Engulfed with millions of refugees from the fighting from the war between West and East Pakistan, India intervened militarily in December 1971, sending its military into East Pakistan to intervene on the side of the Bangladeshis, tipping the scales in favor of the rebels. On December 16, Pakistani forces surrendered in Dhaka, and East Pakistan became the new nation of Bangladesh, which was formalized in 1972.

Sheikh Mujibur (Mujib) Rahman, leader of the Awami League and of the fight for autonomy, was released from prison in January 1972 in West Pakistan and became prime minister of the new nation of Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib had been chosen president while in prison in West Pakistan. He set up a government and assumed the premiership; Abu Sayeed Choudhury became president.

The formal name of Bangladesh is the People's Republic of Bangladesh.The "independent, sovereign republic of Bangladesh" was first proclaimed in a radio message broadcast from a captured station in Chittagong on March 26, 1971. Sovereignty was achieved on December 16, 1971 when the commander of the West Pakistani army commander Gen. A.A.K. "Tiger" Niazi surrendered in floodlight Dhaka racecourse, ending the War of Liberation. The Indian army withdrew and left the new nation of Bangladesh under the control of the Awami League.

The current constitution dates to December 16, 1972. Bangladesh became a parliamentary democracy under a 1972 constitution. The Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh, consisting of those elected in 1970, adopted a constitution effective December 1972, providing for a parliamentary democracy based on four principles: “democracy, socialism, secularism and nationalism” but the new state also represented the triumph of a Bangladeshi Muslim culture and the Bengali language.

The U.S. recognized the People's Republic of Bangladesh on April 4, 1972. “Bangladesh was gradually recognized by most of the world's nations. The majority of member states in the United Nations recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign nation in 1972. Bangladesh joined the Commonwealth of Nations in 1972 and became a member of the United Nations in September 1974.

After the 1971 war West Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Yahya Khan then resigned the presidency and handed over leadership of the western part of Pakistan to Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, who became President and the first civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator. Violent demonstrations against the military government soon broke out at the news of Pakistan's defeat. Yahya Khan resigned on December 20. Bhutto assumed power over a disgraced military, a shattered government, and a bewildered and demoralized population. Formal relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh were not established until 1976. [Source: Peter Blood, Library of Congress, 1994 *]

Bangladesh in Ruins After the 1971 War

The civil war was a disaster for Bangladesh, undoing much of the limited progress East Pakistan had made in recovering from the social disruption of the 1947 partition. The nation’s new leadership faced a task for which they lacked administrative skills and political experience. was not enough. [Source: Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations, Thomson Gale, 2007]

After the war jute mills, other factories and the plantations lay in ruins. Bangladesh had less that $500,000 in foreign exchange because most of the West Pakistani factory owners and businessmen who controlled the economy fled with their cash and assets.

Some women who became pregnant after they were raped by Pakistani soldiers were disowned by their own families and tried to commit suicide by hanging themselves with their own hair. Relief organizations were set up for women to provide abortion and adoption services and job training. One aid worker told National Geographic: "Very few girls wanted to keep their babies, so if they asked for an abortion, we tried to help them get it." Sheik Majin tried to get young men to marry them but the plan feel through when the men demanded dories that the bride's family was unwilling to pay.

Folk art painted on rickshaws and rickshaws depicted the atrocities of war: the rape and sexual assaults of Bengali women, the bayoneting of babies, the burning of villages and bombings of civilians. Calendars and newspaper printed similar scenes. After the war visitors were sometimes taken to mass graves filled with bones outside of Dhaka. Competitions were held in schools for the best paintings of massacres and slaughters and potires with "anguished outcries" and "rivers of blood."

