Talks, Not Tanks, Put Mutiny To Rest
Friday, 27 February 2009

Dhaka, Feb 26 ( – A carrot-and-stick speech by the prime minister twinned with the negotiating skills of her political team brought to an end Thursday a bloody mutiny that killed many senior military officers.

Police took control of the BDR headquarters and the mutinous border guards retreated to barracks, the home minister, Sahara Khatun, said Thursday night, drawing the curtains on a 33-hour rebellion.

"The BDR members have gone back to barracks after surrendering arms," the minister told reporters as she left the scene at 8pm.

"All personnel have handed the keys of the two armouries to me after laying down their arms."

No one, not even the freed hostages, could put exact figure on casualties.

Major Zaman, one of the officers held hostage and freed on Thursday, said he would speculate over 100 officers died inside the BDR compound since the mutiny began at 9:30am during the Darbar with director general Shakil Ahmed, an army major general.

There was no word about the general's whereabouts. No one was saying he was alive either.

Police released names of eight army officers whose bodies were found in a drainage ditch in Kamrangirchar Wednesday and early Thursday.

Bloody ending avoided

The end to the bloody rebellion was, however, bloodless as the nation's political leadership put their stress on talks, rather than tanks.

Marathon negotiations, begun by Sheikh Hasina Wednesday and then followed up effectively by her home minister, resolved a crisis that had threatened to erupt into an all-out battle between the paramilitary forces and the tanks-totting troops in the heart of the capital.

Three rounds of negotiations running long into early Thursday morning resulted in the release of a first batch of many hostages and start of an arms surrender process.

At 4:20am, Sahara Khatun came out of the compound and told reporters, "I have assured them no army units will enter (the BDR headquarters).

"I told them, 'I am like your mother. You can trust me'," the minister quoted herself as saying to hundreds of rebels she met in a field outside the Darbar Hall where she heard their grievances once again.

Hasina, too, added a personal touch as she referred to her own experience of losing near and dear ones in the bloody Aug. 15 1975 mutiny.

"I know what it feels like," she said, appealing to all parties not to retaliate.

A tit-for-tat vengeance was no solution, she said, renewing her amnesty offer made during the talks on Wednesday.

"Confrontation breeds confrontation," the prime minister said and warned she would go to any extent to secure the nation's interests.

"Please do not test my patience... please do not force me to take tough action," Hasina said. She, of course, made it clear that she would prefer a peaceful resolution.

The speech was well received by the man on the street; mutineers, too, saw no problem with the carrot and the stick so long as it did not involve the army.

"I promise the army will not come if you listen to me," Sahara Khatun told rebels inside the BDR headquarters early Thursday morning. That was her third long meeting with the young jawans in just 12 hours.

The first meeting took place at the prime minister's official residence where 14 BDR men came at 3:40pm Wednesday for two hours of talks with the prime minister, who was joined by the home minister and the army chief, among others.

The prime minister's offer of amnesty and the pledge to meet their demands convinced the 14. But their colleagues remained unmoved, insisting on an army retreat.

The home minister led the government team at the second meeting, held at Ambala Inn, a hotel next to the BDR headquarters. The three-hour exercise created the climate for the minister to lead an unarmed team of four straight into the rebels' den while the army units around the Peelkhana pulled back.

The minister, flanked by junior minister for law Quamrul Islam and the police chief, spent nearly four hours, talking to an angry, armed group of hundreds and then herding back hostages in a motorcade.

More importantly, she watched as some of the rebels gave up their guns, with the others promising to follow suit.

The surrender was to complete by Thursday morning, but the rebels wanted to be doubly sure that the army would not be brought in.

The delay caused confusion and created some uncertainty, leading to the prime minister's nationwide broadcast.

The military, meanwhile, assembled tanks and troops, closing in on the BDR headquarters, while the home minister and other politicians kept up their work.

For a second time, Sahara Khatun entered the compound at around 4:45pm Thursday to negotiate a full surrender with BDR rebels.

The prime minister's deputy press secretary Nakib Uddin Ahmed told reporters at 7pm Armed Police Battalion had taken control of the armouries at the BDR headquarters.

He said finance minister AMA Muhith, Sahara Khatun, Nanak, whips Mirza Azam and Segufta Yasmin Emily, MPs Meher Afroze Chumki, Waresat Hossain Belal and Mahbub Ara Guinea were herding the trapped and wounded hostages into Red Crescent ambulances.

Nearly 150 people, including women and children and some 20 BDR officers, have been freed from the headquarters until Thursday evening, police and RAB said.

Siege ends

A top aide to the prime minister in late afternoon said all the rebellious BDR personnel surrendered and that the situation was under control.

"The situation is under complete control of the government," the prime minister's press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters.

"BDR members have completed arms surrender."

Tanks and other military vehicles moved further up Satmasjid Road towards the main entrance to the BDR headquarters at 5:30pm as the standoff over rebel paramilitary troops lingered on to the second day.

The tanks took position in and around the Abahani sports field at Road 12A in Dhanmondi residential area. Army soldiers also set up a temporary camp, less than a kilometre from the main gate of the BDR headquarters.


Comments Add New
sal  - mrs |2009-02-28 21:14:38
its sick what ever happned in Bangladesh. i blame the stupid goverment for their failer to co-operate with the situation long ago. why did they not act when the BDR complained about their pay rise and their working condition. they are the country's security how are we the public going to trust them. if the are fighting like dogs and cats the enemies will get their chance to distroy BAngladesh. i've heard the mass gave happened dirung the war in 1971 but since then this to happen like this i very shocked and upset at the same time. no one deserve to die like this. were they Muslims or were they non-muslims???
hr  - Miss |2009-03-01 15:23:48
This was a Jamate Islami propogated coupe that remains unfinished.
Until the terrorists groups associated with Jamat and infiltrated dont get a Sunni Wahabi and Salafi state where Bengalis shias and sufis are Their Golams they want stop.
Sharia law for Alqaeda is what they want and Isi is working hard for this.
The West Pakistanis have no regard for Bengalis subhuman species and they will try again and again and again.You just have to submit to Slavery once.
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