story of six brothers
was December 14, just two days ahead of
Abul Halim, a government
official of the then East Pakistan, was
waiting at his home to receive his six muktijoddha
sons, as the surrender of the Pakistani
occupation forces became little more than
a matter of time due to the strong resistance
of the allied forces.
But on the night of December
14, four sons of Abdul Halim fell into the
hands of the Pakistani army and never returned.
Two of them were shot dead
in front of their Tejturi Bazar house and
two are thought to have been killed inside
The four martyrs could see
ahead of them the independence of the country
for which they had fought, but local collaborators
informed the Pakistani army of the return
of the freedom fighters to their house,
leading to their capture and killing.
If you go to 45/F Tejturi
Bazar, residence of the late Abdul Halim,
you will find a graveyard in front of the
house where the dead bodies of Quamrul Hasan
Ratan and Iqbal Hasan Shahar lie in eternal
peace along with that of their friend and
neighbour, Ataur Rahman Nehal.
The dead bodies of Bakhtiar
Hasan Makhon and Rakibul Hasan Laki were
never found, and it is thought that they
were killed inside Dhaka cantonment.
The other two sons of Halim,
Akhtier Hasan Milon and Fakhrul Hasan Khokan,
were spared only because they were caught
up in the streets on their way home to meet
their brothers and did not return to the
house until after December 16.
The six brothers had gone
to their village home in Brah-manbaria after
March 25, and five of them crossed the Bangladesh
border at the beginning of April. Before
entering into India, the younger five brothers
sent Makhon back to Dhaka to look after
the family. After returning to Dhaka, he
rejoined his working place.
Makhon extended financial
help to the freedom fighters and informed
them about the secret plans of the Pakistani
government. He also participated in the
State Bank operation along with freedom
fighters. By collecting explosives from
freedom fighters, Makhon exploded a bomb
on the 7th floor of the State Bank. As the
news leaked, Makhon was caught by the Pakistani
army, who tortured him inhumanly, before
he was let go. He ultimately was killed
by the Pakistani army on his way home to
be reunited with his brothers.
Akhtier Hasan Milon, the
second son Abul Halim, did not directly
participate in the liberation war, but worked
as an organiser under the Mujibnagar government.
Milon came to his house after December 16
to find four of his brothers dead.
"I did not cry after
losing my four brothers, as they sacrificed
their life for the cause of the nation,"
said Milon, now a businessman.
While talking to The Daily
Star in front of the graveyard of his brothers,
Milon expressed his disappointment with
the current situation of the country.
"We fought for the
country not to make a few people rich. We
thought the people of the country would
live in a happy country after the independence.
The desperate hunger of politicians for
state power has brought misery to the common
people. After 32 years of independence many
people are still struggling to have two
square meals a day," he observed with
But although currently there
are many limitations in the country, he
hopes the country would move to success
As Milon was a vice-president
of Tejgaon Awami League, the Pakistani intelligence
kept the house under strong watch.
"Our family was involved
with politics for a long time, and I also
actively participated in the 1969 movement.
As soon as the Pakistani forces came to
know that we five brothers had joined the
liberation war, our house became a prime
target," Milon told me.
After receiving special
training in intelligence, Ratan, the third
brother, came to Bangladesh along with his
Ratan and Nehal were tasked
with gathering information about Tejgaon
Airport where Pakistani military forces
had set up the camps with warplanes. Ratan
and Nehal entered the airport in the guise
of day-labourers with the help of one Nur
Mohammed, a contractor of the airport. They
regularly informed the freedom fighters
about the war strategy and place of warplanes
through hidden wireless. They also sent
a map of the airport to freedom fighters,
identifying the bunkers and installations
of the Pakistani military forces.
In the beginning of December,
allied forces made several air strikes on
the Tejgoan Airport on the basis of information
provided by Ratan and Nehal, which was absolutely
accurate. This incident made the Pakistani
forces suspicious. They engaged spies to
unearth how the allied forces successfully
made the air strikes. Pakistani forces suspected
Ratan and Nehal for the air strikes and
arrested them, but Ratan and Nehal managed
to escape from their clutches.
Engineer Fakhrul Hasan Khokan
was the fourth son of his parents. He played
a significant role in setting up Shadhin
Bangla Betar Kendra and building up of the
Bangladesh Air Force. He was directly involved
with some operations against the Pakistani
army including the Vulta operation in Narsingdi
and the Farmgate operation in Dhaka.
Laki and Shahar were engaged
in guerrilla war in Dhaka city. Both of
them participated in a guerrilla operation
in Green Road Staff Colony and tried to
kill Monem Khan, then governor of the East
Pakistan and a collaborator.
Rakibul Hasan Laki, the
fifth son, was a guerrilla fighter under
the leadership of Mostafa Mohsin Montu.