Setting Up the Bangladesh Government

In January 1972 a provisional government was established in Calcutta by a number of leading Awami League members who had escaped from East Pakistan. On April 17, the "Mujibnagar" government formally proclaimed independence and named Mujib as its president. On December 6, India became the first nation to recognize the new Bangladeshi government. When the West Pakistani surrender came ten days later, the provisional government had some organization in place, but it was not until December 22 that members of the new government arrived in Dhaka, having been forced to heed the advice of the Indian military that order must quickly be restored. Representatives of the Bangladeshi government and the Mukti Bahini were absent from the ceremony of surrender of the Pakistan Army to the Indian Army on December 16. Bangladeshis considered this ceremony insulting, and it did much to sour relations between Bangladesh and India. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The Constitution — adopted on November 4, 1972 — stated that the new nation was to have a prime minister appointed by the president and approved by a single-house parliament. The new constitution, which came into force in December 1972, created a strong executive prime minister, a largely ceremonial presidency, an independent judiciary, and a British-style unicameral legislature based on a modified Westminster model. The Constitution enumerates a number of principles on which Bangladesh is to be governed. These have come to be known as the tenets of "Mujibism" (or "Mujibbad"), which include the four pillars of nationalism, socialism, secularism, and democracy. In the following years, however, Mujib discarded everything Bangladesh theoretically represented: constitutionalism, freedom of speech, rule of law, the right to dissent, and equal opportunity of employment.

According to “Governments of the World”: “Bangladesh began its constitutional journey on April 10, 1971. An ad hoc constitution vested all power in the president, but the president and undisputed leader of the nationalist movement, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Rahman (1920–1975), was then being held in a Pakistani prison. Real executive power was therefore exercised by the prime minister, Tajuddin Ahmed (1925–1975), who ran a de facto government modeled on a parliamentary system. [Source: Governments of the World: A Global Guide to Citizens' Rights and Responsibilities , Thomson Gale, 2006]

“On January 11, 1972, the day after his release from prison, Sheikh Mujib, as the president, issued a provisional constitutional order, stipulating a unitary parliamentary form of government. He stepped down as president to become prime minister and the effective head of a parliamentary government. In December 1972, Bangladesh adopted its constitution, which declared the country a people's republic.... Following the model of a parliamentary system, no separation of powers existed between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government. The justices of the higher courts were to be appointed by the president. Fundamental rights and freedoms were guaranteed, with certain restrictions imposed under emergency provisions. National elections were to be held every five years for three hundred general seats. Fifteen seats were reserved for women to be elected indirectly by the general members of parliament. To ensure the stability of government, it was decided that members of parliament would lose their seats if they voted against their party or changed party affiliation. Amendment procedures were simple: by a two-thirds majority vote, parliament could amend the constitution.

“A national election held in March 1973 gave the AL a fresh mandate to rule the country. Soon afterwards, however, as the government faced mounting criticism, a schism developed within the AL as to how to best respond to the opposition. While the older, moderate leaders urged continuation of multiparty democratic rule, a group of young militant leaders called for the establishment of a revolutionary government under Sheikh Mujib. Mujib finally decided to pursue the course suggested by the young militants. Taking advantage of his party's two-thirds majority in parliament, Sheikh Mujib and the AL altered the constitution in January 1975. The fourth amendment introduced a one-party presidential form of government, with restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms, and an independent judiciary. Sheikh Mujib was proclaimed the president, but he and some members of his extended family were assassinated in a military coup on August 15, 1975.

Early Leadership of Bangladesh

Two days after "independent, sovereign republic of Bangladesh" was first proclaimed on March 26, 1971, the "Voice of Independent Bangladesh" announced that a "Major Zia" (actually Ziaur Rahman, later president of Bangladesh) would form a new government with himself occupying the "presidency." Zia's selfappointment was considered brash, especially by Mujib, who in subsequent years would hold a grudge. Quickly realizing that his action was unpopular, Zia yielded his "office" to the incarcerated Mujib. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

At independence, Mujib was in jail in West Pakistan, where he had been taken after his arrest on March 25. He had been convicted of treason by a military court and sentenced to death. Yahya did not carry out the sentence, perhaps as a result of pleas made by many foreign governments. With the surrender of Pakistani forces in Dhaka and the Indian proclamation of a cease-fire on the western front, Yahya relinquished power to a civilian government under Bhutto, who released Mujib and permitted him to return to Dhaka via London and New Delhi. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

On January 10, 1972, Mujib arrived in Dhaka to a tumultuous welcome. Mujib first assumed the title of president but vacated that office two days later to become the prime minister. Mujib pushed through a new constitution that was modeled on the Indian Constitution.

