This is a Digital Library working with the 'collection, maintenance and public viewing' of the historical documents regarding the Bangladesh Liberation War, Genocide of Innocent Bengali People in 1971 and contemporary political events of Bangladesh.

More than three million Bengalis were killed and half a million Bengali women were raped by Pakistan Military Forces, Biharis, Jamat-I-Islami, Islami Chatra Shangha (Now Islam-I-Chatra Shibir), Muslim League, Nezam-I-Islami Party, Razakars, Al-Shams, Al-Badr, Peace Committee, Muzahid Bahini during the nine months long Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.

The Exeter South Asia Centre of the College of Humanities of the University of Exeter listed ‘Muktijuddho e-Archive’ as a source for Research materials.

The University of Exeter is a public research university located in Exeter, Devon, South West England, United Kingdom.
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Cost of a genocide ignored - Ben Kiernan

Collection: Bettmann

Cost of a genocide ignored
Ben Kiernan

THE crisis in Pakistan has made that country a candidate for "the central front of the war on terror", the phrase George W. Bush uses to describe Iraq.
Veteran Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes that "according to US intelligence assessments, the country is now command and control centre" for al-Qa'ida and the Afghanistan Taliban leadership. Since its attacks on the US of September 11, 2001, al-Qa'ida has been notorious for deliberate massacres of civilians that could be termed not only terrorist, but genocidal. When and how did al-Qa'ida emerge in that part of the Muslim world? Why is it that, according to The New York Times, "Almost every major terror attack since 9/11 has been traced back to Pakistani territory"?

Ethnic or religious hatred is central to genocide. But from the colonial era to the Nazis, diverse perpetrators -- military, civilian, secular, religious -- have also exhibited other ideological hallmarks. Most genocidal regimes pursue territorial expansionism and idealist fantasies of ancient glory and agrarian life, as I detail in my new book, Blood and Soil. Such abstract notions influence al-Qa'ida's thinking too, even while it has operated most successfully from a specific region in or near Pakistan.

In the late 20th century, genocide became more globalised and interconnected. Between 1965 and 1983, for instance, the most brutal military dictatorships -- in Indonesia, Pakistan, and Guatemala -- set out to annihilate large opposition movements by slaughtering not only political opponents but also ethnic, national or racial communities. These killer regimes shared other key features. All enjoyed US and other international support. None of the perpetrators of their crimes against humanity faced trial and many held positions of power for decades afterwards, unlike the ringleaders of genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.

Pakistan proved the most telling case of impunity. While the discredited Indonesian and Guatemalan military regimes finally collapsed in the 1990s, the army leadership responsible for the 1971 Bangladesh genocide retained positions of power in Pakistan with less international scrutiny. And Islamists allied to successive military dictatorships thrived there. Religious schools (madrassas) and turbulent frontiers spawned a second rash of genocidal acts by new fundamentalist groups that sprang up in Pakistan and its northern neighbour Afghanistan. The violence and impunity of the Pakistani military dictatorship had thus scattered the seeds of a new crop of catastrophes. Al-Qa'ida found fertile soil where it could flourish in obscurity.

In 1971, Pakistan's military murdered 300,000 to 1 million fellow Muslims and minority Hindus in what became Bangladesh. That crime sprouted in a climate of racism against the local Bengalis, domination of their East Pakistan homeland, quasi-agrarian resentment of Bengali urban populations and a West Pakistani sense of historical superiority. In 1967 Pakistan's then dictator, Ayub Khan, suggested that Bengalis "belong to the very original Indian races", retaining "considerable Hindu cultural and linguistic influence" and a "defensive aggressiveness" due to their "historical background".

But in Pakistan's first national elections in 1970, East Pakistan's pro-independence Awami League swept the polls. The Pakistani army chief, general Yahya Khan, quickly intervened to suppress this threat from the east, the Bengali people. He reportedly told his generals: "Kill three million of them and the rest will eat out of our hands." He appointed a new governor-general of East Pakistan, general Tikka Khan, who arrived threatening a "final solution".

On March 28, 1971, the US consul-general in Dhaka, Archer Blood, sent a cable to Washington headed "Selective Genocide". With army support, he wrote, "non-Bengali Muslims" were shooting Awami supporters, "systematically attacking poor people's quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus". Tikka Khan proclaimed: "I am not concerned with the people. I am concerned with the land." On May 14, Blood dispatched another cable to Washington, entitled "Slaughter of Hindus". He detailed the "pattern of army operations whereby troops entered a village, inquired where the Hindus lived, and then killed the male Hindus". He estimated the toll in thousands.

The Islamist fundamentalist group Jamaat-e-Islami aided the army's violence, while Washington supplied Pakistan with $3.8 million in military equipment. The slaughter continued through 1971. Only an Indian invasion in support of Bengali resistance ended it. The toll disproportionately included Hindus and city dwellers, though most victims were Muslim Bengali villagers. Blood later wrote that although "the term genocide was not appropriate to characterise all killings of Muslim Bengalis", he thought it did apply "fully to the naked, calculated and widespread selection of Hindus for special treatment".

