Collaborators Act 1972
The Collaborators Act was a law enacted in 1972 by the government of Bangladesh to try those who did not side with the nationalist cause in the Bangladesh Liberation War, or politically opposed the liberation war or willingly cooperated with the Pakistan Army or committed criminal acts. This law is referred as the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunal) Order 1972, commonly known as Collaborators Act, 1972.
About 2,884 cases were filed under this law until October, 1973. Of the accused, 752 were given punishment. Later on 31 October 1975, the Collaborators Act was dismissed due to several reasons and irregularities found in the law. The law was amended three times.
The Act, was designed to facilitate arrest and trial of accomplices as well as of local perpetrators of the genocide remained in place.
What happened in Bangladesh between March 25 and December 16, 1971 epitomized the spirit of the human will as well as man's unlimited capacity to be brutal towards fellow men. Rarely in the history of mankind have a people displayed so much heroism and suffered so much pain within the space of so short a time as the people of Bangladesh did.
During this war some Bengali civilians took the side of Pakistani Army of occupation. They collaborated the army to occupy the whole Bangladesh and supported the atrocities committed by them.
The members of Pakistan Muslim League, Jamaat-e-Islami, Nizam-e-Islam joined the Peace Committee, which was actually formed to support the atrocities. A dummy cabinet was formed under Nurul Amin in which Abul Kashem, Nawajesh Ahmed, AKM Yousuf, Abbas Ali Khan, Maolana Ishak joined. Obaydullah Mazumder, an Awami League leader also joined in the cabinet. After liberation 46 MNAs from Awami League was denounced or religated from the party. On the other hand, under the supervision of Pakistani Army another force named Rajakar was formed to replace the Ansar. Jamaat-e-Islami leader AKM Yousuf, with 96 members of Jamaat-e-Islami started a training camp in Khulna Ansar and VDP camp to fight against the freedom fighters. Most of the Rajakar personnel were the members of Jamaat-e-Islami
Al-Shams and Al-Badr was also formed in order to counter the guerrilla activities of the Mukti Bahini which grew increasingly organised and militarily successful during in the second half of 1971. All three groups operated under Pakistani command.
The process to try the collaborators during the first days of Bangladesh was not going through any legal process. People were angry and were killing the collaborators without any trail. These activities tarnished the overall image of the nation. Some were being killed because of personal issues. So a government was forced to create a law and begin a trial to pacify the agitation. ==
The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972 was announced to try the local war criminals. On the 24th instant of January 1972 an order came in effect.
The constitution of Bangladesh was also amended to include Article 47 (3) in order to fasten the trial of members “of any armed or defence or auxiliary forces” for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. In addition, The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 was announced on 20 July 1973 mainly to try the Pakistani war criminals.
The government also announced a two-tier trial process where national and international jurists would be appointed to try some high profile war criminals, while an all-Bangladeshi jurist panel would try the rest.
Statements of the GOB
Many statements were provided by the responsible officials of the Government of People's Republic of Bangladesh regarding this issue.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his arrival on 10 January 1972 ensured that the collaborators will be tried along with their Pakistani masters. But he also asked his people to give the responsibility to the government Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ordered Awami League leaders to gather proof against the collaborators and assured that the collaborators will be tried for times and again. Rahman on 12th instant of January, 1972 addressed people saying that, the criminals will not go unpunished under his government.
Mujib on 14 January asked the Awami League activists not to take revenge and assured that legislative measures will be taken against the collaborators in time.
The implementation of the law started on 15 February when an order signed by secretary Taslimuddin Ahmed was circulated stating that 14 top collaborators have to surrender. The list was made addressing Nurul Amin, Ghulam Azam, Khan A Sabur, Shah Azizur Rahman, Maulana Muhammad Ishaq, Khawaja Khayeruddin, Mahmud Ali, AKM Yousuf, Abbas Ali Khan and many others as collaborators. Awami League leader Obaydullah Mazumder of Feni was among the list of the collaborators.
Later some 50,000 collaborators were arrested under the act. Among them 752 were found guilty and was punished.
About 37,471 cases were filed under this law till October, 1973. On 28 March 73 tribunals were formed to try the collaborators. It was also declared that other courts will refrain from the cases under these tribunals.
About 2,884 cases were solved and the verdict was given under this law till October 1973 before the general amnesty was declared by Mujib. Only 752 of them were found guilty and only one of them was sentenced capital punishment. As many as two thousand were acquitted after the trial.