Bangladesh, Pakistan and India After the 1971 War

Following Pakistan's defeat, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, came to power in West Pakistan. Bangladesh’s leader Sheikh Mujib rejected Pakistan's call for a reunited country but was released from prison and eventually allowed to return to Bangladesh. India was Bangladesh’s biggest supporter. Even so, armed Bengali "freedom fighters" fought Bihari civilians, who originated in Bihar, India, in Bangladesh, particularly after Indian troops withdrew from Bangladesh in March, 1972.

Relations with Pakistan were hostile for some time. Pakistan withheld recognition from Bangladesh, and Bangladesh and India refused to repatriate more than 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war who had surrendered at the end of the conflict over Pakistan's refusal to recognize Bangladesh, and over Bangladesh's declared intention to bring to trial some Pakistani soldiers on war-crimes charges.

A summit meeting held in Shimla, India, in July, 1972, resulted in an easing of tensions and an agreement to settle differences between the two nations peacefully. Pakistan President Bhutto and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India agreed to settle their differences. In August 1973, India and Pakistan reached an agreement on the release of Pakistani prisoners-of-war and the exchange of hostage populations in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — especially of the Bengalis in Pakistan and the Biharis in Bangladesh. Pakistan officially recognized Bangladesh in February, 1974 prior to the start of a world Islamic summit conference in Lahore. Formal relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh were not established until 1976.

After the Creation of Bangladesh

Bangladesh’s short history has been anything but smooth. During its first 30 years of independence there were two assassinated presidents, three military coups and 19 failed coups attempts Over the years The Bangladesh National Party (BNP) and Awami League have traded power.

After independence Urdu — the national language in Pakistan (western Pakistan) was no longer on the curriculum in schools. There were attempts to disarm the populace after the war, opposition parties held on to their weapons. Pleas were made for people to turn in their weapons after the war but many people refused to cooperate. Crime and banditry became a problem in the countryside.

In 1972 the country's major industries, banks, and shipping and insurance firms were nationalized. Despite Mujib's popularity as the founder of independent Bangladesh, high rates of inflation and a severe famine (1974) resulted in a governmental crisis. In 1975, after becoming president under a new constitutional system, he was assassinated in a military coup; after two additional coups later in the year, Maj. Gen. Zia ur-Rahman emerged as ruler, beginning a period of military control that lasted into the 1990s. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., The Columbia University Press]

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman told William Ellis of National Geographic, "everybody earned money by using us, the British, the west Pakistanis, everybody. They treated us as a colony and used us as a market. They exploited us, the British for 200 years and the West Pakistanis for 24, but they could not suppress us. We suffered — everyone in my country suffered — but we're now free, and I tell you that Bangladesh has a future. We will recover."

But the administration degenerated into corruption, and Mujib attempted to create a one-party state. In August 1975 Mujib was assassinated, along with much of his family, by army officers. Since that time, Bangladesh has been both less socialistic and less secular.

Communists and Foreign Aid in Bangladesh

After the 1971 war Bangladesh was filled with Russians who spoke fluent Bengali. Newspapers ran dispatches from Tass, the Soviet new agency, and Russian-made films were shown frequently on Bangladeshi television. The Soviet Union helped the Bangladesh government to clear sunken vessels out of Chittagong harbor after the U.N. said it couldn't afford the six million dollar price tag of the operation.

To head off of a huge famine in Bangladesh after two year period marked by war, tidal waves and a devastating cyclone, international aid agencies sent 300,000 tons of food a month to Chittagong. Much of the food was in the form of sweetened, flavored and vitamin-fortified corn-soya-milk powder which was mixed with water and cooked into bread. The hungry lined up with cans, paper cups, glasses or folds in their clothes to except their rations often provided by UNICEF.

About a $1 billion was spent and 30 nations and more than 50 private organization participated in the relief effort for Bangladesh that at the time was the largest ever mounted. India was the largest contributor, donating $280 million; the U.S. contributed $250 million and the Soviet Union gave $94 million.

