November 3, 1975: Khaled Musharraf in, Zia out

After consolidating power through the assassination of Father of the Nation and Awami League supremo Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the unruly majors faced resistance within the army as well as from civilian armed groups in different districts.

The government of then president Khondaker Moshtaq Ahmed and his close confidante army chief Major General Ziaur Rahman subdued the coup attempts and sheltered the majors at Bangabhaban.

They got quick recognition of Pakistan and other Arab nations, as well as the US, the UK, India and China within a few weeks, and the support of Mujib-critic leftist leader Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani. But the military rulers were worried about a possible Indian intervention due to the armed resistance led by Quader "Tiger" Siddiqui in the border areas.

The other group of concern was Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), whose leaders had been campaigning to overthrow Sheikh Mujib since 1972, and continued attempts to overthrow Moshtaque through coups, according to State Department documents.

The JSD had two armed wings under Col Abu Taher – Biplobi Gana Bahini with freedom fighters, students, workers, peasants and former soldiers to launch an armed movement, and Biplobi Sainik Sangstha units in the cantonments to collect sympathizers, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The rulers were also on alert of the pro-Mujib quorum in the army, but finally were defeated on November 3 by some subordinates led by chief of general staff Brigadier Khaled Mosharraf and assisted by Col Shafayat Jamil. 

Sensing defeat, they killed the four national leaders – Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmad, Captain Mansur Ali, and AHM Quamruzzaman – in Dhaka Central Jail in the early hours the same day as part of their plan to wipe out the Awami League leadership.

Khaled Musharraf wanted to avoid major bloodshed. 

He became major general after taking over power, and replaced Zia following his resignation. The shift in power was announced on Bangladesh Radio at 11pm on November 4.

Zia was made the chief of army staff by Khondaker Moshtaq to replace KM Shafiullah on August 24; Brigadier HM Ershad became Zia’s deputy. The seven majors and a colonel – who had killed Bangabandhu – were staying at Bangabhaban to advise the president and avoid reprisal in the army.

As Khaled Musharraf stormed in, he arrested Zia, and the killers of Bangabandhu, but did not overthrow Khondaker Moshtaq to become the president of the country.

He, however, initiated the formation of a military council, the CIA said. Khaled Musharraf had no plans to form a government because his aim was to become the chief of army staff.

But before he could establish control over the army, he got embattled by counter-coups by troops backed by Zia and the JSD, and was killed on November 7. Zia’s followers killed several hundred officials and their wives in the Dhaka Cantonment at that time.

JSD’s Col Abu Taher freed Zia, who treated him like a close aide, after the assassination of Khaled Musharraf and Shafayat Jamil until Zia. He also drafted the radio broadcasts announcing Zia's restoration on November 7.

Their honeymoon period, however, did not last long. Col Taher was arrested on November 24 and was hanged the following year after a controversial court martial. 

How Khaled Musharraf made it happen

Khaled Musharraf and his allies quickly took control of Dhaka Cantonment as well as most of the city of Dhaka in the early hours of November 3.

They pressed their confrontation with the Moshtaq government by flying a Mig fighter and armed helicopter over the city in a show of strength, which was also intended to intimidate the tank crews loyal to the government, according to documents of the US embassy in Dhaka.

Against this background, Khaled Musharraf levied four demands on Moshtaq: 1) that he replace Major General Ziaur Rahman as chief of staff; 2) that the majors be returned to regular army discipline; 3) that the tank forces loyal to the government be disarmed; and 4) that Moshtaq remain in office. 

Moshtaq eventually yielded a compromise with Khaled Musharraf after negotiating during the course of a long day by which the majors and some of their colleagues, to whom Moshtaq was indebted for his presidency, were permitted to depart Bangladesh.

Before this compromise had been reached, the Moshtaq government had called on the army forces in Comilla to come to its aid. But his request had been refused on the grounds that the Comilla commander would only respond to the orders of the chief of army staff (Zia) or the chief of the general staff (Khaled Musharraf).

The CIA said that Khaled Musharraf had not been aware of the killings of the four national leaders in jail as he allowed the plane carrying the Bangabandhu killers to leave Dhaka at midnight on November 3. 

Many observers also told the US embassy officials that one effect of the murders was to remove the logical leadership of any pro-Indian government.

With the explosive situation defused to a degree by the departure of the majors, negotiations between Moshtaq and Khaled Musharraf continued on November 4-5, resulting in Khaled Musharraf's designation as chief of staff late on November 4, and eventually in Moshtaq's resignation early on November 6. 

Simultaneously, it was announced that a non-political figure, Chief Justice ASM Sayem, would be appointed president. Sayem was sworn in on November 6 and promptly dissolved the parliament.

Musharraf’s rivalry with Zia

Born in November 1937 to a politically active, landed middle-class family in Mymensingh district, Khaled Musharraf was the uncle of Major Syed Farooq Rahman, a key leader of the August 15 coup. Musharraf joined the army in 1958 and in March 1971 was a major with the fourth battalion of the East Bengal regiment stationed at the Comilla cantonment, the US documents say.

He was one of the Bangalee officers who took command of the fourth East Bengals and led them against troops loyal to the Pakistanis. During the succeeding war, he operated in the Sylhet and Comilla areas, and maintained liaison with the Indian Army. 

After the war, Khaled Musharraf was promoted first to colonel and then to brigadier. In October 1973, however, he failed to be promoted to major general when his two senior colleagues, KM Shafiullah and Ziaur Rahman, obtained that rank. 

After the coup of August 15, Khaled Musharraf remained as chief of the general staff, the third ranking position in the army.

During the rivalry between Safiullah and Ziaur Rahman in 1972 for the position of army chief of staff, Musharraf reportedly sided with Shafiullah.

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