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Bangladesh mourns 1975 assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Anisur Rahman,
Dhaka, Aug 15 - Thousands of people, led by President Zilur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, paid homage to Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was assassinated 36 years year ago today in a military coup.

President Rahman and Prime Minister Hasina, the daughter of the assassinated leader, placed wreaths at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, the house of Sheikh Mujib where he was killed along with most of his family members on August 15, 1975.

Thousands joined the mourning in the capital and other parts of the country by wearing black badges as army bugles played the last post.

A total of 28 people, including Sheikh Mujib's wife Begum Fazilattunesa, three sons were killed in the putsch that also toppled Bangladesh's post independence Awami League government.

Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana survived as they were abroad at the time.

Five of the leaders involved in the coup were hanged last year after a protracted trial process while six were on the run.

The trial began after Awami League returned to power in 1996 and scrapped a controversial indemnity law that had provided protection to the killers of the first president of Bangladesh.

Senior government leaders today said a three-pronged approach was underway to bring back the fugitive convicts, two of them claimed to be hiding in India.

"At least two of the killers are likely to be hiding in India . . . New Delhi has reassured us to extend their hands for the repatriation," Syed Ashraful Islam, the Awami League general secretary and local government minister told reporters.

India has agreed to cooperate in tracing the killers of Bangladesh's first president, but said it has no information about the whereabouts of the fugitives.

Meanwhile, US journalist Lawrence Lifschultz, widely known for his extensive studies on Bangladesh's army coups in mid-1970s, has said he believed slain president Ziaur Rahman, the husband of the main opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, was the "key shadow man" behind the 1975 putsch, which eventually installed him to power.

"I believe in the future a great many more details about Ziaur Rahman's involvement in the August 15th events will emerge. It is my assessment at this point in time that Zia played perhaps the most crucial of all roles," Lifschultz, who was the Bangladesh correspondent of Far Eastern Economic Review in early 1970s, told PTI in an exclusive interview coinciding with the anniversary.

Lifschultz said that Ziaur Rahman, who was the deputy chief of the army in 1975, "had his own reasons for not leading the coup himself but without his support, I do not believe the coup d'etat could have moved forward".

"Zia was the key 'Shadow Man'. Had he been against the coup he could have stopped it. Of course, it was his constitutional duty to do so....Ziaur Rahman is a very complicated character," said the US journalist.

Lifschultz, who was later appointed as the New Delhi-based South Asia correspondent, underlined the need to understand "in much greater depth how he operated in the shadows during these crucial times". PTI 

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