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Ex-Pak air chief reveals Bangabandhu’s departure episode from Pakistan

Ex-Pak air chief reveals Bangabandhu’s departure episode from Pakistan

As the Nation revisits the memory lane coinciding with the 48th anniversary of Bangabandhu’s Homecoming Day, the testimony of a former senior Pakistani air force officer depicted animatedly how Bangladesh’s founder made his way out of that country after nine months of captivity.

Former Pakistani air chief Air Marshal Zafar A Chaudhry, who was the chairman of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) at that time, described the episode, still largely beyond public knowledge, as he escorted Bangabandhu from Rawalpindi’s Chaklala airport to London after his release.

He recalled Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who just assumed power after Pakistan’s defeat to Bangladesh, saw Bangabandhu off at the airport.

Dr Kamal Hossain, who too was in Pakistani captivity, also was at the scene to return home along with Bangabandhu.

Chaudhry recalled that a sense of tension still prevailed at the airport as Bangladesh’s founding father had his last words with Bhutto ahead of getting on board and the tense situation continued for some hours even after the PIA flight took off.

The sense of unease was visibly gripping Bangabandhu as the aircraft was yet under the Pakistani authority’s command and it could be ordered to return.

Chaudhry, however, recalled the situation eased after the dinner was served after few hours as the plane was on its way to London.

“I went near his (Bangabandhu’s) seat and introduced myself . . . thereafter Sheikh Mujib himself kept on talking”, and at one stage portrayed with emotion the Bengalis everlasting love for him.

According to Chaudhry Bangabandhu blamed Yahia Khan for Pakistan’s debacle and appreciated Bhutto for saving his life twice while he was languishing in jail.

The then PIA chief recalled that as the breakfast was served early in the morning and subsequently a steward of the aircraft brought gifts for the esteemed guests.

“There were two pipes and a prayer mate for Sheikh Mujib on behalf of PIA,” he said adding that Bangabandhu stood up and “shook hands with me accepting the gifts with immense thanks”.

Chaudhry recalled that Bangabandhu then asked him to ensure the presence of British foreign office representatives at the London airport to receive him.

Bangabandhu possibly made the request due to the fact that he wanted to be treated as the head of “Independent Bangladesh” in a foreign country.
The air marshal recalled Bangabandhu’s request prompted him to send a message to the Heathrow Airport authorities.

“At about 6 am we landed in London and placed the plane a little away from the main terminal, as some officials boarded the aircraft,” wrote Chaudhry, who breathed his last in December, 2019.

“I told Sheikh Mujib these people are protocol officials of VIPs and they will escort you to the VIP Lounge where British foreign office officials are waiting for you,” the air marshal recalled.

He said as he proceeded to the VIP lounge, Bangabandhu asked him if he could seek another help and requested him to call some of his friends in London.

“Most of them were owners of Bengali restaurants. In the early morning all the restaurants were closed and none responded to the phones,” Chaudhry said.

But, he recalled that eventually one of Bangabandhu’s family friends Mahmud Harun received the phone when “he silently moved away so I can’t hear their conversation”.

“Sheikh Mujib told me, air marshal thank you very much for what you have done for me, now I will meet my men who came from Bangladesh mission as I am their leader – the people’s man,” Chaudhry wrote.

Kamal Hossain, who too was in captivity in Pakistan, also recalled Bangabandhu’s last moments on the enemy soil saying Bhutto was repeatedly insisting him to stay back there for one more day “since Iran’s Shah is coming and eager to meet you (Bangabandhu)”.

Bangabandhu, he said, was politely trying to put aside the request but Bhutto appeared to be assertive.

“At one point, Bangabandhu firmly asked Bhutto – am I now free?, if not, take me back to the prison,” Hossain recalled adding that these words refrained Bhutto from insisting him further on his stay back.

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আবদুল্লাহ বঙ্গবন্ধুর আদর্শের পরীক্ষিত সৈনিক ছিলেন: প্রধানমন্ত্রী

আবদুল্লাহ বঙ্গবন্ধুর আদর্শের পরীক্ষিত সৈনিক ছিলেন: প্রধানমন্ত্রী

: প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনা ধর্ম বিষয়ক প্রতিমন্ত্রী ও একাত্তরের মুক্তিযুদ্ধের প্রবীণ নেতা অ্যাডভোকেট শেখ মোহাম্মদ আবদুল্লাহর মৃত্যুতে শোক জানিয়েছেন। এক…

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