Colonel Taher led 'Sipoy-Janata Biplob'

4 November 1975: Khaled's mother and brother lead a pro-Mujib demonstration

A day after Khaled took over, his mother and brother Rashed Mosharraf led a pro-Mujib demonstration in Dhaka. The commemorative procession was led from Dhaka University campus to Sheikh Mujib's family home on road number 32 in Dhanmondi area. With the ousting of the majors and diminishing power of President Moshtaque, the Awami League, Student League, National Awami Party (Muzaffor) and Bangladesh Communist Party (Moni Sinha) came out on the streets 4 November 1975 and observed Mourning Day in memory of the father of the nation. Processions were taken out from different parts of the city to road no. 32, Dhanmondi, where the residence of Sheikh Mujib was filled with garlands and flowers. This is believed to be the first condolence procession for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

There were slogans demanding the trial of Sheikh Mujib's assassins and cooperation with India. This further amplified rumours in the army that Khaled's coup was a pro-Mujib pro-Indian coup.

However, some analysts had suggested, that despite Khaled's team having some Mujib loyalists, Khaled himself was concerned with the restoration of the chain of command in the army. Nevertheless, this combination of misunderstanding and conspiracy would bring tragic end of the great patriot General Khaled Musharraf.

Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, who was then the Chief Staff Officer, hatched a plan to become Chief of Army Staff. He closed the ordinance level crossing to cut off train movements and road traffic by placing a railway engine in the middle of the crossing. This was done so that no army movement could take place from Rajendropur Cantonment. He also stopped other roads entering Dhaka from the north and west and blocked the bridge over the Turag River at Gabtoli. I did not know about what was happening in the Cantonment. I was already in my office and tried to ring General Zia, but he was not in the office. I learnt that he had been placed under house arrest. I felt that there was some problem in the Cantonment and the command was failing. Having not found a clear answer, I spoke to the Air Chief, Towab, and asked him to go to the President's house and I would follow.

On the 4th of November, Khaled Mosharraf's mother and brother led a procession from Dhaka University to Bangabandhu's residence on road no. 27. The slogan was very misleading, in that they asked for the trial of Bangabandhu's assassins and cooperation with India.

M. H. Khan

5 November 1975: Four leaders buried and half day hartal held in their memory

On 5 November 1975, two days after they were murdered in cold blood, the four Awami League leaders were buried. Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam and Mansoor Ali were buried in Dhaka's Banani graveyard, while the dead body of Kamruzzaman was laid to rest in his home town Rajshahi. That same day a half day hartal (strike) was observed in memory of the four leaders.

5 November 1975: Khandaker Moshtaque Ahmed forced to resign and Khaled Mosharraf promoted to COAS

Brigadier Khaled-led coup d'etat was successful in ousting President Moshtaque. On the same day the four leaders were getting buried, President Moshtaque's political career was also coming to a dead end. He was forced to resign on 5 November 1975 and left Bangabhaban. But before Moshtaque resigned, Brigadier Khaled compelled him to appoint him in Zia's place as the new COAS. Navy chief M. H. Khan and air force chief M. G. Towab put the stripes on a beaming Khaled Mosharraf and decorated him with his new epaulettes. It was past 10 pm.

After midnight, Chief Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad (A. S. M.) Sayem of the Supreme Court would be announced as the new President of Bangladesh.

On 5th November, when I entered Bangabhaban, I saw armoured vehicles surrounding the house. I found President Mushtaq calling various cabinet ministers to come to Bangabhaban for a cabinet meeting. It was another Day of Generals, and Khaled Mosharraf was engaged in trying to make the President remove the Chief of the Army Staff, General Zia, and replace him by making him the Chief of the Army Staff.

In the meantime, the assassins of Bangabandhu were in the process of being sent to Libya by Khaled Mosharraf after getting appropriate clearance from the Government for asylum. They were first flown to Thailand and from there they were moved to Tripoli. The obvious question people asked was, why were they sent abroad without a trial? Then Khaled Mosharraf found difficulty in convincing Mr Mushtaq and contacted Chief Justice Sayem and brought him to the President's house. A motor car with escort was sent to the Chief Justice's residence at about 16:00 and brought him to the Bangabhaban. Some of the young army officers who were close to Khaled Mosharraf wanted him to be the Chief of the Army Staff. The drama in the cabinet room was such that the President could not conduct the meeting. Army Jawans, by the order of Khaled Mosharraf, entered the cabinet room and meeting was dispersed.

