The following is a counter-opinion piece against an opinion piece by Rupak Bhattacharjee on BDnews24 on 21st July, 2015. The counter-opinion was written by Ali Ahmad Mabrur, son of Ali Ahsan Mujahid, who has been sentenced to death by the war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh. It is being reproduced here with permission.
I read the opinion written by Rupak Bhattacharjee titled Mojaheed to walk the gallows for the killing of intellectuals in ‘71 published on bdnews24.com on last 21st July, 2015. I am fortunate to experience this case proceeding very closely. On that note, I am writing this counter opinion just to focus the other side of the coin. I would like to get response and reaction for my writing. I will welcome those responses if it comes based on logic and facts rather than mere perception.
The writer initially blamed Jamaat-e-Islami for supporting and assisting the Pakistani occupying force. My first question is, what was the position of Mr. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid in Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971?
Was he a civilian with high civilian position like bureaucrat or government officials or a military officer?
Did the prosecution submit any single piece of evidence to prove their claim that Mujahid assisted the Pakistani forces in preparing plan for the intellectual murder? How did Mujahid abet or assisted the killers? Is there any picture or any news paper cutting that exhibits that Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid held a meeting with the senior army officials or with the Pakistani government officers?
Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee claimed that Mujahid led the ruthless Al Badr militia. Perhaps, he is not aware of the prosecution claims, that Al Badar, as a paramilitary force were controlled, administered and financed by the then government and the Pakistani army was supposed to train them up. How being a civilian, Mr. Mujahid led such a military force?
The writer being excessively biased, repeatedly used the prosecution reference to substantiate the notorious activities of AL Badar. I have no objection about that. My view is only about Mr. Mujahid and I just want to clarify that prosecution miserably failed to establish his nexus with Al Badr. As a writer, Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee should use the reference of both the prosecution and the defence to make his writing piece more credible.
Let me also highlight the confession of the investigation officer (IO) of the case (Prosecution witness number 17), who categorically admitted that, during his investigation, he found that Mujahid never escaped the country since the war of liberation. I do not know that, from which source, Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee got the information that Mujahid went into hiding after liberation war?
It is to be noted that the investigation officer (Abdur Razzaq Khan) also claimed that, during his two yearlong investigations, he found that, not a single case or GD had ever been filed against Mr. Mujahid since 1971 in connection with the crimes committed during the liberation war?
Though, the writer Rupak Bhattacharjee, is as usually terming Mujahid as Al Badr leader but he must be acknowledged that IO also claimed that, during his investigation, he did not found any list of Al Badar, Al Shams, Razakar or Mujahid force where the name of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid is included.
I think, as an analyst, it would be better if we could find any specific view of Rupak Bhattacharjee about the above said claims of the investigation officer.
Finally, I would like to conclude by asking a question, if Mujahid is allegedly found guilty for assisting and abetting the offence of intellectual killing, then why the prosecution failed to produce any family members of the intellectual as a witness against Mujahid?
Why the prosecution failed to produce any single charge of killing any specific intellectual against Mr. Mujahid? (The only specific charge of killing journalist Shirajuddin Hossen does not stand at all against Mujahid as the Apex court acquitted him from the charge. This acquittal rather weakens the allegation of intellectual murder.)
Without resolving these burning questions, any process of executing a man would never be justified.
The writer Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee described the activities and political functions of Mr. Mujahid negatively in his writing. But he shrewdly avoided the fact about the corruption free ministerial job of Mr. Mujahid. He also ignored that history that not a single charge of corruption, abusing power or embezzling money has ever been raised against Mujahid though it is almost impossible to believe in context of Bangladesh politics.
Below is the opinion piece by Rupak Bhattacharjee as posted on BDnews24,
Mojaheed to walk the gallows for the killing of intellectuals in ‘71
The ongoing war crimes trials have occupied considerable space of Bangladesh’s political discourse for obvious reasons. Unlike other South Asian nations, Bangladesh was born through a bloody Liberation War fought over a period of nine months. In 1971, South Asia witnessed the worst human suffering and state-sponsored violence in the post-colonial era.
Even today, the country finds it difficult to come to terms with its violent past especially the treacherous acts of some conservative religious groups, including Jamaat-e-Islami. These forces owing allegiance to the military junta of Yahya Khan indulged in large-scale atrocities against their Bengali brethren in the guise of protecting the unity of a so-called nation. The present secular government of Sheikh Hasina has fulfilled a historic responsibility by bringing the collaborators of the murderous Pakistani troops to justice.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Jamaat’s secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed for committing heinous crimes during the Liberation War. A four-member Appellate Division led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha delivered the final verdict after Mojaheed appealed against his sentence.
The apex court stayed the war crimes tribunal’s death sentence given to Mojaheed for aiding and facilitating the killing of country’s leading intellectuals during the final phase of the war. The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 verdict clearly noted that the 67 year-old Razakar had planned and executed the brutal murders of intellectuals and under his leadership, al-Badr, an elite auxiliary force of the Pakistan Army, indulged in killing, genocide, kidnapping and looting across the country during the Liberation War.
The Supreme Court, however, acquitted him from the charges of abducting and killing of popular journalist Sirajuddin Hossain. Earlier, the ICT-2 sentenced Mojaheed for killing Hossain. The highest court also commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment for killing nine Hindu civilians in Bakchar area of Faridpur. The ICT-2 awarded him capital punishment for his direct involvement in the murder of innocent people belonging to the minority community.
