Events in the last few weeks have been painful reminders of our Liberation War, Jamaat-e-Islami’s role, trials and tribulations surrounding the demand for justice after 42 years. People who are not particularly biased for or against a particular political school of thought in Bangladesh, people who have general knowledge of the events in 1947 but never delved deep into the complex and conflicting sources of information may wonder — “what is going on”!
Instead of discussing and debating what pro-Liberation people think of ‘71 genocide, the nature of today’s Shahbagh Movement, threats to Islam in Bangladesh; let’s be one sided, let’s be biased and count on, essentially, a single source of information i.e. from Pakistani and anti-liberation entities like Jamaat. Many books and reports have been written by Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indians and western scholars/media but let’s concentrate on Pakistani, Muslim League and Jamatis; let’s hear from the horse’s mouth.
History repeats itself: Un-Islamic Bangla, communist (atheist) youths of 1952 and today’s youths of Shahbagh
Shahbagh youths have been called atheists, un-Islamic by Jamaat-e-Islami and its support base. Let’s see the history of such name calling in Bangladesh. It started a long time ago and it started with our Language Movement in 1948-1952.
Badruddin Umar in his book “Bhasa Andolon Proshongo, Kotipoy Dolil” (1995) included a treatise named “Pakistan Language Formula: A Scientific Study of the Language Problem of a “Uninational”, Ideological, Islamic State in a “Multilingual” Country” produced by Maulana Ragib Ahsan, Ex Member, Bangal Muslim League Parliamentary Board, Founder, Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam, March 1952. Among other things, Maulana Ahsan theorized the followings:
“The Worship of Language for the sake of Language or of Race and Homeland is the idolatry of the age and Pakistan has come to smash these idols and emancipate man from the slavery of Race, Language, territorial nationalism and materialism”. (page 77)
Bengali “far from being akin to Islamic spirit it is absolutely anti-Islamic and anti-Musalman in its origin, form and spirit. The “Musalmani Bengala” of the Muslamans is not fully developed and requires careful culture to bring it in tune with Islamic culture and ideology of Pakistan”. (page 80)
Bengali-a-medium of Hinduization- “Modern sanskritized Bengali is an alien Braminical Aryan imposition from without on the soul of Bengali Muslims…It is a veritable medium of the process of Hinduization”. (page 93)
“Bengali should adopt Arabic script to help further development and Islamization of Musalmani Bengala”. (page 104)
In a book named “Political History of Bangladesh” (2001), Dr Mohammed Hannan, says, “Prior to the general election in 1954, the Muslim League Government of Pakistan even gave a fatwa issued by their Moulavis that casting vote against the Muslim League would dissolve marriages of the concerned voters”. (Page 251)
In his memoir, “Amar Dekha Rajneeteer Ponchash Bochor” (1989) Abul Mansur Ahmed, provided a vivid description of the Muslim League and Pakistani mindset in 50’s and 60’s:
“They (i.e. leaders of Muslim League) started to say that opposition of Muslim League was akin to opposing Pakistan. Gradually they started to claim that Pakistan came into being for the wellbeing of Islam. In essence opposing Muslim League is opposing Pakistan, which in turn means opposing Pakistan means opposing Islam. …therefore opposition party in Pakistan means enemy of Pakistan and Islam”. (page 40)
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy who was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan, was rebuked by then Pakistani Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan as the “Mad dog unleashed by Hindustan”(page 41).
Later under Ayub Khan, Mr Suhrawardy was accused of subversion. “Therefore they arrested Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy on 31 January 1962 in Karachi under internal security law. The next day, 1st February President Ayub Khan arrived in Dacca. He declared at the airport, “The government has arrested Mr. Suhrawardy because he was about to destroy Pakistan with foreign money”
Jamaat-e-Islami often claims that Ghulam Azam participated in the Language Movement of 1952. He actually did but later regretted it. Badruddin Umar in another book “Jhuddo-purbo Bangladesh” (1987) quotes the following from “The Daily Azad” (20 June 1970)- “Amir of East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami said in a lecture that the language movement of 1952 was a great political mistake and he expressed his sorrow for his own involvement in that movement. …Because “Urdu is the common language of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, and their cultural and religious identity is inherent in it”. (page 102)
Maulana Ragib Ahsan (1952 page 93-94) declared, “The present day Dacca University has become the citadel and stronghold of Bengali Linguistic Nationalism, Secularism and Communism (read atheist) and has been fountainhead of the Anti-Islam and Anti-Pakistan movements. The University as at present constituted is diametrically opposed to Islamic and Pakistani Ideology”.
