Al-Shams (East Pakistan)

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The Al-Shams (Bengali: আল শামস) was a paramilitary wing of several Islamist parties in East Pakistan, that along with the Pakistan Army, Razakars and the Al-Badr, is held responsible for conducting a mass killing campaign against Bengali nationalists, civilians, religious and ethnic minorities during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The group was banned by the independent government of Bangladesh, but most of its members had fled the country during and after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which led to Bangladesh's independence.

Very little is known about the structure and composition of the group. Newspaper coverage from that period indicate that it was an organ of the razakar para-military force. Jamaat-e-Islami was the largest Islamic party in Pakistan at that time. It seems that other Islamic factions, including Nezam-e-Islami and Muslim League, established the Al-Shams (meaning "the Sun"), as a response to Jamaat-e-Islami's strong influence on the military junta. Jamaat's paramilitay, Al-Badr, was a close ally of the occupation army, and Al-Shams wanted to compete for that status.

Naming and Inspirations[edit]

Al-Shams is an Arabic word meaning 'The Sun'. Al Shams and Al-Badr were Pakistani armed groups formed by the Pakistan Army to fight out and resist Mukti Bahini and support the army in its campaigns in the former East Pakistan.

Background[edit]

On 25 March 1971, after Operation Searchlight, the exiled leadership of what is now Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan and armed struggle against the Pakistani Army began. This struggle was spearheaded by elements of Mukti Bahini with strong support from India. As most of the locals were in support of Mukti Bahini, the Pakistani Army, composed largely of elements from Punjab, found itself and its cause pretty much alienated from the local populace.

In order to counter this situation, the Pakistan Army accepted help from Islamic fundamentalist parties including Jama´at E Islami, proclaiming Jihad against Indians, to seek unity among the population for the two wings of Pakistan, in the name of religion. This Jihad was between the Pakistani Army and the liberation forces and their supporters (Indians and Mukti Bahini). To recruit the local populace into fighting the independence movement, two sister organizations Al Badr (literally meaning The Moon, but also has a reference to the famous Battle of Badr) and Al Shams were formed.

Activities[edit]

The organizations failed to attract then East Pakistani population in the name of religion and Jihad and only a handful supporters joined the movement. The organization worked as the local guides for Pakistan Army supporting the troops providing logistics and information. However, as it failed to penetrate the general public which supported independence from Pakistan, its operational capabilities and efficiency remained low.

According to witnesses before the International Crimes Tribunal, the Al Shams was under the command of Fazlul Quader Chowdhury and led on the ground by his son Salauddin Quader Chowdhury in Chittagong.[1] The other important members were former M.P. Syed Wahidul Alam of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Saifuddin Quader Chowdhury, the younger brother of Saluddin Quader Chowdhury.[1] They used to patrol the neighbourhoods of Satkania, Rauzan, Boalkhali, Patia and Rangunia in a jeep. They would set fire to Hindu houses and arrest anybody they suspected of being supportive towards the Mukti Bahini.[1] The suspects were taken to Salauddin Quader Chowdhury's residence Goods Hill, which had been converted to a torture cell, where they were tortured and killed. Their bodies were disposed off in the Karnafuli.[1]

On 12 December, the Al Shams and the Al Badr leadership jointly prepared the blueprint for killing the intellectuals. The Al Shams and Al Badar leadership met with Major General Rao Farman Ali and finalized the blueprint.[2]

Abolition[edit]

The general surrender of 16 December 1971 culminates all armed resistance from Pakistani side and the two organizations ceased to exist.

See also[edit]

References[edit]