We have all heard about the seven Bir Shreshto’s of our country, their ultimate sacrifice is what kept the Bengali people to fight and gain independence from a brutal regime of Pakistan in 1971.
The Seven Bir Shreshto’s are:
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Matiur Rahman
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Mohiuddin Jahangir
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Hamidur Rahman
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Mostofa Kamal
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Mohammad Ruhul Amin
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Munshi Abdur Rouf
- Bir Sreshtho Shaheed Nur Mohammad Sheikh
Out of these 7 Bir Shreshta’s only Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman was from Air force background, and six others were from the Army and Border Guard Bangladesh (Bangladesh Rifles).
Bir Shreshto Matiur Rahman was born on 29 October 1941 in Old Dhaka in his ancestral houses Among nine brothers and two sisters, Flight Lieutenant Matiur Rahman was the sixth. His family was a solvent and middle class educated family. After finishing his high school in Sarghoda in West Pakistan he joined the Pakistan Air Force in Risalpur in 1961 as a General duty Pilot (GDP). Matiur Rahman was commissioned in 1963 from 36th GDP course of PAF. Soon after his commission he was transferred to jet training conversion squadron No.2 in Mauripur base (Now Masroor Air Base). He was trained in T-33 for jet conversion and F-86 for fighter jet conversion.
Indo-Pak War 1965
During the 1965 war Matiur Rahman was a Flying officer and he carried out his missions with great distinction. After the war he was posted back to Sarghoda to undergo conversion training. He was soon promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant (this was to be his final rank before sacrificing his precious life for an independent Bangladesh).
During the liberation war Bengali officers in PAF were kept quiet and secluded from their regular flying duties and their course-mates began to grow distance with the serving Bengali officers. Soon after operation searchlight was carried out on the night of 25th March, Matiur along with his fellow Bengali officers tried to defect to India to join the liberation war. Despite being a serving officer in PAF, Matiur opened a training camp in Bhairab and started training Bengali people who were willing to join the Mukti Bahini, this was when he was on two months vacation in Dhaka after the 25th March massacre by Pakistani army, Rahman formed a small defence force with the willing members and a few collected weapons. His camp was bombed by the PAF on 14 April 1971. But Rahman anticipated the attack from before and changed the location of his camp, this move helped Rahman and his crew to be saved from the bombing. Rahman returned to Dhaka on 23 April and then returned to Karachi on 9 May with his family.
The “Final Hour”
Matiur Rahman was an instructor pilot in PAF base Masroor during 1971. On 20 August 1971, Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas was scheduled to his second solo in T-33 trainer jet. Rahman saw Minhas was about to take off and asked to join him, he jumped into the instructor seat on the runway. Rahman was flying it below the usual altitude to deceive the radar. However, Flt Lt Matiur Rahman could not take the plane out of Pakistani territory. He attempted to hijack the T-33 in midair from Karachi, Pakistan to India to join the liberation movement. Minhas sent a message to the control tower that he has been hijacked. Minhas wrestled with Rahman for control and crashed the plane in Pakistan’s Thatta area, 40 kilometres from the Indian border, because of the struggle to regain control of the plane by Pilot Officer Rashid Minhas. His body, which was found near the crash site, was buried at the military graveyard at Masroor Air Base.
Matiur Rahman was buried at the graveyard of fourth class employees at Masrur Airbase. The Pakistani authorities even dared to disgrace the gallant hero by hanging his photograph and identifying him as a Gaddar (Traitor) at the main entrance to the Mashrur Airbase.
This lowly act by the Pakistani authorities stood testament to why Bangladeshis rose up against their barbarism in the first place.
Body returned to Bangladesh
Bir Srestho Matiur Rahman’s body was finally returned to Bangladesh on 24 June 2006 after 30 years of negotiations. He was accorded with a state ceremony and symbolically reburied in Bangladesh at the Martyred Intellectuals Graveyard, in Mirpur, Dhaka, with full military honours.
Legacy of a national hero
Matiur Rahman was the subject of numerous films and documentaries in Bangladesh. His life was retold in a docudrama named Agnibalaka. Another film Ostistte Amar Desh was made in his honour.
The Bangladesh Air Force’s principal training base for pilot officers was named after Matiur Rahman at Jashore. The Air Force also provides trophy to the best cadets in flying training at the Bangladesh Air Force Academy in his name.
The best writer is awarded the Birshreshto Matiur Rahman trophy for individual research by the Air Wing of the Defence Services Command and Staff College.
Cadet colleges in Bangladesh have also named various facilities after the martyred pilot.