The last of Enayetullah Khan’s full essays was printed in three instalments in New Age on September 23, September 30 and October 7, 2005. The collated essay is reprinted here
The poisonous weed of Jamaat-e-Islami is now threatening to strangle the very vitals of the government’s banyan tree and getting increasingly bolder with its theocratic and other medieval political and social agenda. While the BNP looked the other way and allowed the Jamaat a free run of the critical areas of the state machine and superstructure and continued to slide into wild West accumulation at all levels, the Jamaat and its cadre organisations have scrupulously ascended to a moral high ground among all the ruling classes, past and present.
It thought, in the course, that its umbilical cord with religious extremism, its medieval pursuit of a Shariah-based Islamic state and its violence-driven cadre warfare, now clearly directed on the campuses against the Chhatra Dal’s dominance (in Rajshahi and Chittagong in particular) will somehow go unnoticed amid the usual outpourings and shadow-boxing between the BNP and the unrepentant Awami League. And in between the sound and fury, the Jamaat can advance its scheme of blue murder without arousing much suspicion.
Collaborationist and infiltrationist political and organisational strategy is an old ex-Soviet communist practice to which the Jamaat is no stranger. Nor is killer violence, now the crude midwife of Islamic revolution, the Jamaat’s anti-thesis. To the contrary. Its mass front wears the face of a parliamentary platform of the faithful, some of them still harkening back to killer Moudoodi of Lahore or the Al-Badr, Al-Shams intellectual pogrom in the killing fields of Rayerbazar in Dhaka’s then suburbia of Lalmatia in the terminal days of Pakistan. Going by the documentations (The War Crimes File of Bergman, Channel IV of London, 1995, and the findings of the Buddhijibi Nidhan Tathyanusandhan Committee instituted on December 18, 1971 of which I was one of the prime movers), one does not have to go beyond Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami, now a star Cabinet member, to trace the blood on Jamaat’s killer hands.
Recent home ministry press notices, appearing almost every day, are identifying the August 17 bombers or the Jagrata Muslim Janata as closet members of the Jamaat. The extent of the JMJ’s or Bangla Bhai’s operations of Islamic vigilante terrorism till recent times would not have been possible without the organisational networks of these fringe terrorists both within and outside the government. The sheer spectacularity of the August 17 synchronised bombings in all district headquarters except one was the function of one such network within and inside the state apparatus, and now by evidence the Jamaat’s organisational hierarchy. The cabal of the militants of the Jamaat variants is allowed to stay secure in the Jamaat’s elaborate organisational closets — unleashed at the time of its choosing of an Islamic revolution, or for killer purposes or for pushing ahead with the strategic plan of back to the era of darkness.
Jamaat’s early responses to the unbridled rise in Islamic terror, though on a limited scale, were cautious, equivocal in its defence-mechanism of pleading or feigning innocence. In this, it had more than its share of generous help from the lumpen BNP members in the northern region, and most tragically from the centres of power in the capital as well. Whereas the BNP hierarchy ought to have questioned Nizami and asked him to explain the presence of the killer cabal within the Jamaat and come clean, it instead continues to defend the Jamaat in spite of the home ministry’s proofs.
Secondly, besides having a field-day in the social welfare ministry, the incursion of the Jamaatis into the institutions of the superstructure, particularly schools, colleges and universities, and the critical areas of administration — the police, the civil bureaucracy and the army — as part of its long-term infiltration scheme, has given it an extraordinary manipulative power over the state. The public perception that the Jamaat is ‘angelic’ and the BNP is ‘corrupt and rotten to the hilt’ has lent it an additional aura of sanctity to dupe the average peaceful and law-abiding citizens. If the evil theocratic killers of the past are not reined in and asked to explain each of their acts, past and present, Jamaat will be raring for an Islamic revolution before too long.
We cannot dictate the strategic or the tactical political and electoral lines of the political parties. An electoral alliance with the Jamaat for the benefit of transferable votes in the marginal constituencies is understandable. But putting democracy to jeopardy under the Damocles’s sword of a killer political party, having both parliamentary and armed fronts, is a dangerous game which even threatens the scheme of succession in the BNP.
