unaccountable says it all.

During their initial investigation, the RAB officers also found out the tailor shop and the tailor who had made the fake BDR uniform worn and later left behind by the hired foreign killers. They were also able to gather information about the ambulances and microbuses used for extri-cating these killers from Peelkhana and delivering them to the Zia International airport. The micro-buses had fake number plates and their drivers and owners were difficult to trace out. Neverthe-less they were able to establish the fact that the Red Crescent Hospital managed by an AL sympathiser, and the medical clinic of the PM’s personal physician provided the ambulances in question. None of these important leads was pursued.

When the truth about the Peelkhana massacre started unravelling, in a personal briefing Molla Fazle Akbar, the DG DGFI, pointedly asked his officers to lead the inquiry out of the AL connections. A few junior officers murmured. Those identified dissenting were swiftly posted out of the DGFI. To the rest, the message was not lost. From the early March DGFI teams under Brigadier General Mamun Khaled started working in all news papers and TV channels so that the unpalatable truth was not leaked out.

In the RAB, Liteutenant Colonel Majid and Major Hamid had gathered firm evidence of the AL’s involvement in the mutiny and massacre. Major Azim, a close relative of the PM’s cousin Sheikh Helal MP, was brought in as RAB’s Acting Director of Intelligence to replace Majid. Simultaneously, Hamid was also transferred out of the RAB. On taking charge Azim, who was deemed unsuitable for promotion to the next rank before, asked Major Atik to link the JMB, BNP or any other militant organisation with the Peelkhana massacre. Besides, he also destroyed all the incriminating evidence gathered by Majid and Hamid.

About this time, Nanak’s formal boss, LGRD minister Syed Ashraful Islam publicly denounced the Army Board of Inquiry for their failure to find out any JMB or ‘anti-liberation force’ connection with the mutiny. The RAB intellig-ence under Azim followed suit. Suddenly Maulana Abdus Subhan was taken into custody and put in a RAB safe house. Commerce Minister Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Faruk, whom the PM has given the task of coordinating the inquiries, quickly claimed that some Islamic terrorists were involved in the mutiny. Azim’s plan was to force Abdus Subhan to make a false statement disclosing Islamic militants’ involvement in the massacre. But a Dhaka daily in its investigative report produced lots of facts and figures disproving the minister’s claim. That report was stunningly true. It forced the government to abandon the idea of making a false Islamic militant link to the massacre. Abdus Subhan was then allowed to leave the safe house. After a few days he, along with his few other party members, met the PM and expressed their solidarity with the government.
To complete the drive to cover-up, Abdul Kahhar Akhand was brought back from LPR as the head of the CID’s investigation team. He is a renowned fan of the PM. He had the rare achievement of conjuring up the FIR and eyewitnesses in the case of the PM’s father’s assassination by young army officers more than two decades after the incident. So much so, in the general election he applied for the AL nomination for a parliamentary seat. But, since he was in LPR he could not stand. Obviously no one could surpass his impeccable partisan standing and supernatural skills as an investigator. His given task in regards to the Peelkhana massacre was simple: countermand all potentially damaging evidence that might slip through the already substantially gagged military investigation with creative evidence.

Given the scale of pre-mediated policies and ploys of the government the Army Board of Inquiry could hardly be expected to do justice to their task. The only honourable thing they could do was to resign in protest. But that would have put the country in a grave crisis and the members of the inquiry board in a no win situation, especially when many of their powerful colleagues were themselves guilty of connivance. Although the head of the inquiry board, Lieutenant General Jahagir Alam Choudhury (QMG GHQ) is known for his honesty and integrity, he is also a cautious man. It is not a surprise that Jahangir and his board members have decided not to shake the bad apples as thoroughly as they should have. Even then that report is unlikely to be made available to us, the Joe public.

Speaking personally, I however regret Jahangir and his board members’ failure to stand by the truth and justice. After all, we the army officers are oath bound to stand by our country and nation and, when required, make supreme sacrifice. I am afraid, unless we are willing to confront our enemies come what may, we as a nation is doomed.

4. The Prize

It is most likely that a score or two BDR soldiers would be put on trial before some kind of court other than the military tribunal on the selective evidence of Abdul Kahhar Akhand and his CID team. A few of them may even be hanged. But all the major culprits involved in the planning and execution of the massacre from our PM onward would get away scotch free.

