By Rajeev Sharma
Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI) Ameer Matiur Rahman Nizami finally admitted before the International Crimes Tribunal that genocide was carried out during the Liberation War in 1971, but denied his own involvement in the war crimes.
Notwithstanding what he says it is well established that Nizami had collaborated with the occupying Pakistani forces in unleashing a reign of terror in Bangladesh. He directly participated in killing freedom fighters, torturing / maiming them, looting their properties and raping Bengali women. JEI and its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS) led by Nizami, historically known as anti-liberation forces, actively collaborated with the Pakistani occupation army that committed nine month long atrocities and did everything possible to foil the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
Both JEI and ICS so long refrained from saying anything about the mass killing and genocide committed during the Liberation War. Nizami was the president of Pakistan ICS (now Islami Chhatra Shibir), which formed Al Badr militia, a band of collaborators, infamous for orchestrating the killing of intellectuals.
Nizami took an opportunity to address the Tribunal as, after reading out of the charges against him, it asked whether he pleaded guilty or not. Otherwise, the man who for decades has been known as the mastermind of the country’s worst and most hated war crimes sat quietly in the dock, intently listening to the charges read before him. ‘I want to clearly say that my role during the war did not extend beyond the sphere of political activities,’ he told the tribunal.
It is well documented that as Operations Commander of Al Badr militia (JEI death squad) Nizami was directly involved in killing thousands of freedom fighters. The people of his own village in Pabna even now call him ‘Moitya Razakar’ (killer / traitor Razakar). Under his supervision and leadership Al Badr militia was organized to eliminate the freedom fighters and their supporters. Apart from killing freedom fighters and supporters of liberation movement of 1971, the objective of ideological warfare waged by Al Badr was to Islamize Bangladesh. With this object in view they short listed the Bengali secular intellectuals, both Hindu and Muslim, and eliminated them. Horrifying stories of killing of intellectuals by Nizami and his Al Badr militia were published in newspapers, both home and abroad, during and after the liberation war.
Nizami was a top ranking Razakar, a force created by the Pakistani ISI. Razakars were the predecessors of today’s Taliban. Although the term Razakar means volunteer in Arabic, in Bangladesh context it means traitors and collaborators of the occupation forces of Pakistan. During the liberation war it was the Razakars who provided intelligence to the occupying Pakistani forces about the whereabouts of the freedom fighters and their supporters / sympathizers; abducted and killed them with the help of Pakistani forces in various army camps and killing zones; burnt their homes and looted their properties; kidnapped thousands of Bengali women, trafficked them to various Pakistan Army camps across the country; and molested / raped more than 400,000 women.
There is no dearth of evidence of Nizami’s involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1971. Nizami was one among the top ranking JEI ideologues who was responsible for inciting and instigating his cohorts and followers by means of public speeches or newspaper articles supporting the Pakistani occupying forces for their onslaught against the freedom fighters. The JEI mouthpiece Dainik Sangram in its issue of November 14, 1971 quoted Nizami as saying ‘The day is not far off when the young men of Al Badr, hand in hand with the patriotic Pakistani armed forces, will defeat ‘the Hindu forces and their collaborators’ (a term used by the pro-Pakistan forces to mean the freedom fighters) and raise the victorious banner of Islam, all over the world after destruction of India’.
Dainik Sangram reported in its September 15, 1971 edition that Nizami addressed a gathering of the Razakars in Jessore, a bordering district. In his address at the district headquarters of the force, Nizami had spoken thus: “In the hour of national crisis it is the duty of each and every Razakar to carry out his national duties by eliminating those who are engaged in war against Pakistan and Islam.”
People from Nizami’s village in Pabna brought numerous allegations against his direct involvement in killings, arson and lootings. One Abdul Quddus, a freedom fighter from Pabna who spent two weeks in Al Badr torture cell, said that while he was kept confined he overheard many plans drawn up by Al Badr militia under supervision of Nizami to eliminate freedom fighters. On November 26, 1971 a Razakar commander named Sattar took Pakistani forces to Dhauliapara village in Pabna where 30 freedom fighters were arrested and subsequently killed by Sattar under Nizami’s orders, as per Quddus’s statement. Quddus also said that Nizami himself bayoneted to death one Bateshwar Saha, a freedom fighter of Pabna. All these incidents are mentioned in various studies.
In Pabna Nizami led a group of Razakars for killing a 19 year old freedom fighter Latif and his group in September 1971. Latif along with his group was captured by the occupation forces of Pakistan from Dhuliuri village and handed over to Nizami. As per official records Nizami and his associates celebrated after killing Latif and his group. Latif’s brother Shahjahan Ali who was also a freedom fighter and a victim of attack by Nizami and his group survived somehow to tell the harrowing tale. In 1971, Nizami was personally involved in killing thousands of Hindus and became a millionaire within nine months of the liberation war by consficating their assets and properties and extorting large amount of cash and jewellery from the freedom fighters and wealthy Hindus.
Now the International Crimes Tribunal has charged Nizami for involvement in murders and torture of unarmed people during the country’s Liberation War in 1971.The other charges Nizami is facing are hatching conspiracy, planning, incitement and complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity during the liberation war against Pakistan.
After framing 16 charges against Nizami, the International Crimes Tribunal set July 1 for beginning his trial. The International Crimes (Tribunal) Act, 1973 only allows a convict to appeal to the Appellate Division of Supreme Court against his conviction and sentence.
The most notable charge Nizami is facing now is his role in eliminating the best brains of the nation through planned killing of intellectuals and professionals prior to Bangladesh’s victory on December 16, 1971.The Pakistani occupation and local auxiliary forces, especially Razakar and Al Badr formed with the members of ICS, carried out selective elimination of respected professionals and intellectuals in the country to give a mortal blow to independent Bangladesh. The victims’ houses were burnt; they were drugged out, often blindfolded, tortured, murdered, and their bodies were dumped in mass graves and other places.
Through above acts and commissions, Nizami committed the crime of genocide to eliminate the intellectuals and professionals. Nizami had conspired with the Pakistani occupation forces, planned and incited crimes, and was complicit in murders, rapes, looting, destruction of property and was responsible for commissioning of crimes in 1971. He had assisted former JEI chief Ghulam Azam, who is also facing similar charges at the tribunal, in forming different auxiliary forces including Peace Committee, Razakar, Al Badr and Al Shams. The Tribunal earlier framed charges against Ghulam Azam saying he played a key role in forming these auxiliary forces that helped the Pakistani forces commit atrocities across the country.
(The writer is a New Delhi-based journalist-author and strategic analyst. He can be reached at [email protected])