An account of events chronicled by the commander of Pakistani occupying forces in 1971 renders rather untrue Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh's vehement claim that they were not involved in anti-liberation activities, by categorically saying that the Army of Razakars was formed by the erstwhile Pakistan government itself to fight against the liberation forces of Bangladesh.
Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, who led the Pakistani occupation forces as the chief of the eastern command of Pakistan Army in 1971, in his book titled 'The Betrayal of East Pakistan' described the formation of the Army of Razakars, their training, procurement of weapons and other logistics, and the deployment of the paramilitary vigilante force.
To train the Razakars, military schools were set up, a separate Razakars Directorate was established, they were provided with machine guns, sten guns, and with intelligence against the Bangalee freedom fighters, and against their supporters and sympathisers.
According to Niazi's book, Jamaat-e-Islami, Nizam-i-Islam Party, and several factions of Muslim League were known as rightist political parties at the time, and the Army of Razakars was formed with men recruited from those parties.
But, Jamaat-e-Islami men were dominating the Razakars annoying other parties. Major Saddik Salik, who was the public relations officer of the then eastern command of Pakistan Army and worked closely with Niazi in 1971, in his own book titled 'Witness to Surrender', said in September 1971 a political delegation from erstwhile West Pakistan complained to General Niazi that he had raised an army comprising men nominated by Jamaat-e-Islami.
"The general [Niazi] called me to his office and said: From now on, you will call the Razakars -- Al-Badr and Al Shams -- to give the impression that they do not belong to one single party," Salik wrote.
Interestingly enough, Niazi dedicated his book to the Razakars and the Mujahids of East Pakistan along with the members of the armed forces, civil armed forces, civilian officers, and the West Pakistan police saying they 'strove hard, made supreme sacrifices and suffered humiliation to keep Pakistan united'.
Major Salik said in his book, the only people who came forward to form the Army of Razakars were the rightists like Khwaza Khairuddin of Council Muslim League, Fazlul Qader Chaudhry of Convention Muslim League, Khan Sobur A Khan of Muslim League Qayyum, Prof Golam Azam of Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulvi Farid Ahmed of Nizam-i-Islam Party.
Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Golam Azam, Abbas Ali Khan, Motiur Rahman Nizami, and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed launched a countrywide campaign urging the youth to join the Razakars, Al-Badrs, and the Al-Shams to resist the liberation forces of Bangladesh. The then home ministry also sent reports to West Pakistan about their activities in favour of the Pakistan occupation forces.
Forming the Razakars
About the formation of the Army of Razakars, Niazi in his book said, "The proposal for raising an organised Razakar Force remained under consideration with HQ, CMLA and GHQ for a long time. Although their recruitment had started earlier, sanction for the raising of this force was given at the end of August 1971."
"A separate Razakars Directorate was established, and the whole set up started taking proper shape. Two separate wings called Al-Badr and AL-Shams were organised. Well educated and properly motivated students from the schools and madrasas were put in Al-Badr wing, where they were trained to undertake 'Specialised Operations', while the remainder were grouped together under Al-Shams, which was responsible for the protection of bridges, vital points and other areas," Niazi went on.
About the deployment of the Razakars, Niazi who was also appointed as the martial law administrator in the then East Pakistan in September 1971, said the Razakars were mostly employed in areas where the Pakistan occupation army was around to control and utilise them. Being an army of rookies not fully trained, the Razakars were prone to subversion through local influences, he added.
"---- this force [Razakar] was useful where available, particularly in the areas where the rightist parties were in strength and had sufficient local influence," Niazi said in the book.
"Seventy percent of the target ceiling, of 50,000 Razakars spread over all the districts of the province, was achieved. Battle schools were established to train Razakar platoon and company commanders. To provide an effective command structure to this organisation, about sixty young officers were selected to be appointed as Razakar Group Commanders," Niazi said.
