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War crimes Tribunal is nothing more than Politics at play. We need to look from the distance past to understand the present. (Part One)

Written By: Mozafor
05/10/2013 20:12
BD War crime trial

Legislative endeavours by the Awami Government to try War Crimes and crimes against humanity committed by perpetrators in 1971 war of independence may have some appeal with the public but majority people believes it is nothing more than politics at play.  It was under Awamileague leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman independent war was fought and our brave Bangladeshi people gained their independence after a nine month arm struggle that had cost more than 300,000 lives. The customary figure of 3 million had a history behind which need to be further clarified from those who had been present at the time of this historical mistake by Sheikh Mujib.

When Sheikh Mujib was freed from Pakistani Jail after the liberation war, his first stop was the UK. Veteran Journalist Mr. Sirajul Islam of BBC Bangla service recalls:

“On 8 January 1972, I was the first Bangladeshi to meet independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after his release from Pakistan. He was brought from Heathrow to Claridge's by the Indian high commissioner Apa Bhai Panth, and I arrived there almost immediately.”

He recalls: “Mujib was puzzled to be addressed as "your excellency" by Mr Panth. He was surprised, almost shocked, when I explained to him that Bangladesh had been liberated and he was elected president in his absence. Apparently he arrived in London under the impression that East Pakistanis had been granted the full regional autonomy for which he had been campaigning. During the day I and others gave him the full picture of the war. I explained that no accurate figure of the casualties was available but our estimate, based on information from various sources, was that up to "three lakh" (300,000) died in the conflict.

“To my surprise and horror he told David Frost later that "three millions of my people" were killed by the Pakistanis. Whether he mistranslated "lakh" as "million" or his confused state of mind was responsible I don't know, but many Bangladeshis still believe a figure of three million is unrealistic and incredible.” ( Reported by the Guardian on Tuesday 24 May 2011)

Sheikh Mujib had no clue what he was about to find when he landed in Bangladesh on a RAF jet provided by the British Government. He received a heroes welcome by a massive and emotional sea of people at Tejgaon Airport.  He was the undisputed leader of Bangladesh. No one could challenge his authority: with his new found fame and power, he formed a government based on secular ideology and assumed provisional Presidency and later on as Prime Minister. Sheikh Mujib wanted to bring to justice those who had comitted crimes against the people of Bangladesh, and indeed this was the demand of every Bangladeshi. So, In 1973 the newly independent government of Bangladesh passed a law, the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act (ICT Act 1973), to authorize the investigation and prosecution of the persons responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law committed in 1971.

Sadly, the real perpetrators  from the Pakistani army who had committed horrendous crimes against innocent Bangladeshi’s had already been released through the Simla treaty signed between India and Pakistan in 1972. Now the country was left with collaborators and Auxilary forces created by the Pakistani Army to help them in their supression. More than thirty thousand people were identified , but none of the accused facing war crimes accusation at the ICT now, had been on the list. If they had committed such horrendous crimes, Sheikh Mujib with his undisputed authority and Awami Government in power, none could have escaped the authority or could have avoided arrest. But it will be a surprised to many to know that none of the accused who are facing war crimes charges now, had a single GD entry filed against them in any of the police station in Bangladesh until the present Awami Government came to power.

It was Sheikh Mujibs forsight and the little wisdom he had,he felt the need to give a general pardon to unite his people and create less divisions in the war torn country.  A part from afew who had serious crimes against  them, he announced a general amnesty for the rest, and as a result, all those who had been arrested were released.

Here, we need to make Some distinction  between those who had supported the Pakistani Army from a political and idiological point of view, and those who had actively participated in the killings,rape and act of arsons on innocent people of Bangladesh. Like Muslim league and Nizami Islam, Bangladeshi Jamati Islam had been  a small political party at the time of independence, and purely from a political and idiological point of view, their leaders had supported the unity of Pakistan, but never condoned killings that took place during the war. 