The mass murderers went unpunished. The army and allied Islamic groups continued to dominate Pakistani governments for decades, thus legitimising new slaughters while madrassas in Pakistan trained terrorist recruits from across the globe. In 2006, al-Qa'ida's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, denied the 1971 genocide yet asserted its significance when he claimed that Pakistan was the victim: "Pakistani memory has yet to forget the catastrophe caused by the civil war in East Pakistan."

How did extremism flourish at that frontier of the Muslim world? Before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Pakistani government began to back the Afghan opposition forces, known as mujahidin, as did the US, which in 1979-89 supplied Pakistan with approximately $3 billion for distribution to them. Across the border, mujahidin were joined by Arabs fighting an anti-Soviet jihad, led by Osama bin Laden's newly formed al-Qa'ida.

Soviet troops left Afghanistan in 1988. Communist-led Afghan soldiers began to defect to the Islamic opposition and some came out of Jalalabad to surrender. But Arab jihadis massacred 60 of them, cut them to pieces, packed their remains into fruit cases and sent them by truck back into Jalalabad with a message to its garrison: "This is what awaits the moulheds (unbelievers)!" Afghan communists held out for three more years, until their destruction brought wider slaughter and a new civil war, won by the Pakistan-backed Islamist Taliban movement, al-Qa'ida's eventual Afghan ally.

Meanwhile, after a brief return to Saudi Arabia, bin Laden moved to Sudan. Al-Zawahiri, then head of the Islamic Jihad underground movement in Egypt, joined him in Khartoum. Headquartered there from 1992 to 1996, al-Qa'ida not only nursed its religious hatred but also shared the agrarian fascination common among genocidal groups. In The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006), Lawrence Wright shows that in Sudan, al-Qa'ida became "largely an agricultural organisation". Bin Laden bred Arabian horses, developed a "romantic attachment to native stock" and bought large tracts of Sudanese farmland. He even "said he resolved to quit al-Qa'ida altogether and become a farmer".

He never did, but al-Qa'ida leaders continued to describe their cause in muted agrarianist terms, urging defence of Arabia against "the crusader armies now spreading in it like locusts, consuming its riches and destroying its plantations". Before 9/11, Zawahiri used metaphors of cultivation to describe al-Qa'ida's mission as he fostered a merger of Islamic Jihad with al-Qa'ida, which had moved its headquarters back to Afghanistan.

Al-Qa'ida recruited in Pakistan where the Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose members had participated in the genocide in Bangladesh, led an Islamist alliance that increased its parliamentary representation from two seats in 1993 to 60 in 2002. A Pakistani recruit swore an oath in 1995 to "slaughter infidels my entire life". Bin Laden issued a potentially genocidal fatwa: "The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it." An al-Qa'ida official drafted a confidential questionnaire about the tactics of jihad under Islamic sharia law, seeking guidance from other jihadis for what he called a "lawful study that I am doing on the killing of civilians". His first question was: "What is your lawful stand on the killing of civilians, specifically when women and children are included? And please explain the legitimate law concerning those who are deliberately killed."

Having decided to "attack the head of the snake", al-Qa'ida remained preoccupied with justifying mass murder even after 9/11. In The Truth about the New Crusade: A Ruling on the Killing of Women and Children of the Non-Believers, 9/11 organiser Ramzi bin al-Shibh argued for killing American civilians: "Some might say that it is the innocent, the elderly, the women and the children who are victims, so how can these operations be legitimate according to sharia? And we say that the sanctity of women, children and the elderly is not absolute." For, "God said to assault whoever assaults you, in a like manner". Therefore, bin al-Shibh concluded, "Muslims should not exceed (killing) four million non-combatants."

After 9/11, bin Laden proclaimed: "Yes, we kill their innocents and this is legal religiously and logically. We will not stop killing them." He then added, "Killing Jews is top priority", which is a genocidal directive under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention.

Al-Qa'ida combined its religious violence and agrarian interest with territorial expansionist ambitions that recall other genocidal movements. Zawahiri explained in 2005 that driving the US from Iraq should lead to "a caliphate -- over as much territory as you can". A third stage would follow: "Extend the jihad to the secular countries neighbouring Iraq"; and a fourth: "the clash with Israel". Zawahiri explained that "the mujahidin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons". Al-Qa'ida's projected caliphate extended to the Muslim communities of Southeast Asia and even to regaining "lost territory" such as East Timor.

Similarly, bin Laden's preoccupation with "defence of the Prophet's tradition", restoring the purity of early Islam, echoed cults of antiquity reminiscent of earlier genocidists. According to a visitor to al-Qa'ida's camp in 1996, "Some of bin Laden's followers had taken on the names of military commanders from early Islamic conquests, and I felt as though I had stepped back into the past."

