Column
Trial of Jamaat

14 Mar 2014

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The prosecution of the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) has now been preparing to try Jamaat as a criminal organization for its role in the Liberation War. Earlier, terming the Jamaat a criminal organization for its anti-liberation role, the ICT while delivering judgment on former Jamaat Amir Ghulam Azam, suggested that the government ban anti-liberation party and anti-liberation persons from holding key positions in any ‘government, non-government and socio-political organization’.

 The judgment said “Taking contextual circumstances coupled with documentary evidence into consideration we are led to observe that Jamaat as a political party ... functioned as a criminal organization, especially during the liberation war. The judgment further added ‘there is no proof that those who played anti-liberation role in 1971 have ever changed their attitude towards the liberation war or the country’s independence even now by showing respect to the departed soul of 3 million martyrs’.

 

Independence of Bangladesh was achieved after nine months of relentless war against the occupation forces of Pakistan through supreme sacrifice of millions of freedom fighters. This independence war was opposed tooth and nail by Jamaat that was the largest, most organized and most active among all the militant Islamic parties that had collaborated with the Pak occupation forces. Razakar, Al Badar and Al Shams – three wings formed as militia by the Jamaat – had perpetrated inhuman brutalities on the freedom fighters. These militia forces were aided with arms and funds by the Pakistan army to massacre the freedom fighters in order to maintain status-quo of erstwhile East Pakistan.

 

During the nine month bloody liberation war in 1971, Pakistani occupation forces aided by the Jamaat, committed atrocities and heinous war crimes that left over three million people killed and more than 250, 000 women violated, let alone the planned elimination of the best Bengali intellectuals of the soil on December 14, 1971. Demands for trial of Jamaat as a criminal outfit for its anti-liberation role and its adherents as war criminals are among the oldest issues of the country, linked to the birth of Bangladesh.

 

Apart from unleashing atrocities on freedom fighters, Jamaat, under the helm of convicted war criminal Ghulam Azam, had  extensively campaigned abroad – mainly in the Middle East - immediately after the liberation war to prevent countries from recognizing the newly liberated Bangladesh.

 

Unable to reconcile with the emergence of Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign country in 1971, Jamaat through its former chief Ghulam Azam launched efforts to revive ‘East Pakistan’ and spread propaganda against Bangladesh for several years. Just when Pakistan was on the verge of losing the war, Ghulam Azam shifted to Pakistan on November 22, 1971.  He formed Purbo Pakistan Punoruddhar Committee (East Pakistan Retrieval Committee) in 1972 and continued to campaign extensively to mobilize international opinion against Bangladesh and its recognition in the Islamic world.

 

Ghulam Azam went to London in 1972 and set up office of Purbo Pakistan Punoruddhar Committee. He also started publishing a weekly, Sonar Bangla, in London to carry out anti-Bangladesh propaganda regularly carrying features alleging that Muslims of ‘East Pakistan’ were being butchered, mosques / madrassas demolished by the Hindus. He used the weekly primarily as propaganda tool to denigrate India and project Pakistan as ‘the abode’ of Islam. He also continued to project the liberation of Bangladesh as ‘outcome of Indian conspiracy to dismember Pakistan and create rift in the Islamic fraternity’. With help of some pro-Pakistan elements based in London, he devoted all his energies and endeavored untiringly to launch an international movement to re-establish East Pakistan and deny recognition to Bangladesh.

 

In 1973, Azam lectured against Bangladesh’s independence at the annual conference of Federation of Students\' Islamic Societies held in  Manchester and also at the conference of UK Islamic Commission held in Lester. In 1974, he arranged a meeting of Purbo Pakistan Punoruddhar Committee with a group of rabid pro-Pak elements based in London and in the meeting it was deliberated that as they had failed to thwart the secession of East Pakistan, they would organize a movement to secure the formation of a confederation combining Bangladesh and Pakistan. At the meeting Ghulam Azam also emphasized the need for working in unison to strengthen the movement in Bangladesh.

 

At the annual conference of Muslim Students\' Association of America and Canada held at Michigan in 1973, Ghulam Azam urged everybody to participate in the movement for re-uniting Bangladesh with Pakistan. Again at the international conference of Islamic Federation of Students\' Organizations held at Istanbul in 1977 he lectured against Bangladesh’s independence.  In the same year at another meeting held in the Holy Trinity Church College, Azam reiterated his idea of Pakistan-Bangladesh confederation.

 

Azam participated in the International Islamic Youth Conference held at Riyadh in 1972 and fervently begged for help of all Muslim countries to re-establish East Pakistan. From 1973 to 1976 he met Saudi King seven times and asked the monarch not to acknowledge Bangladesh or help the country by any means. He also lectured against Bangladesh’s independence at the international conference arranged by the Saudi based international Islamic NGO Rabeta-e-Alam-al-Islami in Mecca in 1974 and at King Abdul Aziz University in 1977.

