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Disgruntled elements converge, conspire through '75

DHAKA, July 31, 2015(BSS)-By end of 1974 Bangladesh was facing the pangs of a war-ravaged country as never before.

Kurt Waldheim then the United Nations' Secretary General had twice visited Bangladesh, once in 1972 and later in 1973. As he writes in his memoirs "In the Eye of the Storm" "Without massive doses of foreign aid the country was faced with a grave crisis". Yet, the UN had converted its relief program, UNROD (United Nations' Relief Program, Dhaka) into a development program, although the country was ill-prepared for it.

To add to the newly born country's troubles successive floods in 1973 and '74 devastated the crops. The monsoon crop was the major crop in those days.

By September 1974 the country's foreign exchange reserves had dipped to 50 million US dollars. As an extreme measure the government went for hard currency borrowing. A sum of 250 million US dollars was raised from the Gulf to meet up the immediate forex crisis and an OGL (Open General License) regime was introduced (for imports).

Meanwhile, some disgruntled army officers who had lost their jobs had set up shop at an abandoned building at Dainik Bangla crossing, Motijheel called "Sunshine Traders". The proprietor of this organization was Major Shariful Islam, popularly known by his nickname "Dalim".

He had been dismissed from service because of his undisciplined behavior during the Joint Combining Operations in October '74. However, he was treated rather benevolently after his dismissal by the government and given army contracts to make a living.

Dalim thrived well but his office soon became a hub of intrigue and conspiracy against the government.

By March 1975, Dalim had made a trip to Washington DC, apparently for sourcing supplies, but covertly looking for US support for his planned coup.

He did not hide his intentions very much. In news published in the expatriate press and in the Muktijoddha Sangsad bulletin "Grenade" he was quoted as saying "I want to kill (Bangabandhu) Sheikh Mujib, who wants to join me?"

For some strange reason the matter was never taken up seriously by the government.

The government was busy organizing its new political machinery.

But Dalim and Co. did not stop there, although the response in Washington was said to be almost of disbelief.

In May 8, 1975 following several informal meetings, the conspirators for the first time sat to discuss their plans. The location: Major Faruq's residence inside the cantonment! Faruq was the CO (Commanding Officer) of what was then Bengal Lancers. (In 1977 following several mutinies the force was disbanded and the remnants merged with other forces in the army.)

There were no civilians at the meeting but most conspirators were former army officers included Dalim. Apart from the host, the other important army officers to join the meeting were his brother-in-law and next-door neighbor, Major Abdur Rashid of Artillery.

Incidentally, Rashid was also the nephew of Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, then Commerce Minster of the Bangabandhu government and who was to become the president of Bangladesh following the assassination of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Others who were at the meeting included Raju Ahmed and A.K.M. Raju Ahmed, some of them majors in the army, while others like Dalim was retired.

Incidentally, both Faruq and Rashid had joined the Liberation War late. Faruq on November 13, 1971 and Rashid on October 30, 1971.

Faruq, who "fled" the Pakistan army from Jordan, where he was posted, went to Tripoli before heading for New Delhi through Dubai.

Faruq, on the other hand "managed" to get leave in late October and travelled to Bangladesh, where he sent his family to safety in Chittagong to his in-laws, while he crossed the border to Agartala.

The conspirators met in small groups that summer of 1975. But it was only on August 3, 1975 did their civilian counterparts join in.

By August 14 when they met to draw up the final plans, one of the plotters reported that Bangabandhu may have been alerted to the conspiracy and that they should act fast.

After some quick deliberations it was decided that it has to be now and then. The rest would follow.