Feature Img
Ambulance enters Dhaka Central Jail for carrying the body of war criminal Mohammad Kamaruzzaman after his hanging.
Ambulance enters Dhaka Central Jail for carrying the body of war criminal Mohammad Kamaruzzaman after his hanging.

It is time to return to history again, now that the wheels of justice have begun to roll. The trial and execution of Abdul Kader Mollah and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman rekindle in us, in those of us who have been witness to the War of Liberation, the many intrigues which were set in motion to undermine the struggle for freedom: memories of those Bengalis who went out on a limb to shame themselves through their defence of Pakistan, and then had little shame going through a process of rehabilitation in Bangladesh in the age of darkness, onset by the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the leaders of the Mujibnagar government between August and November 1975.

The shame was not merely that of the men who saw nothing wrong in emerging from their lairs post-1975. It was also – and always will be – that of the two men and one woman who, in a determined fashion, went ahead with the sinister task of restoring the old collaborators of the Yahya Khan junta to respectability. We do not and will not forgive the collaborators for the ferocity with which they went to war against their own people. Neither will we bring ourselves to forgive those who chose to forgive the quislings of 1971.


In September 1971, the Pakistan military junta placed Shah Azizur Rahman at the head of Pakistan’s delegation to the General Assembly session of the United Nations that year, and with him on the team were two other Bengalis: Mahmud Ali and Syeda Razia Faiz.

Post-1975, Shah Aziz was appointed Bangladesh’s prime minister in the regime of General Ziaur Rahman and Syeda Razia Faiz became a minister in the military-ruled government of General H.M. Ershad. Mahmud Ali chose to remain in Pakistan, where he served as a minister and dreamed of ‘East Pakistan’ one day rejoining Pakistan. He died in Pakistan unmourned.

Throughout the nine-month War of Liberation, Justice Nurul Islam, chairman of the East Pakistan Red Cross Society, remained loyal to the Yahya Khan regime and went abroad to argue the case for Pakistan against the Bengali struggle. Under General Ershad, he served as Bangladesh’s vice president before fading away. The Ershad regime, much like the Zia dictatorship, cheerfully welcomed some notorious collaborators into the government.

Moulana Mannan, accused of playing an active role in the abduction of Bengali intellectuals on the eve of liberation in December 1971, became an influential minister for religious affairs under Ershad and also turned into the owner of two newspapers, the Inquilab and the Telegraph.

Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, a vicious opponent of the War of Liberation along with his father Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, achieved ‘respectability’ by being given a berth in the Ershad government as a minister, and later becoming an advisor to Khaleda Zia.

Motiur Rahman Nizami, on the run from Bengalis after December 1971 over his murderous collaboration with Niazi’s army, adorned the cabinet, along with his fellow collaborator Ali Ahsan Mujaheed, of Khaleda Zia.

The regime of General Ziaur Rahman cast history to the winds when it brought the notorious collaborator Abdul Alim into the cabinet. The Zia dictatorship will also remain infamous for the subtle and surreptitious way in which it permitted Ghulam Azam, an active collaborator of Tikka Khan and A.A.K. Niazi, to re-enter Bangladesh on a Pakistani passport, and stay on even after his Bangladesh visa expired.

Azam’s sin was not merely in supporting Pakistan’s genocide in 1971. Following the emergence of Bangladesh, he travelled the Middle East as a representative of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, disseminating the lie that Bangladesh had fallen under Hindu domination; that Islam was in danger in the country; that Muslims were being killed in Bangladesh.

Khan Abdus Sabur Khan, the influential minister for communications in the regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan in the 1960s, went around occupied Bangladesh in 1971 spewing venom against the War of Liberation. A couple of days before the liberation of Dhaka, he told a seminar organised by the Pakistani junta, that if Bangladesh emerged as a separate country, it would be as an illegitimate child of India. Ironically, in early 1979 through an election stage-managed by the Zia regime, he became a member of Bangladesh’s Jatiyo Sangsad. Forgotten was his notoriety in 1971.

Hamidul Haq Chowdhury, once Pakistan’s foreign minister and the owner of the Pakistan Observer newspaper, remained vocal throughout 1971 in his condemnation of the War of Liberation. Stranded in Pakistan during the final stages of the war, he returned to Bangladesh in the times of General Ershad and was able to get back ownership of his newspaper, which had been rechristened as the Bangladesh Observer and taken under government control in December 1971.

