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|Volume 11 |Issue 20| May 18, 2012 ||
The Admission of Guilt
The on-going trial of the 1971 war criminals and criminals against humanity is being followed avidly by people of all walks of life, even by concerned persons abroad and other governments.
Most recently Ghulam Azam, the former Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, has admitted that he was pardoned as a collaborator. Although he told the trial court on 13 May that, back in 1973, the then Bangladesh government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made a list of war criminals, he lacked the decency or the humility and gratitude to mention that the same government pardoned him. He was absconding at the time of his so-said 'pardon', and returned to Dhaka only after the brutality of 15 August 1975, when Bangabandhu and his family and many several were cruelly assassinated. Ghulam Azam added in court that the listed war criminals were pardoned at a meeting between the foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India (DS 14 May 2012). We beg to differ.
The pardon was never a blanket one. The 1972 Act to try the collaborators and war criminals is a manifestation of the magnanimity of Bangabandhu and his government but the 'general amnesty' did not acquit, repeat DID NOT ACQUIT, those who were punished for OR those who were accused of rape, murder, attempt to murder or arson. On the contrary, those shown the mercy door almost never acknowledged the generosity of the post-independence government.
The DS report cites historical records that, following the announcement of the general amnesty, out of 37,000 sent to jail on charges of collaboration, about 26,000 were freed. Around 11,000 continued to remain in jail until the government of Justice Sayem and General Ziaur Rahman cancelled the Collaborators Act on December 31, 1975, barely three-and-a-half months after one of history's most gruesome killings. These facts must be repeated for the new generation to understand the cause of the country to which they belong.
Ghulam Azam has now admitted, perhaps for the first time, of being among those who were 'branded collaborators'; and it is not so that a collaborator cannot be charged with war or inhumanity crimes.
Further to his deliberation, one criminal's exoneration does not automatically mean the pardon of another. Everyone is accountable for his deeds. Now if there is a case against Ghulam Azam for any criminal activities related to the 1971 War of Liberation he has to face trial, and that is exactly what is happening. And he is allowed to defend himself through his lawyers in full coverage of the media. There can be nothing more civilised than this modus operandi.
Allow me to quote from Chintito 16 August 1996:
“If any well-meaning word in any language has been disgraced because of the heinous acts of a group of devils in the guise of man, it is the expression Razakar. In 1971, these Bengali-speaking Pakistanis picked up arms against their co-linguals, harassed families of Muktijoddhas, killed unarmed civilians, raped the very essence of my Sonar Bangla. They were a cowardly lot, operating in the darkness of the night, attacking the helpless mother and sisters of freedom fighters, unleashing their poltroonery (antonym of chivalry, courage, etc.) on the academics and the intelligentsia, and trying to extricate the very foundation of a Bengali nation.
“From 16 December 1971, Razakars have intermingled with the populace for fear of their lives.
“From early 1972 the Razakars have misunderstood the magnanimity of Bangabandhu's government whose general amnesty was also aimed at putting an end to the amoral designs of certain quarters attempting to use the post-liberation circumstances to seek personal vendetta.
“Perhaps we are no less a Razakar than the gun-toting enemies of the Bengali people; – for to this day we have failed to bring to justice the self-proclaimed killers of the symbol of our independence, our liberation struggle, our very existence. Yes, we are but sinners in our own domain!” That was said sixteen years ago.
On 5 November 2007, Chintito wrote:
“One of the broken records that anti-liberation forces play is that people of Bangladesh have not been demanding their punishment, that these are sporadic calls by a section of the media, a feeble whimper of politicians, and a drama by international conspirators...
“The fact is that the demand for their punishment has sustained the test of time.” The time has come.
Let me conclude by quoting Bangabandhu, as quoted by The Dawn, Karachi in 1970 before the War of Liberation began:
“Dhaka, 7 June: The Sheikh [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman] censured the Jamaat-e-Islami for what he called their anti-East Pakistan role and for trying to deprive the people of this province of their legitimate rights by creating confusion in the name of Islam. He alleged that Maulana Maudoodi's partymen in East Pakistan were paid workers serving the case of those who made money by exploiting. (The Dawn, Karachi: 8 June 1970) And who was Jamaat-e-Islami then?
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