Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami yesterday told the International Crimes Tribunal-1 that genocide was carried out during the Liberation War in 1971, but denied his involvement in the war crimes.
Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha, historically known as an anti-liberation force, actively collaborated with the Pakistani occupation army that committed nine-month atrocities to foil the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
But they always refrained from saying anything about the mass killing and genocide committed during the Liberation War.
During the war, Nizami was the president of Pakistan ICS (now Islami Chhatra Shibir), which formed Al Badr, a band of collaborators, infamous for orchestrating the killing of intellectuals, according to historical records.
Nizami took an opportunity yesterday to address the Tribunal-1 as, after reading out of the charges against him, it asked whether he pleaded guilty or not.
Otherwise, the man who for decades has been one of the country's most recognised war crimes suspect sat quietly in the dock, intently listening to his charges read before him.
“I want to clearly say that my role during the Liberation War did not extend beyond the sphere of political activities,” he told the tribunal.
The “tragic incident” would not have taken place if the country's power was handed over to the elected representatives of 1970 general election in the then East Pakistan, he said.
The Jamaat chief, however, did not say his definition of the “tragic incident”.
“This is a matter of investigation that whether Bhutto saheb used Yahya Khan or Yahya Khan used Bhutto [in 1971],” he told the tribunal.
In 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the chief of Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), which opposed Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman-led Awami League's taking over power even after the AL won majority in 1970 national assembly polls.
Yahya Khan, the Pakistan military dictator who was then the president of Pakistan, also refused to hand over state power to Awami League. Instead, he launched mass killing and genocide against Bangalees on the night of March 25, 1971.
“We had no link to creating the situation of genocide at that time,” Nizami said. “Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Nayak [key person] of the genocide.”
Out of the 16 charges brought against Nizami, four pointed fingers at the Jamaat ameer for making speeches inciting members of Razakar, Al Badr and other auxiliary forces to commit atrocities during the Liberation War.
Nizami told the court yesterday that the speeches mentioned in the charges were taken from newspapers.
He said he had visited some places and delivered speeches in 1971 as the president of ICS. However, he did not “own” all his statements published in newspapers.
The Sangram, mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami, quoted Nizami on September 15, 1971, as saying: “Everyone of us should assume the role of a Muslim soldier of an Islamic state, and through cooperation to the oppressed and by winning their confidence we must kill those, who are hatching conspiracies against Pakistan and Islam.”
About other charges including murder and torture, Nizami said the incidents took place neither in his presence nor with his knowledge.
“I don't think there is any scope of accusing someone of war crimes for his political role,” he said.