The historical encounter
I proposed to sit down and discuss what was to be done to come out from the unwarranted situation. My proposal was accepted. We all sat down in the office of the commanding officer.
At the very beginning I wanted to know from Brig. Khaled about Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman. He informed me that he was in his residence. He was ok. Some people were looking after him. A polite way to say that he has been placed under house arrest.
I got an assurance from Brig. Khaled that no harm would be caused to Gen. Zia. He would just be removed from the post nothing else, Brig Khaled promised. The meeting started. I asked straight away, "When there is a popular government in place what had prompted this counter revolutionary act"? All became absolutely silent at my direct question. Perhaps each one was trying to find a befitting answer. Col. Shaffat came out to say, "We want to dismiss Mushtaq government as well as the present Parliament. The present Parliament is the Parliament of Awami BKSALITES".
"What next"? I asked.
"We dont want Gen. Zia as our Chief". Col. Shaffat said. "Who will run the government"? I asked.
"We shall have a Revolutionary Committee". Said Capt. Iqbal. Col. Shaffat refuted, "Khandakar Mushtaq will hand over power to the Chief Justice."
Brig. Khaled came out with a different proposal. He said, "Continuity has to be maintained. Khandakar Mushtaq will remain as the President but the three Chiefs have to be sacked". I understood they had ventured the coup without any specific programme. They had no homework done and they lacked unanimity of thoughts and ideas. Suddenly, all of us got surprised to hear a jet fighter zooming up. I asked Brig. Khaled, "Sir why Migs are up? For heaven sake stop this provocative act. Otherwise it would be simply impossible to hold back on Lt. Col. Farooq. He will roll his tanks on the streets leading to the cantonment". Brig Khaled talked over phone with the ATC (Air trafic control) and found out it was Sqn. Ldr. Liaquat who had gone up with one of the Mig-21. Brig. Khaled asked Sqn. Ldr. Liaquat through ATC to land back and join him at the 4th Bengal HQ.
The field mess waiter came in and informed that the breakfast was served. We moved to the tearoom. Fresh Dal Puri and tea were served at the regimental canteen. After the breakfast as we moved out we saw col. Mannaf in uniform. He quickly moved forward and saluted, "Khaled you are the boss, I salute you as a soldier and I am with you". An interesting character, almost similarly he was also supporting the 15th August uprising. Perhaps, he was behaving like a disciplined officer. However, it was not understandable how could such officers command respect from their subordinates changing colours like that of a chameleon? Every one was enjoying the fun. Brig. Khaled even did not bother to reply and said to us, "Lets go, we have to continue our discussion". He had his usual smile on his face. We again settled down in the Cos office. At that point Col. Sabbiuddin Ahmed came and joined us in the discussion.
"Well Dalim you are blaming me for nothing. I am no way responsible for what has been done today. The young officers had grievances against. Gen. Zia. They realized he had no ability to lead them. That is why they have acted to remove him". Brig. Khaled said coolly. He also pointed towards Maj. Hafeez, Capt. Iqbal, Col. Shaffat Jamil, Capt. Kabir and Lt. Kader etc.
"I had to come here at their request". It was very clear Brig. Khaled very cleaverly firing his guns from others shoulders to fullfil his ambition. "Are you going to replace Gen. Zia?" I asked again.
He asked in return, "Do you think I am here just to be the Chief?"
"I am thinking nothing Sir. I just want to know what are you up to?" I replied.
"Please tell me what are your demands? Once you tell me then Inshalla we shall find a way out of this limbo." I finished. Capt. Naser of Lancers said, "Yes, we want Brig. Khaled to be our Chief". "Yes, yes" some of the young officers echoed.
At that time some one came in and informed Sqr. Ldr. Liaquet had come. He was asked to come in by Brig. Khaled. Sqr. Ldr. Liaquat came and saluted Brig. Khaled. "Whats up man? Why the hell did you take off for"? Asked Brig. Khaled.
"Sir, I had information that Col. Farooq had started up his tanks at the Race course to move towards the cantonment that is why I went up". Sqr. Ldr. Liaquat replied.
