During March 1971 Bengali Major (later Colonel) Mir Shawkat Ali was the Adjutant of 8 East Bengal Regiment camped in Sholoshahar. Fellow Bengalis Major Ziaur Rahman was the Second-in-Command (2 IC), Captain Oli Ahmed was the quartermaster, Lt. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury had the responsibilities of an under study adjutant, Lt. Mahfuzur Rahman was working as the company officer of HQ Company, and Captain (later Major and Brigadier General) Chowdhury Khalequzzaman was the Military Transport Officer.
- Ziaur Rahman ()
- Mir Shawkat Ali ()
- Oli Ahmed ()
- Shamser Mobin Chowdhury ()
- Mahfuzur Rahman ()
- Chowdhury Khalequzzaman ()
The political and social tension that had engulfed the eastern wing were also felt by officers, Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and soldiers of the 8th EBR. Like other major cities and towns in East Pakistan, protest marching, public outcry, barricade of roads, shops closing, and group meeting were common features of daily life in Chittagong. To ease the restlessness, on the morning of 25 March 1971, Lt. Col. Janjua arranged inter-company sports competition. However, many Bengali officers suspected this as a ploy to keep them distracted whilst West Pakistani military operation were underway.
The inter-company basketball competition was taking place on the morning of 25 March. I myself, a Captain then, was playing for one of the basketball teams. Major Ziaur Rahman was the referee of the match. I was then acting as the sports officer of the 8 East Bengal Regiment. It was an extra duty. After the match I went back to my room, changed into military uniform and came to the office at around 9 A.M. The political situation of the country was restive and we were anxious to know what was going on. There was no peace in our minds.
In the morning, Major Mir Shawkat was assigned 'C' (or Charlie) Company with 150 soldiers and ordered by Lt. Col. Janjua to maintain security of the MV Swat ship during the unloading of weapons in the Chittagong Port. Brigadier Ansari, who served as Station Commander Chittagong, was also present at the port. Having spent most of the day at the port, both Major Mir Shawkat and Lt. Col. Janjua returned after sunset and left the 'C' Company under the supervision of Bengali Subedar Abdur Rauf.
- Abdur Rauf ()
Barricade by people
At around 11 am, people barricaded the level crossing in front of the EBR unit, located on Bayezid Bostamy Road, with a compartment of a goods train in the hope of hampering the movement of the army vehicles and thereby stopping the communication between Dhaka and the Chittagong cantonment.
Captain Khalequzzaman was tasked with restoring the train line and removing the barricade. He arrived at the scene with 10 soldiers, but deeming it impossible to clear the barricade, he instructed his officers to keep an eye on the train and returned back to the barrack. This had irritated Lt. Col. Janjua who feared that the barricade would prevent 22nd Baluch (based in Dhaka) from rushing to help in case of an emergency. Subsequently he sent Major Mir Shawkat to complete the task two hours after Captain Khalequzzaman was sent. Major Mir Shawket and his team of 10 soldiers dislodged the brake of the train, moving it from the east side to the west, and once again opened up the road for public use.
Our armed guards were present there but they did not try to restore train line in its normal condition. They were unconcerned because they were silently supportive of what the people were doing. They did not try to either remove the barricade or go against people's will. I was sent to remove the barricade. I was not interested in doing it.
There were a very few people there. Some were watching from a distance. At that time people crowded around to see wherever the army assembled, especially when it was the East Bengal Regiment. They kept a distance when the soldiers were non-Bengali, Panjabi, Baluch etc. They considered the East Bengal Regiment as their own and came forward to see them with a good feeling.
The local public had encouraged Major Mir Shawkat to leave the barricade and questioned his alliance.
Some of the young students standing at a distance asked Major Mir Shawkat "Are not you in our group?". They probably expected East Bengal Regiment to join the public then and there, Major (now Col) Shawkat gave a little smile and replied, "Let the time come you will see".
With the restriction on media by the central government, it was difficult for the Bengali officers to get accurate information on the latest development in the country.
We could not contact the political leaders during daytime; not even via telephone; time passed in this manner...
After coming back [from removing the train barricade], we kept ourselves busy listening to the radio, reading newspapers and trying to get information by telephoning people. I went to see Major Zia. He was working in the office sombrely. I asked, "Sir, what is going to happen?" He was very careful and talked little. He was under stern surveillance. The atmosphere was grave. He just said, "Wait and see".