He participated in many courageous operations
against the Pakistani army.
At the tail-end of the liberation
war, Laki's elder brother Ratan told him
to come to their Tejturi Bazar residence
on December 13. It was while coming to meet
his brothers that the Pakistani army caught
him, and Laki was killed in the graveyard
of the Dhaka cantonment.
Iqbal Hasan Shahar, the
youngest son of Abdul Halim, was a valiant
freedom fighter. He was known as fighter
Shahar to his co-freedom fighters. Shahar
single-handedly had the ability to sow panic
among the Pakistani soldiers in the southern
part of Dhaka. He was involved with many
daring guerrilla operation including the
Siddirgonj power station operation. He was
also killed at the hands of the Pakistani
Ratan, Shahar, and Nehal
were buried in front of 45/F in Tejturi
Bazar. These three freedom fighters were
killed by the Pakistani army in the premises
of their house in the night of December
After nine months of bloody
war, Milon and Khokan came back to their
house. Their father was speechless and became
emotinal upon seeing them.
Abdul Halim is no more in
the world. During the nine months of the
liberation war, his Tejpuri Bazar residence
turned into a meeting place and safe-house
for freedom fighters, at great personal
risk to himself. He rejoiced in Bangladesh's
freedom from his heart even after losing
his four sons.
Halim hoped that Bangl-adesh's
independence would bring happiness to the
But after 33 years of independence,
the question is whether the dreams of the
freedom fighters will ever be realised at
I look back
M M Shawkat Ali
July 1971, I was posted as Additional Deputy
Comm-issioner (ADC) of Sylhet. There was
an uneasy calm that I noticed among the
citizens of Sylhet town not to speak of
the officials of all departments. Initially,
there was a brigade of Pakistan army there.
Its headquarters was located in the model
school near what was then known as Salutikar
airport. The brigade was led by brigadier
Iftikhar Rana. As the struggle for liberation
grew in intensity, another brigade joined
the existing one. It was led by brigadier
Salimullah. The Deputy Commissioner (DC)
then was late Syed Ahmed, popularly known
as Jeetu Bhai among his junior colleagues.
On my joining the district,
I was put in charge of general administration.
The DC introduced me to Brigadier Iftikhar
in late July.
One day, the brigadier decided
to address all officers of the district
administration. The meeting was arranged
in the DC's conference room. Prior to his
visit to the DC's office for the conference,
he sent a typed list of about 20 persons
including some from the DC's office. This
was a secret hit list because in the view
of the brigadier, they were working against
the Pakistan army. Neither the DC nor myself
had any idea that the list was a hit list.
The brigadier verbally told the DC to make
sure that the persons in the list were present
at the meeting. I asked the DC why at a
conference of officials, the brigadier was
interested to have these persons in attendance.
The DC said to me that we should ignore
the list. I got the message.
The brigadier came in time
accompanied by Lt. Col. Sarfaraz Khan who
was notorious for being a ruthless killer.
In course of the usual address to do everything
possible against the war of liberation,
the brigadier suddenly asked where "Matin"
was? None could readily answer because no
further details about "Matin"
could be given. The DC asked the brigadier
what exactly was the designation or other
details about the person he was looking
for. Is it a peon, orderly, or an officer?
The brigadier was not sure, but said he
thought "Matin" was a magistrate.
I got nervous. A magistrate
named Molla Mohammad Abdul Matin was very
much present. I suggested to the DC that
it would be necessary to get further details.
The brigadier, perhaps because of his other
important operational duties and shortage
of time, reluctantly agreed.
I had known Matin since
1968 when he was in Faridpur and I was in
Gopalganj. The DC in Faridpur was then late
Abdus Samad, the first Defence Secretary
of Bangladesh. He took over as DC Sylhet
sometime at the end of 1969. He was well-known
for his quiet courage. Matin told me once
that in the month of April 1971, along with
the Pakistani flag, the then Bangladeshi
flag was also flown atop the DC's residence.
One day, Lt. Col. Sarfaraz Khan came to
the DC's residence and requested the DC
to ask someone to pull the Bangladeshi flag
down. The DC declined, saying that it was
not doing any harm to anyone.
Sarfaraz left in anger but
later got information that Matin was a witness
to the whole incident. Mr. Samad joined
the war of liberation and Jeetu Bhai succeeded
Before the brigadier departed,
Sarfaraz spoke aloud to say that he had
kept a bullet for Samad and also one for
Matin. Immediately after their departure,
Matin rushed to my office room trembling
in fear for obvious reasons. With tearful
eyes, he told me, "Sir, please save
my life, I have done nothing wrong."
"Please keep quiet," was my reply.
