Islamist Bangladesh party plans apology over war criminal issue

January 30th, 2009 - 12:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 30 (IANS) A unanimous resolution by the Bangladesh parliament asking the government to try “war criminals” has led to the country’s largest Islamist party to plan an apology for its “political stance” of opposing the 1971 freedom movement, a media report said Friday.People who collaborated with the Pakistan government during the 1971 freedom movement are called “war criminals” in Bangladesh.

The top leadership of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party which is accused of killing unarmed civilians then, is planning an “apology” for its “political stance” of opposing the freedom movement.

But it will not acknowledge or apologise for the role of many of its leaders and its youth front cadres who engaged in the killings, The Daily Star said Friday.

War records show JeI formed the Razakars and Al-Badr forces to counter the freedom fighters. The then secretary general of JeI Moulana Abul Kalam Mohammad Yousuf established the Razakars and Al-Badr with Islami Chhatra Shangha members.

The Islamists received a severe drubbing in last month’s parliament election in which their principal political target and critic, the Awami League (AL), swept to power.

The resolution was unanimous and it asked the government to ensure immediate trial of those against whom evidence has piled up over the years. The Jamaat and its ally, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, were boycotting parliament at the time.

“Measures be taken immediately to try the war criminals,” reads the resolution adopted amid thunderous desk-thumping.

Speaking on the motion, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government is now gathering experts’ opinions on the issue from across the globe.

She called it “a demand of the nation” and said that the foreign ministry is working on the matter.

UNDP Resident Representative and UN Coordinator in Bangladesh Renata Lok Dessallien has said Bangladesh needed to do a lot of home-work for the trials.

Majlish-e-Sura, JeI’s highest policymaking body, was in a two-day session to decide its response.

“Not from any conviction but to save its skin from the move to try war criminals, JeI plans to make a strategic apology, not for its war crimes during the Liberation War but for its political stance in 1971,” The Daily Star observed.

It is discussing some other measures like getting rid of a few “controversial” party leaders.

“A severe crisis is waiting for us in the coming days centering the issue of trying the war criminals,” Jamaat assistant secretary general Muhammad Kamaruzzaman told The Daily Star, adding: “We are discussing how to tackle the situation and a panel of our lawyers is already working on it.”

The newspaper said the JeI has never been apologetic about its opposition to the freedom movement.

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