Port duties assigned
Around 8 pm Capt. Khalequzzaman was informed by Col. Janjua to go to the Chittagong Port and report to new Area Commander Brigadier Ansari. A navy truck would come and take him to the port, so Captain Khalequzzaman ordered Senior JCO, Subedar Mahbubur Rahman, who was transferred from 4th EBR to 8th EBR, to prepare a platoon from the 'Delta' company to accompany him to the port. In a surprise move, Colonel Janjua also ordered Major Ziaur Rahman to go to Chittagong Port and asked him to go first, with Capt. Khalequzzaman to follow him shortly thereafter.
Subedar Mahbub prepared a platoon in front of the quarter guard of the unit. A truck from Navy came soon. There was a driver and two navy personnel were there with an SMG [submachine gun] and a rifle. Subedar Enamul Majid was ready to go as a JCO platoon commander with me. He boarded the truck with 30 soldiers. I was next. I saw that commanding officer Colonel Janjua was standing there, not to see me off but to make sure that I left on time. Major Zia, Major Shawkat, Capt. Oli were present too. I asked Subadar Majid, if everything was all right and if he had taken weapons, ammunition, ration etc. He said, "Sir, we didn't take any ammunition." I was angry because the commanding officer was standing there and I was getting late. I stood up in the truck and said angrily, "How can we go without ammunition?" Everyone was listening. Suddenly Colnel Janjua said, "Don't worry Khaleque, you go and we'll send ammunition. Brigadier Ansari is waiting." I said, "Thank you very much, sir, but no, the troops would not move without arms and ammunition".
Colonel Janjua realised that I would not go without ammunition and said, "Bravo and hurry up, send Subadar Majid to get the ammunition quickly". When Majid came back with ammunition Colonel Janjua changed his mind and said, "Zia, I think you should go first. Khaleque will follow you." We were all standing.
I was surprised because ordinarily the Second in command does not go for such duties and I was all prepared.
Major Ziaur Rahman had a talk with Col. Janjua and sat on the front seat of the truck, beside the driver, where Capt. Khalequzzaman was originally supposed to sit. Two West Pakistani officers, Second Lieutenant Humayun Khan and Second Lieutenant Azam were ordered by Col. Janjua to accompany Major Zia whilst Capt. Khalequzzaman was to travel alone.
I went near his seat to shake hands with him and see him off. He said in an anxious voice, "If you hear anything let me know. Khuda Hafiz". They started the journey.
Captain Oli and Major Mir Shawkat were present when these new developments were taking place. Once Major Ziaur Rahman set off, Captain Oli returned to his duty room on the first floor whilst Col. Janjua dropped Major Mir Shawkat off in the officers' mess on his way to his bungalow at 'Al Hamra' at Nasirabad Housing Society.
- Mahbubur Rahman ()
- Humayun Khan ()
- Azam ()
Major Ziaur Rahman's escape to victory
Around 10 pm a relative of Capt. Khalequzzaman, Abdul Kader, rang him and informed him and Captain Oli that there was firing in Dhaka and East Pakistan Rifles (EPR) soldiers were being attacked. A shell-shocked Khalequzzaman asked Subedar Mahbubur Rahman to keep a transport ready and consulted with Captain Oli about bring Major Zia back from Chittagong Port.
Except for Oli and I, everyone was a junior officer. I said, "Let me go and get our boss. Let's see what happens after I bring Major Zia back. "Oli agreed with enthusiasm".
I didn't know whom to talk to, whom to call. But I realised that something grave was going to happen, we were angry and aggrieved because something unjust was going to happen to us. The age had its own virtue or vices. We knew we had to do something to stop anything disastrous from happening. Firing had started in Dhaka on the Police and EPR in the headquarters. Nobody can take out a vehicle without my instructions [as he was the Military Transport Officer]. I ordered for a pickup to come and rushed for Chittagong port with a driver, a Lance Corporal and two soldiers to bring Major Zia back. Before starting I said to the guard commander, Lance Corporal Shafi. "Stay alert. The duty officer is upstairs and the situation is not good." I ordered the driver to drive fast towards Agrabad.
