Anti-liberation all along

Ghulam Azam stayed active in plotting Bangladesh’s demise even after 1971

While the nation is engaged in a life-and-death battle against Pakistan occupation forces, Ghulam Azam, left, is among a privileged few for a chat with East Pakistan governor Gen Tikka Khan, the infamous "Butcher of Baluchistan", at Dhaka cantonment on April 4, 1971.Photo: Collected

While the nation is engaged in a life-and-death battle against Pakistan occupation forces, Ghulam Azam, left, is among a privileged few for a chat with East Pakistan governor Gen Tikka Khan, the infamous “Butcher of Baluchistan”, at Dhaka cantonment on April 4, 1971.

Ghulam Azam, convicted for war crimes in 1971, continued his crusade to thwart the emergence and survival of Bangladesh even after the nine-month-long blood-spattered Liberation War in 1971, as he tried to revive East Pakistan and spread propaganda against Bangladesh for several years.
As danger loomed for Pakistan in late 1971, Ghulam Azam went to Pakistan on November 22, 1971. He formed the “Purbo Pakistan Punoruddhar Committee” (East Pakistan Retrieval Committee) in Pakistan soon after the war ended and campaigned until 1973 to build public opinion against Bangladesh and its recognition in the Islamic world.
While reading out the judgement in Azam’s case yesterday, Justice Anwarul Haque, a member of the International Crimes Tribunal-1, gave a brief profile of Azam, convicted for 90 years imprisonment.
He said Ghulam Azam went to London in 1973 and set up an office of ‘East Pakistan Retrieval Committee’ there. He published a weekly, Shonar Bangla, in London, which was used as a propaganda tool against Bangladesh.
The Bangladesh government revoked his citizenship on April 18, 1973.
Ghulam Azam later visited Saudi Arabia in March 1975. He met King Faisal and told him that Hindus had captured East Pakistan, the holy Quran had been burnt, mosques had been destroyed and converted into temples, and Muslims had been killed.

Signature of Ghulam Azam on a donation receipt to raise fund for “safeguarding the ideals of Pakistan”.   Photo: Collected

Signature of Ghulam Azam on a donation receipt to raise fund for “safeguarding the ideals of Pakistan”. Photo: Collected