Two of Chowdhury’s sons-in-law served in Pakistan’s diplomatic service faithfully even after 1971 and came back to Bangladesh only when the Bhutto government terminated their services. One of them, Reaz Rahman, infamously told the Pakistani media in 1971 (he was with the Pakistan high commission in Delhi at the time and had gone to Islamabad to spend his annual leave) that the ‘miscreants’ – a term the junta and its backers routinely applied to describe the Mukti Bahini – were having no impact in ‘East Pakistan’. Reaz Rahman would later serve as foreign secretary in Bangladesh, and even later become an advisor to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.

Syed Sajjad Hussain, a well-known scholar who taught English literature at Dhaka University in the 1950s and 1960s and was appointed its vice chancellor by Tikka Khan, turned into a willing apologist for the Yahya regime in 1971 and went abroad to propagate the falsehood that life was normal in ‘East Pakistan’.

He knew only too well how the Pakistan army had murdered a number of leading academics at Dhaka University as well as scores of students, but told the international community a bare-faced lie: the army had killed no one at the university. He was caught by the Mukti Bahini on the day of liberation, beaten and bruised and left for dead. But he survived and escaped to Saudi Arabia. He returned to Bangladesh in the Ershad era and till his death remained unrepentant about his notoriety in 1971.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a little reminder for all of us of the sordid history of some collaborationist Bengalis in 1971. There were others. We will know of them by and by.

Syed Badrul Ahsan is a bdnews24.com columnist.

Syed Badrul Ahsanis a bdnews24.com columnist.

18 Responses to “The sordid history of collaborationist Bengalis: 1971 and after”

  1. Vet a Momin





  2. Aminul Hoque

    There can be no proper history or accounting of the War of Liberation
    until it is acknowledged by the Awami League and their supporters
    that non-Bengalis were brutally killed in large numbers during the Non-violent
    non-cooperation movement and again after Liberation when the Urdu-speaking
    Biharis were ethnically cleansed. It is a stain on our national collective conscience
    and Mr. Ahsan must recognise this.

  3. a pakistani

    we condemn innocent killings on either side. We need to re-conciliate instead spreading venom of hatred. Why do not we constitute a truth finding commission?

  4. Harun Shafiuddin

    “It is time to return to history again, now that the wheels of justice have begun to roll.”

    Indeed! We’ve pronounced enough morally indignant and self-righteous judgement on the devils, many of them expressed by the opinion writer himself. While the judges and the lawyers take care of the rest, let us now take a clear-sighted look at the angels of the murky history of the war.

    Here are four eyewitness accounts. Time: 26 March – 10 April, 1971, and 1 – 10 December, 1971. Place: Parashuram (Bangladesh), and areas adjacent to Belonia (Tripura), along the border area.

    1. Nine young and middle-aged East Pakistan Rifles border guards, hailing from different regions of West Pakistan, and serving at the Guthuma border post, surrender to the Awami League leaders at Parashuram. The subedar is a Baloch and offers to fight the Pakistani Army alongside the “Mukti”. Their Bengali colleagues, clearly close to them, are sad to see them in the helpless condition but can’t do anything. The men are taken to the Parashuram police station, promised a safe way out of the area, and kept under watch all day. When the night falls, the truck comes from Feni. The Awami volunteers, assisted by their Chhatra League associates, take the men out of the thana building, tie them up with cattle ropes, forcibly put them on the truck. They are taken to the river bank just outside of Feni and shot point-blank.

    2. Another young EPR man, I think he was a Pathan, barely out of his teen years. Comes to Parashuram from another BOP to surrender his gun to the Awami League leaders. He too is promised freedom before he lays down the gun and as soon as the gun is taken away, he is thrown into a dark room and the door is locked. My friend Firoz Majumder and I went to see him in the afternoon. We looked through a chink in the door. He was sitting in the dark, without food and water, quite frightened, and mumbling prayers. Next morning his body was found along the Muhuri River, metres away from where he was kept the day before. The body was hacked to pieces.

    3. The word about how their colleagues were treated with extreme hypocrisy and brutality reached the non-Bengali EPR soldiers near the Belonia border post. They let their Bengali colleagues leave but themselves refused to surrender to Awami League and “Swadhinata” leaders. Their former colleagues were then ordered to attack them from three sides (the fourth side, being India, was naturally closed). The fight raged on all day. By the evening all were killed, so were two of their former Bengali colleagues who had attacked them.

    4. The Indian Army had already liberated Parashuram and the vicinity by the second week of December. (The real war had already begun in the area before it became known over the radio.) One early morning when some of us were walking past a small field I noticed a group of men corralled in a roped-in area. They were all supposedly local Razakars. One of them, Mr Alai Mia, was known to me and I had heard stories of him joining the enemy. He was a poor man, and had crossed the line perhaps to steal a few things. But on that morning, as I walked past him I couldn’t be bothered to look at the fallen man. He looked imploringly at me; I ignored his looks. That night Mr Alai Mia was shot in a paddy field. A few weeks later the paddy field owner told us that Mr Alai Mia’s family should come and remove his decomposing body before the growing season started.

