Shiekh mujeebur Rahman’s arrest as described by ZA Khan

Shiekh mujeebur Rahman’s arrest as described by ZA Khan

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Extract from my book :——-

Please describe in detail how you arrested Sheikh Mujeeb?

I flew from Comilla to Dacca by C-130 on 23 March 1971 to see the COS Eastern Command about a command problem that had arisen.  The city was festooned with Bangladesh flags, a lone Pakistan flag flew in Mohammadpur, the Bihari colony in Dacca. At the airport I was informed that I had to report to Colonel S. D. Ahmad at the Martial Law Headquarters, the colonel told me that Sheikh Mujeeb was to be arrested the next day or the day after and I was to make the necessary plan.

On the evening of 23rd March, Major Bilal, the Jangju Company commander, Captain Humayun, Captain Saeed, platoon commanders and I drove around Sheikh Mujib’s house; there was a large crowd around the house and a police guard. The next morning we carried out a reconnaissance of the roads leading to Dhanmondi where Mujib lived.

I was instructed to report to Major General Rao Farman  for formal orders on the morning of the 24th March, he told me that Sheikh Mujib was to be arrested on night 25th, after receiving the order I saluted to leave but the general stopped me and asked  “aren’t you going to hear how it is to be done?”. I told him that it was customary to allow the person who had to execute the plan to decide how it was to be done  but since he had something in mind he could tell me. The general then told me that I was to take one officer with me in civilian car to Mujib’s house and arrest  him. I told him that because of the crowd around the house a company was required; he told me that he was giving an order and I told him that I was not taking the order and he could find someone else to do the job and left his office.

I knew that I was in serious trouble, for the rest of the day I avoided places where I could be contacted. I had been told that Major General Mitha was arriving by PIA that evening, I met him and told him what had happened, he told me to be at Eastern Command Headquarters at 9 o’clock the next morning. When I went to Eastern Command headquarters the next morning I found Major General Rao Farman sitting with Colonel Akbar, the Colonel GS’s office, when he saw me he asked me why I had come, when I told him I had come to see Major General Mitha, he ordered Colonel Akbar  to arrange for a helicopter and fly me out of Dacca in fifteen minutes. Colonel Akbar after telephoning the Aviation Base informed the general that it would take about an hour for the helicopter to get ready.

Major General Mitha was conferring with Lieutenant General Tikka, the Eastern Command commander, as soon as he came out I explained what had happened, he   took me to General Abdul Hamid Khan, the COAS.  I explained what had happened between Major General Rao Farman and me and explained that Mujib could not be arrested without using at least a company of the SSG. The COAS then telephoned Major General Rao Farman and told him to meet all my requirements and told me that Mujib was to be taken alive and that I would be personally responsible if he was killed.

I went to Major General Rao Farman’s office and asked for three troop carrying vehicles and the plan of Mujib’s house. I told the general that Mujib’s house was back to back with the Japanese Consul’s house and if he crossed into the diplomat’s house what were my instructions; I was told to use my discretion. He gave me the house plan and arranged for the trucks.

On a sand model I  explained my plan  to the company, Captain Saeed (later killed in action at Comilla) with his platoon was to block all routes to Mujib’s house, Captain Humayun’s platoon was to enter the compound of Mujib’s house from, the corner house adjacent to Mujib’s house and form a perimeter around the house taking a special care to prevent any crossing into the Japanese diplomat’s house. The third party of twelve men, commanded by Major Bilal, equipped with electric torches were to search the house. The assembly point was a gate in the perimeter of the airport opening on the MNA hostel side of the airport, the route was National Assembly Building, Mohammadpur, Dhanmondi where Mujib lived, my jeep with full headlights was to lead and the three 5-ton troop carrying vehicles were to follow without lights to prevent determination of the number of vehicles. Captain Humayun with two men in civilian clothes was to keep circling Mujib’s house and inform about any change in the situation.

The H-hour was set for midnight,  by 9 o’clock the company concentrated at a small exit gate of the airfield, at about 10 o’clock Captain Humayun came to the airfield and reported that road blocks were being set up on the Mohammadpur-Dhanmondi road, I ordered all the company’s rocket launchers brought and  the men armed with rocket launchers joined Captain Saeed’s platoon. I instructed the platoon to form a single line on encountering a road block with the men armed with rocket launchers in the centre and riflemen on either side. The rocket launchers were to fire a single volley, the riflemen were to open fire; on my own initiative I advanced the H-hour from midnight to 11 o’clock to reduce the road block strengthening time.

At 11 o’clock on the night 25/26 March 1971 we moved out of the Dacca airfield and drove to the Mohammadpur-Dhanmondi road and met a road block of vehicles turned on their sides; our column stopped, fire was opened as I had instructed, some vehicles forming the road block caught fire and  to remove a part of the road block I used the winches on the troop carriers. After opening a gap we moved about two hundred yards and ran into the second road block of pipes of about two feet in diameter across the road leaving no room for a vehicle to pass. When the vehicle winch was used the pipe moved without creating an opening; I then ordered  Captain Saeed’s platoon to sit on one end of the pipe and had it winched from the other end creating a pivot on which the pipe turned and an opening was made.

About two hundred yards further down the road we ran into the third road block of bricks stacked about three feet high and about four feet in depth, we tried ramming with the 5 ton vehicles but it made no difference. I then ordered Captain Saeed’s platoon to manually remove the bricks and make a gap for vehicles to pass through and when the gap was made to bring the vehicles to Mujib’s  house. The rest of the troops I ordered to dismount and walk the rest of the way.

Captain Humayun’s platoon entered Mujib’s compound from the adjacent house, fire was opened, some people in the compound ran out of the gate, the perimeter around the house was formed, the police guard outside the house got into their 180 pounder tent, lifted the tent by its poles and ran into the lake in front of the house.

It was pitch dark, the house search party entered the house, a guard Mujib was escorted out with a soldier walking by his side, a little distance from the house the guard pulled out a ‘dah’,  a long bladed knife and attacked his escort, the escort behind the guards shot him but did not kill him.

On the ground floor no one was found, on the first floor  all the rooms were vacant, one room was locked and sound could be heard that indicated people were in the room, I told Major Bilal to have the door broken down and went downstairs to check if Captain Saeed had arrived and if any crowd had formed. Captain Saeed had brought the vehicles but they were badly stuck in the narrow lane, on my jeep wireless I could hear Brigadier Jahanzeb Arbab urging a unit to use its ‘romeo romeos’.

While I was instructing Captain Saeed, there was a sound of a shot, then grenade exploded and was followed by a burst of sub-machine gun; I was certain that Mujib had been killed. I ran upstairs and there I found a very shaken Sheikh Mujib, I asked him to accompany me and he asked to be allowed to say good bye to his family which I allowed,   he went into the room where the family had locked itself and came out quickly.

I later learnt that from the veranda of one of the rooms a shot had been fired at our men, in retaliation grenade had been thrown and a burst from a SMG had been fired. After the firing Sheikh Mujib asked that if he surrendered he should not be killed and after getting an assurance he came out and was arrested.