Syed Anas Pasha

Syed Anas Pasha Campaign to seek justice

In 1971, during the liberation war of Bangladesh, there were widespread killings of the civilians and other atrocities were carried out by the occupying Pakistani forces and their local collaborators, Razakars, and para militias Al Badr & Al Shams formed by members of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Bengalis across the globe rallied around the cause of Bangladesh. In fact, the UK Bengali community played an important role in highlighting the atrocities that were taking place in Bangladesh, lobbying the British Government and the international community, and raising funds for the refugees and the Bengali freedom fighters.

Military crackdown
Following the 25 March 1971 “crack-down” on the Bengali political opposition. The army targeted students and university professors. During the Bangladesh War a number of local Islamist groups, namely Jamaat-e-Islam, Nezam-e-Islam and the Muslim League, collaborated with the Pakistani military junta opposing the independence of Bangladesh.

In the final days of the war between 3-16 December, the Pakistani army and the local collaborating auxiliary forces, in particular the Al Badr group, reportedly tortured and killed hundreds of members of the Bengali intelligentsia, particularly university teachers and journalists.

The UN Human Rights Commission in its 1981 report on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNHRC) stated that the genocide committed in Bangladesh in 1971 was the worst in history. The UNHRC report said even if a lower range of 1.5 million deaths was taken killings took place at a rate of between 6 – 12 thousands per day, through the 267 days of genocide.

The trial of alleged collaborators and the perpetrators responsible for murder, rape, loot and arson during the War of Liberation was started by the first government of the country, headed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

After the surrender of Pakistani forces, Bangladesh’s independence leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on release from Pakistani prison, stated on American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), “I will definitely put them on trial. Can any country free those who have killed three million people?” More than 37,000 people were arrested for the atrocities, most belonged to the fundamentalist groups like the Jamaat-e-Islam, under the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunal) Act, 1972.

The first amendment to the constitution in 1973 provided further legal backing for the introduction of special laws allowing the trial of persons charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other crimes under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973.

Bangladesh was (is) one of the first Muslim majority country to ban politics based on (sectarianism) religion under its constitution and in fact had secularism enshrined in the constitution as one of its founding principles. On November 4, 1972 all religion-based sectarian communal politics were abolished as per Sections 12 and 38 of the Bangladesh Constitution of 1972.

UK/European effort
Unfortunately with the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman the trials came to a halt. But the campaign to seek justice carried on until in 1992 when the campaign by the name of Nirmul Committee gathered momentum and then the formation of Sector Commanders Forum in 2007 united the country in demanding the trial of war criminals. At the same time the UK Bengalis came together in solidarity to support the campaign to seek justice for the victims of war crimes.

UK connection
The Bangladeshi Islamists in the UK have been operating under various charities and religious organisations. Soon after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 some of the alleged Jamaati-e-Islami war criminals fled Bangladesh and took refuge in various countries, including the UK. A Channel 4 Dispatches programme aired on 1995 exposed such 3 alleged war criminals. These alleged war criminals can be tried in the UK under the jurisdiction of 1957 Geneva Convention and under the 1988 Criminal Justice Act as the alleged are UK residents.

One such alleged war criminal in the UK
In March 1971, one such alleged ‘Operation in Charge’ of killings of intellectuals, was an active member of the Islami Chaatra Sangha (ICS) – the student wing of the Jammat-e-Islami which actively opposed Bangladesh Liberation War and aided the Pakistani military. In August 1971, the Jamaat-e-Islami, according to its own newspaper, set up the Al-Badr Squad comprising members of the ICS to violently combat the Bengali freedom fighters. The alleged became a member of the Al-Badr.

After the war the alleged fled Bangladesh and took refuge in Britain in 1972. He was involved in setting up of Jamaat-e-Islami front organisation. The alleged is currently involved with mosques, charity and fundamentalist organisations.

Seeking justice
The continuing culture of impunity has encouraged violence in Bangladesh which as a nation is still paying the price. Ignoring the issue of war crimes has encouraged a culture of impunity. This immunity has led to the rise of Jamaat-e-Islami and other extremist Islamist groups. It has also led to institutionalizing of violence. To establish rule of law and to end culture of impunity justice has to be sought for the victims under Bangladesh’s most unique comprehensive law, the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973. Today no one, in Bangladesh including all the political parties, disagrees on the issue of war crimes trial. Bangladesh government has already sought assistance from the UN and were seeking further assistance from the international community including the US and the UK.

 During the War of Liberation I was only a child of 5/6 years old. My father went missing during the war, but fortunately to India to help with the war effort. But two of my uncles went missing never to come back. One of my childhood memories of seeing my two aunties in white saris, a symbol of widow, still haunts me. Even today when I see them in their white saris I can’t help but feel the pain of their loss.

It is not possible to establish rule of law without holding the perpetrators accountable for their crimes. The fact that Bangladesh and the world community has so far not provided satisfactory reparation has left many victims of the war, including my aunties, disillusioned with the world. Today I appeal to you all, especially the UK to come forward to assist Bangladesh in its quest to seek justice.

Syed Anas Pasha
Secretary, Ekattorer Ghatok dalal nirmul commettee, Uk Chapter
( International Forum for Secular Bangladesh)

14 Jun 2011   10:10:46 PM   Tuesday BdST
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