The relief mission into Chittagong and Khlama harbors were hampered by the wrecks of 30 ships that had been sunk during the war. Some of the ship unloaded their cargos several kilometers out to sea so they wouldn't hit the wrecks as they came into shore. The American-owned tanker “Manhattan,” one of the few vessels to clear the Northwest Passage, was used as grain-storage silo.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1921–1975) is considered the father of Bangladesh. Known as Bangabandhu ("Friend of Bengal"), he helped deliver Bangladesh from Pakistani rule and served as Bangladesh's first prime minister. Crowds of a quarter of million used to come out to hear him speak. His arrest triggered the War of Liberation in 1971. When the war was over he became Bangladesh's first leader. He fought and won a massive victory in the 1973 election, but two years later, he suspended the political process and took power into his own hands. In 1975 he and his family were assassinated.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, widely known as as Sheikh Mujib or simply Mujib, came to office with immense personal popularity but had difficulty transforming this popular support into the political strength needed to function as head of government. [Source: “Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook” 2009]

According to the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”: Sheikh Mujib, “was one of South Asia's most charismatic leaders. From the moment Muhammad Ali Jinnah declared Urdu the national language (because he saw it as an Islamic language and thus appropriate for the new Muslim country), Sheikh Mujib was driven to change the direction in which Pakistan was headed. In 1949 Ataur Rahman, Maulana Bashani, Shamsul Huq, and Sheikh Mujib together founded a new political party called the Awami Muslim League (People's Muslim League), later renamed the Awami League, which party leaders hoped would demonstrate their representation of all people of Bengal, not just Muslims. The Awami League emphasized the cultural distinctiveness of East Bengal and sought to protect it. Sheikh Mujib spent much of his political career in prison for his outspokenness, which impassioned and united both the Bengali people and the non-Muslim ethnic minorities. After the independence of Bangladesh, he became the first president of this secular nation, though his time in office was controversial and repressive. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices”, Thomson Gale, 2006]

Mujib faced a task for which his administrative and political experience was lacking.. Bangla opinion turned against Mujib, coalescing two main opposition groups that otherwise shared little in common besides their opposition to Mujib and to Indian influence: they were the ultra conservative Islamic groups, led by the Jamaati-Islami, and the radical left, led by Maoists, who opposed both Indian and Soviet influence. [Source: “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations”, Thomson Gale, 2007]

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Early Life and Political Career

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born on March 17, 1920 in Tungipara in the Gopalganj district of what is now Bangladesh. At the age of 18, he married Begum Fazilatunnessa. In 1947 he received a bachelor's degree from the Islamia College under Calcutta University. When Sheikh Mujib was born, his province and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were under British rule. As a young man he joined the All India Muslim Students Federation, which was active against the British. In 1943 he joined the Muslim League, which founded Pakistan.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had fought against British rule in the 1940s, helped create the Muslim state of Pakistan and then pushed for Bengali rights within Pakistan. Before independence, he spent 13 years in various prison.

Sheikh Mujib got involved in politics around this time that India and Pakistan were partitioned and became independent in 1947 because he wanted his East Pakistani people to have autonomy from Pakistan and is considered one of the foundes of the Awami League in 1949. When the Awami League was formed in 1949, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in prison. Even so he was made joint secretary of the party,

After the success of the Awami League and United Front alliance the elections in 1954, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became agriculture and forestry minister in the Pakistan government. From his position in the cabinet he pushed for autonomy for what is now Bangladesh. After the military coup in 1958 he was imprisoned and wasn't released until 1960. After speaking out for more autonomy, he was arrested again in 1962 for several months and released when martial law was lifted.