In this exercise, we demand the following from the BNP-led government. It must ask the Jamaat leadership to explain its organisational involvement in Islamist terror. There is no other organisation on the Islamic side which can provide a safe haven to the JMJ-JMB-Bangla Bhai elements. Why blame India or the United States when the enemy lurks within?
December 14 is the day to commemorate the hecatomb, so to speak, of selected intellectuals by the Jamaat. Will there be some in the BNP to ask the Jamaat the reason for its 1971 killer role? We ask them any way and demand that the Jamaat must offer a public apology to atone for its 1971 sins. That will be of some consolation in that history is not repeated as in the case of the Nazis.
Lest we forget the intellectual pogrom
On December 16, 1971, when the allied forces made their way to Dhaka and tactically by-passed the bunkers and the enemy fortifications for the D-Day march in order to beat ZA Bhutto’s UNSC histrionics, the surrender of the Pakistani occupation army in its last gasp was still not foreseen. To the contrary, late night and early morning rumours and radio commentaries were making the chilling forecast that street battles to the last drop of blood would be fought to turn Dhaka into rubble before a ceasefire would be ordered by the UN.
Early on the morning of the 16th, my shelter for months at the lakeside Road 8 Dhanmondi residence of a French journalist-writer friend — Gerard Busquet — was yet not astir with the early morning twittering of birds. As we stayed glued to the radio amid the darkening suspense of the terminal war, a white flag was casually fluttered from the window of the United Nations Relief Organisation of Bangladesh (UNROB), housed opposite the shelter on the other side of the lake. It was, as if, — and it turned out to be so — meant to communicate the good tidings of a peaceful surrender of the enemy and signal the end of Pakistan in what used to be its eastern territory under the Radcliffe Award of 1947 — a geopolitical absurdity some thousand miles apart, as the crow flies, from its metropolitan centre of then West Pakistan, now Pakistan.
Hardly had the announcement on radio quoting the United Nations been made, the avalanche of hundreds and thousands of men, women and children in then occupied Bangladesh’s concentration camps, particularly those in Dhaka, thundered out into the streets. Hope, born again like the phoenix, rose from the ashes of despair. People, the anonymous heroes of the 1971 War of Independence, had poured out scrambling for the route opposite the then Intercontinental Hotel on either side of it, where the Pakistani forces were filing down with their guns gone silent, though not without inflicting some fatalities on the roadside crowd by some in their distraught humiliation of surrender — a ceremony reserved for the allied forces commander of the Indian armed forces General Jagjit Singh Aurora and the Mukti Bahini chief General MAG Osmani and his deputies (General Osmani could not be present on time due to a disruption to his helicopter flight) on one side, and Tiger Niazi of Pakistan, war criminal Rao Farman Ali and his evil company, on the other, with the latter hanging their heads in shame for the cowardly massacre of the innocent and unarmed.
In the milling crowd, I, a bundle of emotions, was awaiting the return of my brothers from the war, watching the allied forces’ column led by Brigadier Claire of the Indian armed forces roll out on the asphalt towards the greenery of what was then known as the Ramna race course, now Suhrawardy Udyan, and savouring every moment of the Mardi Gras of freedom in tears of ecstasy and victory and remembrance of the dead and gone. Then suddenly I saw the tall and lanky British journalist Gavin Young of the London Observer espy me at Finlay’s pump. He jumped out of his taxi for a brief moment and shot his question straight into my ears, asking, ‘Enayetullah, are you happy that the Indians have marched in?’ I was at once eloquent and dumb in my misty eyed silence, though only months later we had to pose the question in Holiday, ‘Are we really sovereign?’ The issue was the 25-year Indo-Bangla Friendship Treaty that had held Bangladesh to the ransom (Article 9A and 10) of the overland passage to India through Bangladesh territory, commonly known as transit, in the event of any security exigency threatening either of the high contracting parties. Up in the northeast, close to the ‘chicken neck’, India had just about miserably waged what the London Times journalist-turned-academic Neville Maxwell called India’s China War. My inveterate enemies would say that my Chinese ideological stripes of Maoist peasant revolution, the romantic credo of the era, were showing.