After Mushtaq Ahmed was forced to resign he left, on 5th November, and Justice Sayem was sworn in as the President on 6th November.

In that chaotic situation in the Bangabhaban, Towab and I were made to put on Khaled Mosharraf's Major General's stripes. It was well passed 22:00. Towab and I thought that things looked pretty alarming and the troops were still surrounding Bangabhaban. Both of us felt it was high time we withdrew ourselves from there and went for our dinner. I invited Towab to come with me to the Navy House.

My wife produced an impromput dinner and we talked about the present alarming situation in the country, created again by personal rivalry between one section of army officers and a section of the liberation force.

M. H. Khan

The President's resignation, which was clearly forced, ended a tense, three‐day confrontation between him and a group of generals who are now apparently running the government.

Since Mr. Sayem is non-political, his designation was regarded as a sign that the military junta would still be in control, but that it was eager to have at least the semblance of a civilian government.

New York Times (1975)

All these years after November 1975, that old image of Musharraf being decorated with his new epaulettes by Rear Admiral M.H. Khan and Air Vice Marshal M.G. Tawab flashes in your mind. It is a beaming Khaled Musharraf you see, or remember, with nary a thought to the cataclysm on the way. And then Musharraf did something more: he showed Moshtaque the door once it became known that the Mujibnagar leaders had been murdered in Dhaka central jail.

Syed Badrul Ahsan, editor of The Daily Star (Bangladesh)

6 November 1975: Chief Justice A. M. Sayem officially sworn in as new president

On Thursday 6 November 1975 morning Bangladesh radio announced that President Moshtaque had decided to resign after only two and half months in power. Under a newly proclaimed amendment to the Constitution, the announcement continued, Chief Justice Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem of the Supreme Court was sworn in as the new President and the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA).

The announcement came after midnight (i.e. early hours of 6 November 1975) after a day of intense pressure on him in which it was discovered that senior political leaders were murdered in Dhaka Central Jail and the young army officers charged with the killings had fled the country. The new president addressed the nation late in the evening and specifically condemned the killings of the national leaders in August and November.

Bangladesh had been virtually sealed off from the rest of the world all week. Since the crisis began before dawn on Monday 3rd November President Moshtaque had not been heard. His name had not been mentioned on the radio until the announcement of his resignation. The announcement made no mention of any military junta.

Except for the jail killings, events in the country had been relatively calm. Even the second coup d'etat led by Brigadier Khaled was bloodless.

Sheikh Mujib killers were charged by the new Bangladesh Government with the killings of the four leaders in Dhaka jail. At the direction of the men now running the country, Dhaka radio referred to the murders as "heinous crimes" and said that a judicial panel, headed by a Supreme Court judge, had been set up to investigate. Elsewhere, the Government of India issued an official statement in New Delhi where they expressed "great shock" at the killings of the four Bangladesh leaders "which were held in high regard in India".

But this coup only lasted 4 days.

As the country teetered on uncertainty, November 6 dawned with newspaper images of a beaming Khaled Musharraf being decorated with epaulettes reflecting his new rank of major general by the chief of staff of the navy, Rear Admiral M.H. Khan, and the chief of staff of the air force, Air Vice Marshal M.G. Tawab. The latter had been flown in from Germany, where he had been leading a retired life, to take over from A.K. Khondokar in the period following August 15.

As the day progressed on November 6, the pieces began to fall into a pattern. The announcement that Khondokar Moshtaque Ahmed had resigned the presidency was swiftly followed by news that the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Abu Sadat Muhammad Sayem, had replaced him. A new order appeared to be in place finally. In the late afternoon, President Sayem's motorcade was observed passing through Bijoynagar. He was cheered by many bystanders. The new president addressed the nation late in the evening and specifically condemned the killings of the national leaders in August and November.

