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Bangladesh has undergone several military coups since its independence from Pakistan in 1971. Two resulted in assassination of the heads of state.

1975 coups

15 August

The coup of 15 August 1975 was organized by junior officers of Bangladesh Army. They were led by Major Syed Faruqe Rahman and Major Rashid. The coup resulted in the assassination of the country's president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, of the Awami League; his family except for daughters Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana, who were in Germany; and several ministers and party leaders.

3 November

The government set up by Major Faruque, Major Rashid and Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad was overthrown in a coup on 3 November 1975. This was organized by Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, Bir Uttom, a decorated freedom fighter. Mosharraf was seen by many as a supporter of Sheikh Mujibir's government. He put Major General Ziaur Rahman, the Chief of Army Staff and fellow freedom fighter, who was believed to have supported the August coup, under house arrest but did not execute him. Some commentators said that the personal friendship between the two officers led to Mosharraf sparing Rahman's life.

7 November

Led by Lt. Colonel (Retd.) Abu Taher, soldiers of the Bangladesh Army overthrew the 3-day coup of Mosharraf and freed Major General Ziaur Rahman from house arrest. They killed Khaled Mosharraf and his associates. Rumors about Mosharraf's affiliation with India (a FEER cover at the time carried the headline "The Indian Coup?") aggravated army suspicion of this coup.

Former Army Chief Major General Shafiullah alleged that many JSD (Jatiyo Shomajthantrhik Dol: National Socialist Party) elements infiltrated the army in early 1975. On 6–7 November 1975 some of the JSD elements distributed leaflets and agitated soldiers against the officer class of the army. JSD tried to control the counter-coup organized by Abu Taher.

Taher rescued Ziaur Rahman (known as Zia) from captivity, who later became prime minister of the country. Zia later conducted a secret trial, in which Taher was convicted. He was executed for his part in the coup. The special tribunal was described as a "kangaroo trial" by journalist Lawrence Lifschultz and led to his expulsion from the country by the military junta of Ziaur. Lifschultz later documented the tumultuous coup and counter-coup of this period in his book, Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution.

Coups between 1977-1980

Ziaur Rahman survived as many as 21 coups during his five years as leader of the country until he was killed by the coup of 1981. Most of those coups were led by the 1971 freedom-fighter officers who were irked by Ziaur's liaison with anti-liberation pro-Islamic quarters. 30 September 1977 a coup was held in Bogura Cantonment. 22 East Bengal Regiment participated in this coup. But it failed.

2 October 1977 another coup erupted, led by the airmen of Bangladesh Air Force. Six Air Force officers died in this coup. No one knows why this coup was begun. Witness says that in 2 October five members of the "Red Army" of Japan were trying to hijack a Japan Airline DC-8, including 156 passengers. But they failed in the attempt. Following this, the coup was begun. An estimated 2500 armed forces personnel were executed following convictions in courts martial for their part in the coup. Officially 1183 soldiers were convicted. 561 were Bangladesh Air Force airmen and rest were Army soldiers. Army soldiers were killed for 30 September coup. [1]

1981 coup


Large processions follow the funeral of Zia

During his term of power, Zia was criticised for ruthless treatment of his political opposition.[2] At the same time, Zia rehabilitated some of the most controversial men in Bangladesh, but he continued to enjoy overall popularity and public confidence. Supporters of the Awami League and veterans of the Mukti Bahini criticized his actions. Amidst speculation and fears of unrest, Zia went on tour to Chittagong on May 29, 1981 to help resolve an intra-party political dispute in the regional Bangladesh National Party. Zia and his entourage stayed overnight at the Chittagong Circuit House, a rest house. In the early hours of the morning of May 30, he was assassinated by a group of army officers, who also killed six of his bodyguards and two aides.[3]

Zia's assassination was part of a failed military coup led by Major General Abul Manzoor, who announced the killing and his take-over of the government on radio.[3] Manzoor had earlier been a senior army commander and had been transferred to Chittagong in 1977. He was scheduled for a transfer to a non-command position in Dhaka and was reportedly disappointed over his impending demotion.[2]

After the assassination of Ziaur Rahman on 30 May 1981, the then Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Hussain Muhammad Ershad remained loyal to the government.[4] He ordered the army to suppress the coup attempt of Zia's associates led by Major General Abul Manzoor. Manzoor surrendered and immediately he was taken in cantonment. Twelve hours later he was executed.

Zia was buried at the Chandrima Uddan in the locality of Sher-e-Banglanagar in Dhaka.[5] Large processions of supporters and BNP activists attended the funeral. Vice President Abdus Sattar immediately succeeded him as the acting president.

1982 coup

File:Ershad at Presidential Oath Taking Ceremony after Elected in 1986 with Chief Justice & Military Secretary Brigadier General ABM Elias.JPG

Presidential Oath Taking Ceremony after 1986 elections, the Chief Justice and Military Secretary (1984-1989) Brigadier ABM Elias is also seen

Lieutenant General Ershad maintained loyalty to the new president Abdus Sattar, who led the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to victory in elections in 1982. Lt. Gen. Ershad allotted two houses to the widow Mrs. Khaleda Zia and her two sons, one of [6] in Dhaka Cantonment. In 2010, the Awami League government reclaimed the residence, which was owned by the Bangadesh National Army.

However the BNP government was not doing well and pressure increased from high-ranking army commanders for the military to take over the reins of state. Lt. Gen. Ershad came to power in a bloodless coup on 24 March 1982 and proclaimed himself Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA), President Sattar was replaced.[7] He took over as president on 11 December 1983 by replacing A. F. M. Ahsanuddin Chowdhury.[8]

To improve rural administration, Ershad introduced the Upazila and Zila Parishad system and held the 'first democratic elections for these village councils' in 1985. In an election held in 1986, Ershad was nominated by the Jatiya party, which had been created by him and his supporters. One of the major political parties BNP founded by his predecessor CMLA & later elected President Major General Ziaur Rahman led by his widow Khaleda Zia boycotted the elections; however the other major party Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina participated[9] in Bangladeshi general election, 1986. The Jatiya Party led by HM Ershad won the elections winning majority in the Jatiya Sangshad. In 1987 Bangladesh’s Land Ministry launched the 'Land Reforms Action Program', an initiative to distribute khas – unoccupied state-owned land, to landless families. A noble element of the land reform was the establishment by the Ministry of Land.[10]

Ershad's regime finally fell in December 1990; however he still managed some support as he was elected Member of Parliament three times and his Jatiya Party is the second largest party in Bangladesh's coalition government as elected in Bangladeshi general election, 2008.

See also


  • Mascarenhas, Anthony. Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986.
  • Lifschultz, Lawrence. Bangladesh: The Unfinished Revolution. London: Zed Books, 1979.
  • Ali, Tariq. Pakistan: military rule or people's power?". London: Cape, 1970.

External links

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