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Mazid, Mohammad Ishfaqul

Mazid, Mohammad Ishfaqul (1903-1973) Military hero, sportsman and first Bangali' Major General was born on 17 March 1903 at Jorahat of Assam.

Mazid joined the Royal Sandhurst Military College education on 2 February 1922 after completing his BA degree in Guwahati Cotton College of Assam. Three hundred cadets from all over India had appeared at an examination that year to get selected for Sandhurst and only a few were successful in their bid. Two Indians were selected for training at Sandhurst for the first time in 1918 and they were commissioned in 1920. Up to 1921, there were 15 individuals who appeared at the selection examination from undivided Bengal and only one got selected from among them; Tarun Kumar Sinha, the son of Lord S P Sinha succeeded in joining Sandhurst Military College after getting selected. The others were either unsuccessful in the examination or could not join as Sandhurst did not endorse them. In this respect, Ishfaqul Mazid was indeed very fortunate. He was the second Bengali speaking cadet and the first among Bengalee Muslims who could join a prestigious and top military college like Sandhurst. After Ishfaqul Mazid, no other Bengalee could get training from this British Military College. The training of Indians at Sandhurst was stopped after the launching of the Indian Military Academy at Dehradun of India in 1932. Ishfaqul Mazid successfully completed his training on 10 July 1924. Eighteen among his batch-mates were British and only three including Mazid were Indians.

After his commissioning, Ishfaqul mazid was posted at Lucknow and Ranikhet as an officer of the Lincolnshire Regiment on 29 August 1924. He joined the Hyderabad Regiment in 1925 and served in this regiment for a long time in his career. However, he worked occasionally at Varanasi and Dimapur by temporarily remaining attached to the units of Hyderabad regiments. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1925 and Captain in 1933. He was appointed the commandant of Kumaon Regiment (erstwhile Hyderabad Regiment) during the World War II. Later, he was appointed a staff officer at General Geoffrey School of Central Command Headquarters in Agra. After that, he was transferred to the Eastern Command Headquarters in Kolkata as Assistant Adjutant General. As an officer of the British Army, Ashfaqul Mazid also worked in Iraq and Singapore. Former chief of the Indian Army General Thimaya and the Governor of East Pakistan General Azam Khan were Mazid's colleagues at the Hyderabad Regiment.

During the World War II, many officers and soldiers were recruited in the army on an emergency and temporary basis. They were discharged after the end of the war. Ishfaqul Mazid was appointed a Resettlement Officer and he efficiently performed this complex task of resettling the discharged soldiers in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. As a military officer, he played an important role in confronting the horrific Hindu-Muslim riot that took place in Kolkata in 1946.

After the partition in 1947, Mazid joined the Pakistan army and commanded the 10th Infantry Brigade and 51st Infantry Brigade in Pakistan. After that, he was promoted to the rank of Major General and took charge as the GOC of 94 Infantry Division. Mazid was senior to Ayub Khan. But, Ayub Khan superseded Ishfaqul Mazid and was appointed the army chief on 17 January 1951. Mazid could not accept this easily. In 1951, a military conspiracy called 'Rawalpindi Conspiracy' was exposed against the Pakistan government. The Pakistan government lodged a case by implicating Ishfaqul Mazid with this conspiracy, but he was found not guily and acquitted in the case. After this, he stayed in Karachi for some years and then settled permanently at Fatulla near Dhaka.

The white paper published by the Pakistan government regarding the happenings of 1971 in Bangladesh described the involvement of Ishfaqul Mazid. It said that sheikh mujibur rahman appointed retired Major General Mazid and retired Lieutenant Commander Moazzem to enlist the support of military staffs in his favour. All strata of Bengali soldiers expressed solidarity with the movement at the final stage of the liberation struggle during the non-cooperation movement of March 1971. All newspapers published from Dhaka on 23 March 1971 show that the retired soldiers marched from Baitul Mokarram to Shaheed Minar under the leadership of Colonel osmany and General Mazid on 22 March; from there, some senior officers including General Mazid and Colonel Osmany met Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at road 32 of dhanmondi and presented him a sword as a mark of their loyalty. The Pakistani military arrested General Mazid in July 1971 and took him to the military headquarters. From there, he was sent to the central jail. Pressure was mounted on him to cooperate in arresting the commander-in-chief of the liberation army General Osmany through trickery and become a witness in the case of treason filed against Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib. But this elderly veteran withstood the tortures unleashed by the Pakistani army with firmness and rejected the proposal of cooperating with the Pakistanis. As a result, he had to remain captive in jail.

After independence, he was offered job or a responsibility at a very high level, but he did not agree due to his advanced age and frail health. Many problems cropped up in his health due to the tortures by the Pakistani military while he was in captivity during the liberation war. He died in Combined Military Hospital, Dhaka on 31 March 1973 at the age of 70 years. [Ashfaq Hossain]