Western Attempt To Sabotage Bangladesh Elections
The Awami League decided to set up the International Crimes Tribunal after it was elected in the last election in Bangladesh and this was set up and the first trials were completed in 2013. Bangladesh was born in an orgy of rape and bloodshed after the main political party the Awami League won a majority in the elections held in undivided Pakistan in 1970. The Pakistan Army and the leaders of the main political party in Pakistan could not stomach having a Bengali to head the Government in Pakistan. The military leadership in West Pakistan, headed by Gen. Yahya Khan, decided to clamp down on the Awami League as there were clear signs of a separatist movement emerging if the Awami League was denied the right of forming the government in undivided Pakistan.
Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was arrested and taken away to Pakistan and additional forces were rushed to East Pakistan as a people’s movement mushroomed against the Pakistan government because the people were denied the right, of having their political party, elected in a general election, to form a government.
Pakistan reinforced the Army in East Pakistan. As the new troops arrived, they first targeted the East Bengal Regiment recruited from East Pakistan. This battalion was located in Chittagong. The Pakistan Army, sent for this task, managed to surround two companies of this battalion and butchered them to the last man. Major Ziaur Rehman was commanding a company of this battalion. He was directed to report to Chittagong harbour, but his men literally forced him to lead them across the border into Tripura. The Indian Army there took over and the troops of this Pakistan battalion were organised into a guerilla force, quickly trained and began operating into East Pakistan as the Mukti Bahini with Major Ziaur Rehman as the sector commander. They were soon joined by two East Bengali officers who were commissioned into the Pakistan Army. When the liberation struggle erupted, these two officers, both Majors were in West Pakistan. They managed to desert their units and cross over to India surrendering to the BSF at the border. They were Major Abu Taher and Major Ziauddin. After the war broke out, both these officers were given conversion training and commanded Mukti Bahini guerilla groups in two sectors on the Assam/Tripura front.
Meanwhile the Pakistan Army after disposing off two of the East Pakistan companies began targeting the Hindu population and the cadres of the Awami League. The Jammat-e-Islami cadres came out in full support of the Pakistan Army and became their eyes and ears in locating Hindu localities in the towns and villages. This triggered off an exodus first of Awami League cadres and then of the minority East Bengali Hindus. Cadres of the Jamaat-e-Islami became the scouts of the Pakistan the Army units to locate Hindu villages and mohallahs in towns. This became an orgy of rape and murder. So many dead bodies were scattered over the ground after the Pakistan Army had finished with an area that mass graves had to be dug to bury the bodies.
With the Pakistan Army literally carrying out genocide, a vast exodus of the minority Hindu community and of Bengali Muslim supporters of the Awami League to India started. These hapless people crossed over into Tripura, Assam or West Bengal depending on the proximity of the border. In these states relief camps were set up. Virtually all the camps were soon overflowing. Conditions in the camps were very poor as all the camps were soon far beyond their respective capacities. Meanwhile in East Pakistan the Pakistan Army led by cadres of the East Pakistan Jammat-e-Islami (JEI) continued their killing spree of all Bengali Muslims who were supporters of the Awami League and Bengali Hindus of East Pakistan.
India sealed its borders with East Pakistan to the best of its ability and took in refugees from across who were fleeing from the depredations of the Pakistan Army and then began preparations for a war for the liberation of East Pakistan. The Mukti Bahini formed to fight a guerilla war against the Pakistan Army was naturally being armed and trained by India.
Once preparations were ready the Indian Army advanced from three sectors and the Pakistan Army surrendered after a brief fight. Mujibur Rehman, the President of the Awami League, was freed and returned from Pakistan and soon formed the government. The Pakistan Army who surrendered totaled 92,000-odd soldiers and officers. The Awami League gave a list of 300-odd officers and other ranks of the Pakistan Army who had committed crimes of extreme brutality of raping women and killing Awami League leaders to the Indian Army to be handed over to the new Government of Bangladesh.
After the surrender of the Pakistan Army, the Indian Army prudently shifted them to prisoner of war camps in Madhya Pradesh. The peace talks with Pakistan unfortunately dragged on for two years before the decision to return the prisoners of war to Pakistan was finalised. Unfortunately India agreed to Pakistan’s request not to hand over the three hundred odd personnel whose names were given to the Indian Army for horrifying cases of rape and murder. Bangladesh was denied the opportunity to try the worst offenders during the liberation struggle who were guilty of raping and killing innumerable innocent people of East Pakistan.
When the Pakistan Army was about to surrender, many leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami including its Amir, Gholam Azzam and some of their leaders like Abdul Khader Mullah, known as the butcher of Mirpur, slipped into India clandestinely and then fled to Pakistan.
