A research body in Bangladesh, tracking those who worked against the country’s freedom movement and killed unarmed civilians at the behest of the then Pakistan regime in 1971, has unveiled a list of what it calls “war criminals”. The list includes several top Bangladeshi politicians and Pakistani military officers.
The list, along with documents and witnesses, buttresses the ongoing demand for “trial for war crimes” for which the current caretaker government ruling the country last week approached the United Nations.
War Crimes Facts Finding Committee (WCFFC) Thursday released a list of 1,597 war criminals responsible for the mass killings, rapes and other atrocities during the Liberation War.
The Pakistani regime of military ruler Gen Yahya Khan ordered a crackdown in the then East Pakistan after elections gave winners of the east wing a majority. Atrocities were carried out between March and December 1971.
Of those on the list, 369 are members of Pakistan military and 1,238 are their local collaborators including members of Razakar and Al Badr (forces formed to aid the Pakistani authorities) and Peace Committee.
The list was not complete and more names would come with more evidence and documents, the committee told media Thursday, The Daily Star reported.
The list and evidence would be handed to the government and Election Commission to help them try the war criminals and disqualify them from elections. Besides, those would be circulated to the international community.
Four women who were tortured by the Pakistan forces were present.
While many have died in the 37 years that have elapsed, Bangladeshi ‘collaborators’ on the list and still alive mostly belong to Jamaat-e-Islami.
Some of them who were then involved in Muslim League and Nezam-e-Islam parties and are now leaders of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jatiya Party, that have ruled the country at different times.
Despite the time-gap, the list reads like the who’s who in the present-day Bangladesh.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI)’s former Ameer (chief) Golam Azam, the present chief Matiur Rahman Nizami and secretary general Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mojahid figure on the list.
Both Nizami and Mojahid were ministers in the government of Khaleda Zia (2001-06).
Others on the list, now JeI leaders, are assistant secretaries General Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and A.K.M. Yusuf. Central committee members Delawar Hussain Sayedee, Abdus Sobhan, Abul Kalam Muhammad Yusuf and Abdul Quader Molla are among the high-profile Jamaat leaders on the list.
Former BNP lawmakers Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and Abdul Alim, and Anwar Zahid, a former minister during military ruler H.M. Ershad rule (1982-90), are also on the list that contains division- and thana-wise (police station) names of Razakar, Al Badr, and Peace Committee members.
“We have drawn up the list on the basis of field-level investigation, statements of eyewitnesses and victims, and examination of relevant documents for 17 long years,” said M.A. Hasan, convener of the committee dedicated to research on acts of genocide and atrocities committed in 1971.
He said they are ready to place all the necessary evidence and documents once the government forms a special tribunal to try the war criminals.
“We have prepared the list not to take revenge but to break the silence of impunity,” said Hasan.
Several Pakistanis figure on the list, many of whom are dead. They include the then military ruler, Gen A.M. Yahya Khan, Lt Gen Tikka Khan, who went on to become the Pakistan Army chief, governor and martial law administrator of the then East Pakistan, Maj Gen Khadim Hussain Raja, general officer commanding (GOC) of the then East Pakistan, Maj Gen Rao Forman Ali, adviser to governor of the then East Pakistan, Gen Abdul Hamid Khan, the then chief of staff of Pakistan army, Maj Gen A.O. Mittha Khan, Gen S.G.M. Pirjadah, Gen Iftekhar Janjua, Brig Jahanjeb Arbab and Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, the then commander of Eastern Command, are among the Pakistan military personnel listed as war criminals. None of them are in service now.
Niazi surrendered with 93,000 soldiers, ending the war that made Bangladesh free.
Following the resignation of Vice-Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan on 7 March 1971, as the Unified Commander of Eastern Military High Command and Martial Law Administrator, the General Yahya Khan's military government was unable to find an active duty officer who was willing to take this task. During this 9 month period, several officers assumed the command but was repeatedly removed as they were brutally failed to restore the order. And, many other high and senior officers of Pakistan Armed Forces were cautious on the posting and none of the senior officers were willing to take the charge of the East Pakistan. Meanwhile, on December 14, General Niazi himself volunteered for the job of Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan. General Yahya Khan immediately made him as the Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan and the Unified Commander of the Eastern Military High Command. General Yahya Khan sent him a telegram message stating, "You have fought a heroic battle against overwhelming odds. The nation is proud of you …You have now reached a stage where further resistance is no longer humanly possible nor will it serve any useful purpose… You should now take all necessary measures to stop the fighting and preserve the lives of armed forces personnel, all those from West Pakistan and all loyal elements".The situation in East-Pakistan was extremely difficult, as Bengali forces in the Pakistani Army had gone into mutiny, large segments of the population were hostile, and an independence movement was gaining steam among the Bengalis. Despite this, Niazi and Mohammad Shariff were able to reaffirm Pakistan's control over wide parts of East Pakistan territory, opening the window for a political solution to the turmoil - this would not come to fruition.
Pakistani Army Commander in the Eastern Command, Lt. General A. A. K. Niazi, signing the Instrument of Surrender in front of General of Officer Commanding in Chief of India and Bangladesh Forces in the Eastern Theatre, Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora. 16th December, 1971
However, on December 16 of 1971, East-Pakistan Intelligence Directorate (EPID) learned the Indo-Bengali siege of Dhaka. Niazi appealed for a cease-fire but Sam Manekshaw set the deadline for the surrender. Failing to surrender on time, a siege on Dhaka will take place. Not wanting to deterioration of the city, General Niazi signed an instrument of surrender with his counterpart Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army. The meeting was set at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at 16:31 IST on 16 December 1971, and General Niazi surrendered the Eastern Military High Command's nearly 93,000 personnel to the hands of India.Aftermath: Revelation
It was only after returning to Pakistan as empty-handed prisoner of war did Niazi criticize Tikka and Rao Farman. Niazi himself admitted that he raised the Razakar forces, who were employed against the Mukti Bahini (guerilla forces) and were used to kill, terrorize people and destroy rural villages. His vows against the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini were notorious. The crackdown against the Bengalis had gone too far, and the result saw Pakistan Combatant forces involved in a guerrilla war with the Bengali Mukti Bahini, under C-in-C General Osmany, Bangladesh Forces. The Pakistan Combatant Forces were unprepared and untrained for such warfare. After a preemptive strike on the Indian territories in the western front, a full-scale invasion of East Pakistan by India resulted in isolation for Niazi's and Shariff's forces being ambushed by the Mukti Bahini, and with the absence of external aid, eventual surrender.