Saturday, February 26, 2011

Razakars (Pakistan)

Razakar (Bengali: রাজাকার) was the name given to a paramilitary force organized by the Pakistan Army during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.
The word razakar, originating from Persian, literally means "volunteer". The Razakar force was composed of mostly pro-Pakistani Bengalis and Urdu-speaking migrants living in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Initially, the force was under the command of local pro-Pakistani committees, but through the East Pakistan Razakar Ordinance (promulgated by General Tikka Khan on 1 June 1971) and a Ministry of Defence ordinance (promulgated 7 September 1971), Razakars were recognized as members of the Pakistan Army. Razakars were allegedly associated with many of the atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army during the 9-month war (see 1971 Bangladesh atrocities).


In 1971, after military crackdowns, Razakar force was created under Pakistan Army Act Sub-Section 1. Under Sub-Section 2 and 5 two other paramilitary forces Al-Badr and Al-Shams were created as well in 1971. The Pakistan government published gazette of these in September,1971 from Rawalpindi's Army Headquarter. After gazette the Razakars started executing and eliminating pro-independence Bangladeshis. Later on, Pakistani President published notification, and Razakars were receiving monthly salary and ration ( food supplies). Major General Jamsid was head of Razakar force.
Al-Badr force was created in October and started operation in November.
Shanti Komiti ( Peace Committee ) was created politically where Golam Azam and Khza Khairuddin was in charge of peace committee [1] These Pakistani offsprings were organized into Brigades of around 3-4000 volunteers , mainly armed with Light Infantry weapons provided by the Pakistani Army. Each Razakar Brigade was attached as an auxiliary to two Pakistani Regular Army Brigades, and their main function was to arrest and detain nationalist Bengali suspects. Usually such suspects were often tortured to death in custody. The Razakars were trained in the conventional army fashion by the Pakistan Army.
Following the liberation of East Pakistan as the independent country of Bangladesh, most of the leading Razakars, allegedly including Ghulam Azam, fled to Pakistan (previously West Pakistan). Ghulam Azam maintains that he went to Pakistan to participate in the Annual General Meeting of his organization, the Jamaat-e-Islami, but he was forced to remain overseas until General Ziaur Rahman allowed him to return to Bangladesh. Many of the lower ranking Razakars who remained in Bangladesh were killed in the course of reprisals immediately after the end of fighting while as many as 36,000 were imprisoned. Of the latter many were later freed mainly because of pressure from US and China who backed Pakistan in the war, and because Pakistan was holding 200,000 Bengali speaking military and civilian personnel who were stranded in West Pakistan during the war.[2]
After the restoration of democracy in 1992, an unofficial and self-proclaimed “People's Court” (Bengali: গণআদালত Gônoadalot) “sentenced” Ghulam Azam and his ten accomplices to death for war crimes and crimes against humanity. However, as the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party was already a part of the ruling alliance in Bangladesh, the “verdict” was ignored. Moreover, the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government re-granted Bangladeshi nationality to Ghulam Azam, as it had been taken from him after the war. Subdued during the rule of Awami League from 1996-2001, Jamaat-e-Islami returned in full force after the next election in October 2001 in which a four party alliance led by BNP won a landslide victory. The new leader of Jamaat after Ghulam Azam’s retirement, Motiur Rahman Nizami, a Razakar and among the ten people tried by the Gônoadalot, became an influential minister in the government.
The word রাজাকার razakar today carries the meaning "traitor" in common Bangladeshi Bengali parlance, similar to the usage of the word Quisling after the Second World War.

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