    We have heard and read numerous stories about unbearable monstrosity of the Pakistani Army and their local henchmen. Many claim to have seen human flesh eating demons and other abominable humans in the guise of Pakistani supporters, and we are all aghast by those descriptions. But a sensible approach to building the future of a nation lies somewhere outside of the bloodstained tracks of recrimination and venom-dripping. South Africans showed the world one way of doing it by forming the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Perhaps we could have shown another.

    Reconciliation has no enemy; retribution always lays eggs. If blind justice, not compassion and dialogue with the enemy, must be our mulish course of action, then, for pity’s sake, let justice be found for these victims.

    • Shamim Azad

      Mr. Harun Saifuddin:

      Reconciliation is also necessary but at this stage, it is not because it will be too early because we have hanged to death 2 mass murderers, rapist and arsonists only. At least, we should finish giving heavy punishment to other kingpin war criminals now in the cages and is awaiting Supreme Court’s Appellate Divisions’ verdicts. And the war criminals for whom ICTs are now trying, we must also give them due punishment. At least, we must finish the trial processes of these few war criminals only and execution thereof and afterwards, we may think for a reconciliation process. Otherwise, the question of reconciliation will a great injustice to the families of victims who suffered heavily because losing their most near and dear ones in 1971 by these brutal animals.

      I hope good sense in this regard shall prevail.


    • Anwar A. Khan

      Mr. Harun,

      During our liberation war, I was a college student. Our residence is very close to one of the largest Railway Stations of the country where 95% Biharis (not less than 200 Urdu Speaking people) worked and they were housed nearby the Railway Dormitories. A 5- minute walking distance from our house, there was an Octroi Office ( customs related) whose superintendant was a very wicked and squint-eyed Bihari – Matiur Rahman who was a real terror to all Bengalis in the town. All the laundries in our locality were run the Bihari people. There were so many jute go-downs nearby our house, Masud Khan, a niece of Adamjee Family, was housed beside a jute go-down and his office was also nearby. Another Bihari guy Ansary was the Cane Manager of a large sugar mill owned by the Adamjee Family (nearly one KM away from our house). In the government offices, the vast majority of people were the Biharis. Almost all the Biharis were so arrogant and born criminals; they always maltreated the Bengali people even for no reasons. They behaved unnaturally or affectedly that they were our masters and we were their slaves only and treated us like that way. They thought that they only belonged to Pakistan but we were not. All these I saw in my own eyes during our pre-independence time.

      In early 1970, there occurred some clashes between our people and the Biharis and some very notorious Biharis including that wicked Matiur Rahman got a good beating by the Bengali people; then they became a little bit good in their behavior with us. But when the Pakistan Army entered into our town on 20th April, 1971, all of them (the Biharis and the Punjabis) became very terrible, especially Matiur Rahman, Masud Khan (a Punjabi), Ansary (Bihari) and some other Biharis + some Punjabis killed so many Bengali people indiscriminately in our town and remote villages with the direct help and guidance of the brutal leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, Islami Chhatra Sangha and their killing squads- Al-Badr, and Al-Sham forces without any reasons.

      Towards the end of November/early December, 1971, with the help of the Pakistan Army, almost all the Biharis and Punjabis suddenly disappeared from our town leaving a very scanty number of Biharis and immediately after Bangladesh came into being, only 3 notorious Biharis were killed. Standing at this time, I feel so sad and agitated that we could not catch all those notorious killers to inflict them due punishment.

      I also saw in my own eyes how ferocious the Jamaati goons were in 1971. They brutally murdered many innocent people in broad day’s light in our areas but they did never allow these disfigured/decomposed dead bodies for burial; rather they allowed those unfortunate dead bodies for eating by the vultures, dogs, jackals and other human flesh eaters. When I think of them even at this very moment, I feel paralised or stupefied with fright. I narrowly escaped death 5 times during our liberation war. This evil force was also responsible under the leadership of a woman voyeur politician for killing our general people by petrol bombs and other crude bombs from January-March, 2015. They should not have any right to stay or do so-called politics in Bangladesh. It is learnt that they are again readying to do mre harm to our people in the coming days. So, they all should be brought to justice to keep peace in the country.

  5. Akteruzzaman Chowdhury

    What SBA has written is all true. But Awami League is afraid of giving a free and fair election because the voters will yet vote for friends and sons of those fiendish collaborators. This is IRONIC truth.