Fortunately for Capt. Khalequzzaman there were barricades at various points in the city which were put up by the locals (such as one at Dampara, one on the west of Chittagong club, etc). One such strong barricade near Agrabad Railway over the bridge had forced the truck carrying Ziaur Rahman to the Chittagong Port to a halt. Soldiers were trying their best to remove the barricade and Major Zia was walking beside the truck. Captain Khalequzzaman took Ziaur Rahman to one side and informed him about the grave development in the capital Dhaka meted out to the Bengalis by West Pakistani military.
I stopped the pickup and hurriedly went to him. I put a hand on his shoulder to take him beside for talking. I said, "Sir, you should not go to the Port tonight. Pakistani forces are already shooting in Dhaka. They have attacked EPR camp at Rajarbagh Police line. I strongly feel that you should not go to the port".
Major Ziaur Rahman contemplated for a moment what to do.
Zia thought for a while and said, "What should we do?" He did not want an answer from me, he was talking to himself. I said, "You know better". Major Zia then punched the left fist with the right and said, "In that case we will revolt and show our allegiance to the government of Bangladesh".
Afterward Major Zia advised Capt. Khalequzzaman to leave, which he duly obliged. Capt. Khalequzzaman then joined up with the unit and briefed the guard commander, Lance Corporal Shafi, to carry out his duty as normal as not to arise any suspicion.
Shafi was a spirited and courageous soldier who always carried a rifle. He took part in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war.
Meanwhile, Major Zia went to Second Lieutenant Humayun and Azam and tricked them by saying that the commanding officer had sent Capt. Khalequzzaman to take them back. As they approached the unit, Major Zia signalled to Capt. Khalequzzaman to arrest the two officers. And with that, Ziaur Rahman evaded the trap set by his commanding officer to liquidate him.
I asked the two officers to come with me. They were loyal soldiers of the Pakistan army and did not react to this. I took them to the quarter guard. Quarter guard is where the regiment keeps its money and it has an armed guard 24 hours a day. There was a table, a chair and a box of keys and a cell.
The soldiers in the truck were very excited although they could not understand what was going on. Some of them were yelling, "Joi Bangla." We signalled them to stop and not to tell these to anybody because nothing had happened yet and we could get in trouble if the incident was discovered.
The truck was parked and the drivers were arrested. We thought they were Pakistanis as they spoke in Urdu, but they were from Chittagong and Jessore. Azam and Humayun had personal weapons, which they handed over to me on order. I deposited the arms in the quarter guard.
Now back once again at the cantonment, Major Zia boarded the jeep which had dropped Col. Janjua and headed towards 'Al-Hamra', Col. Janjua's official residence.
Ziaur Rahman arrests Janjua
The military guard at Lt. Col. Janjua's residence were Bengalis. When they saw their Second-in-Command, their weapons turned from outward to inward, i.e. against Col. Janjua.
Janjua was a very clever person but he had nothing to do. He knew that something big was going to happen but did not take any self-precautions.
Upon his arrival, Major Zia rang the calling bell. Out came Lt. Col. Janjua wearing white pajama-panjabi and sandals. He was surprised as if he had seen a ghost when he saw Major Zia and asked, "What's wrong, Zia?" Zia said, "Sir, I need to talk to you".
Janjua was wondering how Zia came back when he had sent him to the port to report to Brigadier Ansari. He could not grasp what had happened in the port. He said in Urdu, "Come Zia, sit. "Major Zia said, "No sir, we have something to talk about". He said, "All right, let's discuss it here." Zia said, "Sir, we should go to unit line, Captain Khalequzzaman and Captain Oli is there. They would like to discuss something with you". Janjua agreed.
Lieutenant Col. Janjua sat in the jeep with two soldiers sitting on the rear seats. Major Zia drove away and stopped in front of the quarter guard where Capt. Khalequzzaman, Lance Corporal Shafi and sepoy Rabiul Anam were standing. Major Zia snatched the rifle from Rabiul Anam, pointed it to Janjua and said, "Sir, you are under arrest. Don't try to take leadership".
A stunned Janjua did not utter a word.
Major Zia asked Capt. Khalequzzaman to take Col. Janjua to the quarter guard where he was later reacquainted with his wife.
I made Janjua sit on a chair in the quarter guard. He said softly, "Khaleque, my family should know where I am." I realised that he was very nervous and afraid. We had left Colonel Janjua's wife at his home. I said, "Sir, surely she will come to know where you are". Later she was respectfully taken to the cantonment. There were Azam and Humayun with Col. Janjua; and Shafi was standing as guard. Major Zia said, "Hold them and keep an eye on them".
