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Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad

Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad : biography

1918 – 5 March 1996

Khondaker Moshtaq Ahmad (also spelled Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed and phonetically spelt Khondokar Mushtak Ahmed) () (1918 – March 5, 1996) was a Bangladeshi politician who served as the President of Bangladesh from 15 August to 6 November 1975 after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding leader of Bangladesh. Ahmad played important roles in the Awami League and the Mujibnagar government-in-exile formed during the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Political career

Ahmad was elected a member of the East Pakistan Provincial Assembly in 1954 as a candidate of the United Front. After the central government of Pakistan dissolved the United Front, Mostaq Ahmad was jailed in 1954 with other Bengali leaders. He was released in 1955 and elected chief whip of the United Front parliamentary party. But with the promulgation of martial law in the country in 1958 he was arrested by the regime of Ayub Khan. During the 6 Point Movement, Ahmad was once again jailed in 1966. Following his release, Ahmad accompanied Sheikh Mujib (now the topmost leader of the Awami League) to the all-parties conference called by Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi in 1969. He was elected a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan in 1970.

At the onset of the Bangladesh Liberation War and Mujib’s arrest, Ahmad and other Awami League leaders gathered in Mujibnagar to form Government of Bangladesh in exile. Syed Nazrul Islam served as Acting President (Mujib was declared President), Tajuddin Ahmad served as Prime Minister and Ahmad was made Foreign Minister. In this capacity, Ahmad was to build international support for the cause of Bangladesh’s independence. But his role as the Foreign Minister in the exiled government was marred with controversy.

Later life and legacy

Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad was imprisoned by the regime of Major General Khaled Mosharraf and later by the regime of Ziaur Rahman until 1978. Upon his release, he formed Democratic League and attempted to resuscitate his political career, but to no avail. He spent his last years in Dhaka and died on March 5, 1996.

Ahmad was named in the investigation of the murder of Sheikh Mujib launched in 1996 by his daughter Sheikh Hasina, who had just won the national elections to become Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Due to his death, he was not charged or tried. Historians and critics assert that Ahmad was one of the key plotters of Mujib’s murder. He is also criticised for legitimising political murders by protecting Mujib’s killers.

He is also known to be responsible for the heinous killing of the four national leaders, who led the country during the liberation war in the absence of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, former Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam, former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Tajuddin Ahmed and Captain Muhammad Mansur Ali, and former interior minister A H M Qamaruzzaman on 3 November 1975 inside the Dhaka Central Jail, commemorated as Jail Killing Day.

Early life

Born in the village of Daspara in Daudkandi Upazila of Comilla District, Khondakar Mostaq Ahmad obtained a Law degree from the University of Dhaka and joined politics in 1942. An activist in the Pakistan movement and a leading student activist in the Muslim League, Ahmad was one of the founder joint secretaries of the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League, founded by Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani and later renamed Awami League co-founded by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Ahmad was one of the closest associates of the young and charismatic politician Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, since his earliest days as a student leader.

President of Bangladesh

After Bangladesh’s independence, Ahmad became a member of the cabinet of Sheikh Mujib. First he was appointed Foreign Minister of Independent Bangladesh, a responsibility that he had been discharging since the formation of Mujibnagar Government in exile. Later Sheikh Mujibur Rahman have him the charge of the ministries of Power, Irrigation and Flood Control. In 1975, he was made the Commerce Minister. However, by this time Ahmad was believed to have been alianated from Mujib as he was suspected of forging alliances with anti-Mujib and Islamic political groups. A conservative leader, Ahmad opposed Mujib’s socialism, secularism and pro-India policies. Despite this, Ahmad remained in Mujib’s cabinet and was appointed a member of the BAKSAL executive committee when Mujib banned other political parties, declaring himself as President.

Sheikh Mujib and all but two members of his family (his daughters, who were in West Germany at the time and thus escaped the carnage) were assassinated by a group of army officers on 15 August 1975, apparently with the concurrence of Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad.Anthony Mascarenhas, Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood ISBN 0-340-39420-X Khondaker immediately took control of the government, proclaiming himself as President. Several of the army officers were promoted two or three ranks ahead, e.g. Major Syed Faruque Rahman was promoted as Colonel. Major General Ziaur Rahman (husband of Khaleda Zia, who later became Prime Minister of Bangladesh), was appointed as Chief of Staff of Bangladesh Army. Khondaker also ordered the imprisonment of pro-Mujib leaders Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, A. H. M. Qamaruzzaman and Muhammad Mansur Ali. He replaced the national slogan of Joy Bangla with Bangladesh Zindabad slogan and changed the name Bangladesh Betar to ‘Radio Bangladesh’. More controversially, he proclaimed the Indemnity Ordinance, which granted immunity from prosecution to the assassins of Mujib. Mujib’s daughters Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Sheikh Rehana were barred from returning to Bangladesh from abroad. BAKSAL and pro-Mujib political groups were dissolved.

On 3 November, the four imprisoned pro-Mujib leaders were assassinated while imprisoned at the Dhaka Central Jail. However, Ahmad was ousted from power on 6 November in a coup led by Khaled Mosharraf and Shafat Jamil.