Everyone Loses In Bangladesh Coup Attempt
Published: June 7, 1981
If there are worse places than Bangladesh these days, much credit goes to Ziaur Rahman. From his rise to power in 1975 until his assassination last weekend, General Zia instilled new motivation in the New England-sized nation of 92 million people to produce more food and fewer children.
His murder by army rivals raised fears in Dacca of another period of political instability and bloodshed like the one that occurred after the army overthrew Sheik Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s first President, in 1975.
There are no obvious successors to General Zia. One possibility, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Abdul Manzur, led the plot against the President and was himself killed after his arrest. According to the Government, he and two other conspirators died in an exchange of gunfire between their guards and a group of ”agitated armed people” who tried to seize the detainees. Seventeen other officers remained in custody and were to be tried by a military court.
The plot collapsed two days after rebels shot President Zia in a guest house in Chittagong, Bangladesh’s second largest city and main port. General Manzur, the local army commander, appealed to other units to join the uprising but in vain. Like General Zia a hero of Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence, General Manzur chafed at his transfer to Chittagong in 1977 and was apparently even more incensed at the President’s plans to make him head of the army staff college, a noncommand post.
Although President Zia reinstituted elections in 1978, whoever succeeds him will have to be acceptable to the army. Acting President Abdus Sattar, 75, said poor health would keep him from running in elections which are to be held within six months. Hasina Wazed, the daughter of Sheik Mujib and head of the opposition Awami League Party, recently returned to a tumultuous popular welcome after six years in India. But at 32, she is eight years too young to be President.