October 28, 2007

War Criminals of 1971

After the recent controversial statement that “Jamaat did not work against the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 and there are no war criminals in the country,” we hear a new low in political rhetorics.

Former Islami Bank chairman and Jamaat-e-Islam think-tank Shah Abdul Hannan has described the Liberation War of 1971 as a “civil war.” He denied that genocide took place in the country at that time and that war criminals exist here. Speaking on a talk show, Ekushey Shomoy, on private satellite television channel Ekushey Television Friday, Hannan also expressed doubts that three million people died in the war and supported a Pakistani report according to which only 26,000 people or less died during the Liberation War. The Daily Star has a transcript of his comments.

Dr Hasan, convenor of War Crimes Fact Finding Committee, a group investigating war crimes by Pakistani army and their local collaborators in 1971 tells that Jamaat leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed’s statement is a blatant lie:
“We have strong evidence and documents against the people who were involved in war crimes during the Liberation War and what is needed now to bring the culprits to justice is an initiative. Ali Ahsan Mojaheed as president of Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971 was in a leading position of Dhaka city Al Badr Bahini, one of the groups involved in killing Bangladeshi intellectuals at the fag end of the war. Al Badr played the key role in killing innocent intellectuals, professionals and also common people in 1971.

Local collaborators of the Pakistani army were involved in at least 53 types of crimes. The committee traced at least 920 mass graves where Bengalis were dumped by the Pakistani army and their collaborators. The killings were clearly genocide as Bengalis were eliminated because they were Bengalis and the Hindus were killed because they were Hindus.

An investigation by the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee found at least 191 people as Pakistani war criminals who have been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and mass killing."
Meanwhile details are being emerging that Local collaborators of Pakistani occupation forces or war criminals charged with specific allegations of committing atrocities during the Liberation War have never been pardoned although propaganda campaigns are on claiming that they were granted general amnesty by Bangabandhu-led post-war government:
On November 30, 1973, the government announced general amnesty for those among the arrestees under collaborators order not charged with specific allegations of war atrocities.

The press note on general amnesty categorically said, “Those who were punished for or accused of rape, murder, attempt to murder or arson will not come under general amnesty.”

Out of 37,000 sent to jail on charges of collaboration, some 26,000 were freed after announcement of the general amnesty.

Around 11,000 were still in prison when the government of Justice Sayem and General Ziaur Rahman repealed the collaboration order on December 31, 1975. Following this, those behind bars for war atrocities appealed and eventually got released.
More details here.

And last but not the least a Pakistani major's account reveals Jamaat's role in 1971. Siddiq Salik, who was serving the Pakistan army as a major in Bangladesh in 1971, in his book ‘Witness to Surrender’ he observed that:

Jamaat leaders collaborated with them [Pakistan army] not only to advance their ideals of Pakistan as an Islamic state, but also to wreak vengeance on people they were at enmity with.

Referring to the drives against Bangalee freedom fighters, he wrote, “These operations were only a partial success because the West Pakistani troops neither knew the faces of the suspects nor could they read the lane numbers (in Bengali).

They had to depend on the cooperation of the local people.

(On the collaboration groups) these patriotic elements were organised into two groups. The elderly and prominent among them formed Peace Committees, while the young and able-bodied were recruited as Razakars (volunteers). The committees were formed in Dacca as well as in the rural areas and they served as a useful link between the Army and the local people.

Razakars were raised to augment the strength of the West Pakistani troops and to give a sense of participation to the local population. Their manpower rose to nearly 50,000 as against a target of 100,000.

Some of them were genuinely interested in the integrity of Pakistan and they risked their own lives to cooperate with the Army, but a few of them also used their links with the Army to settle old score with pro-AL people.

To stress the point once again that the Bangladeshi collaborators had purposes other than pursuing the ideology of an Islamic state, Salik recollects, “In the evening I met the officer who carried out the attack. What he said was enough to chill my blood. He confided. ‘There were no rebels, and no weapons. Only poor country-folk, mostly women and old men got roasted in the barrage of fire. It is a pity that the operation was launched without proper intelligence. I will carry this burden on my conscience for the rest of my life’.”
As Sada Kalo Blog said "I will NOT forget. I will not let YOU forget."


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