Law Catches Up With Mir Quasem Ali
Daily Naya Diganta that enjoys a circulation of around 3.2 million copies a day and Diganta TV which reaches out to 10 million Bangladeshi households globally, started running a sustained campaign against the ongoing war crimes trial in Bangladesh. Both Naya Diganta and Diganta TV form a part of Diganta Media Corporation owned by Mir Quasem Ali. During the liberation war and in the run up to the war Mir Quasem Ali was primarily known as an appendage to the occupying forces of Pakistan. He was arrested from Naya Diganta office within an hour and a half of the Tribunal issuing the order on June 17 last.
Mir Quasem Ali has wide international reach. He enjoys good equations with Saudi Arabia as Country Director of Saudi based and resource rich Rabeta-al-alam-al-Isalmi, the NGO that funds many ventures in Bangladesh. He is also associated with the Saudi funded Ibne Sina Charitable Trust and Hospital that provides free Medicare facilities to the poor across the country.
Openly defying restrictions imposed by the government on foreign visit by the JEI war crimes suspects, Mir Quasem Ali paid a high profile visit to Saudi Arabia in 2010, after formation of the war crimes tribunal, to seek Riyadh’s blessings and put pressure on Sheikh Hasina government to abandon war crimes trial. Saudi Arabia employs the largest number of Bangladeshi manpower and it turned out that during his visit he tried to convince the Saudi authorities to work as a pressure group. He gave a number of suggestions to them including stopping of recruitment of Bangladeshi manpower and termination of appointment of those already working there. He thought that such a situation would create turmoil in the country and compel the Bangladesh government to abandon the war crimes trial.
Mir Quasem Ali is a prominent fund raiser for the JEI and played a key role in strengthening its finances. He manages the party accounts maintained with Islami Bank Bangladesh. He has consolidated his place in the JEI hierarchy by extending funds to the Rohingya radical groups who had fought along with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
In 1971, Mir Quasem Ali was President of Chittagong District Islami Chhatra Sangha, then student front of JEI, that converted itself into the infamous Al Badr and carried out the most macabre killings and rape in the history of Bangladesh. On December 14, 1971, just two days before surrender of the occupying Pakistani forces, all leading intellectuals of the country were massacred en - masse by Al Badr in order to intellectually cripple the new nation. Mir Quasem Ali was one of the main architects of this massacre of intellectuals and professionals. Others who were in league with him in this mission included JEI chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and its Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, both of whom are now facing trial on war crimes charges after being indicted by the tribunal.
At the beginning of the war Mir Quasem Ali was Al Badar Commander of Chittagong district. But soon, in consideration of his performance in inflicting large scale brutalities and torture on the freedom fighters and their sympathizers, he was elevated and made No 3 central Al Badar leader in the country. Then No 1 and 2 Al Badar leaders were Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid respectively.
Mahamaya Bhavan, located on Telegraph Road behind T&T Office, Chittagong, which was originally owned by a Hindu, was forcibly taken over by Mir Quasem Ali and named Dalim Hotel. This Dalim Hotel was converted into Al Badar torture camps where thousands of freedom fighters were forcibly kept huddled together and subjected to brutal torture. Many of them died there due to inhuman torture. Some of them were maimed for life. It was Mir Quasem Ali who called the shots from Dalim Hotel.
Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, well known freedom fighter and Deputy Editor of ‘The Peoples View’ brought out from Chittagong, was also taken to Dalim Hotel on December 3, 1971 by Mir Quasem Ali’s Al Badar associates and subjected to torture and repression. After being released, Chowdhury disclosed that freedom fighters used to be kept blind folded by the Al Badar before being meted out with severe torture and it was Mir Quasem Ali whose diktats held sway. Another well known freedom fighter and Ganatantri Party Chittagong District President Saifuddin Khan was kept in Dalim Hotel and similarly subjected to extreme torture from November 17 to December 16, 1971. A well known Razakar named Abul Kalam who had tortured Saifuddin at Dalim Hotel is now an established business man and proprietor of a number of business establishments in Chittagong including TK group. He is presently an important JEI leader. Saifuddin also told that Dalim Hotel witnessed killings of thousands of freedom fighters in 1971. After surrender of Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971, Dalim Hotel wore a deserted look as Al Badar and Razakar elements led by Mir Quasem Ali fled from there.
Mir Quasem Ali was the first President of JEI’s new student front Islami Chhatra Shibir when it was formed on February 6, 1977 by disbanding Islami Chhatra Sangha. Subsequently, he became Amir of Dhaka city JEI. Apart from being Director of Islami Bank Bangladesh, a bank floated from Saudi Arabia, he is also Country Director of Saudi based NGO Rabeta-al-Alam-al-Islami and Chairman of Saudi funded Ibne Sina Trust and Hospital that provides Medicare to the poor free of cost across the country.
Auxiliary forces like the Al Badr, Al Shams and Razakar actively engaged with the Pakistan Army to thwart the liberation war in 1971. Crimes against humanity including murder, massacre, rape and loot had taken place in Chittagong under Mir Quasem Ali’s orders and carried out under his watchful eyes during the war. There are also evidence that he ordered the massacre and murders of the intellectuals and freedom fighters at the Razakar camps.
Mir Quasem Ali, who is from Manikganj’s Harirampur, was known as ‘Mintu’ to the people of Chittagong during the war. He was part of the Islami Chhatra Sangha think tank that had prepared the list of the intellectuals to murder them at the fag end of war. The intellectuals were killed on December 14, 1971, only two days before the victory. After independence, Mir Quasem Ali fled to Saudi Arabia and returned only after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family was brutally massacred on Aug 15, 1975.
Recently, Mir Quasem Ali, along with his US based brother Mir Masum Ali, hired a top US lobby firm Cassidy and Associates and spent $310,000 to move the US administration favorably. The effectiveness of Cassidy and Associate’s lobbying could in part be gauged from the fact that the US Ambassador for war crimes at-large Stephen Rapp visited Bangladesh three times in a row in 2011 and gave a number of advises to Bangladesh government on how to ensure a fair trial. Rapp also said that the US administration might provide some assistance to the Bangladesh war crimes tribunal depending on how he and the Congress viewed the fairness of the trial process.
If the ongoing trials of war crimes are held impartially and brought to a logical end, the war crimes mastermind including former JEI chief Ghulam Azam, present JEI chief Matiur Rahman Nizami, its Secretary General Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid, Mir Quasem Ali and the rest of those now facing trial would be convicted and the new generation will also be made aware of the gruesome consequences of the abuse of religion to justify killings and other heinous crimes.