Many Islamic leaders, including people who had supported Awamileague during the election, had been memebers in the peace committee that were formed during the war - purely to save people from undue harassment by the Pakistani Army. None could deny the fact that many influential people who had supported  6 point demand of the Awamileague, but were unable to join freedom fight had been a member of  peace committee at various places all over the country. These people joining the peace committee had nothing to do with collaborating with the enemy to kill people, but was purely from humanitarian need to save peoples lives, and property from the tyranny of the occupation Army. And many lives had been saved due to their role. This was realized by Sheikh Mujib, and therefore,those people who had been a member of the peace committee were relased after ivestigations.

Sadly, Sheikh Mujibs reign came to an abrupt end due to multiple wrong decisions he had taken to consolidate his power. People of Bangladesh had never fought for one party rule, nepotism, secularism, or tyranny. Sheikh Mujib had no experience of running an independent country from the government side. all his life, he had fought from the side of the opposition. So, a sudden opposition to his rule was too much for him to patiently persevere. He took drastic action to eliminate his opposition by extra judicial killings; it is said that on his orders some 30000 thousand activists of the communist party, inculding their leader Siraj Sikder were killed by Sheikh Mujibs Rokki Bahini, a paramilitary force formed by Sheikh Mujib, exclusively to be loyal and answerable to him. After the killing of Siraj Sikder, he had arrogantly said in the parliament “ Where is Siraj Sikder Now?” 

Sheikh Mujib then decided in priciple to disband the Army, and merge the army with the Rokki Bahini. This plan was in the Air, but not implemented . He soon established a system of one-party rule called ‘BAKSAL’, banned all the newspapers except four government publications, and declared himself lifelong president through a constitutional amendment in early 1975. His declaration of one party rule was opposed by many political opponents. Corruption, nepotism, and secret killings began to spread  all over the country. The Armys junior officers became agitated  by one party rule, Sheikh Mujibs family crimes, and his backtracking from what they had envisaged for an independent Bangladesh. The Army officers then decided to stage a coup that led to the killing of Sheikh Mujib and many members of his family.

Sadly,after his death, the public reaction that had been witnessed in Bangladesh and abroad were suprisingly no where near to what one would have expected for a leader whose home coming in Bangladesh had  witnessed millions of emotional Bangladeshi’s from all walk of life lining up the streets of Dhaka to receive him. But on his death,there had been no protest from the public, or crying in sorrow. This was not expected for a leader who had fought all his life for the rights of his people and at the end  had to give his life, but not a shed of tears dropped from their eyes at his cruel death. Unfortunately, it is the sad truth of history that what ever good one may do, it is forgotten once the person becomes a tyrrant.  people never forgives oppression and tyranny. But we never learn from history.

40 years later, his daughter Sheikh Hasina is devoutly following the footsteps of her father. If there was a lesson to be learned for the Awamileague, it would have been from Sheikh Mujib’s rise and fall. Sheikh Hasina and her party should reflect deeply on this hard truth, and change their ways before another tragedy befalls on them.

After Sheikh Mujibs death, briefly Khondokar Mustaq, a cabinent member of Awamileague was in power before Ziaur Rahman removed him, and declared Martial Law. He later reversed ban on all political party and restored democracy. Later he became president, but sadly, he was also killed in an Army coup in Chiitagong. His party BNP ruled most of the time under the leadership of Begum Zia, the wife of General Zia.

After a long absent from power, Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 1996. What changed the destiny of Awamileague and Sheikh Hasina  from being a party in opposition to party in power, was the caretaker Government system envisaged by Bangladeshi Jamati Islam. Sheikh Hasina and Jamat had fought side by side for a none party caretaker government which was necessary in a young democracy like Bangladesh where the party in power always had an upper hand in influencing vote rigging due to politicising of the civil, police, and the election commission. Ironically, when Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2008 with a two third majority,she changed the constitution to remove the provision of caretaker system which she had fought for in 1996.

To be continued…


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