"Dalim you said that you have come here to stop the blood shed, but one of your colleagues is trying to attack the Cantonment. Is it not a contradiction"? Brig. Khaled was agitated.
"Sir please have trust on me. Let me check whats happening. You all can be rest assured that nothing of that sort would ever happen". I said.
I went to the next room to contact Lt. Col. Rashid. I found Air Vice Marshal Toab and Rear Admiral M.A.Khan there. Both of them were frightened and looked totally lost. Both of them were pale. Seeing me out there both of them got some relief. AVM. Toab came close to me and asked, "Dalim how come you are here? Can you please tell what is going on"?
In reply I just said, "Sir, take everything easy and watch what happens".
I contacted Lt. Col. Rashid.
"Rashid it is Dalim here from 4 Bengal HQ. Brig. Khaled, Col. Shaffat and all others are here. Maj. Hafeez, Capt Iqbal are also present here. AVM. Toab and Rear Admiral M.H Khan have just been brought here. Gen. Zia is at his residence. Maj. Nur is with me. We are discussing. Sqr Ldr. Liaquat has come back with his Mig-21 at the order of Brig. Khaled. It is reported that Lt. Col. Farooq is preparing to move towards the cantonment with his tanks. No tanks to be started. I shall come to Banga Bhaban with their demands very soon. I have told Brig. Khaled that I and Nur are here to stop any blood shed for the greater interest of the country and the nation, at the same time to find out a peaceful solution to this crisis. So, you have to ensure that no provocative move is initiated from ourside".
"I am getting in touch with Col. Farooq and telling him not to take any such move". Replied Col. Rashid. I returned to the conference room.
"Dont worry Sir. Col. Farooq will not move his tanks". I told Brig. khaled.
Suddenly Brig. Khaled asked, where is AVM Toab?"
"He is here". Replied someone.
"Brig. him in". Ordered Brig. Khaled.
AVM Toab, the Air Cheif came in. He was looking very nervous. He looked all around and talked to Brig. Khaled, "Well Khaled, please tell me why the Air Cheif has been brought here in such a disgraceful manner. Whats happening? Where do I stand? Am I still the Chief?"
He could hardly finish Squ.Ldr. Liaquat roared, "Shut up you. You are no more the Chief. I have taken over the Command of the Airforce". Air Vice Marshal Toab just kept mum and maintained a blank look on his face. It was really a miserable state of affairs.
"Make him sit in some other place". Said Brig. Khaled. AVM. Toab was moved out from the conference room. "Dalim we have four demands.
1. Khandaker Mushtaq Ahmed will remain as the President.
2. All the three Services Chiefs shall have to go and new acceptable Chiefs shall have to be appointed by the President.
3. Chain of command has to be restored in the army. All the troops and the tanks
have to fall back to the cantonment.
4. The present Parliament has to be dissolved and the constitution abrogated. After the multi party democratic elections the new Parliament will make a fresh constitution as per the aspiration of the nation. Till then the country will be governed by the martial law. The demands are carefully formulated taking in to count the present mood of the people and to retain popular support.
It was a very clever move to grab power in stages at the sametime to turn the tide of the present political process. After hearing their demands I said, "Well Sir. Let us go together to Banga Bhaban to discuss with the President about you demands". Brig. Khaled looked a bit uneasy at my proposal. Col. Shaffat replied on his behalf, "Brig. Khaled will not go himself. His nominees will go to Banga Bhaban".
I laughed and said casually, "Khaled Bhai, why you dont want to come along with me to Banga Bhaban? Are you scared? But I am not secared to be with you all. Then why should you be scared. Please have a heart. We must have trust and confidence on each other and that is the basis on which we shall be able to salvage the nation out of this uncalled for crisis". Brig. Khaled did not reply. It was decided that from their side Col. Munnaf and Lt. Col. Malik would accompany me to the Banga Bhaban. I came back to Banga Bhaban with both of them. Everything looked normal on the streets. People were moving around normally. It was all quite and peaceful. But behind the scene what an explosive situation has developed the people had no clue of that till then. For them it was business as usual.