"Zia bhai, I'm with you"
Major Zia went upstairs to contact the political leaders and others.
Captain Khalequzzaman sent messages to Capt. Sadeq, Lt. Mahfuz, and Lt. Shamsher to bring back all those officers who were on duty in the Bayazid Bostami Road and elsewhere with a view to providing protection now that they were officially revolting.
I sent word to the senior J.C.O. Subedar Mahbubur Rahman to fetch the Pathan officer Captain Ahammaduddin from the officers' mess. He too was arrested and put in the quarter guard. They did not create any trouble. We finished the work with courage and speed.
Two Pakistani officers used to stay in the EPR mess to the south of the 8 East Bengal officers' mess. One of them was Captain Nazar with whom I once prepared for the Captain to Major examination. I asked my batman Nurul Amin to go and tell the Bengalis to get out of there. He knew where each officer stayed. When he went there at 12-30 A.M., Captain Nazar threatened him with a gun. Nurul shot him down at once.
Major Mir Shawkat arrived some time later. He had been woken up by Major Zia when he went to arrest Col. Janjua. Major Zia asked him if he was loyal to the Bengali rebellion, to which Major Mir Shawkat confirmed to the affirmative.
Major Zia said to him in front of the quarter guard, "Shawkat, I hope you are with us." He said it to ensure if Shawkat was with us in the rebellion. I don't know if the two of them had talked about it earlier.
MajOR Shawkat said, "Zia Bhai, of course I'm with you." Major Zia replied, "Shawkat, it is good to settle everything before we go for a serious game".
Major Zia brought Col. Janjua upstairs 'with respect' and asked him to sit on the chair of the commanding officer. The other officers remained in the quarter guard. Major Zia then gave the rifle that he had taken from the standing guard nearby to Capt. Khalequzzaman and asked him to be cautious. He then went upstairs accompanied by Major Mir Shawkat to carry on contacting prominent people via telephone.
Whilst under custody, Lt. Col. Janjua was branded a traitor and killed for his betrayal.
The two navy men were there as well. I pushed one of them and said, "udhar jao". He said, "Sir, I'm Bengali" "where are you from?" "I'm from Jessore" and the other said that he was from Chittagong.
The keys to arms and ammunition were still in the 'key box.' When I said that to Major Zia, he broke the glass door of the box with the butt of the rifle, extricated the keys and gave them to me. I could break the key box myself but according to the military rule I had to inform someone who was in charge. I said to the two Bengali soldiers that we had arrested them by mistake, "Why are you sitting here like fools?"
Later when we went to Potia the following day one of them slaughtered a cow to feed us. Allah saved two lives; otherwise they would have died with the others. I went upstairs and told Major Zia that the soldiers downstairs were scattered and that we should gather them all in the hall.
Meanwhile, it took about an hour for all the scattered Bengali troops, including a company of soldiers from the Chittagong Port and Captain Sadeq, Lt. Shamsher, and Lt. Mahfuz, to gather at the camp. Once assembled, Capt. Khalequzzaman ordered the senior most JCO, Subadar Major Muhammad Ali, to assemble the battalion in the centre of unit line. Major Zia and Major Mir Shawkat then came downstairs.
At that moment nobody wanted to come forward to say anything. It was really a great moment of anxiety. But we could not go back now.
Captain Khalequzzaman asked Major Mir Shawkat to inform the officers that the Second-in-Command (i.e. Ziaur Rahman) had taken control of the unit. Major Mir Shawkat obliged and told the officers that Ziaur Rahman had something to say regarding the new development. Major Zia gave an emotional speech - his first announcement of Liberation - explaining the overall situation and the West Pakistani officers effort to crush the Bengali force.
They wanted to send Captain Khalequzzaman to the Chittagong Port, they had already sent me to the port. They planned to kill us and arrest everyone in the 8th East Bengal Regiment.
