Thank you Hasina: Columnist empties people's heart after Nizami's sentence

04 Nov 2014


What is the meaning of the verdict on the war crimes committed by Jamat leader Matiur Rahman Nizami ? Is it a revenge of the ruler against the opposition as is being claimed and propagated ? A retribution ? No, says Mahfuz Alam, the editor of Daily Star, the highest circulated English daily in Bangladesh.

"It is not revenge. It is not retribution. It is not settling of accounts. And politics, it is definitely not," he says in his commentary on the newspaper\'s page, as the war criminal, so long strutting around the land of the country he once ravished is finally made to pay and the cry of the wolves seeks seeks to confuse the people.


"It is meting out justice. It is holding political leaders accountable for their action especially if they commit crimes against humanity. It is fulfilling an inner urge for justice and fair play," Mahfuz says.


"In the final analysis, it is establishing the supremacy of law and humanitarian values that we have learnth to hold dear in our hearts," his column declares.


At a time when the creation of the country, its basic nature and principle was sought to be questioned with the anti-national element, growing strong over the years, pandering to religious bigotry and carrying on a maddening, nefarious campaign, Mahfuz Alam\'s sane voice prevails. "The punishment of Motiur Rahman Nizami is not simply because he worked against our liberation war but because in working against our freedom struggle he committed atrocities that would have brought him death sentence even under normal circumstances," he points at the simple truth.


" This verdict is against a man who was 28 years old in1971 (given that he is now 71), an adult by all definition who, being fully conscious of what the Bengalees of then East Pakistan desired opted, on his own volition, to go against the wishes of the people and in doing so resorted to murder, rape, mass killing, torture and other related crimes that are now considered to be crimes against humanity," he veteran journalist goes on.


When Jamat-E-Islami, that has long refused to apologise for its role during Bangladesh\'s war of independence and calls a three-day general strike showing it is still reluctant to acknowledge its role in carrying out atrocities, the intention is clear : to mislead the people and uproot the country from the spirit and principles that gave its birth. Taking a straight view of the things, Mahfuz Alam seeks to remind the people the magnitude of the horrendous crimes committed by those who opposed the freedom movement. "While we do not consider it to be in good taste to rejoice at anybody\'s death sentence but we do so in this case because of the heinousness of his crime, the enormity of his involvement in the killing machine that the Pakistani army had set up against the freedom fighters, the depth of his hatred for what our liberation stood for and finally the fact he never repented or expressed the slightest remorse for the atrocities that he committed at that time, of which he was such an integral part," he says. In the same vein, the judgement pronounced again Nizami had said, “No punishment other than death will be equal to the horrendous crimes for which the accused has been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.”


Pointing that an \'insidious campaign\' that the country was divided on the war crimes tria was afootl, Mahfuz says, "Such a view is without any substance and it is our duty to renounce it forcefully. Yes there are those who consider that the trial could have been conducted better, that the prosecution could have done a more professional job and that some incidents that have occurred during the trial could have been easily avoided. Some procedural flaws have also been pointed out and legal views expressed that contradict others."


But to the best of our knowledge, and based on opinions of the hundreds of thousands who read us and interact with us, we have absolutely no doubt that our nation is fully committed behind this trial and there is a great deal of support for holding people accountable for the crimes committed in 1971," he says.


Mahfuz is more forthright when he says that the principled position in holding the trial is the same as set by the Nuremberg trial organised after the second world war and the goal that has been set by the United Nations in the subsequent trials held in similar cases of crimes against humanity.


"Just as a distinction was made between those who supported Hitler and those who joined the Nazi party and the SS and committed atrocities so also we have made a distinction between those who opposed Bangladesh\'s independence on political grounds and those who committed war crimes against our freedom fighters and our unarmed people," Mahfuz reasons out. " Bangladesh has not put on trial all those who opposed us or even all the razakars on trial but only those who committed atrocities. This is an important distinction which clearly proves that our war crimes trial is neither motivated by political agenda nor by the desire to seek any revenge or settle old scores. It is against those against whom specific charges of crimes exist," he makes it clear.


Commenting on Nizami becoming a minister in independent Bangladesh, the War Crimes tribunal observed that it was a “slap in the face of our Liberation War as well as the martyrs," and Mahfuz readily agrees. "We couldn\'t agree more. How could a popular party like BNP and a leader like Khaleda Zia be so oblivious to history, so disregardful of public sentiment and so disrespectful to the memory of our martyrs to make a leading collaborator -- the leader of Al Badr, a para-military force known for killing our intellectuals -- a minister in her cabinet? Obviously BNP and Begum Zia thought very little of our freedom struggle, and the atrocities of \'71 did not matter to them much."


Echoing the voice of millions, Mahfuz says, "The war crimes trial and Nizami\'s verdict are definitely vindications of our long cherished desire to hold accountable those leaders who killed our freedom fighters and were active partners in the genocide that Pakistan army committed against our people."


"If that be so, then we will have to thank and laud the role of the party and the leader who made it possible. We think the freedom fighters and the nation as a whole owe Sheikh Hasina and her party a huge debt of gratitude for making the trial possible," Mahfuz says in a candid observation.


"While we do not agree with many of her claims, yet when she says that the war crimes trial couldn\'t have been held without her we unhesitantly agree, simply because she is right. President Ziaur Rahman indemnified Bangabandhu\'s killers and made a well known collaborator prime minister and some others ministers. Gen. Ershad never showed any intention of trying the war criminal of 1971 and again made well known collaborators and war criminals ministers in his cabinet. Begum Khaleda Zia formed a coalition government with them and gave the two most controversial of their leaders prominent ministerial berths, almost as if to mock the freedom fighters," he says.


Using the balance of a seasoned journalist, who sees things as they are, Mahfuz Alam also goes back to the history recollecting the unfortunate alliance once the Awami League forged with the Jamat during the campaign for caretaker government in mid-nineties. " It is an act for which AL has been justly criticised and will be so criticised in the future," he says.


The crux of Mahfuz Alam\'s comment comes at the end when he points at and assesses the political will that made possible the war crimes trial. " Totally overshadowing everything else, AL\'s stance on war crimes trial and the steadfastness of Sheikh Hasina in making it a reality are unique examples of courage and commitment to the memory of our martyrs," he says.


"We can still remember when prominent war criminals would enter big social gatherings with a swagger and proudly proclaim that he was “razakar” especially if well known freedom fighters would be seen in the crowd. The idea that they would ever face a trial was almost dreamlike for millions of us who had the honour to fight for our freedom."


"So as a freedom fighter this writer, with millions of others can only bow our head in grateful thanks for bringing the likes of Nizami to justice. Thank you Sheikh Hasina," the writer pours out the hearts of millions.  

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