  6. Bijoy

    A fascinating list. I wonder whether there were/are any collaborators who benefited by the Awami Leaguers though. The AL’s not-so-long-ago political alliance with Jamaat comes to mind. Also, have we, as a nation, ever reflected on any atrocity, any human rights abuse, any aberrant behavior by the errant elements within our Mukti Bahini during and in the immediate aftermath of the war? Won’t that be equally cathartic, Mr Ahsan, for the nation to atone for such sins?

  7. Jabed Iqbal

    All names mentioned here are either deceased or in jail except one BNP advisor. We know the history of these people by and large. But there are others, some of whom are even in the safe wings of the ruling party. Can you mention these names?

  8. Poltu

    According to Hamidur Rahman Commission, Sharmila Bose, and many other researchers and witnesses, Bengalis who were members of Awami League killed and raped between 100,000 to 500,000 Urdu speaking people in the Beginning of March 1971, before the March 25th crack down. Shouldn’t we have trials to hang them too? It takes two hands to clap.

    • Sumit Mazumdar

      No, neither the Hamoodur (not Hamidur!) Rahman report nor Sharmila
      Bose’s book give your numbers. What they claim are:

      (a) Far fewer Bangalis were killed than reported in international (300,000) and Bangladeshi (3 million) media. The Hamoodur Commission puts this number at 25,000. It did say that a few women were raped. Bose also claims that there were very few rapes.

      (b) Many Urdu speaking people were murdered and tortured.

      The Hamoodur Commission was created by the Pakistanis, and even then the report took decades to come out. Bose’s research has been thoroughly discredited by international observers. On the matter of rape and torture for example, she interviewed Pakistani military personnel and basically wrote down what these “highly cultured” people had to say, but did not interview a single Bangali rape victim, even though she could have easily taken this opportunity. There are assertions (not proven) that Bose’s research was funded by people whose goal was to exonerate the Pakistanis, and therefore chose someone with a Bengali Hindu name, giving it more

      • S. Ahmad

        You mean to say that Sharmila Bose is not a living person and the name was giving for legitimacy (and therefore chose someone with a Bengali Hindu name)?

      • Poltu

        You clearly have not read the Hamoodur Rahman (yes it was mis-spelled) report. Please read it again, it explicitly mentions the number of Urdu speaking people killed and/or raped by Awami League party members at 100,000 to 500,000. Also, Hamoodur Rahman was a Bengali judge and one time Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University.

  9. Gunendra Dutta Choudhury

    I was a little boy at the time of Bangldesh liberation. But I remember the dead bodies and skeletons I have seen just inside the border of erstwhile East Pakistan . I with my friends entered Bangladesh as no border guards were there that time. The stories of atrocities I heard from elders were chilling. Only Pakistan army can do such things. These people will put Al Shahab, Boko Haram and ISIS to shame.

  10. mehmud rarique

    I wholereartedly renounce the quintessential articulation and urge of Syed Badrul Hasan. Along the line, I may like to make a naive comment that the poor Bengalees could never be within themselves with freedom, juscice, welfare and peace, dignity and honor, and values as long as the country’s politics remain hostage to the power craze anarchists and wealth looters since held in recent times, particularly by the two most manupulated and corrupted power mongers! Of more concern, the power-like great neighbor has had a built-in network in Bangladesh to impede the mass dream for real independence and politics. The neighbor is no better than our earstwhile partner. In one swentence, this is but an old wine in a new bottle. And the present reigm is sucking the best to thier privilege. Hence, the opponents to our holy liberation war must be ranked with the rulling autocrats and anti-people paradigm. Could we bring them to the justice? Alas, Bangladesh even after 4/5 decades is yet welcome the real freedom, democracy, justice, accountabality, law and order, and self-identity!

    • Molla A. Latif

      Expectedly not a Bangalee from Bangladesh. So naturally it is not the fault of the commenter but his origin impels him to think as such. However, he may not be wrong if says the BNP Chief and her son are his objects then may be he can be justified. But present rulers though not above guilt or greed yet not eligible to be ranked with the opposers of independent Bangladesh. Opposers of Independent Bangladesh are not only the opposers on the genesis of Bangladesh but also the humble Bengali Pakistanis who did not believe in Independent Bangaldesh and unitedly with the occupation forces they inhumanly oppressed the Bangalees who wanted it. They killed millions of Bangalees and raped millions of woman. They carried out such oppression which even Hitlar did not do on Jews. So, most probably the misguided comment writer is expected to realize the difference.

  11. M. Emad

    Very timely article.

    All 1971 central and district Al-Badr Killing Squad commanders and top Razakar Militia commanders immediately should be prosecuted.

Comments are closed.