To our PM and her son and their associates in the crime the utter perversion of justice is, first and foremost, an existential necessity: a matter of sheer self-preservation. To the foreign schemers of the Peelkhana massacre, on the other hand, saving their Bangladeshi assets from the reach of justice is a functional necessity. This they have to ensure in order not to give away their game and to achieve the aims and objectives for which they have, in the first place, orchestrated the massacre. Of course, it hardly needs saying that the PM and her son and their associates have no objection in seeing those objectives being materialised. Other-wise they would not have agreed, in the first place, to become the local enablers of the foreign schemers. But, what are the foreign schemers objectives?

Since the Indian RAW is the main schemer, in analysing the aims and objectives of the foreign schemers I shall begin with its discernible objectives in staging the Peelkhana massacre. In considering the RAW’s objectives, readers should not forget that the destruction of the BDR and the plan to reconstruct it in a shape and form suiting the need of the Indian BSF is part of a much larger design with multiple, yet interconnected, objectives.

During the mutiny, the PM’s son Sajeeb Wajed Joy told the world press that it was due to the corruption of army officers. But judging by the mutineers’ demands it is apparent that they were moved, not so much by their distaste for corruption, but by their desire for material gains, including larger illicit earning and enhanced career prospect. It is also apparent that at the alter of the latter urge, the most significant of the mutineer’s demand, that is, the withdrawal of army officers from BDR’s command, was sold to them by the schemers. The evil intention behind this became all the more apparent from the fact that after the mutiny the proposition to de-link the reshaped border force from the army was resold to the country by Moinul Islam on an altogether new ground: to erase the infamy of the BDR soldiers from our collective memory. Clearly, the first and foremost objective of those who have orchestrated the mutiny was to reconstitute our country’s border force without army officers at its command. To make the demand bold and deter their colleagues from accepting posting in the border force, army officers were slaughtered and their wives and daughters were tortured. The question is, what for?

Any one familiar with the functions of the BDR would know that this paramilitary force of ours is expected to

(1) Keep cross border smuggling in check and
(2) Deter any intrusion of or encroachment on our international border by neighbouring countries.

Of these two primary duties, it shares the first with the Ansar and the second with the army; and in both the functions they are to be the forward guard. Primarily because of its latter duty, from its very inception all its command positions were assigned to army officers. In this the BDR is not an exception. Army officers also command its closest parallel and frequent adversary, the Indian BSF.

The merit of this arrangement is not difficult to recognise. Has any Bangladeshi ever heard anyone inside or outside the BSF proposing withdrawal of army officers from its command positions? Least any one wants to counter this by saying that we need not follow an Indian example regardless of our own need and experience, let the readers be reminded that whenever the BDR soldiers were ambushed or attacked by the BSF or the Shanti Bahini in the Hill Tracts, in the absence of their commanding army officers, often they left their weapons and run away. Yet, when led by army officers the same soldiers stood their ground and fought. To verify this, ask the local people and they would tell you the same. If any one still wants to ignore this truth, let him or her be reminded of Padua and Roumari where in 2001 the BDR soldiers fought under army officers and routed the BSF, who were sent to capture the BDR camps inside Bangladesh territory. In both the cases the aggressors were not only repulsed, many of the attackers were killed. In the latter instance, four army officers – one major and three captains – led the counter attack and the BDR soldiers ran havoc on the the BSF invaders. In the case of Padua 15 and in the case of Roumari 150 BSF personnel were killed. In Roumari 128 bodies were handed over to the local BSF and the remaining 22 bodies were handed over from Dhaka amid the glare of TV cameras. I still remember ETV’s Shupon Roy’s coverage.

The differences in the BDR soldiers’ performances in all these encounters amply illustrates the hard fact that our paramilitary border force cannot protect our border camps and defend our border from hostile trespassers such as the Indian BSF without army officers at their command. This is not because the BDR soldiers lack courage. What the commanding army offers provide is the art and skills in organising attack or counter attack as well as the battlefield leadership required in meeting an organised armed incursion. It is only the military officers with their elaborate training and skills have the equipage to give such battlefield leadership. To expect this from civil servants is either mindless-ness or mischief mongering.