- On 10 February 1973 life imprisonment was sentenced against Maulana Muhammad Ishaq for collaboration.
Chikon Ali, a Rajakar from Mirpur of Kushtia was sentenced to death on 10 June 1972, which was the first ever verdict of capital punishment under the law. The punishment of Chikon Ali was later cut short by the Supreme Court to life imprisonment.
In the July 1972, three brothers of Bogra were given punishment as Nurul Islam of same area filed a murder case them. Mofizur Rahman aka Chan Miah was sentenced to death, Mokhlesur Rahman aka Khoka Mia and Moshiur Rahman aka Lal Miah were sentenced to life imprisonment. After appealing against their punishment Chan Miah was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment while his two brothers were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment both.
A special tribunal sentenced Mokbul Hossain, Ayub Ali and Atiar Rahman to life imprisonment on the Montu murder case.
The Collaborators Act 1972 was a flawed law with many defects. It was amended for at least three times within one year. Many criticised the law because of its defects and irregularities.
The pro-Awami League researcher Shahriar Kabir in cross examination confessed that the trials occurred under this act were never accepted by the families of the martyrs.
Shahin Reza, son of famous journalist Shirajuddin Hossain stated that, the trial of the collaborators was nothing but a kangaroo trial to protect the collaborators. Those who were involved in murders and genocides were set free and the innocents were imprisoned without substantial proof.
Khaleque Mazumder, who killed Shahidullah Kaiser was sentenced to only a seven years imprisonment under the act. Panna Kaiser, the widow of Shahidullah Kaiser marked it as an humiliation of humanity and justice.
Prominent political leaders and intellectuals like Maolana Bhashani, Abdur Rashid Tarkabagish, Abul Mansur Ahmed, Justice S M Morshed, Alim AL Razy, Enayetullah Khan, Ataur Rahman Khan and many others started criticizing the law because of the abusive measures.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself started facing problems while the process to try the collaborators begun. The Awami League leaders and activist getting order from Mujib to submit genocide data started to misusing the power. They started to use the power against their personal foes.
On the other hand, many political parties and its members were convicted of collaboration with Pakistanis. So many of them started criticising the steps taken by the government because of political benefit.
The Collaborators Act faced major legal problems as it was created in a very short time. Barrister Moinul Hossain, an Awami League backed Member of Parliament criticized the law in an article published in The Daily Ittefaq on 19 November 1972.
Barrister Moinul Hossain stated:
|“||According to the first schedule of the legislation, under the Collaborators Act the collaborators will remain out of the purview of principal rights of a citizen. The conflict between Collaborators Act and principal rights is now ascertained. No indication of the time of the offence in the law will be misused by many. According to the law, just because of an accusation according to any hearsay can suspend the principal rights of an innocent citizen.||”|
On the other hand, this law had a provision in its section 7 which stated that the conviction against the criminals will come in effect only if the Officer in Charge of the Police of that particular area certify that as an offence. According to the act, No cases can be filed in the tribunal if the Officer in Charge defies.
Many Police officers took the side of the Pakistani Government during the Bangladesh Liberation War. And most of the families of the collaborators were enough solvent to pay a good margin to Police officers. So Police officers were not enough conscious about these cases.
Another defect was that the act gave the convicts an opportunity to appeal against the verdict while the victims were not given such opportunity.
On 23 July 1972 in an article published on Dainik Bangla some experts stated that,
|“||The tribunals are trying the crimes occurred in a certain period which was actually an emergency one. But still the authority is following the ancient 'Evidence Act' which was actually created to try the offences occurred in the time of peace. While investigating the cases, it is becoming hard to harder to prove it because of the complexities arising.||”|
The Collaborators Act 1972, soon started to prove itself as an spiderweb. The number of big flies trapped in it were very low. Dr. Malik, Maulana Muhammad Ishaq, AKM Yousuf, Izhar Ahmed were the only big figures to be punished. Many others who were directly involved in genocide were freed or went underground.
Muslim League leader Rajakar Athar Ali Khan was the father of a freedom fighter from Bagerhat who attained the gallantry award Bir Sreshtho for his bravery. Athar Ali Khan did not face any trial because of his son.
A Rajakar who later joined Bangladesh Rifles (Presently known as Border Guards Bangladesh) after liberation war remained untouched and promoted in a higher post during Sheikh Mujibur Rahman regime.