...We express loyalty to Bangladesh. Now we are an independent country. We declare war in the name of our motherland Bangladesh
Zia's first declaration,
Tigers, Pakistanis have started killing Bengalis en mass they have already disarmed some of the E Bengal battalions, they have decided to kill all of us. They already trapped me but luckily I was saved. We will have to organize quickly and face them at any cost to save the country, are you all ready to do that with me?
in another version,
Major Zia asked everyone for their approval to continue with the revolt. The soldiers yelled "Joi Bangla" and "Bangladesh Zindabad" in agreement and promised by the name of Allah to fight for the Bangladesh cause. The slogans echoed so loudly that the inhabitants of Nasirabad Housing Society woke up from sleep and peeped through their windows. Thus with 6 officers and 200 men of the battalion, Ziaur Rahman took control.
It was about 3 or 4 am. After the speech, Major Zia gave a jeep to Major Mir Shawkat and asked him to contact the Awami League leaders in Chittagong and inform them of their decision. Major Mir Shawkat met with Abdul Hannan, Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury, and M. R. Siddiqui amongst others and told them about the officer's rising.
From 4 am in the morning, announcement were made in the city on behalf of Major Zia which declared that the 8 EBR had revolted 'in the name of the Liberation of Bangladesh'.
Major Zia also telephoned the Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police and other officers in Chittagong and informed them regarding the revolt.
I hope you are with us. Otherwise we shall not spare you.
Major Ziaur Rahman's ultimatium to officials,
He finished off the conversation by telling the telephone operator to notify everyone else that he had missed out.
It was now Fajr time. People could be heard shouting slogans. Major Mir Shawkat had also returned from his visits. It was decided that all the arms and ammunition would be taken to a new, safer place by truck since they were only 3 miles away from the cantonment and could not resist any Pakistani mortar or shell fire attack. The damage to their embryonic rebellion, not to mention civilian lives, would be fatal. Major Zia decided to shift the team to Gumdandi on the other side of the Karnaphuli River, and planned to get hold of the radio station. Captain Khalequzzaman was given the responsibility of protecting the Chittagong Radio Station and the east bank of the Karnaphuli River. They quickly loaded the ammunition onto three trucks and two pickups and left the unit line for Kalurghat area on the east bank of the river. The time was now 6 am in the morning.
We carried all the small arms and ammunition boxes. Major Shawkat brought his personal belongings but others could not bring theirs. Major Zia too came only with the uniform on. Begum Zia was still in the rented house at Nasirabad Housing Society. When I went to bring Major Zia, firing started in Dhaka. By the time we came back to the unit line, there were shootings in the Chittagong cantonment as well.
The officers walked through Sholoshor, Chawkbazar, Bohoddar Hat, the radio station, and Chandgao to the east bank of the Karnaphuli River. From the hills they could now overlook the base of their colleague-cum-enemy. They reorganised the next morning and took up strategic position ready for combat. Lieutenant Mahfuz was positioned north of Capt. Khalequzzaman, with Lt. Shamsher with his 'A' Company to their left. A company of the EPR, led by a JCO, was deployed on the West Bank of the river as screen, whilst the 8 EBR took position of resistance on the Karnaphuli-Cox's Bazar axis. Major Mir Shawkat Ali took position on the west bank of the river at the Ispahani Colony at Kalurghat temporarily. Major Zia, now appointed the commanding officer, and Captain Oli, his Staff Officer, took position in the Village of Gudmandi near Patiya where the temporary headquarters of the 8 East Bengal Regiment was established.
Two days later, on 27 March 1971, Major Zia occupied the Kalurghat Radio Station and was able to broadcast his landmark Declaration of Independence and message to the people to take up arms against the Pakistanis.
Although he subsequently lost control of the Radio Staion on 30 March 1971, he continued to offer resistance in the Chittagong area till mid-April, after which he took his group northwards to the India-Mymensingh border.
Meanwhile, his wife Khaleda Zia - who later became the first female Prime Minister of Bangladesh - and his two infant sons were arrested by the military and kept in confinement until the end of war nine months later.
'C' Company jump in the river to save their lives
Whilst the dramatic event was unfolding in the army camp, things took a fatalistic turn in the port.
The 'C' (or Charlie) Company who were assigned the task of loading and unloading the arms and ammunition from the ship were attacked by their West Pakistani colleagues. Shocked and caught unaware, Bengali soldiers had to jump in the Karnaphuli river to save their lives. Some were brutally murdered whilst others who were fortunate to escape the barbarous massacre swam across the river and joined the 8 EBR the following morning.