Syed Badrul Ahsan

7 November 1975: Colonel Taher and the jawans take over, and Brigadier Khaled and others killed

On 7 November 1975 a third coup was staged. This "Sipoy-Janata Biplob" (Soldier's and People's Coup) was spearheaded by Colonel Abu Taher, a Sector Commander, and a group of socialist military officers and supporters of the left-wing Jatio Samaj Tantrik Dal (National Socialist Party). The group sought to topple Brigadier Khaled and take control by force.

Colonel Taher was a valiant freedom fighter. In 1971 he along with General Manzoor and Colonel Ziaudding defected from the Pakistan Army in the then West Pakistan, crossed the border and joined the Liberation War in Bangladesh. He lost one leg in the war and an artifical limb was attached. He was rewarded with Bir Uttam gallantry award for his valour and leadership. Later on, he left the army and was working as the chief in Bangladesh Inland Water Dredger Department in Narayanganj when the dramatic events of November brought him to the scene.

Colonel Taher had been trying to organise the freeing of Ziaur Rahman. Taher was a civilian at that time and mustered his ex-service personnel in his Department. He resigned from his job and became one of the main architects of "Biplobi Gono Bahini" (People's Revolutionary Force), a radical leftist group within the army which also attracted thousands of politically motivated students Through his people Taher started claiming that Khaled Mosharraf's brother Rashed was in the camp of the Indo-Soviet axis, thereby, bringing about a dissension with the then Government. He pointed to Rashed and his mother's commemorative procession of 4th November as further evidence of this. This allegation helped Colonel Taher to build up opposition to Khaled Mosharraf.

A good deal of mystery pervaded the political scene at the time. Even as his enemies went into planning strategy against him, Brig. Musharraf was found spending a long stretch of time trying to negotiate a deal at Bangabhaban that would have Moshtaque and his team leave office quietly. Musharraf, one of the most brilliant of tacticians in the 1971 war, was suddenly observed to be oblivious to conditions outside Dhaka, especially in places like Joydevpur and Comilla where forces arrayed against him were spreading the lie that he was a foreign agent and therefore leading the country to a new phase of servitude.

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Colonel Taher freed Ziaur Rahman from his house arrest and brought him to the Dhaka Brigade Headquarters. By 9am Ziaur Rahman was reinstated back to his previous position as army chief. By now, "Sepahi janata bhai bhai" (Soldiers and public are brothers) slogan was being heard all over the cantonment and the people started coming out of their houses on to the road.

Once Brigadier Khaled and his loyalists realised that their coup had collapsed, and they were unable to resist the tide against them, they went into hiding and sought refuge in the army camp at Sher-e-Banglanagar in the capital. It was then, apparently, General Zia received a phone call from a military officer about the officers whereabout. Nobody knows what Zia told the caller. Moments later, Colonel Taher and some of his political associates appeared in the room, stayed briefly and went away.

Not long afterward, at 11 am, a group of soldiers of the 10th East Bengal Regiment barged into the room in the cantonment where Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf, Colonel A. T. M. Haider, and Colonel Najmul Huda were sat down to do breakfast. The soldiers seized them, took them outside and shot them dead. Several other army officers were also killed. An injured Colonel Shafat Jamil was arrested and taken into custody by the new men in authority. According to him, 13 officers, including a lady doctor, were killed by the 'disgruntled' soldiers.

Brigadier Khaled was only 38 years old. It was his birthday six days earlier.

On the night of 6th / 7th November, Khaled Mosharraf, along with Colonel Huda and Major Haider, were in Bangabhaban. They also left soon after we did. Thinking of the situation, Khaled Mosharraf did not enter Dhaka Cantonment but went off in his car looking for a place where he would not be harmed.

M. H. Khan

Attempting to make their way out of Dhaka in the hope of organising resistance, Musharraf, Huda and Haider found themselves in Sher-e-Banglanagar. Within minutes they became prisoners of the men they had once commanded. All three were brutally murdered. Their corpses were then subjected to varied forms of indignities.