Taslimuddin Ahmed, who signed the notification for the 14 collaborators asking them to surrender was himself a collaborator. Another surprising scenario was staged in a special tribunal where a Rajakar recruiting officer became the judge and gave verdict against the one whom he recruited as Rajakar. Many such situations was raised that time.
Those who had close relation with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were never tried. Mujib himself freed collaborators like Khan A Sabur, Shah Azizur Rahman, Wahiduzzaman, Mawlana Abu Zafar Mohammad Saleh, former Awami League leader AKM Shamsul Haque and many others.
After liberation war, a committee was formed under Nilima Ibrahim to find out the collaborators who worked in Radio Pakistan. 43 people were found by the committee who worked for Pakistan. Unfortunately no action were taken against them as they were the part of progressive society as well as Awami League and some of them were killed by Pakistanis.
Lieutenant Colonel Firoz Salahuddin, who recruited many Rajakar and was loyal to the Pakistan Army till the end of liberation war was rehabilitated in the Bangladesh Army after the liberation war for having close relation with M. A. G. Osmany.
Suddenly in late October 1973 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided to break his promise to try the collaborators. On November 30 of the same year Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh declared a general amnesty for the convicted and punished prisoners under the Collaborator Act 1972.
The declaration was depicted in the newspapers on December 1, 1973. Dainik Bangla, stated the news with the headline, "General Amnesty Declared upon the Punished Prisoners under Collaborators Act". The newspaper said,
|“||Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has declared a general mercy for the convicted and punished prisoners under the Collaborator Act. Persons who have been imprisoned under the Collaborator Ordinance (Special Tribunal) 1972, against whom there is a warrant or those who are wanted and those who have been punished will be imposed this general mercy and soon they will be freed. Yet those who have killed people, raped and set fire or caused to damage people’s homestead with explosives or convicted for damaging water-transport whatsoever will not be considered under this act. A Governmental press-note issued on Friday night last says this General amnesty.||”|
It added that,
|“||Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman says, Government has declared this general mercy for the people arrested and convicted under Collaborator Act so that people from all corners can enjoy the Victory Day 16th December together indiscriminately and take oath to build our country. Bangabandhu has ordered the Home Ministry to take necessary steps so that these persons can get released from Jail soon and join the victory festival coming on 16th December. The persons freed are urged to be united with spirit of victory and are requested to take the responsibility of working as a safeguard for our independence.||”|
The declaration made a massive impact, criticism and reaction in the country.
Many prominent collaborators were freed after the declaration gradually.
Khwaja Khairuddin, who was the cief of the Peace Committee was freed on 7 December 1973 from jail. Khairuddin was jailed for life by the tribunals.
Muslim league leader Khan A Sabur was freed from jail on 5 December 1973 from jail.
Shah Azizur Rahman, Wahiduzzaman, Mawlana Abu Zafar Mohammad Saleh, former Awami League leader AKM Shamsul Haque, A. K. Faezul Huq, AKM. Yousuf, Abbas Ali Khan and many others got freed after the declaration.
Among them AKM Yousuf and Khwaja Khairuddin were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Repeal of the law
After the fall of Mujib in 15 August 1972 and unfortunate killing of four top leaders from Bangladesh Awami League, an ordinance was declared which halted the activity under this act. Later on President Ziaur Rahman repealed the act on December 31, 1975.
Text of the Ordinance
WHEREAS it is expedient to repeal the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972 (P.O. No. 8 of 1972), and to provide for certain matters ancillary thereto;
NOW, THEREFORE, in pursuance of the Proclamations of the 20th August, 1975, and 8 November 1975, and in exercise of all powers enabling him in that behalf, the President is pleased to make and promulgate the following Ordinance:-
1.This Ordinance may be called the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) (Repeal) Ordinance, 1975. 2. # (1) The Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order, 1972 (P.O. No. 8 of 1972), hereinafter referred to as the said Order, is hereby repealed.
- (2) Upon the repeal of the said Order under sub-section (1), all trials or other proceedings thereunder pending immediately before such repeal before any Tribunal, Magistrate or Court, and all investigations or other proceedings by or before any Police Officer or other authority under that Order, shall abate and shall not be proceeded with.
- (3) Nothing in sub-section (2) shall be deemed to affect -
- (a) the continuance of any appeal against any conviction or sentence by any Tribunal, Magistrate or Court under the said Order; or
- (b) except to the extent provided in that sub-section, the operation of section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897 (X of 1897).
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