Daily Observer report
On this day, 15 February in 1969, Sergeant Zahurul Haque, one of the thirty five accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, was shot by soldiers in the Dhaka cantonment. He succumbed to his injuries late in the evening of the day. A press statement released by the Inter Services Public Relations department of the Pakistan army gave it out that Haque, along with another accused, Flight Sergeant Fazlul Haque, had been shot in the morning. Both men were taken to the Combined Military Hospital, where Zahurul Haque died at 9.50 pm. Fazlul Haque's condition was reported to be improving.
Subsequent news reports on the incident, with the shadow of the censors looming over them, spoke of an attempt by the two men to escape from custody in the cantonment. As they moved to do that, the soldiers fired at them. However, the reports were not acceptable to Bengalis, who by then were engaged totally in the political movement to remove the regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan from power. The conclusion was that the idea that the two accused could try to escape was preposterous since security was tight around their place of confinement. Moreover, it was a time when proceedings of the trial were going on before a special tribunal which functioned inside the cantonment. The tribunal was headed by a West Pakistani, Justice S.A. Rehman, with two other judges, both Bengalis, serving as members. They were Justice Mujibur Rahman Khan and Justice Maksumul Hakim. Furthermore, it was subsequently revealed that Zahurul Haque and Fazlul Haque had been shot in the chest. If they were trying to escape, it was pointed out, the bullets of the soldiers would have struck them in the back rather than frontally.
The death of Sergeant Zahurul Haque added new impetus to the movement against the regime. Spearheaded by Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, the public agitation became increasingly vocal in its demand that the Agartala case be withdrawn and all the accused, of whom the leading one was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, be released unconditionally. Bhashani was also telling Mujib's family and other Awami League politicians privately that the imprisoned leader should not agree to attend on parole a round table conference called by President Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi. On the streets of Dhaka, citizens across the spectrum brought out spontaneous processions demanding Mujib's release. Bhashani threatened to lead a march on the cantonment if the demand was not met. A defining moment in the situation was reached when a crowd of Bengalis set the residential accommodation of Justice S.A. Rehman on fire. The judge lost no time in flying back to West Pakistan.
The Agartala Conspiracy Case was instituted in late December 1967. It was alleged that a number of Bengalis in the Pakistan civil service and armed forces, thirty four in all, had engaged in a conspiracy to cause an uprising in East Pakistan with the intention of bringing about the secession of the province from the rest of Pakistan. In January 1968, Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's name was added to the case. He was made accused number one. The trial of the accused went underway in June 1968 before a special tribunal in the Dhaka cantonment.r