That being another matter of how a 1971 war-compatriot had turned an enemy-without in the shortest possible years of Indian benison, this preface also helps bare the face of the enemy within we are talking about whose ‘slightest word would harrow up thy soul and freeze thy young mind’. We are talking about the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan whose all-Bengali killer armed wings of Al-Badr and Al-Shams fanatics had sought to carry out one of the most merciless and killer pogroms of intellectuals in Dhaka and across the country during the last days of a terminal war in the first and the second week of December 1971. My journalist friends, who had sought me out there, informed me that mass graves of rotting, decapitated bodies had been discovered at Rayerbazar, close to my abandoned Lalmatia residence. I rushed to the spot forthwith in their company before even setting foot at home and reuniting the scattered young family of mine.
As we wound our way through the marshy lowland behind the Physical Training College on Satmasjid Road opposite Lalmatia toward the riverbank, sights of hundreds of people, particularly journalists and foreign TV crew from as far as the United States, drew us to a huge ditch where the decapitated, tortured bodies of the victims of the Jamaat-e-Islami armed cadres lay strewn, one upon the other, in grisly, inhuman heaps. These were the mortal remains of the Al-Badr and Al-Shams killer orgy whose cruel end was being sought to be explained away on the NBC TV camera as the handiwork of the Biharis and the Pakistani military. You and I could have been among them had they been able to get more time to execute the short-listed ‘enemies of Pakistan and Islam’ by their death squads, scouring the city at the dead of the night. The Al-Badr and Al-Shams, it was common knowledge, were the partisan killer forces of the Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan, now of Bangladesh.
I flew into a burst of rage and shouted ‘no’ to the TV camera from a distance. The lenses zoomed at me: I shouted ‘revenge’, unlike Simon Wiesenthal, the Auschwitz survivor and Nazi-hunter who died last week at Vienna, and told the world that the military genocide and the Bihari collaboration aside, these mindless, cowardly executioners were Bengali political zealots belonging to the cadre-based ideological Bangladeshi outfit of the Jamaat-e-Islami. That’s how the world came to know about Al-Badr and Al-Shams — the Jamaat-e-Islam’s killer wings. Bergman’s Channel 4 documentary — The War Crimes File — recaptured a quarter century later the clip of a young man with sideburns from the film archives of the NBC.
Across the physical training college — a place known to me and the mother of my children during our first blind-folded incarceration at the Pakistan army’s hands on April 2, 1971 — and a few hundred yards to the east, my abandoned residence had stood vacant till friends and cousins brought my young family back together in my absence. Things would perhaps have been quite different had they been allowed to travel to the US on tickets sent by Dr FR Khan, architect of the Sears Tower fame. They were denied the right, all on account of me, with strict orders from the military administration not to move without their permission. Be that as it may, a meeting of some of the relatives of the victims of the selective killing of the Al-Badr, Al-Shams was held forthwith at the Dhaka Press Club, the proud symbol and centre of defiance, on December 18, 1971. A committee named the Buddhijibi Nidhan Tathyanushandhan Committee (the committee for inquiring into the killings of the intellectuals) with myself as one of the conveners was formed. The late film-maker and litterateur Zahir Raihan joined the committee as the other convener on his return from exile. The other notable members were late Ehtesham Haider Chowdhury, brother of victim professor Mofazzal Haider Chowdhury, Barrister Amirul Islam, late journalist Ali Ashraf, journalist Ataus Samad, et al.
That’s the genesis of the committee that sat in deposition sessions beginning from December 20, ’71, and worked on the papers, lists and documents recovered from the raids of the killer camps in Dhanmondi, Motijheel and elsewhere in the city. In this effort the Dhaka city brigade, led by the late Major Haider, and a core guerrilla group led by Ahrar Ahmed, presently an academic, Basharat Ali, now with the ILO in Rome, among a number of others, assisted the committee in the field raids and desk-work at the table tennis room of the old redbrick press club building at 18, Topkhana Road, Dhaka.
A lot more had happened since. Zahir Raihan, while being led up the garden path of hope to find his kidnapped brother Shahidullah Kaiser (presumed dead and killed) had gone missing since December 29 in a Mirpur ghetto of the Biharis and the Pakistani army deserters. The committee prepared the report on the basis of the documents and depositions recorded by the desk-teams. The report, which narrowed down the names of the suspects to three in the cases probed, particularly those belonging to the academia and the journalists and the professional communities in Dhaka, was submitted to the acting President, the late Syed Nazrul Islam, on January 8, 1972 by me, Barrister Amirul Islam and the late journalist Ali Ashraf, at the Bangabhaban.
