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The Political Leaders in Disarray (Part-5)

The Stage Set for a National War of Independence

After the withdrawal from Mirersarai on 20 April 1971, Capt. Oli along wht Capt. Matin decided to occupy the small hillocks of Mastan Nagar, overlooking the Dhaka – Chittagong Highway. Capt. Matin, along with his company, occupied the western side of the highway, while Oli’s company took position in the hillocks on the eastern side. Major Zia visited them at about 10 AM on 21 April 1971 and left after half an hour for his Headquarters at Ramgar to coordinate the battles within the Chittagong and Noakhali areas. On 21 April 1971 at 11 AM the enemy attacked their positions, supported by artillery and tanks. They used tanks for the first time since 26 March 1971. The fighting continued for the whole day. The enemy forces were desperate to keep the Dhaka – Chittagong Highway clear for the movement of their troops. It was difficult for Matin and Oli to resist the huge force, despite their courage and dedication. Both of them decided to move to the next defensive position at Karerhat next day during the early hours. Oli fought successive engagements at Karerhat, Tulatala, Haku, Chikanchara, Baganbari and finally at Ramgar. Likewise, Maj. Shawkat, Capt. Khalequzzaman and Lt. Mahfuz fought engagements at Mahalchari and Guimara and finally moved to Ramgar to cross the border on the night of 2 May 1971. During these battles; they received a limited supply of arms and ammunition from the Indian Border Security Forces. India also supplied them with explosives to blow a few bridges out along their frontier.

Maj. Rafique stationed himself at Ramgar during this whole period and tried to establish contacts with the Awami League leaders and the Indian Border Security Forces. On 22 April 1971, he visited Oli at Karerhat with some explosives and stayed one night with him at the Karerhat High School. They were successful in drawing the Pakistani troops in different directions close to the Indian border. Maj. Khaled Musharraf, along with 4 East Bengal Regiment, located at Bramanbaria, and Major K.M. Safiullah along with 2 East Bengal Regiment, located at joydevpur, joined the fight on 29 March 1971. Capt. Hafiz along with 1 East Bengal regiment, located at Jessore, joined on 30 March 1971 while Major Nizam with 3 East Bengal Regiment, located at Saidpur, joined the war subsequently. By the end of the first week of April 1971 numerous large and small groups organized themselves under the leadership of many Bengali officers, JCOs and NCOs of the Army, EPR, Police and Ansar and started resisting the enemy all over Bangladesh.

Oli, zia, Maj. Rafique, Shawkat and others reached the Harina Camp on Indian Territory on 3 May 1971 and soon afterwards, they started organizing themselves for the next battle. The Indian borders Security Forces (BSF) were on alert along the border. BSF started helping the evacuation of unarmed civilians, rendering medical facilities, supplying a limited quantity of food stuff, arms and ammunition. By this time, the civil (political) government, with assistance from India, had organized its activities and started to exercise its authority in different spheres. A cabinet was formed and given the oath on 17 April 1971 under the direct guidance of the Indian government and army generals. Syed Nazrul Islam was made the Acting Vice-President and Tajuddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister. Eventually, for ensuring better management of the War of Independence, the entire country was divided into eleven “sectors”, headed by the following Sector Commanders.

The (political) Ministers had little idea about what was going on in the war zones. Indian army generals started monitoring the day to day affairs of the Freedom Fighters directly and, in some places, through the Indian Border Security Forces. The Bangladeshi politicians wanted to establish their control and command over the entire forces fighting for Independence; and with that end in view, they appointed Col. M.A.G. Osmani (Retd.), an elected Member of Parliament from the Awami League, as the Commander-in Chief of the Bangladesh Armed Forces. He was promoted to the rank of general from that  of colonel, and another retired Col. Abdur Rouf of the Army supply corps was appointed his Deputy. Major Ziaur Rahman, Capt. Oli and other military officers always remained loyal to the Bangladesh Government-in-exile. They accorded their full support to Col. Muhammad Ataul Gani Osmani (Retired) the Commander-in Chief, although he was a retired officer and had nothing to do with the army. Besides he was an elected member of the parliament representing the Awami League. The Awami League Government could not rely on an officer in uniform with the position of commander-in-chief. Moreover they wanted to check and control the activities of Major Ziaur Rahman by placing Col. M.A.G. Osmani (Retd.) in charge. According to the Commander-in chief of the Liberation Army. But immediately after crossing over to India, he was made the sector commander of No, 1 Sector (Greater Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tract and a part of the greater Noakhali District).

Hundred of camps were set up along the India-Bangladesh border, with the assistance of India, to provide training and orientation to thousands of young freedom fighters. To their surprise, they observed that even after appointing a retired colonel (and a party man) as Commander-in Chief, the politicians still could not rest assured and could not place their full trust in Bangladesh Army. They started raising and patronizing a separate force, known as the Bangladesh Liberation Forces, popularly known as the Mujib Bahini, mainly constituted by the followers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Acting President and the Prime Minister of the Bangladesh Government in exile had little control over this special force. They were directly under the control of the Indian Army for all practical purposes.

Here two things need to be clarified. The Bangladesh Government-in exile, which was formed at Mujibnagar on 17 April 1971, consisted of the Awami League leaders. This government appointed MAG Osmani, a retired Colonel and an elected member of the parliament the Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh armed forces, and Major Ziaur Rahman, the commander of Sector One. The Bangladesh army expected that Major Ziaur Rahman, who revolted from the Pakistan Army and declared Independence of Bangladesh, would be the Chief of Bangladesh armed forces. The researcher feels that this was due to several reasons. In the first place, the Government-in-exile took the responsibility of mobilizing the war efforts and put such a person in the position of the Commander-in-Chief who was an Awami Leaguer. Secondly, recalling the fact that the Awami League leadership failed to declare Independence of Bangladesh in right moment and it was done by a young and energetic army officer Major Ziaur Rahman, the government thought that Major Zia might emerge as a person more powerful than anyone else. He might not obey the instructions of the government.

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