There are four major charges being leveled against the government’s handling of the BDR massacre.
- The first one is general: The government held back the Army, who otherwise could have prevented or minimized the murders
- The second one is much more specific. This accuses that after the amnesty was announced, and while Nanak and Sahara Khatun were inside Pilkhana, the majority of the murders happened. From an email allegedly from an Army officer that is being widely circulated:
• RAB arrives at Pilkhana gate at about 10am and ready to move in. Home Ministry said a stubborn “No”.
• Troops of Mirpur Cantt and Dhaka Cantt arrives at Pilkhana by 11:30am. they seek permission to go in. Again a big “No”
• Innocent Media people, bluffed by the BDR jawans, focus to the nation the good side or the “right cause” of rebellion BDR. they ask for BCS officers….!!!
• Govt sends nanok and others and they enter courageously into BDR Pilkhana and safely come back and they are not held hostage.
• At 4:30pm, army tanks are ready to go in, briefing done, again a big “No”. The army is told to go 3 km away from Pilkhana.
• Night comes. sahara and nanok enter BDR and all lights are off. sahara visits families of army officers without nanok as seen on TV channels through BTV footage. She does not; we repeat DOES NOT meet any army officer of BDR.
• Media people telecast live sound of firing from inside Pilkhana when sahara is inside.
• Sahara comes out and faces the media. some channel representative asks her “Apni jokhon vitorey chilen, amra goolir shobdo shunlam, apni shunen ni?” she say “No. I did not hear any firing”. sahara did not mention anything about the 168 officers inside, nor the media asked her where were the officers.
• THIS WAS BECAUSE AT THAT TIME BDR WAS COMPLETING THE TOTAL KILLING OF ALIVE OFFICERS AND THIER FAMILIES UNDER THE EYES OF NANOK AND MASS GRAVES WERE BEING PREPARED. Please refer to the Ntv exclusive with major Mokarram on 28th evening. He said that he heard the voice of home minister entering into the kote when BDR gunmen surrounded him.
• IG police freely moved in because his daughter and son in law capt haider was inside. He ensured the rescue of his daughter, married 82 days earlier.
• only police is allowed to enter pilkhana and throughout the night they find only 7 dead bodies and suggest that search could not be done due to darkness.
- The third charge is grave. The same email states that ambulances entered Pilkhaka and took away some killers under the guise of removing the injured. From the same email:
• NON-MILITARY AMBULANCES ENTER AND LEAVE PILKHANA A NUMBER OF TIMES AND TAKES AWAY SO MANY DEAD BODIES…BUT THE TOTAL STILL REMAINS 7. Only 5-7 other bodies appear from canal behind BDR naturally floating. IT WAS BECAUSE THOSE AMBULANCES TOOK ABOUT 32 KILLERS AWAY.
- The fourth accusation is absolutely incendiary. It charges that Sahara Khatun let the murderers go, and that under the direction of the Home Ministry, the power was cut off in the area during the night of Feb 26 so the BDRs could escape. From someone whose father is a senior retired army officer, and who has may family members in the armed services:
Majority of them knew this was going to happen but Home Ministry allowed them to shut the light in BDR and allowed them to escape
All of these accusations were expressed in various forms when Sheikh Hasina met with Army officers on March 1. One survivor from the massacre specifically mentioned that if Sahara Khatun went to the Quarter Guard and asked about the women, then they would not have faced any abuse. In a chaotic scene, the officers accused that the killers were allowed to escape in the name of negotiations, and demanded the resignation of Mirza Azam, Nanak and Sahara Khatun
Let’s examine these charges.
1. To start with, the outcome of an Army-BDR firefight is known–the Army would have won in the long run. But at what cost? If the author of this email, and others bemoaning this fact truly believe the BDR would have fled in the face of an assault, perhaps they have forgotten that BDR is the most battle-hardened force in Bangladesh that faces regular live fire from BSF, while for most army soldiers the only gunfire they see come during exercises.
Yes, the Army has superior heavy weapons, including tanks and helicopter gunships. But lets not forget the civilians, family members and officers still alive who were inside Pilkhana, who would have been used as human shielf. Even the author of the email is claiming most of the officers were still alive. What would have happened to them in the cross-fire if the Army attacked? What of the Army soldiers taking part in the attack?