Obtaining weapons for the Razakars
Niazi said all engaged in operations having Razakar elements among them, felt that in order to make the Razakars really effective in the field, they must be equipped with automatic weapons. That was important, as the rebels were carrying automatic weapons, which were far superior to those issued to the Razakars, said Niazi, who surrendered to the allied forces of Mukti Bahini and the Indian military on December 16, 1971 in Dhaka.
"To cater for only one light machine gun and one sten gun per Razakar platoon, we required a minimum number of 2,500 light machine guns and an equal number of sten guns. Unfortunately, we could only provide them with 275 light machine guns and 390 sten guns. This reflects the poor state of weapons with the Razakars. It adversely affected their morale and their overall performance in the field against the well equipped Mukti Bahini. The Razakars felt that they were not being trusted with superior arms. This state of affairs was further aggravated as the Razakars were already exposed to the local negative influence and to Indian propaganda. In order to keep them under control and utilize them properly, they were mixed with West Pakistani police and non-Bengali elements," Niazi said in his book.
Niazi in his book also said some Mujahid battalions and independent Mujahid companies were employed in operational duties along with the regular forces. Their battalion commanders started arriving in East Pakistan in November 1971. This force was also short of weapons and equipment. A case was taken up with the Military Operation and Infantry Directorate at GHQ, but they also had their own limitations. Most of the men of that force were local with quite a few deserting the camps.
World press on the Razakars
New York Times, on July 30, 1971, ran a report on the formation of the Army of Razakars where the following was printed: "The Razakars.....should be specially helpful as members of rural communities, who can identify guerrillas [freedom fighters], an army officer said...The government says it has already recruited more than 22,000 Razakars of a planned force of 35,000."
The Wall Street Journal on July 27, 1971 reported on Razakars, which said, "To help control the Bengali population, the Pakistan Army has been setting up a network of Peace Committees superimposed upon the normal civil administration, which the army cannot fully rely upon."
"Peace Committee members are drawn from.....Biharis and from the Muslim Leagues and Jamat-e-Islami. The peace committees serve as the agent of army, informing on civil administration as well as on general populace. They are also in charge of confiscating and redistribution of shops and lands from Hindus and pro-independence Bengalis. The Peace Committee also recruits Razakars...many of them are common criminals who have thrown their lots with the army," The Wall Street Journal added.
Jamaat leaders in 1971
While visiting an Al-Badr camp on September 22, 1971 Motiur Rahman Nizami, the present chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh said, "Only the patriotic youths of East Pakistan can effectively annihilate the Indian infiltrators and their local agents."
Addressing a gathering of Razakars in Jessore, Nizami said, "Every single one of us must identify ourselves as soldiers of Islam and we have to use all our forces to destroy the people who are involved in an armed conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam," Sangram, the official voice of Jamaat, reported on September 15, 1971.
Current Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islaimi Bangladesh Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, who was the president of the Dhaka unit of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Shangha (ICS) in 1971, directed his activists to build the Al-Badr Bahini to resist the freedom fighters of Bangladesh back then, according to a 'fortnightly secret report on the situation in East Pakistan', which was a routine report of the political section of the then East Pakistan home ministry to the head of the erstwhile Pakistan government, General Yahya Khan.
Mojaheed at a meeting of ICS in Rangpur on October 17, 1971 directed his vigilantes to build the Al-Badr Bahini. He told the meeting that 'anti-Islamist forces' must be resisted. He also emphasised organising the young generation in Al-Badr.
The then Jamaat amir Golam Azam at the party council of Kushtia district unit in the second week of August 1971 described the freedom fighters as 'criminals' and directed the party workers to resist them. He also personally oversaw the formation of Shanti Committees [Peace Committees] in every village of the country. He told the meeting that very soon the Razakars, Mojahids, and the police would be able to resist the 'criminals', said document no 549 (159)-PL.S (I) signed by the then home secretary to erstwhile provisional government of East Pakistan MM Kazim on September 14, 1971.
The original article was published in The Daily Star on 19/12/2007. Please click HERE for the original article.