Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed's cabinet contains ex-Mujib loyalists

25 August 1975: Ziaur Rahman promoted to COAS and General Osmani joins as Defence Advisor

As Chief of Air Force, Abdul Karim (A. K.) Khandker had to swear allegiance to the new Khondaker Moshtaque led government along with Chief of Army Staff (COAS) K. M. Shafiullah, and Chief of Navy Musharaf Hussain (M. H.) Khan. But Khandker did not stay in this setup for long. He was the first officer to step down from Government position on 17 August 1975 - two days after Sheikh Mujib was killed - as the Chief of the Bangladesh Air Force as a mark of protest. He was replaced the following day by Air Vice Marshal Muhammad Ghulam (M. G.) Towab, who had been flown in from Germany where he had been leading a retired life from 1971. Having been eased out of the air force, A. K. Khandaker was sent off as a diplomat abroad. With that came to an end A. K. Khandaker's 24 years of illustrious military career.

He [M. G. Towab] had left Pakistan in June 1971 in protest against army atrocities in the then East Pakistan. He and his family lived in Germany. I had heard that Air Vice Marshal Tawab (then a Group Captain) came to join the war of liberation but went back as he could not be properly utilized.

Former Chief of Air Force A. G. Mahmud on the brief and controversial role of M. G. Towab as Bangladesh's air force chief

On 25 August 1975 COAS General Shafiullah was replaced by his deputy Ziaur Rahman who was also promoted from Major-General to Lieutenant General. Brigadier Khalid Musharraf, Zia's rival for promotion, was retained in the sensitive position of CGS (Chief of General Staff) under Zia.

But it was the appointment of General M. A. G. Osmani as Defence Advisor which raised the greatest eyebrows in the country. Though Osmani opted out of the position shortly afterward.

1 September 1975: Indemnity Act protects Sheikh Mujib killers from prosecution

On 1 September 1975 President Moshtaque abolished the one-party system of BAKSAL and on 26 September 1975, six weeks (or 42 days) after Sheikh Mujib's killing, he passed an 'Indemnity Act' in the form of an Ordinance which granted immunity from prosecution to those involved in the 15 August killings. It was titled 'Indemnity Ordinance 1975', being Ordinance No. 50 of 1975. This meant that the conspirators could not be tried in court of law on the charge of assassination as the acts were deemed to have been a 'historical necessity'.

Soon after, members of the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini (JRB) were absorbed into the Bangladesh Army while religious leaders were released from jail and three leading national newspapers were also restored and given back to their owners.

On the positive side, Moshtaque’s regime abolished the infamous JRB and improved the law and order situation. Reported murders, armed robberies, riots and thefts in September-November 1975 decreased by 30-40% as compared to the same months in 1974.

Muhammad Mahbubur Rahman, author of 'Criminal Sentencing in Bangladesh: From Colonial Legacies to Modernity' (2017)

16 October 1975: Awami League politicians join Moshtaque's cabinet, defying Tajuddin Ahmad's recommendation

On 16 October 1975 Khandaker Moshtaque called all the Awami League members of the parliament and asked them if they had faith in him. Tajuddin Ahmad categorically forbade any of them from meeting Moshtaque. Nevertheless, many of the prominent one still went.

When Moshtaque announced a new civilian ministry, it was made almost entirely of Sheikh Mujib's cabinet. Among these were Mohammad Ullah, Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, Professor Yusuf Ali, Phani Bhusan Mazumder, Abdul Mannan, Monoranjan Dhar, Abdul Momin, Asaduzzaman Khan, Dr. A. R. Mallick and Dr. Mozaffar Ahmed Chowdhury. Though not everyone had a choice in the matter.

Only a few joined the Moshtaque government willingly. Most were forced to join it.

Senior Awami League leader Abdur Razzaq

You are walking over your grave. If you get killed, nobody will take responsibility.

President Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed allegedly told Tofail Ahmed at Bangabhaban

Unlike his other colleagues, Tajuddin Ahmad was the only one not to be offered the opportunity to join the cabinet by Moshtaque. Others refused to join Moshtaque's cabinet - and they'd pay a price for it.

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