To recognise the inanity of the proposal, one may consider another fact. If we were to have a border force without the capability to stand their ground in the face of any organised armed attack from across the border, that border force would have no better capability than the Ansar force we already have. So why not send Ansars to guard our border? Without army officers at its command positions, the Ansar force fits the bill perfectly. To follow our new DG BDR’s logic, that would erase the infamy of the mutineers completely. The quislings would not propose that because it would give away their machination. Even those of our countrymen who are not particularly interested in such intricate issues could see the utter baloney of the proposal. To keep our sleeping folks in slumber, the quislings’ foreign godfathers have devised the sly plan of placing a clone of the toothless Ansar force at our borders with a different name.

At this point it may be asked: Why the RAW want Bangladesh to have a toothless border force? Their decipherable motive is not one, but several.

What was remarkable that instead of honouring the fallen officers and soldiers for their supreme sacrifice and commending their DG for his diligence in looking after the country’s borders, our the then PM Sheikh Hasina telephoned her Indian counter-part to say sorry and handed over Padua, which by law no executive can. Moreover, she removed Fazlur Rahman from the BDR command and asked the GSO-1 of Operations of BDR, Lieutenant Colonel Rezanur, now Colonel and ADG RAB, to weed out the officers who had taken part in the Roumari operation. Is this the price dutiful army officers are to pay for defending the country’s border, for which they were put under oath before being commissioned?

However, to be fair to Sheikh Hasina, on becoming PM, Khaleda Zia also chose to forget Padua and Roumari and went a step further by prematurely retiring Fazlur Rahman from the army! Who and what made her to do so has still remained a mystery! You may call it diplomacy if you wish, but when an action by the principal holder of state power strikes a hammer blow to the country’s defenders pride, patriotism and professional diligence it cannot be a good thing for the country. Moreover, in silently condoning her predecessor’s illegal surrender of a piece of our territory, she too went beyond her remit. On a practical level, such a weak-knee posture makes us less safe, not more secured.

Whether intended by them or not, the message our patriotic army officers had had was that their fidelity to the country and its security might ruin their career. In no mean way the mindset of the conniving army officers of the Peelkhana massacre was shaped by that implicit message. Certainly, it also made the RAW bold in staging the mutiny and the massacre. For they knew, more they hit us hard, the more we would cave in.

In the recent years India had illegally been pushing about 167 items into Bangladesh, including clothing items, sugar, powder milk, Yaba tablet and phensidyl. Most of these are custom-produced for Bangladesh. When he was the DG BDR during the second term of Khaleda Zia’s premiership, the then Major General Jahangir Alam Chowdhury successfully brought this number down to 35. Obviously Indian strategists were displeased. This made them ever more sanguine to undermine the BDR’s capa-bility. Ironically the success of Jahangir and his army officers gave the RAW a fertile ground of discontent within the BDR against army officers to make use of. With the declining smuggling, many corrupt soldiers’ illicit earning fell sharply. The ADs and DADs, who rise from the rank of soldier, were the worst sufferers. To them, it was obvious that under the new generation of army officers their future earning prospect is bleak. They were ready to join any move to end army officers’ presence in the BDR, regardless of its consequences.

When the new DG BDR was sent to New Delhi in the immediate aftermath of the Peel- khana massacre, we were told the purpose of his hasty trip was to thank the BSF for their magnanimity in looking after the borders for us. If the implied logic of it is to be followed, Bangladesh does not need a border force of its own; a helpful BSF should be enough. But, would it be?

After the independence, we allowed free cross -border trading on the strength of our perception of India as a genuine friend and benefactor. Our the then DG BDR Major General C.R. Datta and Food and Agriculture Minister Foni Majumdar were gaga about the wisdom of the arrangement. The former even gave us statistical proof of its success by claiming that smuggling had come down by 99 percent! Of course it would when trafficking goods across the border is officially allowed. The real question is: What an open border policy did to our economy?

t gave a hammer blow to our currency, utterly devastated our jute industry and completely denuded our food stock and brought about the unprecedented famine of 1974. It took nearly two decades for us to get back to the pre-1971 economic level!

