Just before the surrender of the Pakistani forces on December 16, 1971, a skirmish breaks out between them and freedom fighters near the then Hotel Continental in Dhaka. Moments later they too surrendered. Two paper cuttings from Bangladesh Observer and daily Azad show reports on the government seeking information about Al-Badr and the government ban on five parties that opposed liberation. Photo: Star File Photo
Julfikar Ali Manik and Emran Hossain writes in THE DAILY STAR
The government of independent Bangladesh in its first decision banned five communal outfits including Jamaat-e-Islami, which not only opposed the nation's independence but also actively helped Pakistani occupation forces commit genocide and other war crimes.Thirty-seven years into independence, those who won freedom of Bangladesh through a nine-month bloody war are waging another fight against the defeated anti-liberation forces in a battle of vote.The leading veterans including the living commanders of the Liberation War have launched a unified battle to wake up people once again to stand against Jamaat and alleged war criminals contesting the national polls.Prior to the celebration of Victory Day today, the sector commanders and other Liberation War forces have already identified 14 candidates as war criminals in the BNP-Jamaat alliance.The banned parties including Jamaat were given the green light to do politics during the rule of late president Ziaur Rahman after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.After victory on December 16, 1971 the first issue of newspapers of the new nation carried the government's decision to ban five communal parties on December 18.The Morning News run the report reading, "The government of the peoples' republic of Bangla Desh has banned four communal parties with immediate effect. These four political parties are Muslim League and all its factions, Pakistan Democratic Party, Nezam-e-Islam and Jamat-e-Islami. In addition to these the government has also banned the Pakistan People's Party. The announcement was made by the Bangla Desh government in a radio broadcast."The Liberation War forces are waging the fight against Jamaat and war criminals as the long-standing demand to restrict participation of war criminals in the polls has failed.A ray of hope, however, shimmers in the dark as the Election Commission for the first time decided to debar war criminals from polls and included a provision in the Representation of People (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008.The provision states: "A person shall be disqualified for election as or for being, a member, if he has been convicted as war criminal by any national or international court or tribunal."But the move to debar war criminals from polls falls flat on its face as the government has not initiated a move to officially identify them.Former army chief Lt Gen (retd) M Harun-ur-Rashid told The Daily Star: "The government has neither initiated any move to identify war criminals nor even informed the Election Commission about them though the government has many old records and documents in this regard.""The Liberation War ministry could have done the job on behalf of the government," added Harun, also coordinator of the Sector Commanders' Forum, which would launch a campaign soon in the constituencies of candidates belonging to anti-liberation forces.Besides conducting door-to-door campaign against war criminals, they will also publish posters and leaflets making voters aware why these elements should not be elected.The leaflets and posters will feature credentials and roles of the respective war criminal candidates during the Liberation War.Committees to resist these elements will also be formed in those constituencies in addition to carrying out regular rallies and processions to be attended by the sector commanders and freedom fighters.Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, a forum for secular Bangladesh and trial of war criminals, will carry out simultaneous campaigns.Acting president of the forum Shahriar Kabir told The Daily Star: "We ran such campaigns ahead of polls in 1996 and 2001 with the slogan 'We want Razakar-free parliament'. We also distributed posters, leaflets and pamphlets containing credentials of war criminals in their respective constituencies during those campaigns."Meanwhile, the Qur'an Sunnah Research Institute, Jhikargachaa, Jessore, and Sachetan Nagorik Samaj have already published posters and leaflets against Jamaat this time.The publication contains some statements of Jamaat founder Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi that appear contradictory to Islam."Had we got expected response from the political parties regarding our appeal of debarring war criminals from polls, the fight need not be launched," Gen Harun said.When the Sector Commanders' Forum moved to hold a dialogue with political parties with the appeal, BNP did not response. The party rather formed an alliance with anti-liberation force Jamaat.Even Jamaat was not supposed to get registration with EC but allowed the registration to bring all parties in polls.Just six days ahead of victory in 1971, incumbent Jamaat Secretary General Ali Hasan Mohammad Mojaheed, who was then president of its student wing Islami Chhatra Shangha, was active to foil the Liberation War.Mojaheed addressed a rally organised by Al Badr on December 10. The Daily Azad covered the rally and reported on December 11: "President of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Shangha Al Mujaheed urged people to deal a deathblow to expansionism of Hindustan. He said, "We cannot accept existence of Hindustan. It has become an indispensable task to eliminate Hindustan for the sake of ensuring security to Pakistan."