Zia That I Knew: A Flashback

  • May 27, 2009 at 12:30 AM

By Abu Obaid Chowdhury from New York, USA

Following my defection from Pakistan Army in 1971 and after being cleared by the Indian and Mujibnagar authorities, I was posted to ‘Z Force’ of Lt Col Ziaur Rahman in the eastern theater of Bangladesh liberation war. The nearly 20-day journey took me from Lahore to Khemkaran to Ferozepur to Delhi to Kolkata to Agartala and finally to Masimpur, the 4 sector headquarters of Lt Col C R Dutta (later Major General).
As I reached my temporary accommodation, I heard a familiar voice next room. He was talking to Col Dutta. I went to check and found a gentleman in uniform, somewhat tired, half lying on the bamboo made platform, used as bed. It was dark and I could not see the face clearly. I wished him and introduced myself. He sat down and said, “So you are the Captain who came to raise my artillery unit. Sit down.”
I still could not make out who the person was, though looked familiar. 2/Lt Sajjad Ali Zahir (later Lt Col), another defectee from West Pakistan and posted to my unit, joined me at Agartala. He followed me to the room. As I introduced Sajjad to the man, almost instantly the name flashed across my mind.
“He is Col Ziaur Rahman”, I said to Sajjad. Earlier, then Major Ziaur Rahman was an instructor in the military academy when I was a cadet and his solid, deep voice was well known to me.On his query, I had to tell Col Zia my defection story—how I crossed the Lahore-Khemkaran border in a military jeep, how I survived after falling with the jeep in the Kasur River, who I reported to at India’s Rajoke cantonment etc. He seemed to know the route and area pretty well. Somewhat surprised, I asked how he knew the names of those villages, tracks, BRB canal, barriers etc. “I was fighting the Indians there in 1965 with 1 E Bengal Regiment”, Zia said.
After dinner, Zia left for his headquarters at Kailashahar. Before leaving he told me to take stock of my unit at Kukital and report to him in a day or two to find out what I needed to make the unit battle worthy within the shortest possible time. Capt Oli Ahmed (later Col and BNP Minister) and my Sialkot time friend Capt M A Halim (later Maj Gen), Brigade Major and Quartermaster respectively at Z Force, were very helpful in providing me with the material support I needed.