This hard reality has not changed an iota. As reported by the Dhaka media, in March, that is less than a month after the Peelkhana massacre has left our border force in utter disarray, the sudden rise in the influx of Phensidyl forced our government to make a public call to India urging them to stop the Phensidyl factories alongside their borders west of Bangladesh. Before the 25th February, one bottle of Phensidyl was sold at Dhaka underworld market at Tk 1000/-. After that calamitous date its price came down to Tk. 100/-. How lucrative the Phensidyl business is can be seen from the fact that the production cost of a bottle of the addictive drink, including fixed overheads, stands some where between Rs. 6 and 8.50.

It is not just Phensidyl. India is also pushing other illicit drugs into Bangladesh in a bid to earn money and keep India free of drugs by re-routing most of her internally and externally produced drugs into Bangladesh. For instance, drugs arriving from the Golden Triangle are routed through Tripura into Bangladesh.

Similarly, on the 9th and 10th April 2009, Dhaka media showed our fresh milk vendors spilling out thousands of kg cow milk on the road. They were protesting because the big buyers were either not buying their fresh milk, or offering very low price. This happened not because the demand for milk product has suddenly gone down. It occurred because, with the border unguarded, the giant milk producers were getting low-cost powder milk from India. One can add more items to this list.

Through smuggling India is also taking away our costly imports such as fertilizer, diesel, petrol, electronic goods and gold. Bangladesh pays for them in dollars etc, India pays Bangladesh in killer drugs and other counter bands or low quality goods which no one else will buy from them. Either way Bangladesh is the net loser economically and otherwise.

For estimating our net loss through smuggling, even if we apply the yardstick of the formal trade, it cannot be less than 11: 1. With an ineffective border force this is bound to grow further.

India is not simply after flooding Bangladesh with its smuggled drugs and low-quality and low-cost consumer goods. It is also undermining our law and order by facilitating smuggling of illicit arms and sheltering criminals. If you have any relative who was/is in the RAB, ask him about the sources of arms that were/are recovered from criminals. He will tell you, they have invariably been from India. Ask them about the source of the JMB explosives, detonators, gunpowder and dice for ammunition that were/are recovered, and the answer will be the same. If you wish to have material proof, you may rewind and watch the close-ups of TV coverage on explosives captured recently from suspected JMB operatives. You will find they have printed label as being made in India.

With barbed wire fencing all along the India side of the border, it is India -- not Bangladesh -- who decides what goes in or out of its territory. For ensuring the safe entry and exit of smugglers and subversives working as per the Indian design, the BSF wants scope to roam our border areas unchallenged. A comparative study of media reports of incidents of trespassing and/or killing of civilians inside India by the BDR and inside Bangladesh by the BSF will reveal the strength of the latter’s urge.

As if this was not enough to show their fang, since the Peelkhana massacre the BSF have increased their killing of innocent Bangladeshi civilians throughout our border areas. On the 19th May alone they have killed two Bangladeshi civilians near the Roumari border and another two at Bholaghat. Neither the DG BDR, nor the government of Bangladesh cared to utter a single word of protest against such killing. On the contrary, the Bangladesh government is now actively considering taking help from India for reorganising our border force. Our enemy will help us reorganise our paramilitary force, which is to guard us, day in and day out, from the same enemy. What a farce! Either they are living in cloudland or they wish to put our nation in cloudiness.

It had been a longstanding army practice to take out an officer rumoured to be indulging in corruption out of the BDR. Those officers against whom evidence of corruption was available were put on trail before military tribunal without right of appeal in civil court. Since there was no scope to take out a BDR soldier on suspicion of corruption, they were tried in BDR tribunal and were dismissed only when found guilty. The process had to be transparent and rigorous, since the BDR soldiers, unlike army personnel, enjoyed the right to appeal in civil court. During 1991-95 about 1100 dismissed BDR soldiers brought their appeal before civil court. Of them less than 25 got back their jobs. As against this, between 1996-2001 a total of over 2000 sacked BDR soldiers managed to get them reinstated, thanks to the intervention of the then AL government of Sheikh Hasina. It was not a surprise that these reinstated soldiers and their disciples shouted Joy Bangla on the 25th February at Peelkhana in support of the mutiny.

The irony is that while busy selling their design for reshaping the BDR under a new name, with new uniform and insignia on the ground of erasing the horrible ignominy of the mutineers, the government is again planning to reinstate 2000-3000 sacked corrupt soldiers of 2001-2008 who either did not have any leg to appeal or have failed in appeal court to get their dismissal overturned. The government plans to do this on two supercilious grounds:

(1) They are the victims of the BNP-Jamat government’s partisanship; and
(2) Their experience would be invaluable to the reshaped border force!