Syed Badrul Ahsan

The corpses of General Khaled Musharraf, Col. Najmul Huda and Col. A. T. M. Haider lay on the ground before the Combined Military Hospital, to be humiliated by soldiers loyal to Zia. These three men, celebrated for their heroic performance in the 1971 war, had scorn heaped on them on the basis of the lie that they had been Indian and Soviet agents. No effort was made by Zia, on that day or in the five years in which he wielded power, to identify the men who had ordered the murder of the three officers. And since Zia's own assassination in May 1981, no government has opened an investigation into the killings of 7 November 1975, not just of the three officers but also of scores of others cut down brutally in the cantonments of the country.

Syed Badrul Ahsan

General Zia becomes Deputy CMLA along with Rear Admiral M. H. Khan and Air Vice Marshal Towab

Rear Admiral M. H. Khan was messaged to come to Dhaka Brigade Headquarters. Upon his arrival he saw General Zia, Colonel Taher and few others sitting at a table with General Muhammad Ataul Ghani Osmani "more or less conducting operations". Air Marshal Towab was not present at this time.

While the discussion was taking place on the table, someone came to tell them that a truck with the dead bodies of the deceased (e.g. Brigadier Khaled, and colonels Haider and Huda) had been brought to the Brigade Headquarters.

The next issue on the agenda was, since there was no longer a civil cabinet, the responsibility of the ministries had to be 'shouldered by the three chiefs' (i.e. COAS Zia, Rear Admiral M. H. Khan, and Air Vice Marshal Towab). Thus the ministries were divided between the three service chiefs under the designation of the Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator and run with the appropriate authority of a Minister.

A message was sent to me to come to Brigade Headquarters. On arrival, I found Ziaur Rahman in plain clothes, and there were other colleagues of the General, including Colonel Taher. It was there that I learnt about the final end of the drama that had started with the jail killing.

I also saw General Ataul Karim Osmani sitting at the table and more or less conducting operations. Towab was still not there. The discussion was about the promulgation of martial law in the country. General Osmani was very active on this issue and discussed the pros and cons of having military rule.

With due consideration to the present situation in the country, it was finally decided to declare martial law with the President as the Chief Martial Law Administrator, in order to bring about cohesion in the Army and peace in the country.

M. H. Khan

Early afternoon, General Zia made his way to Bangabhaban. Soldiers and a crowd of onlookers raised, for the first time in independent Bangladesh, the slogan of 'nara-e-takbeer' (a slogan raised by the Muslim League in its campaign to dismember India in the 1940s), punctuated by 'Sepoy-Janata Zindabad' (Long live soldiers and people) and 'Bangladesh zindabad' (Long live Bangladesh) as opposed to Joy Bangla, popularly associated with Bengalis.

General Zia was made Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator along with navy chief Rear Admiral M. H. Khan and air force chief Air Vice Marshal M. G. Towab.

JSD's uprising did not remain within the JSD's complete control. While the JSD's ultimate agenda was to create a rankless army, many soldiers were content to just to overthrow the coup leaders.

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

[Brigadier Khaled] Musharraf's Government crumbled like a house of cards in just four days. Ziaur Rahman, aided by Colonel Taher of the Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) came to power in the wake of street violence and mutiny in Dacca cantonment. Musharraf was killed. Though President Sayem, who had replaced Ahmed, was appointed chief martial law administrator, Zia wielded the real levers of power.

India Today

8 November 1975: Justice Sayem proclaims second martial law and becomes CMLA - but Ziaur Rahman takes over a year later

Two days after taking over as president of Bangladesh, on 8 November 1975 Justice Sayem proclaimed the second martial law and assumed the position of Chief Martial Law Administrator.

Justice Sayem held his dual positions of President and CMLA for a full year but eventually General Ziaur Rahman would emerge as the de facto ruler. On 28 November 1976 Justice Sayem was relieved from the post of CMLA and replaced by Ziaur Rahman. After 5 months, on 21 April 1977, Justice Sayem also lost the constitutional top job. Zia assumed presidency in addition to his CMLA post. Thus began the Zia regime. Initially General Zia ruled under martial law declared by Moshtaque, but later civilianised his rule.