The death of Ghulam Azam inevitably raises the question of all those other prominent Bengalis who saw nothing wrong in collaborating with the Pakistan occupation army in 1971. At a time when the Yahya Khan military junta repudiated the results of the general elections, held in December 1970, and which gave the Awami League a clear majority and thereby the right to form Pakistan's central government, this handful of Bengalis voiced no protest when the soldiers went on their mission of genocide. Instead, with alacrity they offered their support and services to the army and went about noting, parrot-like, that conditions in 'East Pakistan' were returning to 'normal' and that the 'miscreants and Indian agents' --- their term for the Mukti Bahini --- were being eliminated by the 'patriotic people of East Pakistan.'
The rest, as they say, is history.
And at this point, it becomes necessary for the nation to remind itself of what collaborators like Ghulam Azam did or what happened to them once Bangladesh stood liberated on 16 December 1971. So here goes:
MaulviFarid Ahmed, an accomplished parliamentarian and chief of the Nizam-e-Islam party, was throughout the course of the nine-month War of Liberation a vocal defender of the Pakistan army's action in Bangladesh. He was captured by the Mukti Bahini within days of liberation and has not been heard of since.
Abdul Monem Khan, long-serving governor of East Pakistan under Field Marshal Ayub Khan, once boasted that as long as he was in charge in Dhaka, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would never emerge free from prison. Bangabandhu was freed from the Agartala conspiracy case in February 1969 while Monem was still governor. In 1971, his support for the army was unequivocal. He was killed by the Mukti Bahini at his residence in Banani in October 1971.
Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, a minister and speaker of the Pakistan national assembly in the Ayub Khan era, was president of the Convention Muslim League in 1971. He went around occupied Bangladesh expressing support for the army in its mission of 'preserving the integrity and unity' of Pakistan. His family is alleged to have been behind the murder of a number of freedom fighters in Chittagong. Once Bangladesh stood liberated, Chowdhury tried to flee to Burma but was arrested and lodged in Dhaka Central Jail. He died in prison.
Khan Abdus Sabur, the influential minister of communications in the Ayub Khan government, told the media a few days before liberation that if Bangladesh emerged, it would be as an illegitimate child of India. He was arrested after liberation but freed under a general amnesty decreed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's government in late 1973. In 1979, with Bangladesh headed by military ruler General Ziaur Rahman, Sabur was elected to the Jatiyo Sangsad. At the time of his death in the 1980s, he was president of the Bangladesh Muslim League.
Shah Azizur Rahman, vociferous in his support for the repressive policy of the Yahya Khan regime, was appointed leader of the Pakistan delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in September 1971. He was detained after liberation. Shah Aziz saw his days of glory return when he was appointed prime minister of Bangladesh by President Ziaur Rahman soon after the general elections of 1979.
Syeda Razia Faiz, member of Pakistan's national assembly in the Ayub era, was one of the members of the Pakistan delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1971. She was placed under house arrest after liberation. In 1979, she re-emerged in politics through winning one of the two JatiyoS angsad seats vacated by her party leader Khan Abdus Sabur. In 1989, she joined the Jatiyo Party and was appointed a minister by General Hussein Muhammad Ershad. Subsequently, she joined the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. She died last year.
Tridiv Roy, the Chakma Raja, supported the army action in 1971. On the day of Bangladesh's liberation, he found himself stranded in Rawalpindi, where he had gone for consultations with President Yahya Khan. On Yahya's fall, Tridiv Roy joined the government of President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as a minister. At a later stage, he served as Pakistan's ambassador-at-large. Even later, he was Pakistan's ambassador to Argentina. He died a few years ago in Islamabad.
Nurul Amin, once chief minister of East Pakistan and in 1971 president of the Pakistan Democratic Party, was among the group of politicians who met General Tikka Khan soon after the launch of the genocide by the army. Over the next many months, Aminstayed supportive of the military action in Bangladesh. He was in Rawalpindi when war between India and Pakistan broke out on 3 December 1971. He was appointed prime minister, with Z.A. Bhutto as deputy prime minister and foreign minister, by Yahya Khan. Once Bhutto took over as Pakistan's president on 20 December 1971, Nurul Amin was appointed vice president of the country, a position he retained till 1973. He died in 1974 and was buried beside the grave of Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Karachi.
Syed Sajjad Husain, reputed academic and scholar in English literature, was vice chancellor of Rajshahi University when he was appointed vice chancellor of Dhaka University by Tikka Khan in 1971. He went abroad with some other academics in the course of the war, to defend the army action and to deny that any teachers or students had been murdered by the soldiers. He was roughed up by the Mukti Bahini after liberation. Soon after, he left for Saudi Arabia, where he taught for a number of years, before returning to Bangladesh.
Mahmud Ali, prominent Bengali politician from Sylhet and a fervent supporter of the Pakistan occupation army, was in Pakistan when the final push for Bangladesh's liberation commenced. He was to serve as a minister in Z.A. Bhutto's government for a good number of years and till the end of his life believed 'East Pakistan' would return to being part of Pakistan. Reminded by Pakistani journalists in early 1996 that Bangladesh was a sovereign state recognised by Pakistan, Mahmud Ali blandly remarked, 'East Pakistan will always be in my heart.'
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of some Bengalis who let the nation down in its hour of greatest peril. There are others; and many of them were to ascend to high positions in this People's Republic they opposed so virulently --- forty three years ago.
The writer is Associate Editor of The Daily Observer