However, the real motive is not all that difficult to decipher. Even if Bangladesh itself is smuggled out to India, these reinstated soldiers and their disciples could be relied upon to shout Joy Bangla alongside the AL. In this they would serve as a counter pause to the army, which the now disbanded infamous Rakki Bahini was intended to do for the AL government of 1971-75.

As far as I am able to gather, a list of about 200-300 BCS candidates from the 27th BCS has been kept ready for induction into the reshaped border force. However, being unsure about the possible reaction of the army officers in general, the government is in two minds. With the departure of General Moeen they have lost the self-motivated gatekeeper to keep a tab. Never-theless, it is likely that their foreign godfathers would put them back on track.

The CSC’s selection process is not designed to pick up suitable candidates for the active battlefield leadership required of officers of a border force like ours. The would-be officers must have certain inherent physical and mental abilities, which CSC’s written examination and interview can hardly identify with any degree of confidence. Moreover, to carry the task of commanding in skirmishes they need thorough physical fitness as well as the knowledge and skills of military tactics and weapon handling. In case, anyone is tempted to argue that the CSC recruited officers could be specially trained to have those knowledge and skills, he/she may take the trouble of revisiting the tale of what happened to the ASPs in similar training situation during the late 80’s. Faced with the rising phenomenon of organised armed criminal gangs, President Ershad decided to train these newly recruited police officers for 1 year in the Bangladesh Military Academy. But the selected trainees could not endure the mental and physical hardship and the idea had to be abandoned. Eventually, to meet the challenge paused by the armed criminals, the RAB had to be created. Has anyone ever suggested de-linking RAB from the army or handing over RAB’s task to either the police or the Ansar?

The design is clear. To make our

(1) Border force politicised and
(2) Ineffective in the borders;
(3) Turn it into a counter force against the army, and
(4) At the same time make the army dispirited and dysfunctional.

An ineffective border force promises an enormous monetary gain for India. To her the cross-border smuggling is currently worth about 6 billion US dollar a year, with the surety of year-on-year expansion. To this add another 3 billion US dollar from the formal trade. It would be a frightening loss for Bangladesh, if the indirect costs of law and order and drug addiction were added to it. It would

(1) Complete the Indian-isation of our domestic market;
(2) Strangulate our economic growth; and
(3) Totally cripple our ability to defy Indian wishes, even if we want to;
(4) With a demoralised and diminished army with a scattering of real or potential traitors among its senior officers, even the thought of defying Indian wishes will start fading out; and
(5) Our very independence will be made meaningless to our own citizens.

We fought a bloody war in 1971 to make ourselves free to harness our energy for attaining Sonar Bangla of our dream. Like all dreams of its kind, the dream of Sonar Bangla may have been a utopia. Nonetheless, a reasonably prosperous Bangladesh, at least similar to Malaysia, was certainly within our reach. Why what Malaysia could, we could not achieve? Ask any knowledgeable Malaysian, and he will tell you, as I was told by a senior Malaysian diplomat, that his country did not have a neighbour called India, which we have.

From the day one of our independence, our feigned friend and imperious neighbour India started working towards an opposite end. It is not without meaning that the very first person who stood firm against India’s asset stripping of the newly independent Bangladesh was an army officer: the late Major Jalil. For his guts his career in the army was brought to an end at the behest of our Indian godfathers. Brave Jalil was made an example so that no army officer could think of defying Indian wish. Yet Jalils had been not short in supply. Even before we had our independence, the Indian strategists understood it very well that left to itself it is but natural for Bangladesh to have a reasonably strong patriotic army, which would not take its machination kindly. That is why they wanted us to have at best a nominal army and that too, together with the potential civilian challengers to its designs, be kept under check by the Rakki Bahini recruited from the Indophile AL partisans.

Whatever progress India was able to make in ensnaring Bangladesh during the early years of our independence received a hammer blow in 1975. Despite the set back, Indian schemers never gave up their evil design. With the aid and abetment of their Bangladeshi quislings, the RAW persisted in its efforts. With time, our patriotic masses also became complacent and off-guard. They again started believing the quislings.