In order to suppress the demand for Bangla to become an official language of Pakistan, the so-called Islamic scholar(s) and politicians tried to denigrate Bangla. Politicians who fought for Pakistan but wanted democracy were derided and harassed.
Youths, who fought for such worthy causes, were called atheist and anti-Islamic. Therefore, there is no doubt that today Jamaat-e-Islami and its apologists would call Shahbagh youths- “atheists”. They have been doing it since 1952.
In 1971, Jamaat was trying to save Pakistan in order to save Islam in this country
How did “Islamic” Pakistani army and its top echelons behave in 1971? What did Pakistani army say about their own activities and Jamaat’s role to save Pakistan in order to save Islam?
After the war, the president of Pakistan appointed the War Inquiry Commission in December 1971. The commission was headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Hamoodur Rahman. His report is known as the “Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report”, (October 23, 1974). Here are some related excerpts from the report:
… “corruption arising out of the performance of Martial Law duties, lust for wine and women and greed for lands and houses, a large number of senior (Pakistani) Army Officers, particularly those occupying the highest positions”. The report described such life as “disreputable” (Chapter I of Part V of the Main Report)
… Lt. Gen. Niazi … during his stay in East Pakistan he came to acquire a stinking reputation owing to his association with women of bad repute, and his nocturnal visits to places also frequented by several junior officers under his command; and that he indulged in the smuggling of Pan from East Pakistan to West Pakistan. (Paragraphs 30 to 34 of Chapter 1 of Part V of the Main Report).
“The troops used to say that when the Commander (Lt. Gen. Niazi) was himself a raper, how could they be stopped?”
“The report quotes Lt. Gen. Niazi regarding Pakistani army activities post 25 March, I addressed a letter to all formations located in the area and insisted that loot, rape, arson, killing of people at random must stop… I had come to know that looted material had been sent to West Pakistan which included cars, refrigerators and air conditioners etc.”
Maj. Gen. Rao Forman Ali, Adviser to the Governor of East Pakistan, told the Commission about “Harrowing tales of rape, loot, arson, harassment, and of insulting and degrading behaviour” by the Pakistani army.
Brigadier Mian Taskeenuddin (Witness No. 282) said: “Many junior and other officers took the law into their own hands to deal with the so-called miscreants. There have been cases of interrogation of miscreants, which were far more severe in character than normal and in some cases committed in front of the public.
An admission was also made by Lt. Col. S. M. Naeem (Witness No 258) CO of 39 Baluch that “innocent people were killed by us during sweep operations and it created estrangement amongst the public.”
“There was a general feeling of hatred against Bengalis amongst the soldiers and officers including Generals. There were verbal instructions to eliminate Hindus”.
Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Dacca …said “after the military action the Bengalis were made aliens in their own homeland. The life, property, and honour of even the most highly placed among them were not safe. People were picked up from their homes on suspicion and dispatched to Bangladesh, a term used to describe summary executions…. The victims included Army and Police Officers, businessmen, civilian officers etc”.
The statements appearing in the evidence of Lt. Col. Aziz Ahmed Khan (Witness no 276) who was Commanding Officer 8 Baluch and then CO 86 Mujahid Battalion are also directly relevant. “Brigadier Arbbab also told me to destroy all houses in Joydepur. To a great extent I executed this order. General Niazi visited my unit at Thakurgaon and Bogra. He asked us how many Hindus we had killed. In May, there was an order in writing to kill Hindus. This order was from Brigadier Abdullah Malik of 23 Brigade.”
Brigadier Siddique Saliq in his book “Witness to Surrender” (1997) described the horrific event of the night of 25th March as follows:
“The gates of hell had been cast open.” (page 75)
“During these operations, some troops, to the shame of all, indulged in looting, killing and rape” (page 104).
Major General Khadim Hossain Raza in his book, “A Stranger in My Own Country, East Pakistan 1969-1971” (2012) wrote the followings:
Yahyah’s moral character: “too disgraceful to be put into print”.
General Niazi on 10 March 1971 at a briefing/de-briefing conference at the headquarters of the Eastern Command said “Main is haramzadi quamki nasal badal doon ga. Ye mujhe kiya samajhtey hain”. He threatened that he would let his soldiers loose on the womenfolk” (page 98).
General Niazi on 11 April at Command Headquarter said to General Khadim “Yar, larai ki fikar nahin karo, woh to hum lain gey. Abhi to mujhey Bangali girlfriends key phone number dey do” (page 99).
In his book, Major General Rao Forman Ali, “How Pakistan Got Divided” (1996 Bangla version) offers the following information:
“Reinforcement troops from (West Pakistan) were from Civil Armed Forces (CAF). Before coming to Dacca somebody must have advised them that Bangalis have revolted against Islamic country Pakistan, Bengalis were definitely portrayed as kafirs to some such troops. CAF personnel did not behave well …In order to establish public order a new force was created named Rajakar. Overall they made a very good contribution” (page 94).
