Londoni

Radio declaration - just like Zia's 1971 Declaration

'Biplobi Parishad'

Within a few hours of President Zia's death it was clear that the coup attempt was going to fail. If General Manzoor and his men had any understanding with officers in the other cantonments, they never materialised.

General Manzoor invited the Deputy Commissioner of Chittagong, Ziauddin M. Chowdhury, and Divisional Commissioner, Saifuddin, to his office and reeled off the reasons why a 'Biplobi Parishad' (Revolutionary Council) had taken over.

Manzoor nevertheless appeared a shambolic figure soon after Zia's murder.

Not once did Manzoor describe himself as the leader of the coup. He repeatedly stressed his role as the spokesman for those who had carried out the act, without at all revealing who he spoke for.

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Major-General Manzoor was not involved in the killing of Zia. But when he heard that Zia was killed he took the responsibility to face the situation.

Sirājuddīna Āhameda, author of "Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh" (1998)

As Ziauddin Chowdhury and Saifuddin made to leave at the end of the meeting, General Manzoor asked them to touch the Qur'an which was in his room before going out.

Next day, when he appeared at a 'cross-section' meeting of Chittagong bureaucrats, journalists, bank managers and police officials at the Deputy Commissioner's office in the morning, General Manzoor was already a defeated man. He was rambling away without any clear focus.

The man [i.e. Manzoor] was a bundle of nerves. He said, he was committed to die. He raved and ranted against everything. He invoked Islam. The next moment he talked of secularism. He spoke against corruption and pointed fingers at the bank managers, describing them as the fountainhead of corruption. He said he had prohibited drinking, gambling and the flesh trade. He talked of socialism. In the same breath, he reposed his trust in Allah. As he wobbled out of the room, he looked like a stuffed soldier, already dead.

A Chittagong journalist who attended the meeting on Manzoor's strange press conference

Broadcast

General Manzoor made only one radio broadcast in Chittagong during the 48 hours that the rebels controlled the port city and that was on the evening of 31 May 1981, shortly before the coup attempt was abandoned. Most of the broadcasts from Chittagong Radio were made in the name of General Manzoor, who was described as the head of a 7-member 'Biplobi Parishad' (Revolutionary Council). But General Manzoor never introduced himself as head of a new government. He pointedly described himself in his radio broadcast as GOC (General Officer in Charge) of the Chittagong Division or Commander of the 24th Division and suggested that the Revolutionary Council had 'requested' him to speak.

Speculation that Manzoor was not the man behind the coup attempt was encouraged by a 5-hour delay between the time Ziaur Rahman was killed and the announcement of Chittagong radio declaring a new government.

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Ten years earlier, also around spring time, young Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast an electrifying message to the nation from a clandestine radio, Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, in the East Pakistan city of Chotrogram (Chittagong), proclaiming a rebellion against West Pakistan that ultimately created the nation of Bangladesh. Now, exactly 10 years later, in an eerie resemblance another voice on the radio from the same Chotrogram city was proclaiming a similar 'revolution'. Only the powerhouse they were fighting against was ironically led by their hero of a decade ago who'd made the original announcement.

The voice on the radio announced that Major General Manzoor, 40, had taken over the government and abrogated the country's 1972 friendship treaty with India. However, the official Bangladesh radio in the capital Dhaka assured the country's 90 million people that the government was safely in the hands of Vice President Abdus Sattar.

Moreover, stressed the state radio, all international agreements remained in force.

TIME Magazine

General Manzoor was never heard condoning the murder of Ziaur Rahman or trying to justify it, although in some broadcasts made in General Manzoor's name the Revolutionary Council had called Zia "autocratic" and had invoked the ghost of Abu Taher.