Mujibur Rehman took over As the Prime Minister of the newly created Bangladesh. While there was a lot of euphoria, Mujibur Rehman did not rule wisely. He also allowed his extended family to be involved in administration. India helped the war-torn Bangladesh to recover by exporting rice and other items. Unfortunately the officials heading the supply department were corrupt and soon rice was being smuggled to India. Regrettably Mujibur Rehman was indulgent and did not take strict action to control smuggling of rice to India. Very soon there were famine conditions in Bangladesh. The new Bangladesh Army felt slighted by Mujibur Rehman. Shortly after, a group of young officers and junior commissioned officers staged a coup and shot dead Mujibur Rehman, his wife and several of his relations. This was followed by two military coups. Finally, Gen. Ziaur Rehman, who had rebelled against the Pakistan Army and defected to India and then led the guerilla force organised with the help of India to fight the Pakistan Army, took over as the President of Bangladesh. Soon thereafter he changed colour and reestablished ties with Pakistan. Then he set up a Bangladesh Military Intelligence organisation—the Directorate General Forces Initelligence (DGFI)—on the lines of the Pakistan Army’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). This was bad enough, but he took a worse negative decision when he allowed Gholam Azzam and Abdul Khader Mollah to return to Bangladesh, literally pardoning their crimes against humanity during the brutal action against the freedom fighters of East Pakistan. Gholam Azzam returned to Bangladesh on a Pakistan passport! Meanwhile a Freedom Fighters League had been formed by Jehanara Begum the mother of a freedom fighter who had been killed by the Pakistan Army to demand justice for the innocent people of East Pakistan who had been brutally killed by the Pakistan Army and Bengali collaborators. When the government refused to try these collaborators, Jehanara Begum set up a private tribunal consisting of judicial and legal leaders to publicly try these traitors of Bangladesh. Unfortunately on the day this rally set out, in faraway Uttar Pradesh in India, a rightist political party began to demolish an ancient mosque that they claimed was built on an even more ancient temple during the Muslim invasion of Hindu India in the early eighth century. As soon as news of this demolition reached Bangladesh, the Islamists immediately organised a big violent demonstration and chased the group who were demanding a trial against Ghulam Azzam and Abdul Khader Mollah. The tables were turned and now it was the procession of Jehanara Begum that was chased away from the streets of Dacca.
After several years and different governments later, Sheikh Hasina’s party the Awami League (AL) came to power in 1996. She could not do much to improve the situation. In the next election she lost to Begum Khaleda Zia and her party, the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). In the next term the AL led by Sheikh Hasina won the elections. It was after two years that she finally set up the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) to try the known perpetrators of heinous crimes committed during the Bangladesh war of independence.
The party founded by Gen. Ziaur Rehman, the BNP had formed the governments in alliance with the Jammat-e-Islami. This party had supported the Pakistan government in the war of independence and its cadres had committed heinous crimes like raping Muslim women supporters of the Awami League and Hindu women who also naturally supported the Awami League. On the basis of investigations carried out, several of the JEI leaders, who had colluded with the Pakistan Army, were arrested and trials were started by the International Crimes Tribunal. There was naturally a reaction from the main opposition party, the BNP, as also from the Pakistan government. This was to be expected. What was surprising was the covert and sometimes overt comments by western democratic countries against the ICT set up by the Begum Sheikh Hasina government.
The presiding Judge of the ICT was Nizam-ul Haque. During the course of the first trial, he corresponded on the internet with a lawyer friend of his in Brussels on a judicial point of law. He was not being influenced by any legal person from Brussels, nor was he in any way interfering with the natural processes of law. This telephone talk was probably intercepted and a huge outcry was made that the Head of the ICT was influencing the trial.
The Judge concerned promptly resigned and the government appointed a new judge.
The ICT came out with its first judgement against one Bachu Razakar who was given a death sentence. He had absconded even before the trial had started and fled to India and probably to Pakistan. The second judgement was against one Abdul Khader Mullah, who had earned the epithet of the Butcher of Mirpur during the Bangladesh war for his brutal killings in his home district of Mirpur where he was a Jammat-e-Islami leader. He was given life imprisonment for his crimes. When the judgement was delivered, he was reported to have made some insulting gesture as the people were expecting he would be given a death sentence. The next day there was a curious reaction. Suddenly hundreds of people mainly Bangladeshi Muslims but also with a sprinkling of Hindus gathered at a prominent crossing in Dacca called the Shabagh Square. The crowd started chanting-“Khader Mullah Fansi Chai” (Hang Khader Mollah). The crowd swelled within days to more than a lakh. This was not a made-up crowd. It was spontaneous and the government had to amend the terms of reference of the ICT to allow the government to appeal for a death sentence if the ICT had given a lower sentence.
The reaction from the Muslim fundamentalist right was immediate. A new group called the Hifazat-e-Islam was formed and a massive procession of nearly a lakh of screaming supporters collected at Chittagong and marched to Dacca to oppose the demands of the crowd that had collected in Shabagh Square. Despite this serious threat to law and order the government continued with the case amending the terms of the ICT to allow for an appeal against the judgements to enhance the punishment meted out.