East Bengal Regimental Centre (EBRC)
The East Bengal Regimental Centre (EBRC) - also known as the 'Tiger's Den' - was the training centre for the soldiers in the eastern Province. The EBRC was the brainchild of Captain (later Major) M. A. Gani, a Bengali, who suggested creating an infantry regiment solely composed of Bengali Muslims just after the 1947 Partition. To accommodate this, on 1 June 1950 the EBRC was established as a place to recruit and train future soldiers. It was originally located in Kurmitola Cantonment in Dhaka but was shifted to Chittagong Cantonment (6 miles outside Chittagong town centre) in 1953.
The East Bengal Regimental Centre is located on a sprawling 200 acre plus landscape interspaced by hillocks and ravines in the picturesque setting of Chittagong Cantonment. No wonder, it remains to be the most imposing feature of Chittagong Cantonment and also the most prominent landmark amongst all the cantonments of the country.
In 1971, EBRC was commanded by Brigadier M. R. Mazumdar and Lt. Col. M. R. Chowdhury was the Chief Inspector. Both men were Bengali. They were the senior most Bengali officers in the army during that time.
There were about 2,500 soldiers of various rank and file, including the newly raised 9 Battalion. Around 1,000 of these were Bengali and included Captain Subed Ali Bhuiyan, Captain Amin Ahmed Chowdhury, Captain Mohsin, Captain Abdul Aziz and Captain Enamul Haque. Some of them lived at the Shershah colony with their families and the bachelor officers stayed in the EBRC officers' mess.
- M. A. Gani ()
- M. R. Mazumdar ()
- M. R. Chowdhury ()
- Subed Ali Bhuiyan ()
- Amin Ahmed Chowdhury ()
- Mohsin ()
- Abdul Aziz ()
- Enamul Haque ()
Whilst attempt were being made to secretly kill Ziaur Rahman, 20 Baluch, the West Pakistan battalion in the Chittagong cantonment, struck at EBRC personnel. The Bengali soldiers, consisting mostly of new recruits, gave a stiff fight, which resulted in heavy casualities. It is alleged over 300 recruits were killed in their sleep. Many were arrested including Lt. Col. M. R. Chowdhury. However, he was later killed ruthlessly. Other trained personnel, consisting of permanent staff, managed to get away.
Plain-clothes Pakistani soldiers entered the houses of non-Bengalis at Nasirabad Housing Society. Our officers' mess and the house of Major Zia were near the park. But they could not attack because they were not well organised. But it is true that they had taken position in plain-clothes in the houses of the non-Bengalis at Nasirabad Housing Society, Shershah colony, Bayezid Bostami Colony etc.
Those Bengali officers who lived in the mess, such as Captain Subed Ali Bhuiyan and Mohsin had already joined the EBR revolt. Captain Amin Ahmed Chowdhury went to Agartala, Tripura via Ramgarh all by himself but was arrested by the Indian soldiers who thought he was a 'Nakshal'. Captain Enamul Haq joined the EPR.
On the night of 25 March 1971, Major Zia contacted captain Rafiqul Islam. Captain Rafiq sent message by wireless that the EPR had revolted. Captain Harun Ahmed Chowdhury came from Kaptai to Kalurghat to join the EBR in the morning of the 26th March. He had left all the Pakistani officers at Kaptai arrested.
Captain Harun Ahmed arrested Major Dost Muhammed and locked him in the room when he was still asleep. He arrested all the others and came here with three Bengali EPR men. Harun grabbed me and hugged me saying "Joi Bangla" on the east side of the Kalurghat bridge where we had already reached.
The Bengali elements of EPR, EBRC and EBR combined together and attacked 20 Baluch, which was firmly entrenched in the EBRC lines, with much success. Later, they occupied the whole of Chittagong town, causing damage in its non-Bengali colonies.
They destroyed textile mills set up by some of West Pakistan's 22 ruling families to exploit the protected markets of East Pakistan.
But in their enthusiasm they lost their sense of priorities. The naval base was untouched. With the help of newly arrived reinforcements, the naval establishment managed to secure Tiger Pass, connecting the town with the port, and that kept the base out of reach of the rebels. Later, a relief column from Comilla led by Brigadier Iqbal Shafi, as well as the efforts of the beleaguered 20 Baluch, cleared the town by 31 March 1971 and took control of the Chittagong Radio Station two days later. Ziaur Rahman made his way along with his comrades towards India. On his way, he occupied the Belonia bulge till ousted by a heavy Pakistani punitive attack mounted on the arrival of reinforcements.