In 1970, the Awami swept 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan and thus won enough seats in all Pakistan election for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to become prime minister of Pakistan. But instead of becoming prime minister he was imprisoned and Parliament was dissolved and the army of West Pakistan seized power. He was arrested on March 26, 1971 and imprisoned in the west after Bangladesh declared independence and West Pakistan carried out its campaign of terror in East Pakistan. A couple of weeks after the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War ended in December 1971 he was released from prison in the west.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Becomes Bangladesh’s First Prime Minister

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in his early fifties when he became prime minister of the first government Bangladesh as the leader Awami League on January 10, 1972. After returning to Dhaka after his release from prison in January 1972 he addressed a crowd of over a million people. "My lifelong desire is fulfilled," he said, "My Golden Bengal is today an independent and sovereign state...Every second I awaited death in prison cells... was ready to die. But I had no iota of doubt that the people of Bangladesh would be free."

The country Mujib returned to was scarred by civil war. The number of people killed, raped, or displaced could be only vaguely estimated. The task of economic rehabilitation, specifically the immediate goal of food distribution to a hungry populace, was frustrated by crippled communications and transportation systems. The new nation faced many other seemingly insurmountable problems inhibiting its reconstruction. One of the most glaring was the breakdown of law and order. In the wake of the war of independence, numerous bands of guerrillas still roamed the countryside, fully armed and outside the control of the government. Many fighters of the Mukti Bahini joined the Bangladesh Army and thus could legally retain their weapons, but many others ignored Mujib's plea that they surrender their weapons. Some armed groups took the law into their own hands and set up territories under their own jurisdiction. In time these challenges to central authority contributed to Mujib's suspension of democracy. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Mujib had an unfailing attachment to those who participated in the struggle for independence. He showed favoritism toward those comrades by giving them appointments to the civil government and especially the military. This shortsighted practice proved fatal. Mujib denied himself the skill of many top-level officers formerly employed by the Pakistan Civil Service. Bengali military officers who did not manage to escape from West Pakistan during the war and those who remained at their posts in East Pakistan were discriminated against throughout the Mujib years. The "repatriates," who constituted about half of the army, were denied promotions or choice posts; officers were assigned to functionless jobs as "officers on special duty." Schooled in the British tradition, most believed in the ideals of military professionalism; to them the prospect of serving an individual rather than an institution was reprehensible. Opposed to the repatriates were the freedom fighters, most of whom offered their unquestioning support for Mujib and in return were favored by him. A small number of them, associated with the radical Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party), even proposed that officers be elected to their posts in a "people's army." From the ranks of the freedom fighters, Mujib established the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini (National Defense Force), whose members took a personal pledge to Mujib and became, in effect, his private army to which privileges and hard-to-get commodities were lavishly given. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Sheikh Mujibur confided to National Geographic that his work load and 18 hours days after becoming prime minister was "worse than being in prison."

Sheik Mujibur Rahman's Policies

Relying heavily on experienced civil servants and members of the Awami League, Sheik Mujibur Rahman's government focused on relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction of the economy and society. Economic conditions remained precarious, however.

Despite substantial foreign aid, mostly from India and the Soviet Union, food supplies were scarce, and there was rampant corruption and black marketeering. This situation prompted Mujib to issue a warning against hoarders and smugglers. Mujib backed up his threat by launching a mass drive against hoarders and smugglers, backed by the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini. The situation only temporarily buoyed the legitimate economy of the country, as hoarding, black marketeering, and corruption in high offices continued and became the hallmarks of the Mujib regime. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Mujib’s economic policies directly contributed to his country's economic chaos. His large-scale nationalization of Bangladeshi manufacturing and trading enterprises and international trading in commodities strangled Bangladesh entrepreneurship in its infancy. The enforced use of the Bangla language as a replacement for English at all levels of government and education was yet another policy that increased Bangladesh's isolation from the dynamics of the world economy. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Mujib stifled promising industries by nationalizing them. Many workers, who were put of work by the war, waited months and even years to return to work as production was stifled by lack of capital and raw materials.

Election in 1973, Martial Law in 1974, One-Party State in 1975

Most Bangadeshis still revered the Bangabandhu at the time of the first national elections held in March 1973. Mujib was assured of victory, and the Awami League won 282 out of 289 directly contested seats. No political party other than the Awami League in Bangladesh's early years was able to duplicate or challenge the League's broad-based appeal, membership, or organizational strength.