Zahir Raihan was heard of and seen no more, nor was the report. End of the story. But it was the beginning of the Jamaat’s unscathed and unlamented story of not even paying an iota of blood for blood. Its sinewy and secret core organisation remains underneath the closely-knit organisation, closest to the Leninist model, and continues to direct its clandestine agenda as that of 1971, including perhaps the current spate of bigoted militancy, to give Bangladesh a bad name and hang it as well.
BNP-Jamaat axis: the viper doesn’t discard its poison
Chowdhury Mainuddin, the fugitive closet leader of the Al-Badr of the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971, was at the centre-stage of the elimination campaign of the liberal and progressive members of the Bengali intelligentsia who were not necessarily AL partisans, but represented a broad spectrum of left-nationalist opinion outside the AL-ex-Soviet Communist axis of structured command and strict diktat. The bigoted killer now lives happily ever after in London, having escaped incognito in 1971, leaving no trail of his whereabouts in his erstwhile cover-job in the now defunct Dainik Purbodesh published by the Observer group.
Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Mujahid, now the minister-angels in the BNP-led so-called coalition Cabinet, and then the 1971 standard-bearers of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, should be quite familiar with the name. They and the Dhaka murderers in the Al-Badr and Al-Shams, who were named as the direct suspects in the final report of the Buddijibi Nidhan Tathyanusandhan Committee, were known to have been carrying out the command and schemes handed down to them by the parent party. They had secret cabals, otherwise known as the undisclosed party ‘cells’ within the apparatus of the government and the non-government super-structural bodies, trade unions, office associations and other organisations.
But for the physical absence from the killer-campaign proceedings, the two Jamaat leaders, now holding top party posts, have no other alibis to deny their command over the killer wings, or have not done so yet in their ‘ideological righteousness’. In other words, moral compunctions, as in the case of Osama bin Laden’s lunacy, do not occur in their lexicon of faith in the eternal virtue of what the Holy Prophet had designated as the Ayam-e-Jahilyat (the era of ignorance) in what now appears to be the Godforsaken Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its then animistic, idolatrous and tribal neighbourhoods some 1500 years ago.
While bringing to reference the Jamaat’s party structure, which as referred to before is closest to the Leninist model, and rubbishing outright its theocratic and hence retrogressive and anti-modernity pursuit of an authoritarian Islamic state, we stand for the Jamaat’s right to preach its politics, even if it were pro-Pakistan in the 1971 days, and can only rue and not grudge its entrance into the mainstream. We may question, but cannot dictate, the tactical party-lines of the BNP or the AL to forge an election or a movement alliance, as the case may be, in what is a power-contest in a representative and constitutional political order, even if it’s somewhat flawed, as in Bangladesh. But we cannot stay prisoners of the criminality of silence on the part of the Jamaat and its killer role and that of the successive governments, including the BNP which has given it a berth in the Cabinet, over the intellectual killing of 1971 — a grisly war crime that is also not cleansed by the token of a memorial at Rayerbazar. And December 14, the day of mourning and remembrance, is knocking at the door as it does every year without any redemption. Rituals, O’ Rituals.
The analogies for collaboration with the Jamaat by the two mainstream major parties and not seemingly other way round, which have alternated in power since 1991 — a pattern that may not necessarily recur in the 2007 January polls — are mutually opportunistic and unprincipled. As a result, the Jamaat stands sanitised by both the parties which lay their competing claims to the legacy of the 1971 War of Independence. And lo and behold, the Jamaat is now a respectable, if not venerable, member of the establishment.
But what if the Jamaat’s Leninist party structure of secret cabals, armed wings and the mass face of a constitutional party, however primitive and illiberal, are the gross fundaments on which its haunches rest, has not changed and it refuses to atone for its crime of intellectual killing in 1971? What if it is still ruled by the cabal that is wedded to the terror-ideal of an armed Islamic revolution in the end or at the opportune hour? While the crime of 1971 hangs over its head like the masks of the Ku Klux Clan revelling in unrepentant secret and open terror, the trails of August 17 Islamist bombings and some unchecked vigilanteist violence by Bangla Bhai and his mentor Shaikh Abdur Rahman, do not run altogether cold.
