NEWS FROM BANGLADESH, NOV 10, 99
By Jamal Hasan
Who’s Ashrafuzzaman Khan? Why is it so important that we now know the content of his dairy? Please be patient and read this write-up. I will let you draw your own conclusion regarding the culpability of this man.
It was the first week of December of 1971 — it was also the final chapter in our nine month long days of fire and blood. Forces under the joint command of our valiant Mukti Bahini and the Indian army had almost encircled Dacca from all directions. But even as all seemed lost for the beleaguered Pakistani armed forces, sinister forces were at work at the Governor’s House determined more than ever to deliver the coup de grâce to the “upstarts” who had refused to accept the fate of a subject race. General Niazi was huddling with his comrade the infamous Major General Rao Farman Ali, and their chief troubleshooter, Major Siddique Salek. They had just received the list they had been expecting from Al-Badr and Al-Shams. Ashrafuzzaman Khan, a commander of the brutal Al-Badr, had just compiled a list of Bengali intellectuals for the “benefit” of the high command in the Governor’s House. It was the list of intellectuals who have been targeted for elimination. The plan was to kill them immediately so that if Bangladesh becomes an independent nation, it will have to make do without those that can contribute significantly to rebuild the infrastructure of the devastated nation. It would be Pakistan’s parting kick to Bangladesh, so to speak.
Many of the Bengali intellectuals listed by Ashrafuzzaman Khan were taken out of their homes in the dead of night in that eventful week of December in 1971. Needless to say, none of them lived to see the light of day. Even in the moment of their defeat, Generals Niazi and Ali must have relished the thought that they have forced Bangladesh to pay an extremely heavy price for its independence. It must have given them no little pleasure to imagine that Bangladesh will fall apart in no time without the services of so many of its leading intellectuals.
Bangladesh was liberated on December 16, 1971. Unfortunately, it took longer than it should have taken for the new administration to attend to its tasks. By the time the investigators arrived at the residence of Ashrafuzzaman Khan, he had fled. However, in haste, he had left behind a crucial piece of evidence. The investigators rummaging through his leftover items managed to recover that piece of the puzzle from his house. They found Ashrafuzzaman Khan’s diary. In it was that infamous list of intellectuals in his own handwriting. It was indeed a gruesome find that shocked the people. Ashrafuzzaman Khan was a wanted man. Photos of the suspect were posted in all Bangladeshi newspapers. People were urged to apprehend the criminal. But all this was too late. Ashrafuzzaman had managed to flee not just his residence, but his country as well by the time the search was on for his arrest.
Today, Ashrafuzzaman Khan leads an active life of all places in New York. He has assumed a role of leadership in the Islamic movement in the city. Ashrafuzzaman Khan is now the President of the Islamic Circle of North America. I was reminded anew of his terrible past as I read a recent issue of the Washington Post (November 1, 1999). It carried a statement by Ashrafuzzaman Khan on the tragic Egypt air accident. Ashrafuzzaman Khan was quoted as saying, “Sometimes, we face that we are helpless…. another man lost his parents. Nobody knows anything. Everybody is sad. But we have to put our faith in God.” This is coming from the man whose infamous list had left so many children without their fathers in that fateful week in December of 1971. What an irony it is that this conspirator par excellence of Bangalee intellectual killings in 1971, is now a dyed-in-the-wool humanist, after all these years! But, is he a humanist? No. He is just a wolf in sheep’s skin. That is what he is!
We, Bangladeshis, seem to be singularly devoid of self-esteem. Bangladesh had failed miserably to bring the war criminals to justice after the surrender of Generals Niazi and Ali on 16th December 1971. And today, Sheikh Hasina seems to be more interested in pursuing only those that had killed her kith and kin on 15th August 1975. No one seems interested to bring the killers of 1971 to justice. To me, this is the greatest travesty of justice in Bangladesh.
Of course, Ashrafuzzman Khan hasn’t quite been allowed to forget his criminal past. A few years ago, Shahriar Kabir, a leader of Ghatok Dalal Nirmul (Efface the killers and conspirators) Committee exposed the whereabouts of Ashrafuzzaman Khan who, needless to say, stoutly denies any wrongdoing. But editions of the directory of collaborators, “Ekatturer Ghatok Dalal Kay Kothai” (Where are the killers and conspirators of 1971?”) continues to carry Ashrafuzzaman Khan’s photo together with a print of the pages of his infamous diary.
