by Farooq Sulehria
Delawar Hossain Sayedee, leader of the Jamat-e-Islami in Bangladesh, has been indicted with 20 counts, including 3,000 killings, rape and arson, during Bangladesh’s nine-month-long war of liberation.
If proven guilty, Sayedee could face the death sentence. He has denied all charges against him. Sayedee will now be tried by the International Crimes Tribunal, a domestic tribunal with no United Nations role, which was set up last year to investigate war crimes in 1971. The trial begins on Oct 30.
While the role of the Pakistani military has drawn some media criticism, the Jamaat’s role in East Pakistan in 1971 has gone largely unnoticed. …..
….. The Jamaat later on began to pay lip service to East Pakistanis’ concerns, like the language issue, or their under-representation in the military.
However, as the Jamaat saw it, the real problem was East Pakistan’s Hindus, who dominated the trade, and the communists. Maulana Maudoodi urged the ulema to rid the East Pakistani masses of what he called their ignorance of Islam, because “the influence of Hindu culture over their language, dress, habits and way of thinking is so big that they have lost all sense of its being an extraneous element in their life.”
The problem, so to say, was not exploitation at the hands of West Pakistan but what the Jamaat considered East Pakistan’s lack of Islamisation.
The Jamaat contended that Bengali literature was pervaded by Hindu ideas since Tagore was the major influence on it, while the similes and proverbs of Bengali reflected Hindu thought and social way of life. Besides, Bengali literature lacked what the Jamaat called Islamic politics, economics and way of life. ….
…. The pattern in both countries has been similar. In Bangladesh the Jamaat allied itself with the military junta when Gen Ziaur Rehman came to power. Gen Zia, like his Pakistani namesake and counterpart, began to revise history and textbooks. His purpose was to minimise the role played by Sheikh Mujib in the movement and project his own imagined role in it. A revision of history equally suited the Jamaat.
The Awami League and the left forces, however, kept campaigning for a trial regarding atrocities in the 1971 war. In the last general elections, such a trial became an election issue. The Jamaat stood exposed and lost the elections.
A similar process is necessary everywhere including Pakistan to correct distortions of history. A ‘Truth Commission’ investigating not just the 1971 war but all the wars including the “Afghan jihad” and the “War on Terror”, perhaps?
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