India and Bangladesh’s security forces collaborated to track down one of the last remaining killers of Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman nearly 45 years after his assassination and almost a month after his birth centenary celebrations.
Cooperation between India and Bangladesh’s security forces has increased multifold since 2009 and soon after Sheikh Hasina ascended back to power in January 2009, Bangladesh handed over several leaders of insurgent groups based in the north-eastern states.
Abdul Mazed a former Bangladesh army official and one of the last surviving assassinator of Sheikh Mujib was arrested by the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police from Gabtoli in Dhaka. The authorities are now waiting for his death warrant.
“Mazed said he arrived in the country on March 15 or 16 from Kolkata. He claimed that he was hiding there for about 23 years,” The Daily Star quoted Hemayet Uddin Khan, the assistant public prosecutor as saying.
Mujibur Rahman is the father of the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, who, with her younger sister Sheikh Rehana Siddiq, was visiting Germany at the time of the assassination which killed her entire family. Both of the sisters are the only survivors in the family.
Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that the arrest was “the biggest gift” for Bangladesh this year. Mazed had publicly declared his involvement after the killing and had reportedly been hiding in India for many years.
Because of Mazed’s and other assassins close proximity with Pakistan, the perpetrators enjoyed more than two decades of legal immunity due to a law passed by Ziaur Rahman, the first military ruler of Bangladesh who was also killed in a military coup in 1981 and the husband of Khaleda Zia, an arch-rival of Sheikh Hasina.
Mazed and the others had fled via Bangkok to Libya and after a three-month stay there, were awarded different posts in Bangladesh’s diplomatic missions abroad. Mazed was posted in the Bangladesh Embassy in Senegal. After he retired from the army, Ziaur Rahman establishment made him the deputy secretary of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation in 1980.
However, as soon as the Awami League-led by Sheikh Hasina stormed back to power in 1996, the act was repealed paving way for the criminal prosecution of the defendants. Mazed is one of a dozen defendants whose death sentences were upheld by the country’s Supreme Court in 2009 after a trial court in 1998 had awarded them the capital punishment.
Five of the convicts – Syed Farooq Rahman, Sultan Shahriar Rashid Khan, Bazlul Huda, AKM Mohiuddin Ahmed, and Mohiuddin Ahmed – were hanged on January 27, 2010. Another convict, Aziz Pasha, met a natural death in Zimbabwe in 2001 leaving six other convicts, including Mazed at large. At least one is in Canada and another in the US, officials say.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had asked her successive counterparts in New Delhi, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi to assist in bringing Mazed to book.
“The formalities to execute him have already begun,” Justice Minister Anisul Huq told AFP, adding that the former officer will not be able to appeal his sentence. Huq said Majed’s only option to avoid the gallows was to appeal to the President for clemency. However, since President Abdul Hamid is a close confidante of Ms. Hasina, any mercy appeal is expected to be turned down, paving the way for his execution within weeks.