Subsequently, the government filed an appeal to the ICT to enhance the punishment of life imprisonment awarded to Abdul Khader Mollah, to death punishment. The ICT heard the appeal and awarded death punishment to Abdul Khader Mollah. Within hours of the judgement of death by hanging for Khader Mollah was given, crowds began to gather at the Shabagh Square hailing his death sentence. The majority of this crowd was Bangladeshi Muslims! Naturally there was an adverse reaction from the Islamic fundamentalists. There was silence from the Bangladesh BNP and its leaders. There was a howl of protest from the Jammat-e-Islami Bangladesh and related fundamentalist groups and from the Government of Pakistan. This clearly spelt out their position that it was not an offence to kill people who are not Muslims. The saddest part of this reaction was of the western press. The only comments emanating was that the trial of the ICT was not fair, implying that the Awami League pressurised the ICT to give death sentences to the accused.
There have been a number of articles in the western press emphasising that the trials conducted by the ICT Bangladesh were not fair and that they were delivering such sentences under pressure from the Awami League government. The western press did not account for the spontaneous reaction of the crowds of more than a lakh who had assembled spontaneously at the Shabagh Square. They did not mention even once that the majority of these crowds were Bangladeshi Muslims, thereby clearly reflecting the bias of the western world against the Awami League government of Bangladesh.
In an article that I had written on this subject at about the time when the open bias was seen in the western press, I had written about the case of Adolf Eichmann, who had committed heinous crimes against innocent Jews for their only sin of being Jewish. He had brutally sent hundreds of men, women and children to the gas chambers. After the Second World War when Germany was defeated, many of these diabolical men fled to different countries of South America. When Israel was created and the Jews found a homeland, the Government of Israel tasked their external Intelligence unit—the Mossad—to try and kidnap some of these monstrous criminals and bring them to Israel. The Mossad found that Adolf Eichmann was hiding in Argentina and in an explicit operation kidnapped him and brought him to Israel for standing trial. He was tried convicted and executed by Israel, a country that did not exist when this monster committed his dastardly crimes. Was there any medical jurisprudential evidence against Adolf Eichmann? Naturally, there was no such evidence.
Here in Bangladesh, criminals were as dastardly as Adolf Eichmann, who raped and killed thousands of Bengali Muslims and Hindus. It was a shame to read the western press talking of the performance of the International Crimes Tribunal as if these were partial and under the thumb of the Awami League government. The members of the Bangladesh Judiciary, who constituted the ICT, did their judicial duties without fear or favour. One has only to read the vivid accounts given by Archer Blood in his book on the daily happenings in East Pakistan, where the Pakistan Army was on the rampage led by the Bengali Jammat-e-Islami cadres and Razakars in 1971.
Till date among the cadres and leaders of the Jammat-e-Islami convicted by the ICT are the following:
1) Gholam Hussain the Chief of the Jammat-e-Islami. Life sentence of ninety years. This punishment was given in lieu of a death punishment because of the old age of the accused.
2) Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid. Death sentence.
3) Delawar Husain Saydee. Death sentence.
4) Abul Kalam Azad@ Bachu Razakar. Death sentence.
5) Muhammad Kamaruzzaman. Asst Secty. Jammat-e-Islami. Death sentence.
6) Abdul Khader Mollah. Life sentence, later on appeal revised to death sentence.
There are several more cases pending trial.
The most unfortunate comment of the western press is that they only talk of the trials of the ICT being not fair. There is not one comment about the dastardly deeds of these monstrous criminals. I could find only one honest account of the Bangladesh war of independence in the international edition of the New York Times by a lady author, Tahmina Anam of November 27, 2013, where she has written about the denialist resolution passed in the Pakistan National Assembly after the execution of Abdul Khader Mollah in Bangladesh. She writes: “Instead of supporting Bangladesh’s efforts to come to terms with its brutal birth Pakistan is pouring salt into its wounds. Pakistan, it is high time you apologise.”
These trials should have been started by Mujibur Rehman when he took over as the Prime Minister and then the President of Bangladesh. He was magnanimous. When one considers the horrific brutality of these crimes it is difficult to agree with the magnanimity of Mujibur Rehman. One cannot but agree with the decision of Sheikh Hasina to constitute the International Crimes Tribunal even if it was delayed by so many years. The debt for such monstrous crimes has to be repaid. It is only then that the ghosts of the past can be exorcised from the minds of the people of Bangladesh.
It was in the background of these trials that the elections to the Central Parliament were to be held. The Bangladesh National Party opposed the holding of general elections on the grounds of the incumbent party not resigning and constituting an interim body which would oversee the holding of elections as a neutral body. This was the system till the previous government held by the Bangladesh Nationalist party. The interim body that was set up by the BNP was partial to the BNP during the interim period. The then Army Chief seeing the partial behaviour of the interim body dismissed it in a partial coup and selected neutral members as a new interim body, who then held the elections that was won by the Awami League. It was for this reason that the Sheikh Hasina government did away with the provision of an interim body.
She had as an alternative suggested that there could be a multi-party interim government under whose jurisdiction the elections could be conducted. She offered to allow the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to have the Home portfolio in this multi party Government. The BNP leader however rejected this offer. The Jatiya-Party had agreed to this arrangement. The
elections were then held which were boycotted by the BNP.
By E N Rammohan
(The writer is former Director General, BSF)