“Within a short span of time Niazi became infamous for his obscene language and licentious character. Only Allah or he knows, what type of person he was. However, his conversations were obscene and dealings were shameful. I told the president all his stories, which were circulating in Dacca. I also expressed my concerns about his safety as it was known that he would visit homes of women of bad repute without any bodyguard” (Page 99).
He describes Niazi’s behaviour and antics even when he was negotiating Pakistani army’s surrender with Indian General Nagra and freedom fighter Kader Siddiqui in the following way- “In my view he was behaving in a shameful way. When he was discussing the conditions of surrender to the enemy, he should have been calm and dignified. He was behaving in an undignified and funny manner- he was cracking obscene jokes to the Indians as if they were his long lost friends” (Page 157).
Pakistanis themselves have confessed about rape, murder of innocent civilians, looting, burning, even of smuggling, lust for wine and women, etc. and what was the Jamaat saying and doing?
The Daily Prothom Alo published, on 11 January 2012, a compilation of statements by the Jamaat leaders based on what was published in Jamaat’s own newspaper The Daily Sangram in 1971. Here are a few of those statements:
On 20 June 1971, Ghulam Azam at a press conference at Lahore Airport said, “With support from many non-Muslims in East Pakistan, Sheik Mujib intends for secession. (Pakistan) Army has uprooted almost all miscreants from East Pakistan and now there is no power which can challenge the dominance of the army”.
On August 12, 1971, Azam declared, “the supporters of the so-called Bangladesh Movement are the enemies of Islam, Pakistan, and Muslims”.
On 5 August 1971, Matiur Rahman Nizami (then head of Al Badr) said “Allah entrusted the pious Muslims with the responsibility to save His beloved Pakistan. (But) when the Muslims failed to solve the political problem in a political way, then Allah saved His beloved land through the (Pakistan) army”.
…“immediately after (the 1965) war, we again submerged under falsehood. Allah’s curse (gojob) came onto us (referring to 25 March 1971). Pakistan is abode of Allah. Allah has saved it time and again; He will protect it in the future. No power of the world will be able to destroy Pakistan”.
Dr Mohammed Hannan (2001) wrote, “The Pakistani soldiers unleashed a reign of terror on the soil of Bangladesh in 1971. They brutally killed innocent people, molested Bengali women and ruined the economy. The Jamaat leaders, Ghulam Azam and Matiur Rahman Nizami, issued the fatwa that those activities were permissible to save Islam” (Page 252, Bangladeshe Fatwar Itihas, 1999).
We can make up our minds based on the above without listening to any “lie” from the pro-Liberation forces, or God forbid from the Awami League’s propaganda. Can’t we?
’71 genocide and the role of Peace Committee, Rajakar, and Al-Badr
According to Brigadier Siddique Saliq (1997), “These operations (post 25 March) were only partial success because the West Pakistani troops neither knew the faces of the suspects nor could they read the lane numbers (in Bengali). They had to depend on the co-operation of the local people”…“The only people who came forward were the rightist like Khwaja Khairuddin of the Council Muslim League, Fazlul Qader Chauwdhury of the Convention Muslim League, Professor Ghulam Azam of the Jamaat-e-Islami and Maulavi Farid Ahmed of the Nizam-i-Islam Party. (page 92-93)
“But the Army, out of sheer necessity valued their presence and followed their advice”. (Page 93)
“Instead of eradicating these germs of independence, the authorities thought it wise to perpetuate the reign of terror “to keep the Bingos under control”. They frequently resorted to “search and sweep operations” on information provided by “patriotic” Pakistanis. (Page 94).
“These patriotic elements were organized into two groups. The elderly and prominent among them formed the Peace Committees while the young and able-bodied men were recruited as Razakars. Later General Niazi would “call Razakars Al Badr (headed by Nizami) and Ash Shams”. The Al Badr and Ash Shams groups were a dedicated lot, keen to help the army”. (Page 105)
Regarding brutal murders of intellectuals on 14 December, Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report (1973) provides the following insight:
26. Maj. Gen. Jamshed …said “It was on the 9th and 10th of December 1971 that General Niazi expressed his apprehension of a general uprising in the Dacca city and ordered him to examine the possibility of arresting certain persons according to lists which were already with the various agencies, namely the Martial Law Authorities and the Intelligence Branch. A conference was held on the 9th and 10th of December 1971 in which these lists were produced by the agencies concerned and the total number of persons to be arrested came to about two or three thousand.”