After the election, the economic and security situations began to deteriorate rapidly, and Mujib's popularity suffered further as a result of what many Bangladeshis came to regard as his close alliance with India. Mujib's authoritarian personality and his paternalistic pronouncements to "my country" and "my people" were not sufficient to divert the people's attention from the miserable conditions of the country. Widespread flooding and famine created severe hardship, aggravated by growing law-and-order problems. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Sheik Mujibur government became increasingly autocratic. Martial law was declared in 1974 and laws were passed that allowed unlimited detention of political opponents, banned public meetings and authorized arrest without warrants. A an major opposition newspaper was shut down and 90-year-old opposition leader Maulana Bhashani was arrested.

In January, 1975, Parliament outlawed all political parties in Bangladesh except the Awami League and the Constitution was amended to make Mujib president for five years and to give him full executive powers. The next month, in a move that wiped out all opposition political parties, Mujib proclaimed Bangladesh a one-party state, effectively abolishing the parliamentary system. He renamed the Awami League the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Bangladesh Peasants, Workers, and People's League) and required all civilian government personnel to join the party. The fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution ceased to be observed, and Bangladesh, in its infancy, was transformed into a personal dictatorship. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Despite some improvement in the economic situation during the first half of 1975, implementation of promised political reforms was slow, and criticism of government policies became increasingly centered on Mujib. Mujibur became increasingly paranoid. He shut himself inside the heavily guarded official residence, babbling "my people love, my people love me." A few weeks later he was assassinated by his own soldiers.

Sheik Mujibur Rahman's Assassination

On the morning of August 15, 1975, Mujib and several members of his family were murdered in a coup engineered by a group of young army officers, most of whom were majors. Some of the officers in the "majors' plot" had a personal vendetta against Mujib, having earlier been dismissed from the army. In a wider sense, the disaffected officers and the several hundred troops they led represented the grievances of the professionals in the military over their subordination to the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini and Mujib's indifference to gross corruption by his political subordinates and family members. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

Sheik Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in his home in Dhaka, the official residence of the prime minster along with his wife, three sons and one of his three daughters, and ten other close relatives. A total of 26 people, including pregnant women and children were killed in the predawn attack. Rahman was found with 20 bullet holes in his body and was still clutched a pipe in his hand. The only surviving family members were Sheik Hasina Wazed, the current prime minister of Bangladesh, and her sister. They were in Germany at the time of the killing.

Sheik Mujibur Rahman had become increasing unpopular. By the time of his assassination, Mujib's popularity had fallen precipitously, and his death was lamented by surprisingly few. When he was killed many people in Bangladesh celebrated. His killers said they did what they did because they wanted to "save the country."

Fate of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Killers

After the coup and assassination, the government installed after the coup passed an ordinance protecting the soldiers involved in the assassination from prosecution. In 1979, the law was included in the Constitution but the 14 men believed to be involved in the killing were sent into exile to Libya. Some later got positions in the foreign ministry and found positions in different places all over the world.

After becoming prime minister Sheik Hasina ordered the arrest of her family's alleged killer. She fired the six workers abroad as diplomats and ordered then to return home. Unable to change the constitution, she used a loophole to bring them to trial. The coup participants reportedly needed to apply for certificates to earn their amnesty, something they didn't do.

In November 1998, after a 17 month trial, 15 former military commanders were convicted and sentenced to death for the killing of Sheik Mujibur Rhaman 23 years earlier. Only four were in jail. The others were tried in absentia. They are in the United States, Canada, Pakistan Libya, India and Zimbabwe and authorities in Bangladesh are trying to extradite them. In December 2000, riots broke out injuring 30, after a High Court judge acquitted five army officers sentenced to death for the killing of Sheik Mujibur Rhaman. The other 10 were upheld. The ten guilty men are supposed to executed in front of firing squads.

After Mujibur Rahman's Assassination: Coup and Counter-Coup

Bangladesh's first 25 years of existence was marked by two assassinations, three coups and 19 coup attempts. Sheik Mujibur Rhaman’s death triggered a series of military coups that resulted in a military-backed government and subsequent creation of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in 1978. The Awami League was all but destroyed. It took 30 years build it back. Bangladesh was governed by the military for the 15 years, 1975 to 1990. The years of military rule stunted Bangladesh's economic growth, exacerbated poverty and made it dependent on foreign aid.

