The prime minister has personally assured us and the information minister reinforced that assurance. This government will execute some of the war crimes verdicts before it walks into the sunset. If that happens and when it does, we should be ready for the next level. The vast past behind us, we must narrow down on the future. It’s time to start the peace crimes trial.
Many disturbing things have happened meanwhile. Those who killed and raped in 1971 took their madness to its logical conclusion. In the next 42 years others have reversed that trend. They have roasted their marshmallows in the burning house. They have lied, cheated, adulterated, manipulated, plundered, kidnapped and killed for political and financial gains. And all that time they also argued that their madness was the logical conclusion.
English poet George Herbert divided history into two moral hemispheres when he said that wars make thieves and peace hangs them. Our war lasted nine months, but peace has been elusive fifty-six times longer. While the war continued to haunt us, many amongst us fished in that troubled water. They proved to be no less vicious than foreign usurpers.
These people should be tried first for creating the moral muddle that has turned us into our own contradictions. They kicked us when we were down, hurting this nation when it was still smarting from the pain of disillusion. They destroyed our simplicity, ruined our character, and made us intolerant of each other.
If the criminals in 1971 killed with their own hands, the post-1971 criminals have done worse. The Chinese proverb sourced from Lao Tzu says that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man how to fish you feed him for a lifetime. The war criminals gave us atrocities in one year, but our peace criminals have taught us how to be atrocious for the rest of our lives.
On the next count these people should be tried for the nature of their crimes. Those who have swindled banks, taken bribes or manipulated the stock market should be identified. Those who have bluffed and intimidated should be brought to trial. Those who made false promises and misappropriated public funds should be shortlisted and sentenced. It’s not enough to know who they are; we need official confirmation of these peacetime equivalents of wartime monsters.
All the rights wronged, need to be righted again. I am not talking about going down to the minutest details, not to every wrongdoing or every wrongdoer. I am talking about taking robust samples in each category of crime. The biggest challenge of the peace crimes trial will be how to make a few high-level examples to teach everyone.
We need to form special tribunals. I suggest we bring in foreign jurists who won’t be connected by blood or political allegiance to the criminals. We also need to ensure that these jurists cannot be bought with money. One sunken vessel cannot salvage another. Period.
This country needs a spring cleaning. It should dust the institutions, scour the systems and sweep the mental corridors. It should erase all stains, put fresh paint and spray air freshener onto the air. But that can’t be done unless first the peace criminals are tried. These hideous men are the historical cousins of the war criminals. They have means and ends in common except for the timings of their crimes. Both groups are enemies of the people and they have hurt this country in its stride.
Our concentration now should be how to get the house back in order. Lies have been levitated, injustice has been institutionalised, corruption canonised, greed generalised and mischief metastasised. These peace criminals have carried out a silent genocide. They killed our conscience and left flimsy bodies to crumble from inside.
One often hears these criminals trying to justify their crimes. They argue that crimes are committed in every country of the world. True, the United States being the most affluent country also has the highest number of prisoners in the world. But there is a difference which our criminals carefully hide from us. In other countries criminals are a sideshow. In this country they have taken the centre stage.
Nothing can change unless we fix that distortion. War and peace are different not because how crimes are committed, but because why they are committed. Both types of criminals steal and kill and both go against their people. The war criminals fight for a cause, but the peace criminals are ordinary crooks. One group kills for vengeance, another kills for vantage.
On the whole both are dangerous. Unless we defeat them first, they’ll most certainly defeat us.
The writer is Editor, First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.