Regarding murders of the intellectuals Major General Rao Farman Ali (1996) said, “.. some people were arrested. I do not till this day know where they were kept. Perhaps they were confined in an area which was guarded by mujahids (i.e. Al-Badr and Al Shams).
…Army got support of Al Badr, Al Shams and Rajakar Mujahids created by General Niazi” (page 97).
When asked about Farman’s refusal to admit his involvement in the killing of the intellectuals Brigadier Siddique Saliq, another senior military officer during the war, said, “….He (Farman) was the major general in charge of civil administration. As such nothing would happen which he would not know?”
Major General Khadim Hossain Raza (2012) refers to the book written by General Niazi named ‘The Betrayal of East Pakistan’ where he described General Farman as “an opportunist, a conspirator and a swindler”. “Niazi also said, implicating Farman’s involvement in the killing of the intellectuals, that Farman requested Niazi to send him back to Pakistan, for, “Mukti Bahini would kill him of his alleged massacre of the Bangalees and intellectuals on the night of 15–16 December. It was a pathetic sight to see him pale and almost on the verge of break down”.
This section shows that Jamaat leaders not only provided verbal, moral support, religious justifications of Pakistani army’s atrocities but also aided, abetted the enemy and volunteered/actively participated in the murder, rape, looting, burning, including murder of the intellectuals.
Other unresolved problems in Bangladesh and an un-necessary trial
Some patriotic people with good intention and a lot of Jamaat apologists have said that Bangladesh is suffering from many chronic problems, deteriorated law and order situation, corruption, many unresolved, high profile murder cases, therefore, why should government initiate this trial? I think it is a frumpy comparison, fraught with danger of sanitizing Jamaat’s active participation in the 1971 genocide.
Let’s not try to dilute the gravity of Jamaat’s vocal and moral support, heinous attempts to offer religious justifications of torture, murder, rape, looting, arson, etc. with the general law and order situation in Bangladesh for the last 42 years. Such questions also provide a moral cushion to their acts. Comparing usual lawlessness in Bangladesh, unsolved murders during Ershad, Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina with the genocide in 1971 is also an insult to the memories of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the independent country that we have today.
Pakistani army has confessed that they made “mistakes” (by raping, torturing, murdering, looting, and burning) but Jamaatis have not. They have not said “sorry” to the nation nor have they apologized. They have shown no remorse; therefore, the concept of “moving on” or “forget and forgive” does not apply to them. Jamaat-e-Islami and its apologists may try, but it will not work.
However, the government could have managed the current situation the way it should have. They should have known or anticipated that Jamaat would go berserk if the trials went on and/or when verdicts would be delivered. It was necessary for the government to plan and take precautionary measures to control the situation, which it did not. Now it seems from an administrative point of view, the government seems totally paralyzed. Instead of relying on good intelligence, preventive and well organized mitigation action; it is solely relying on police action/reaction, which is never good.
Police brutality is nothing new in Bangladesh. During the Awami League rule, they would use excessive force, beat up and fire on the BNP and Jamaat. On the other hand, during the BNP/Jamaat rule the same police would use the same tactics against the Awami League. It is also true that police in Bangladesh is not only underpaid, under-trained (like most underdeveloped countries) but also ill equipped to response to coordinated onslaughts from any motivated, organized, cadre based party like Jamaat. They just played into the hands of Jamaat’s ploy of extracting maximum reaction (in order to save their own lives, lives of public and public/private properties) and resulting in deaths, which Jamaat is now showing off as police brutality aiming to destroy Islam! (Remember they were also trying to save Islam in 1971?).
Any death is regrettable and those who died due to police fire may also come under this category. What is interesting is Jamaat’s modus operandi. The lone survivor of 14 December mass murder of intellectuals described in a recent TV documentary how Al Badr killed Prof Munier Chowdhury and others. Some were bitten with iron bars to death and at the final point; they would insert such bars into the head of their victims to ensure death. Jamaat-Shibir reportedly did exactly the same couple of weeks ago when they killed some police constables and others. It shows Jamaat-Shibir’s Standard Operating Procedure has remained unchanged for the last four decades.
If a virulent mob attacks a police station or government building in the UK, USA, Saudi Arabia or Iran, I do not imagine that there would be no death among the attackers. One may remember the “Waco Siege” in 1993. FBI stormed (with Clinton’s authorization) a fringe, fanatic Christian religious group called Branch Davidians, which led to the death of 76 people including women and children. In this case Davidians did not attack police stations, FBI stormed its compound.
Misguided people, people who use religion or an extreme ideology often use death (death of their own comrades, innocent bystanders and others) as a mean to make a point or to achieve their objectives.
Rabiul H. Zaki is a BUET and AIT graduate currently working in Australia.