Almost all the suspects rounded up so far have either covert or overt organisational connections or links with the Jamaat. The Jamaat’s clandestine ‘cells’ have been known to be very active in the home ministry, which has declared two bounties for the capture of Islam and Rahman, but to no avail. Some universities outside Dhaka and various critical arms of the government apparatus are now thoroughly infiltrated by open or closet Jamaat members, a characteristic of the minority armed organisations of the extreme left and the extreme right ideological variants, anytime, anywhere in the world.
Recently, the grapevine has it, Tarique Rahman, the first joint secretary-general of the BNP and the likely successor in the BNP leadership, was on a quiet visit to the US capital. He understandably met important figures in the administration and also some think-groups in Washington, when he came across the Jamaat question and the BNP’s blind alliance with it. They were not much to his comfort and he reportedly parried them most of the time by pleading patience till such time as the next elections are held, and over and done with in BNP’s favour. While it is likely that the BNP is still favoured by the electorate over the Awami League despite the anti-incumbency factor, polls obligations may entrap the BNP in paying back the Jamaat more than it has already done. For the Jamaat, however, it does not matter if it has to bite the hand that fed it to advance its theocratic and dark political objective.
Two recent anecdotal evidences may be cited to prove the awe in which Jamaat is held in BNP circles. In ‘02 or ‘03 I was invited to a BNP discussion meeting at the Press Club. There were two different meetings being held at around the same time, though not simultaneously, at two different venues of the club — one under the auspices of BNP city committee and another by the late Mesbahuddin Sabu’s Jatyatabadi Muktijoddha Dal in the December days preceding Victory Day on December 16. As coincidence would have it, I walked into the press club auditorium and was instantly offered a chair on the podium. As my innocence would have it, I took a full blast at the Jamaat for its killing of the intellectuals in the terminal days of Pakistan in 1971 and demanded a public account for its role as alleged and proven, and an apology to set history straight and right. It was echoed, as if with renewed vengeance, by the BNP personages scheduled to speak, demanding more than I did. There were standing committee members, top party leaders including the secretary-general and ministers speaking out their mind. Yet all was quiet in the power front, and there were no more such occasions where the intellectual killing could even come up as a reference in the subsequent years.
Shortly afterwards, I was invited to a luncheon meeting by one of Jamaat’s Rokons (central committee member — name withheld) and was surprised at his voluntary mention of December 14 intellectual killing day observed every year and the Jamaat getting the worst brunt of it. He sought my opinion as to what the Jamaat should do. I told him that while I believed in Jamaat’s right to constitutional politics as opposed to the left parties demanding its ban, and also welcomed its mainstreaming, I think the criminality of war proportions needs to be publicly cleared by the Jamaat once and for all. The Rokon also met a number of other independent activists who had fought against the proto-fascist AL regime-turned-one-party Baksal at no less risk than fighting the Pakistanis, whose advice had been on similar lines, I was told. But with some in the BNP leadership endorsing the Jamaat’s 1971 role and its high political virtues, the Jamaat simply would not mind the blame.
They would not also bat an eyelid if, for the sake of attaining the theocratic goal using the establishment in which it has now a foothold. Its secret cabals are ever ready to unleash primitive terror to attain their theocratic objective. For the Jamaatis, nation states don’t matter. And allies? None at all. Jamaat, after all, is extra-national.
Does anyone in BNP care to listen? Will it demand an explanation from the Jamaat for the connections with it of some key suspects in August 17 bombings and its sweep across the country as claimed by the home ministry? We at least know about the intellectual killings. It is the BNP’s obligation to reassure the people and the world and dispel their apprehension of one of the most ruthless fundamentalist parties after the ex-Moscow comrades-turned-members of the bourgeoisie now changing wagons, mostly band-wagons that pay, have gone out of business. Meanwhile the BNP has put the country’s image into serious jeopardy, including its own credentials as a centrist liberal platform by its lovey-dovey alliance with the Jamaat, the persecutors and the killers of 1971.