Making list of collaborators in limbo

Ershad Kamol | Updated at 11:53pm on March 25, 2020

Making a complete list of the collaborators of the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971 is in limbo despite liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq’s promise to finish it by March 26.

The minister made the promise on December 19, 2019 while suspending a faulty collaborators’ list posted by the ministry on its website on the eve of the 48th Victory Day, December 16.

That list got widespread criticism for including names of some noted freedom fighters as collaborators.

Mozammel, however, told New Age on Sunday that the list would be prepared by forming upazila-level committees and through field-level screening as detailed documents about the collaborators were not available at relevant government agencies.

‘The upazila committees will be formed after the Bangladesh Muktijoddha Sangsad election as we have decided to form the committee comprising the elected upazila unit commanders, the upazila nirbahi officers and representatives of other stakeholders,’ he said.

The election schedule of the council will be announced after the coronavirus situation becomes normal, Mozammel said.  

Distinguished citizens and researchers, however, doubt if the ministry will be able to prepare a flawless list soon.

Dhaka university professor emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury said that making an authentic list of collaborators 49 years after the independence would be a challenging task as many collaborators were rehabilitated by major political parties, including the ruling Awami League.

‘Making the lists of the collaborators and martyrs is important for solving various outstanding issues,’ he said adding that a strong political will was required for this.

A list of collaborators must be prepared under the supervision of researchers as they have the expertise and experience of doing the task and are more accountable to the people than public servants, war crimes trial campaigner Shahriar Kabir said.

‘Any attempt to make a list of collaborators through Muktijoddha Sangsad leaders and government officials would be yet another mess as it was in December,’ he said.

Recommended by the parliamentary standing committee on liberation war affairs ministry in May 2019, the ministry took initiatives to prepare the list through Muktijoddha Council.

It requested home ministry to send the names of Rajakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams members preserved at public security division records while the deputy commissioners were asked to send the names of collaborators paid by the Pakistani regime during the war from district record rooms.

The Election Commission was requested to send the names of politicians who took oaths as the members of the national assembly and the provincial assembly after winning elections uncontested to the vacant seats of the Awami League leaders in exile in 1971.

Mozammel also said that the Jatiya Muktijoddha Council Act 2002 would be amended empowering the council to make the collaborators’ list.

Deputy commissioners of only 10 of the 64 districts have, however, sent the names, 109 in all — Narail 55, Shariatpur 44, Chandpur 9 and Bagerhat 1.

Khagrachari, Magura, Sherpur and Gaibandha deputy commissioners informed that there was no collaborator in the districts while Jashore deputy commissioner just mentioned that no collaborator was found at Sharsha upazila.

The Election Commission has informed that they don’t have such a list, Mozammel said.

In keeping with his promise of publishing the collaborators’ list before Victory Day 2019, Mozammel at a press conference on December 15, 2019 at his office disclosed a list of 10,789 collaborators as provided by home ministry and published it on the ministry’s website.

The list immediately faced nationwide protests as it included about 50 freedom fighters and organisers of the war, recognised by the government, 97 Hindus, including five females, and 38 Muslim women as Pakistani collaborators along with the infamous collaborators like Nurul Aamin and Ghulam Azam.

On December 19, the minister suspended the list and promised to publish a fresh one.

The home ministry explained that the list of 10,785 people it sent was prepared scrutinising 1,254 documents preserved at the ministry and the list was not to be made public.

Of them, it said, 996 got either general amnesty or acquittal following trials between 1972 and 1974 under the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order 1972, now repealed.

These people belonged to four categories — politicians who participated in 1971 by-elections, peace committee members, government officials who served the Pakistani regime and were accused of crimes against humanity.

‘Many innocents and even some freedom fighters had been victimised under the 1972 order by the opportunists for which Bangabandhu released people against whom no charge was framed for murder, arson and rape,’ Shahriar said.

Taking this bitter experience, he suggested that a list of collaborators facing specific allegations of committing crime against humanity and helping the Pakistani regime should be prepared under the leadership of researchers.

‘Assigning the task to freedom fighters and government officials might intensify corruption and victimisation as happened in case of making a list of freedom fighters,’ he said.

Mozammel, however, expressed determination to prepare an authentic list of collaborators soon.