Immediately I thought that he must be sent
to Dhaka. A plane ticket was arranged. Before
his departure, I told him not to return
to Sylhet. Matin managed to get appointed
as private secretary to a minister of the
provincial government and was safe.
The denial plan of the occupation
As the victory approached, on the 10th or
11th of December, Lt. Col. Sarfaraz sent
a secret letter to the DC asking him for
a certificate regarding the destruction
of Pakistani currency notes held by the
then National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) as
part of their treasury functions. This was
part of the denial plan, which essentially
meant that all facilities should be denied
to the victorious army. The destruction
of the physical infrastructure such as roads
and bridges could be carried out by the
army. It fell to the DC's lot to destroy
the currency notes. The DC immediately called
me and the Superintendent of Police, then
Mr. Solaiman Ali. We found ourselves between
the devil and the deep sea. If the DC did
not comply with the request, he would be
taken to the model school and killed. On
the other hand, the DC could not have signed
a blank certificate without mentioning the
amount of currency destroyed.
We ultimately decided to
buy time. We decided to raise two issues.
First, there was no instruction to this
effect from the government of the day. Second,
we could not have opened the vault of NBP
as the keys were with the designated personnel
of the bank. As this was telephonically
communicated to Sarfaraz, he became furious
and asked us to blow open the vault. The
DC courageously said that he did not have
any explosives to do that. Besides, he would
rather wait for a government order.
The government order from
the Home department came on the 14th evening
in the form of a cipher message. It was
deciphered. We deliberately wasted more
time to locate the designated personnel
of NBP, who were the custodians of the key
for the vault. To our surprise, they were
made available by a contingent of the Pakistan
army. Sarfaraz also came in a jeep and asked
us all to accompany him to NBP.
The "Operation Destruction"
started. Some of the personnel of NBP were
also present. Suddenly, a wireless message
came to Sarfaraz who left in a hurry, leaving
a Sindhi deputy superintendent of the auxiliary
force called the East Pakistan Civil Armed
Forces (EPCAF). As the deputy went out for
a while to see Sarfaraz off, I advised the
NBP personnel to bring out the currency
notes of lower denomination first. They
were huge in number. The idea was to buy
more time. The bullets and mortar fire could
be heard. Sylhet was about to fall. But
fighting was going on. The deputy returned
and said that he would rather go back to
the brigade headquarters with a truck load
of currency notes.
Without waiting for our
reply, he asked some of his personnel to
load the truck outside the bank. They could
hardly load the truck, when firing in the
outskirts of the town intensified. They
all left in a hurry and we closed the vault
and took shelter in the officers quarter
Retribution never pays
It was on the 17th that Sylhet fell. We
met General Zia then in command of Z force,
Major Shawkat, Major Dutta, and Major Shaffat
Jamil. Jamil was then in command of an infantry
battalion of the Bengal regiment. We also
met two Indian brigadiers, AC Quinn and
Wadke. On 18th morning, Ajmal Ali Chowdhury,
once a central minister of Pakistan government
was killed on the street allegedly by some
members of the Mukti Bahini. The civilian
Zonal Administrator, then Dewan Farid Ghazi,
rang me up to say that it was not the government
policy to kill any person. He advised us
to take all precautionary measures. I told
him that he would be in a much better position
to do it and we could only assist.
On the 20th, one Mr. Barua,
then Home Secretary of Arunachal, accompanied
by Lt. Col. Jummowal came and met the DC
where I was present. They introduced themselves
as the civil liaison officers (CLO). Barua
told us that General CV Rao of the Eighth
Mountain Division would be visiting Sylhet.
He had expressed his intention to address
the officers of the district administration.
This was not something difficult for us
to arrange. The only thing was that there
was no electricity in Sylhet town. The transmission
lines were badly damaged. It would be convenient
if we could restore electricity. Besides,
it would be a necessity for restoration
I immediately contacted
Manzur Murshed, then executive engineer
of EPWAPDA. Manzur and the officers and
staff under him worked late hours and succeeded
in restoring electricity.
General CV Rao came. All
senior officers of the Bangladesh army were
also present. Rao paid glowing tribute to
the heroism of the members of the Mukti
Bahini as well as the regular army. In the
course of his address, he also said, "I
am leaving clear instructions to my officers
and staff here that we recognise only one
authority in the district, that is the authority
of the Deputy Commissioner. I recognise
that emotions are likely to run high after
the war, but let me remind all of you that
retribution never pays."
Immediately after the fall
of the occupation forces, I could see how
jubilant the people of Sylhet were. They
could talk freely, breathe freely, and walk
in the streets without any fear except for
one or two unfortunate incidents. The civil
administration rose like one man to restore
normalcy. At that time, all thought that
Bangladesh was set for a bright future,
politically, economically, and socially.
Is that right today?