The diplomatic status of Bangladesh changed overnight. One day after Mujib's assassination President Bhutto of Pakistan announced that his country would immediately recognize the new regime and offered a gift of 50,000 tons of rice in addition to a generous gift of clothing. India, however, under the rule of Indira Gandhi, suffered a setback in its relations with Bangladesh. The end of the Mujib period once again brought serious bilateral differences to the fore. Many Bangladeshis, although grateful for India's help against Pakistan during the struggle for independence, thought Indian troops had lingered too long after the Pakistan Army was defeated. Mujibist dissidents who continued to resist central authority found shelter in India. [Source: James Heitzman and Robert Worden, Library of Congress, 1989 *]

The assassins of Mujib arrested the three senior ranking officers in Mujib's cabinet but installed as president the fourth in charge, a long-time colleague of Mujib and minister of commerce,Khondakar Mushtaque Ahmed (1918-1996). Mushtaque, a conservative member of the Awami League (the name to which the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League reverted after Mujib's death), was known to lean toward the West and to have been troubled by Mujib's close ties with India. Many observers believed him to have been a conspirator in Mujib's assassination. Mushtaque, a former minister of commerce, pledged support for the constitution and the four guiding principles of state ideology. He dissolved the BAKSAL, declared martial law but restored the parliament.

Mushtaque’s was soon overthrown in a military coup launched by senior military officials on November 3, 1975. The coup leaders named Chief Justice Abusadat Muhammad Sayem (1916–1997) as president and chief martial law administrator. However, the leaders of the November 3 coup were killed in a counter coup on November 7, which brought forward Ziaur (Zia) Rahman (1936–1981) as the new chief of staff of the army and strongman of the country.

Mushtaque’s role in the new regime was circumscribed by the majors, who even moved into the presidential palace with him.Mushtaque announced that parliamentary democracy would be restored by February 1977, and he lifted Mujib's ban on political parties. He instituted strong programs to reduce corrupt practices and to restore efficiency and public confidence in the government. He also ordered the transfer of all the equipment and assets and most of the personnel of the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini to the army and the eventual abolition of the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini. Mushtaque promised to dissolve the authoritarian powers that Mujib had invested in the office of the presidency, but the continuing unstable situation did not improve enough to permit a significant degree of liberalization. In order to keep Mujib supporters under control, Mushtaque declared himself chief martial law administrator and set up a number of tribunals that fell outside constitutional jurisdiction.

Despite the economic and political instability during the last years of the Mujib regime, the memory of the Bangabandhu evoked strong emotions among his loyalists. Many of these, especially former freedom fighters now in the army, were deeply resentful of the majors. One of these Mujib loyalists, Brigadier Khaled Musharraf, launched a successful coup on November 3, 1975. Chief Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem, who had served Mujib in the Supreme Court, emerged as president. Musharraf had himself promoted to major general, thereby replacing Chief of Staff Zia.

In a public display orchestrated to show his loyalty to the slain Mujib, Musharraf led a procession to Mujib's former residence. The reaction to Musharraf's obvious dedication to Mujibist ideology and the fear that he would renew the former leader's close ties with India precipitated the collapse of the new regime. On November 7, agitators of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal, a leftist but decidedly anti-Soviet and anti-Indian movement, managed to incite troops at the Dhaka cantonment against Musharraf, who was killed in a firefight. President Sayem became chief martial law administrator, and the military service chiefs, most significantly the army's Zia, became deputy chief martial law administrators. Zia also took on the portfolios of finance, home affairs, industry, and information, as well as becoming the army chief of staff.It was not long before Zia, with the backing of the military, supplanted the elderly and frail Sayem. Zia postponed the presidential elections and the parliamentary elections that Sayem had earlier promised and made himself chief marital law administrator in November 1976.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Bangladesh Tourism Board, Bangladesh National Portal (, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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