Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Strange Case of Ziaur Rahman


Julfikar Ali Manik, who first revealed the hidden face of militants Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, has written a book titled Zia Hotyakando: Neel Nokshar Bichar on one of the darkest and mysterious chapters of our political history. On the eve of the 26th anniversary of Zia's gruesome murder, Manik talks about his book.

How did the idea of writing a book on the murder of Zia first occur to you?

The desire to do investigative reporting always fascinated me. The idea of writing a book on Zia's murder first came to me during Sheikh Hasina's rule, when the government created a Defense parliamentary Standing Committee in which some sensitive issues were discussed. This had never been done so openly before because it was deemed too sensitive an issue to be discussed. The murder of Zia came up along with the hanging of 13 Army officers because some victims thought they were deprived of justice. As a reporter working for Bhorer Kagoj, I was closely following the events. The proceedings of the trial of the 13 officers were held in camera, and the parliamentary standing committee was repeatedly asking for the trial proceedings, which had been denied. I tried to find out the alternative ways to unearth this mystery myself, as I was very intrigued by this. I took it as a challenge and how I handled it is evident in my book.

Why is the assassination of Ziaur Rahman so mired in mystery?

The only trial that has taken place after Zia's killing is for mutiny. A President was assassinated, and it is interesting that the trial of his murder has never done, and no-one has so far been brought to book for killing Zia, which is ironic in the sense that his widow ruled the country for a good ten years. So we do not actually know who has killed Zia and whose purpose they served. It has never been cleared before us why the sixth President of our country was killed. It has remained one of the unfinished legacies of our national history.

Who do you think are the immediate beneficiaries of Zia's murder?

As we do not know the motives behind his murder it is clear that the person who later usurped power and formed his own party is the sole beneficiary of this gruesome killing. And those who became benefited from his corrupt regime for as long as nine years are the beneficiaries of this murder too. We do not need investigators to tell us this.

What implications has Zia's murder made in the country's politics?

The politics of killing is the result of conspiracy and intrigue. This culture of murder and vindictiveness in politics has been nurtured since 1975. Democracy was put at stake because these murders were never completely brought to book, this breeds a culture of impunity and injustice. We are still bearing the brunt of the murders of two Presidents. We could not build a healthy democratic culture because of this, violence begets violence, and this kind of murder always encourages the opportunist elements that try to change the course of history through unfair means, which in effect gives room to the conspirators.

Do you have any future project in mind? What are you now working on?

I am always hungry for investigative reporting. I have some ideas to do some investigative reports, which I do not want to disclose now. It is a taxing process; Zia Hotyakando: Neel Nokshar Bichar took me a year to finish my investigation. It will take time; if I can do the kind of reports that should be made into a book I will surely do that.

Julfikar Ali Manik works as Senior Staff Correspondent at the Daily Star. He has written two books: Zia Hotyakando: Neel Nokshar Bichar and Zahir Raihan Ontordhan Rohyashobhed; Muktijudder Shesh Ronaggon Mirpur.

This article was first published in the Daily Star on June 1, 2007

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