The Nirmul (Efface) Committee has branches in almost all States of USA. Most of the members were very active under the leadership of Shaheed Janani Jahanara Imam. They had even sent a lawyer to assist the prosecution during the epoch making People’s Trial of Prof. Golam Azam and his cohorts. When will they go after Ashrafuzzaman Khan? In America, it shouldn’t be too difficult to force a war criminal to answer in a court of law. The million-dollar question is — who will bell the cat?
Jamal Hasan writes from Washington, DC. His email address is: [email protected]
“Genocide’71 – an account of the killers and collaborators”, Published in Dhaka, Page 189: Segment where Ashrafuzzaman Khan (now in New York, and head of Queens branch of ICNA) is cited.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia is serving as a sanctuary for some of the leading Al-Badrs (leaders of death squads in 1971). Here we would like to give the example of Ashrafuzzaman Khan, one of the Al-Badr high command. Ashrafuzzaman Khan, was one of the chief Al-Badr executioners. It has been clearly proved that he himself shot to death 7 teachers of the Dhaka University in the killing fields at Mirpur. A certain Mofizzuddin, who drove the vehicle which took these helpless victims of Ashrafuzzaman to Mirpur, has clearly identified Ashrafuzzaman as the “chief executer” of the intellectuals.
After Liberation, Ashrafuzzaman’s personal diary was recovered from 350 Nakhal Para where he resided. On two pages of the diary, the names of 19 teachers of the University have been entered, as well as their addresses in the University quarters. The name of the Dhaka University Medical Officer, Mohammad Murtaza, has also been noted down in this diary. Of these 20 persons, eight were missing on December 14: Munier Chowdhury (Bengali), Dr. Abul Khair (History), Ghiasuddin Ahmed (History), Rashidul Hasan (English), Dr. Faizul Mohi (I. E. R) Dr. Munaza (Medical Officer).
From the confession of Mofizuddin, it has been learned that Ashrafuzzaman shot these people with his own hands. As a result of Mofizuddin’s confession, the decomposed bodies of these unfortunate teachers were recovered from the marshes of Rayer Bazar and the mass grave at Shiyal Bari at Mirpur. There were other names in the diary including the following: Dr. Wakil Ahmed (Bengali), Dr. Nilima Ibrahim (Bengali), Dr. Latif (I. E. R), Dr. Maniruzzaman (Geography), K. M. Saaduddin (Sociology), A. M. M. Shahidullah (Mathematics), Dr. Sirajul Islam (Islamic History), Dr. Akhtar Ahmed (Education), Zahirul Huq (Psychology), Ahsanul Huq (English), Serajul Islam Chowdbury (English), and Kabir Chowdhury.
On another page of the diary there were the names of 16 collaborating teachers of the University. Apart from these there were also the names of Chowdbury Moinuddin, the man in charge of the operation to kill intellectuals, Showkat Imran, a member of the central Al-Badr command, and the head of the Dhaka Badr forces.
Apart from the names of the slain intellectuals, the diary also contained the names and addresses of several other Bengalis. All of them lost their lives at the hands of the Al-Badr. On a small piece of paper the name of the Member Finance of the Pakistan Jute Board, Abdul Khaleq, had been written down, along with the name of his father, his Dhaka address, as well as his permanent address. On December 9, 1971, the Al-Badr took away Abdul Khaleq from his office. They demanded Taka 10,000 as ransom. The Al-Badr then went to Abdul Khaleq’s house carrying a letter from him in which he asked that the money be paid to his kidnappers. Abdul Khaleq’s wife was unable to give more than Taka 450 at the time. She promised that she would give them the rest of the money later, and pleaded with them to return her husband. But Abdul Khaleq never came back.
Ashrafuzzaman has also been implicated in the murder of some journalists. It was Ashrafuzzaman who kidnapped the shift-in- charge of the Purbodesh, and the Literary Editor, A. N. M. Gholam Mustafa.
Ashrafuzzaman Khan, was a member of the Central Committee of the Islami Chhatra Sangha. After liberation he went to Pakistan. At present he is employed in Radio Pakistan.
Update: Since publication of this book, Ashrafuzzaman Khan has moved to New York and now heads the Queens branch of ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America)