While this was happening, the RAW set its eye again on neutering the army. As has been mentioned before, since the 1990’s it was actively working towards this end. Over the period, several retired army intelligence chiefs of Bangladesh have publicly spoken about it being the most urgent objective of the RAW. By and large their warnings went remiss with, and unheeded by, our political classes. They became preoccupied with their own self-aggrandisement.

The result is where we are now: in the words of the former Indian army chief Tapan Roy-Choudhury ‘firmly locked in the Indian radar’. The BDR massacre was first and foremost aimed at making the lock firmer. By getting away with their crime the RAW schemers and their Bangla-deshi assets have every reason to be embolden.

With their tail up, the RAW schemers and their Bangladeshi assets would try to go further in their drive to dispirit and dissuade the patriotic army officers in order to reduce our army to a level of absolute subservient. In that case India’s need to deploy its army on the Bangladesh front would be substantially reduced, which in turn would allow it to deploy more troops on the Chinese and Pakistani fronts. Moreover, if the army could be tamed, it would become far easier for the Indian whispers to tame our nation, too.

To tie our nation down and put our state in their strategic straight-jacket, Indian political masters are also working hard to materialise their other designs such as transit, port facilities, link canal and diversion of river water to name only a few. The signs are they are also trying to create hostilities between Bangladesh and Myanmar so that we have no friendly neighbour left. God forbid if they succeed, we would become geo-politically tied down and corralled. If it happens, there will be not much left for us to do, except ending up like Goa or Sikkim.

That would also give the Israeli MOSSAD much satisfaction. One less Muslim majority state is one less Muslim voice in the community of nations against their oppress-ion of the Palestinians.

But more importantly for both the Indians and the Israelis this would also be a huge step forward in their dream of creating a strategic barrier against China that would increase their value to the West, especially to the USA.

5. Epilogue

In the preface I have stressed that what I have been able to gather from my well-placed friends from the civil service, the army and the police gives us not the whole truth but only the bare bone of the truth about the Peelkhana mutiny and massacre. I have also said that when we have the whole truth, I expect my findings corroborated. I am confident about this, because I have confid-ence in the intrigity and reliability of my sources. Having said that, I am also fully conscious that however confident I may feel about the authen-ticity of the truth that I have uncovered, I am not in a position to demonstrate its reliability and validity. Despite the fact that under the given context I have strong mitigating grounds, readers are still within their right to have a degree of scepticism. I would be the last person to find fault with them on this count. But such a healthy scepticism, I think, also obliges us all to be active in seeking to know the whole truth.

But having seen the government’s obstructive ploys, do we have a reasonable hope of getting all the facts? I am afraid I do not think we have even a slimmest chance. To be candid, I do not think our PM is going to allow any inconvenient truth about herself or her friends and colleagues to come out. The reasons for her reticence are there in the story of the mutiny and massacre. As far as she is concerned, the success of her politics critically rests on covering-up, not on the fidelity to truth and justice and duty to the nation.

Frankly speaking, I have also doubt about our opposition leaders for a different reason. Once in power, they might also find it convenient to be diplomatic and allow the unsavoury facts about the mutiny and massacre to be left on the wayside. Surely, there is a place for diplomacy in dealing with foreign countries. But to extend it to internal traitors and murderers because it would displease a foreign power or two is down right appeasement at the expense of debilitating our nation and undermining our peoples’ confidence in our state. In the past, on occasions, we have seen them acting in this thoughtless manner. Still, it is my earnest hope that about the Peelkhana mutiny and massacre they will not repeat the same.

Entertaining such a hope will not be enough; we must raise our voice demanding a credible open-ended public inquiry on all aspects of the mutiny without any let or hindrance from any quarter, including the government. Only such a transparent inquiry by a competent and well respected public figure or figures will help us find the unbarnished truth, identify the culprits and uproot the conspirators and their connivers. Nothing short of this will satisfy the martyars soul or their families anguish and at the same time meet the all important security need of our beloved country.

To make this happen, the least we can do is to start writing to our MPs together with our friends and family members and send its copy to all the important national media. Spending a few takas on this will be our sadqa for the sake of our nation. Let us all do it without waiting for others to do it first. Has not Allah, the Almighty commanded us to compete with each other in doing good deeds?

This old man will certainly do his part. You can be rest assured about it. Among your demand letters my letter will also be there.


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