What about the civilians outside Pilkhana? What about the BDR forces in other districts and the border, where the tensions were rising and reports of rebellion was rising? In the event of an assault, who would have prevented bloodbaths in those locations? We submit that however painful the death of the officers in Dhaka, an armed assult on Pilkhana would have been many times worse and caused a country-wide firefight.
A retired Brig gen and a former DDG of the BDR agrees. Note that this person is intimately familiar with the capability and mentality of the BDR.
Sheikh Hasina essentially reiterated the same points, and for the first time she mentioned that she had asked the Army chief how long it will take to launch an air or ground assult. By the time they had leared that the officers were dead, and decided to take the route of negotiations in order to protect the families.
2. If that is so, then why are there any officers alive at all? We are not talking about the officers who were hiding; we are talking about the officers who were confided by armed BDR personnel at quarter-guard or other locations, at least 18 of whom were released on Day 2 (see our timeline, Feb 26, 4:30 PM). The only explanation that makes sense is that most of the murders had happened in an initial burst in the beginning. Lt Col. Shams, who escaped out of the Darbar hall and was hidden by some BDR soldiers, tells us:
“It was between 10:30 am to 11:00 am and I assume most of the officers were killed during that time,” he said in the interview.
He is also the officer who described the mysterious grey pick-up entering through gate 5, bearing arms and ammunication
3. We know Red-Cross/Red-Crescent ambulances evacuated some of the injured, and those ambulences went to CMH with the injured and the dead. If the author of this email is claiming that the killers went to CMH and escaped, he has access to information that we don’t.
4. We now know this: the main lights in the Pilkhana are not on a timer; they have to be turned on manually via various main switches by an electrician. Because of the firefight, there was no electrician in Pilkhana, hence there were no lights on the streets and perimeter.
We agree that it was short-sighted of the home ministry to not arrange for flood lights. At the very least, just turning on the headlights of all the army and police vehicles would have provided some light. But to accuse a person who risked her own life to go in and bring out families of the army officers of aiding and abetting criminals is reprehensible. Perhaps before leveling such charges, they should talk to Lt. Col. Kamruzzaman, who acknowledged that his wife and children were extracted by Sahara Khatun
For the investigation committee:
Now, emotions are raging inside the serving and retired officers of the Armed forces, and Bangladesh once again stands on the brink of a precipice. So allow us to ask some of our own questions, and point out some other facts that we hope the investigatin committee will examine.
1. What were the various intelligence agencies doing? Lt. Col. Kamruzzaman is on record that the field agents of the intelligence agencies were involved in this. Even if this is not true, this indicates a massive intelligence failure, and we need to see some accountability from the people who head up these agencies
2. What happens to the corruption allegations? We hope that those will not be buried along with the dead bodies. If there is a systematic corruption, let us uproot at as well. And if there was no corrpution, then let the investigations clear the names of the deceased.
3. On March 1, 2009, the police forces of Bangladesh suddenly started receiving 100% ration, which was one of the 22 demands of the BDR. Was there any credible intelligence regarding a similar threat at the Police force? If so, from whom?
Lastly, we end this post with a call for patience from all quarters. The sad truth is, Bangladesh has lost some brave men. But this is not the first time this has happened, and every time the killers walked away free.
The Army is bringing great pressure on the prime minister. We understand their anger and outrage.
But asking for resignations from MPs and ministers, people who risked their lives to save Army officers and their families serves what purpose? Who gains by removing the people withouth whose involvement the death-toll would have been higher? (We hope we have already laid to rest the wisdom of an attack on Pilkhana). Instead, the Army should focus its energy on investigating and capturing the masterminds of this murder.
If this results in an Armed uprising and overthrow of the government, then the people who planned this massacre wins.
But we believe the worst of the crisis is over. Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed stated categorically that the Army is under the authority of the elected government, and the PM has faced off 300+ angry, emotional officers for three hours.
If this democratically elected government can withstand the pressure to act hastily, we believe the truth will shine through. And onlt then the death of the officers will not be in vain.
J @ Shada Kalo [http://shadakalo.blogspot.com] writes using a pseudonym and is best known for exposing government, military, corporate foul plays through whistle-blowing investigative reports.