 

In 1975, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Azam met King Faisal and told the Saudi monarch that ‘Hindus have captured East Pakistan, the holy Quran has been burnt, mosques have been destroyed and turned into Hindu temples and Muslims were being killed’. By projecting the so-called plight of the Muslims in East Pakistan he collected huge funds from Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. Prior to his visit to Saudi Arabia in 1975, an advertisement appeared in the leading newspapers of Middle East countries. It read ‘Mosques are being burnt in East Pakistan. The holy Quran has been set ablaze. Hindus are killing Muslims and destroying their properties’. On the plea that Muslims had to be saved, the advertisement appealed for generous contributions.

 

In 1971 unprecedented level of crimes against humanity was committed in Bangladesh and Jamaat sought to justify these heinous crimes under the cover of “Islam”. It abused the name of “Islam” as an weapon to kill, rape and savage the country. Jamaat also sought to create a rift between “love for Bangladesh” and “love for Islam”.

 

The ICT has so far convicted six Jamaat leaders of crimes related to the 1971 war. Jamaat and its leaders who are now facing trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity have always tried to use the cloak of religion to distract people from their heinous crimes committed to thwart the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971.

 

Soon after ICT handed out death penalty to senior Jamaat ideologue Delawar Hossen Saeedi, Jamaat cadres unleashed terror and mayhem all over Bangladesh killing at least 74 people including 6 police personnel in a spasm of violence in parts of the country. At the same time temples and houses of the Hindu minorities came under attack, their houses were looted and temples were burnt in the name of Jihad.

 

Since the war crimes tribunal started holding trial of the Jamaat leaders in 2010, the Jamaat’s propaganda reached its culmination. Now they have come out of the shadow and are openly promoting lies and falsehood saying that the whole trial was intended to demolish Islam from Bangladesh. They are whipping up religious passion of the people by branding the Awami League government as anti-Islam.  They are creating anarchy and provoking their young activists to get involved in fighting with the law enforcement agency. They are trying to present their unruly activities as “Jihad”.

 

Whenever Jamaat wants to establish their illegal personal agenda, they attach the “jihad sentiment” to give legitimacy to it. In the name of Jihad, Jamaat not only kills general people and rape women, they even set up fire in mosques and burn prayer mats. Most Islamic scholars, including the Khatib (chief imam) of the national mosque Baitul Mukarram recently urged Jamaat to stop vandalizing mosques in the name of “Islam”.

 

In 1971, when Pakistani army cracked down on Bangladesh at midnight and killed innocent people in their sleep, Jamaat leaders portrayed it as an “Islamic” killing. On March 25, 1971 the genocide was launched. The University of Dhaka was attacked and a large number of students were killed. Death squads roamed the streets of Dhaka, killing some 7,000 people in a single night. Jamaat sought to term it an ‘Islamic war’ involving India and Pakistan and justified it as an act of Jihad.

Narrating the atrocities in Dhaka University, US Consulate in Dhaka on March 31, 1971 reported that naked female bodies in Rokeya hall of Dhaka University were found “hanging from ceiling fans with bits of rope,” after being “raped, shot, and hung by heels” from the fans. Former Jamaat Amir  Ghulam Azam expressed solidarity with this action justifying it as part of Jihad ‘to protect Islam’.

 

In 1971, an estimated 250,000 women, including minorities and underage, were raped and tortured by Pakistani army personnel and their local collaborators. The Jamaat again named it “Islamic” and justified it as part of Jihad. When thousands of war children were born, Jamaat created so much mental torture and emotional atrocities in the name of Islam that many among the young mothers of war children either committed suicide or left Bangladesh.

 

Now, when the Bangladesh government has taken steps to bring the war criminals of 1971 to justice, Jamaat has been making all possible attempts to scuttle the move using the “Holy Quran” and “Islam” as a shield. After death penalty was handed out to Delawar Hossain Saeedi, Jamaat made desperate attempts to create social unrest akin to civil war. They had previously threatened to take the country towards a civil war. But they have got very little support from the people.

 

Jamaat is spreading false propaganda of “saving Islam” and declaring “Jihad” to save their killer and rapist leaders. In the western world Jamaat has been splurging money and employing lobbyists to buy out world opinion; while in the Muslim world the tool is “Islam”. People are now well aware that effort to whip up religious sentiment is a ploy to derive political mileage and use Islam as a tool in the power play of politics to capture state power.

 

People of Bangladesh have historically fought against injustice all the time and they have also been victorious. The country was liberated despite heavy odds and the people became independent. The country and its people have overcome all the post-war adversities. When the ICT commences trial of Jamaat as a criminal organization, the new generation of Bangladesh, particularly those born post-1971, will be made aware of the extreme brutalities and distress inflicted on their forefathers by the Jamaat and also the heavy cost paid by them during the Liberation war in 1971. The new generation will also be made aware of the gruesome consequences of abuse of religion to justify heinous crimes. Success in holding this trial will be achieved when exploitation of religion in the country’s power-play is brought to an end.




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