The EBRC remained closed during the War of Liberation till it was re-established at Dhaka Cantonment on 11 January 1974 under the supervision of Major Enamul Haque Chowdhury. Later that year, in September 1974, the centre again moved to its original location at Chittagong Cantonment.
Major Khaled Mosharraf - down but not out
In March 1971, Major Khaled Mosharraf was promoted to the rank of a Brigade Major and attached to 57 Brigade in Dhaka. But he was suddenly replaced by Pakistani Major Jafar Khan who arrived in the first week of March to take over as Brigade Major. Major Khaled Mosharraf was transferred to Comilla cantonment on 24 March 1971 on a filmsy pretext and put in charge of the 4th EBR as the Second-in-Command. This aroused his suspicion as he had already witnessed the political and military movement going on in Dhaka from 1 March till 22 March 1971. In anticipation of the Pakistani crackdown, Major Khaled Mosharraf began to form a small group around him.
- Khaled Mosharraf ()
The 4th EBR had three companies at Brahmanbaria, Shamsher Nagar and Jonghi. Major Khaled Mosharraf was initially based in Shamsher Nagar.
When the Pakistani genocide campaign started the very next day, he took over as commanding officer of 4th EBR and confined all the non-Bengali officers of the Regiment. He outwitted the instructions to surrender automatic weapons and formed a plan for guerrilla operations. He rushed to Brahmanbaria from Shamsher Nagar with his troops and sent a telephonic message to Major K. M. Shafiullah who had retreated to Kishoreganj with Bengali members of his troop from Joydebpur. Major Khaled Mosharraf requested Major K. Ml. Shafiullah to meet him at Brahmanbaria and to cancel their planned action on Dhaka. Accordingly, on the night of 31 March 1971 Major K. M. Shafiullah left for Brahmanbaria.
Major Khaled Mosharraf had also decided to transfer the headquarters of his army northwards from Brahmanbaria to Teliapara tea garden in Sylhet district bordering India.
Major Khaled Mosharraf and his group was able to escape northwards from Brahmanbaria towards Sylhet and thereafter carried out effective sabotage operations - one of the few instances of pre-planned and systematic blowing of bridges and destruction of roads and railways. It was mainly because of the efforts of this group that Sylhet remained isolated from Comilla and Dhaka for a long period, thus greatly helping Major K. M. Shafiullah, the leader of the freedom fighters in Sylhet, whose guerrillas almost succeeded in capturing the Sylhet airfield.
After successfully resisting the Pakistan army till mid-April Major Khaled Mosharraf retreated in the face of repeated air attacks of the enemy forces, and took position with his army in the Indian province of Tripura at the end of April. He was appointed sector commander of Sector 2 by the Mujibnagar Government and also commanded K-Force, which was named after him. Major Khaled Mosharraf was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the War of Liberation. In an encounter with the enemy on 23 October 1971 he was wounded by a bullet shot on his head and recovered after a long treatment in the Lukhnow military hospital.
After Bangladesh was liberated, Lt. Col. Khaled Mosharraf was appointed Staff Officer at the army headquarters in Dhaka. Later he was elevated to the post of Chief of General Staff of Bangladesh Army.
As the War of Liberation rolled on in 1971, Khaled Musharraf perfected the art of guerrilla warfare against the occupation Pakistan army. He was a hands-on soldier, in that conventional sense of the meaning, and yet he had quickly proved adept in planning and employing all those hit and run tactics that have historically laid traditional armies low all across the globe.
Anyone who came across Khaled Musharraf in 1971 understood, swiftly and with a tinge of pleasant surprise, the impeccable quality that defined his performance.
He was ruthless in his view that the war was all, that the enemy needed to be destroyed, that the friends of the enemy needed to be hunted down and weeded out. In that broad respect, he was far ahead of many of his colleagues in the Mukti Bahini. He was articulate; and in his dealings with the foreign media that made their way to liberated zones in Bangladesh, he easily put the message across that the country of the future which Bengalis were struggling to construct in their present was to be a land defined by democracy and liberalism.
The Daily Star (Bangladesh)