Al-Qa'ida operatives abroad took up this notion of an ancient struggle. In a conversation taped by Italian police, one seemed "in a trance" as he imagined striking Europe's classical capital: "Rome, if God wishes we are entering, even entering Rome ... we are opening Rome ... if God wishes, Rome is opening. It will be."

Al-Qa'ida continued to stress its model of Islamic antiquity after the 2003 US invasion brought chaos to Iraq, and bin Laden adopted an Islamist insurgent force that spread quickly there. This group, under the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had also fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, took the name "al-Qa'ida in Mesopotamia". Al-Qa'ida leaders strove to maintain contact with Zarqawi until US forces killed him in 2006. Zawahiri wrote to Zarqawi, praising his "historic battle against the greatest of criminals and apostates in the heart of the Islamic world, the field where epic and major battles in the history of Islam were fought".

The new caliphate emerging in Iraq would need to fight Shia heresy as in the days of the Prophet. Shia Muslims could never be trusted: "Their prior history in co-operating with the enemies of Islam is consistent with their current reality of connivance with the crusaders."

Echoing bin Laden, Zarqawi labelled Iraq's Shia majority "the lurking snake". They "are where the disease lies", as "friends of the Jews, Franks and polytheists". Zarqawi even cited a 14th-century denunciation of the Shia for bringing "Genghis Khan, the king of the infidels, into the lands of Islam". Confronting the Shia now, he added, requires "the perfume of fragrant blood spilled on behalf of God". Therefore, he concluded, "Let blood be spilled", for "God's religion is more precious than anything and has priority over lives, wealth and children".

Al-Qa'ida's global goal was proliferating warfare. A month after 9/11, apparently planned as a provocation to war, bin Laden predicted to his host, Taliban leader Mullah Omar, that the anticipated retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan would help end the world hegemony of the US.

The war would impose on the US "great long-term economic burdens, leading to further economic collapse, which will force America, God willing, to resort to the former Soviet Union's only option: withdrawal from Afghanistan, disintegration and contraction". After the US invasion, bin Laden gloated that "the third world war has begun".

Zarqawi, too, aimed "to prolong the fighting between us and the infidels". "Someone may say that, in this matter, we are being hasty and rash and leading the (Islamic) nation into a battle for which it is not ready, (a battle) that will be revolting and in which blood will be spilled. This is exactly what we want, since right and wrong no longer have any place." In war, Zarqawi stated, "killing Muslims ... is defending ourselves".

By 2005, Zarqawi's violence against Shia civilian gatherings had escalated so dramatically that Iraq's leading Shia cleric denounced this "mass extermination" of his community, protesting that Iraq was heading towards "genocide". From the Afghan-Pakistan border, even Zawahiri rebuked Zarqawi: "(C)an the mujahidin kill all of the Shia in Iraq? Has any Islamic state in history ever tried that? And why kill ordinary Shia considering that they are forgiven because of their ignorance?" Astonishingly, Zarqawi's massacres had succeeded in making even al-Qa'ida sound moderate by comparison.

Meanwhile, bin Laden returned his gaze to his former ally, Sudan, which he claimed needed help "to defend Islam" against a "Zionist-crusaders war", by which he meant any defence of Darfur's African Muslims against Khartoum's genocide. "I call on mujahidin, especially in Sudan and the Arab peninsula, to prepare for a long war against the crusader plunderers." Arguably, this war had begun in 1971, in Bangladesh. There, with US military aid and international legal impunity, a Pakistani dictatorship had set a precedent for Islamist terrorism by deploying genocide to suppress the democratic vote of a largely Muslim population.

Worse, the US invasion of Iraq so destabilised the country that Zarqawi's small force of several hundred, previously barred by Saddam Hussein, now moved across the country and raised an army of more than 10,000. Recent US military gains, including the killing of Zarqawi, have not put the political genie back in the lamp. The victories of an unpopular occupation force might even increase the local appeal of its equally unpopular opponents.

There is a troubling precedent. The rise of the Khmer Rouge, unleashed after the Vietnam War spilled over into Cambodia, suggests that deployment even of enormous military force cannot stop a genocidal insurgency and may instead fuel it. From 1969 to 1973, while the US Air Force dropped 2.7 million tonnes of bombs on Cambodia, Khmer Rouge forces grew from a few thousand to more than 200,000. They suffered military casualties, but gained politically. Their recruiters successfully used the US bombardment as a propaganda weapon against the pro-American Lon Nol regime. The Khmer Rouge prevailed in 1975 and subjected Cambodia to genocide.

Opinion polls suggest most Iraqis support attacks on US forces. While the US occupies Iraq against their will, even with military successes it will be hard pressed to eliminate al-Qa'ida's political presence and could even continue to fuel it by further inflaming Iraqi nationalism and Islamic fervour. By contrast, a phased American withdrawal, leaving the country to an elected Iraqi government and a well-supplied army with new international support, stands more chance of suffocating al-Qa'ida politically, by depriving it of the oxygen of Iraqi resentment of the US occupation. The US might then be better placed to address the long-term al-Qa'ida threat in Pakistan.