He collected funds from the Middle East for rebuilding mosques and madrasas.
After the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ghulam Azam returned to Bangladesh on August 11, 1978 on a Pakistani passport. He subsequently got back his citizenship and rejoined his position as the ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He served in the post until Motiur Rahman Nizami took over from him.
Ghulam Azam was born on November 7, 1922. He studied in a madrasa first and then obtained a master’s degree from Dhaka University in 1950. He was a teacher at Rangpur Carmichael College between 1950 and 1955.
He joined the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1954 and served as its secretary from 1957 to 1960. He became  ameer of the East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami in 1969 (the party at the all-Pakistan level was led by Maulana Sayed Abul A’la Maududi). During the Liberation War, the Jamaat and Islami Chhatra Sangha under his leadership opposed the Liberation War.
He played a pivotal role in forming the Shanti (peace) Committee, Razakar, Al Badr, Al Shams (collaborator forces). He was an elected member of the national assembly from Tangail in the sham by-elections of 1971, Justice Haque said.
The Daily Star went through historical documents and is able to shed more light on Ghulam Azam’s record.
According to records available on the Liberation War, Ghulam Azam began playing an active role in helping the Pakistani occupation forces even as the nation launched an armed struggle to free Bangladesh soon after a massacre by the Pakistani military commenced on the night of March 25, 1971.
He was ameer of the East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami before the Liberation War. As ameer, he campaigned across Bangladesh and even in Pakistan (then West Pakistan) in attempts to foil the liberation movement.
“Pakistan is the house of Islam for the world’s Muslims. Therefore, Jamaat activists don’t justify staying alive if Pakistan disintegrates,” said Ghulam Azam in a speech to mobilise his party men and followers against Bangladesh and help the occupation forces. (Source: Jamaat’s mouthpiece the daily Sangram, 1971).
Ghulam Azam is one of the front men who actively helped the Pakistani forces’ attempts to foil the birth of Bangladesh. He was hyperactive against the Liberation War and became a symbol of war crimes in Bangladesh.
He met Pakistani General Tikka Khan, known as the “Butcher of Baluchistan”, ten days after the war started . Tikka was to earn similar notoriety as “Butcher of Bangladesh” on the night of March 25, 1971 in Dhaka.
During the nine-month-long bloody war, Ghulam Azam and his party Jamaat-e-Islami, its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (later renamed Islami Chhatra Shibir) played a key role along with their other political partners to foil Bangladesh’s independence struggle.
According to newspapers, including the daily Sangram, and books and documents on 1971, the Jamaat and its student wing played a key role in forming the Peace Committees and some other collaborator forces, such as Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams.
Throughout the nine-month war, Jamaat, its student wing and the collaborator forces actively helped the Pakistani military in mass killing, rape and atrocities.
The Pakistani forces and their Bangladeshi collaborators committed genocide and war crimes that left three million people dead and around a quarter million women violated, besides the planned elimination of some of the best of Bengali brains on December 14, 1971.
War records show that the Jamaat formed Razakar and Al-Badr forces to counter the freedom fighters. The Razakar force was established by former secretary general of Jamaat Moulana Abul Kalam Mohammad Yousuf, and in the Al Badr were, among other elements, Islami Chhatra Sangha activists.
Anticipating Pakistan’s defeat, the occupation forces and their collaborators–mostly leaders of the Jamaat and its student front–picked up leading Bengali intellectuals and professionals on December 14 and killed them en masse with a view to intellectually crippling the emerging independent nation.
Though Ghulam Azam was the brain behind the Jamaat’s anti-liberation efforts, Motiur Rahman Nizami, president of Islami Chhatra Sangha in 1971, played a vital role in collaborating with the Pakistani junta in committing genocide.
Nizami, who is also behind bars on charges of war crimes, said in 1971, “Every one of us should assume the role of a Muslim soldier of an Islamic state and through cooperation with the oppressed and by winning their confidence we must kill those who are hatching a conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam.” (Daily Sangram quoted Nizami on September 15, 1971)
Ghulam Azam and his party men and anti-liberation elements used to call the freedom fighters “miscreants”, “Indian agents”, “malaun” (an offensive word used against Hindus), and “infiltrators”.
On April 8, 1971, Ghulam Azam issued a joint statement with other Jamaat leaders. A book containing an account of the killers and collaborators titled Genocide ’71 quotes from that statement: “India is interfering in the internal affairs of East Pakistan. Wherever patriotic Pakistanis see Indian agents or anti-Pakistan elements and infiltrators, they will destroy them.”
Genocide ’71 also reads: “On June 18, on arriving at Lahore airport, Ghulam Azam spoke to journalists, stating that, in order to further improve conditions in East Pakistan, he was going to provide some additional advice to the president [General Yahya Khan].
“However, he refused to elaborate any further on what sort of advice he was going to give. Regarding the situation in East Pakistan, he said: ‘The miscreants are still engaged in destructive activities. Their main aim is to create terror and turbulence. These miscreants are being directed by Naxalites and left-wing forces.’”
On June 19, Ghulam Azam met Pakistan’s president Yahya Khan. After his meeting with Yahya, he addressed a press conference in Lahore. He told journalists, “The miscreants are still active in East Pakistan. People must be provided with arms to destroy them.”
Addressing Jamaat workers prior to the press conference, Ghulam Azam said, “In order to prevent the disintegration of Pakistan, the armed forces had to be deployed.”
He further noted, “The recent tumult in East Pakistan is 10 times greater than the 1857 Revolution in Bengal.”
Speaking at a press conference in Peshawar on August 26, he said, “The armed forces have saved us from the treachery of our enemies and from the evil designs of India. The people of East Pakistan are lending full support to the armed forces in destroying miscreants and infiltrators.”
On November 23, Yahya Khan declared a state of national emergency.
Ghulam Azam welcomed this announcement. He told the press in Lahore, “The best way to defend ourselves is striking at our enemies.” He said in order to restore peace in East Pakistan, each patriotic citizen, each member of the Peace Committees, Razakar, Al-Badr, and Al-Shams must be armed with modern automatic weapons.
At a meeting in Rawalpindi on November 29, he said, “There is no example in the history of a nation at war surviving without retaliation. Aggression is the best form of defence.”
On December 3, he in Karachi said, “An East Pakistani should be in charge of the foreign office because it is only an East Pakistani who can cope with the Bangladesh tamasha [the Bangladesh farce].”
After victory on December 16, 1971, Ghulam Azam and many others like him found themselves Pakistan and returned only after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members in 1975.
After liberation in 1971, the first issues of newspapers of the new nation carried the government’s decision to ban five communal parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami, on December 18 with immediate effect.
The banned parties were given the green light to resume politics during the regime of late president Ziaur Rahman.
Genocide ’71 notes that soon after Ghulam Azam with a few of his followers went to Saudi Arabia, an advertisement, in the name of a fake organisation, appeared in several Middle Eastern papers. The ad proclaimed, “Mosques are being burnt in East Pakistan, Hindus are killing Muslims and destroying their properties.” On the plea that Islam had to be saved, the ad appealed for contributions.
It also said Ghulam Azam, in order to collect funds and to continue his campaign against Bangladesh, visited several countries of the region, including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and Beirut. After completing his tour of these areas, he left for London in April 1973.
Even though he came to Dhaka on a three-month visa during the rule of president Ziaur Rahman in 1978, he never left Bangladesh. He became the Jamaat’s undeclared ameer, taking over from alleged war criminal late Abbas Ali Khan, who was then acting ameer.
In the early 1990′s, Ghulam Azam was officially declared ameer of Jamaat, while Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam launched a unique mass movement demanding the trial of war criminals.
She held an unprecedented People’s Court as a symbolic trial of Ghulam Azam where thousands of people gathered and the court pronounced a verdict to the effect that offences committed by him during the Liberation War deserved capital punishment.
Ghulam Azam’s citizenship issue came into focus when he came to Bangladesh as a Pakistani national.
In 1991, the BNP formed the government with support from the Jamaat and in 1992 Ghulam Azam filed a case with the High Court to get Bangladeshi citizenship. The government of the day arrested him and put him in jail.
However, after Ghulam Azam acquired Bangladeshi citizenship through a court order in 1994, the government released him from prison.
In 1998, the BNP and Jamaat formed the four-party alliance and Ghulam Azam appeared at a grand public meeting with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
Ghulam Azam left the party’s top post in 2000 and was succeeded by Nizami.
Ghulam Azam stayed out of focus after 2000 but he was back in the spotlight when the war crimes trial process started against him at the end of 2011.

Source: Bd news24


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