Mojaheed is the fourth war crimes convict whose case has been resolved by the Supreme Court after the Awami League (AL) Government instituted the war crimes tribunal in March 2010. Mojaheed appealed against the ICT-2 verdict on August 11, 2013. The Appellate Division began the appeal hearing of death-row convict Mojaheed on April 29 this year.
Mojaheed was sentenced to death by the ICT-2 on July 17, 2013 for two out of five charges brought against him. In addition to the murder of intellectuals, he was found guilty on the charge related to the killing of freedom fighters Rumi, Badi, Jewel, Azad and music director Altaf Mahmud at the army camp set up in Nakhalpara, Dhaka, during the 1971 war.
Mojaheed was the sixth Jamaat leader convicted for wartime atrocities. He was arrested on August 8, 2010 and the prosecution submitted formal charges against him on December 11, 2011. The ICT-2 indicted him on June 21, 2012. The prosecution brought two charges of genocide against the Hindus and five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, forced deportation, abduction, torture and arson committed during the war period. His trial began on July 19, 2012.
Mojaheed led the ruthless al-Badr militia which was specially trained and armed by the Pakistan Army to crush Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. The armed group, which called itself “angel of death”, was notorious for targeting the prominent personalities of the Bengali intelligentsia whom the agents of the Yahya regime viewed as ideologues of the Bengali resistance movement.
According to the prosecution, Mojaheed was the chief architect of the killing of intellectuals, including top writers, journalists, professors, lawyers and physicians. Prosecutor Muklesur Rahman Badal noted that as the president of Jamaat’s the then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), Mojaheed was the supreme commander of al-Badr between October and December in 1971.
The prosecution claimed that al-Badr activists executed the orders of Mojaheed “until the last day”. Reports say Mojaheed declined to surrender even after the Pakistan Army laid down arms on December 16, 1971. The prosecutors added that Mojaheed had taken over the charge of al-Badr, comprising mostly of ICS activists, from Matiur Rahman Nizami in October 1971.
Numerous Liberation War documents and reports depict how Mojaheed, who had begun his political career with Jamaat’s erstwhile student body ICS, fiercely opposed East Pakistan’s secession from the west. He joined the ICS at an early age and became its chief in his native Faridpur district in 1968. In 1971, he was ICS’ general secretary of East Pakistan unit when the war broke out.
Like many other collaborators, Mojaheed went into hiding immediately after Bangladesh had attained independence. He resurfaced in 1977 when the military regime of Ziaur Rahman started rehabilitating the anti-liberation forces in its bids to broaden civilian support base. Reports suggest that he formally joined Jamaat in the late 1970’s and was made a member of its central committee in 1982. He moved quickly to the largest Islamist party’s leadership position to become assistant secretary general in 1989. He was subsequently elevated to the post of secretary general in 2000.
Mojaheed, who is also known for his oratory and organisational skills, made concerted efforts to establish him as a political leader in the country. He contested the parliamentary election several times between 1986 and 2001 without much success. He served as a Social Welfare Minister from 2001 to 2006 in the BNP-Jamaat coalition government headed by Khaleda Zia. He was the second highest-ranked member of Jamaat and an influential leader of the 18-party opposition alliance until his arrest in 2010. Despite all attempts, Mojaheed could not emerge as a mass leader largely due to his anti-people role in 1971.
Mojaheed rejected all the charges brought against him and denied Jamaat’s anti-Bangladesh role in 1971. He has always maintained that there was no Liberation War in the country. Demands for the trial of war criminals were renewed in 2007 when Mojaheed remarked that “anti-liberation forces never existed”. The fundamentalist party called Liberation War a “civil war” which further angered the people.
The Supreme Court ruling evoked mixed reactions in Bangladesh. Many welcomed the judgment while Jamaat termed the trial of its secretary general “farcical”. The prosecution expressed satisfaction over the verdict. Reacting to the ruling, Bangladesh’s Attorney General Mahbubey Aam observed, “There is no bigger crime than to eliminate the nation’s intellectuals”. Scores of pro-liberation organisations, including Ganojagoron Mancha hailed the verdict.
The Jamaat on the other hand rejected the conviction of its leader Mojaheed. The orthodox party perceives that the war crimes trials have been politically designed to eliminate its top leaders rather than delivering justice. The party enforced a 24-hour strike the very next day protesting the ruling of the highest court. Such divergent opinions and ideological schism have persisting in the polity ever since the ICT was established in 2010.
What has alienated Mojaheed from the people was his arrogant attitude towards the judiciary. Reports indicate that he had been in defiant mood throughout the trial process. Mojaheed’s counter-narrative of the glorious Liberation War has found few takers in Bangladesh. His radical views on the birth of an independent nation are tantamount to rewriting history.
Mojaheed now faces the gallows for his dubious role in 1971 unless the case is reviewed by the same court or he is granted clemency by the president. Both seem unlikely particularly the second option. None of the war crimes convict belonging to Jamaat sought presidential pardon as the party does not recognise the present government. Recent reports say Mojaheed asked his lawyers to file a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court ruling.
The verdict of the apex court assumes significance because this is for the first time a former minister will be hanged for committing heinous crimes in the 1971 war. The people of Bangladesh lament that noted Razakars like Mojaheed used government’s cars sporting national flag after becoming ministers in independent Bangladesh—a country whose emergence as the first Bengali nation they had violently resisted more than forty years back.