Daily Star reports:
Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh yesterday said they did not work against the Liberation War in 1971 and claimed that there is no war criminal in the country.
"In fact anti-liberation forces never even existed," Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid told reporters coming out of the talks with the Election Commission (EC) on electoral reforms.
According to newspaper reports, speeches and statements of those accused of war crimes, and the finds of different probes including the People's Enquiry Commission, Mujahid, who was president of East Pakistan Islami Chhatra Shangha and chief of the infamous Al Badr Bahini back in 1971, helped the occupying Pakistan army carry out massacre, looting and rape.
Only two days before the war ended, he led the killings of renowned academics, litterateurs, doctors, engineers, journalists and other eminent personalities with a view to leave the nation intellectually crippled.
Senior Jamaat leaders Abdus Sobhan, Moulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, Abdul Kader Molla and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman who were in the delegation to the EC yesterday have been charged with war crimes.
Jamaat Amir Matiur Rahman Nizami was the president of Islami Chhatra Shangha (Islamic Students' Organisation) in 1971. Al-Badr Bahini was set up under his direct supervision. He became the commander-in-chief of the paramilitary force designed to eliminate the freedom fighters, reads the report of the People's Enquiry Commission, a body formed in 1993 with eminent citizens to investigate into the activities of the war criminals and the collaborators.
Since the independence Jamaat had been constitutionally banned in Bangladesh till 1976.
Asked about the growing demand for declaring the anti-liberation forces and war criminals disqualified from contesting the national elections, the Jamaat secretary general yesterday said, "The constitution does not support the demand since Islam is the state religion and 90 percent of the population are Muslims. Besides, there is no war criminal in the country now."
Referring to the charges against them, Mujahid said, "These are all false and ill-motivated." He said after the Liberation War the then government had identified 195 people as war criminals and all of them were members of the Pakistan army.
Asked what role his party played during the war, he evaded a direct answer and instead asked the journalists to find it out. "No-one should give a distorted picture of the past," observed Mujahid, also a former minister.
Jamaat, which was in the last government as part of the BNP-led four-party alliance, participated in the electoral reform talks amid different political parties calling for the EC not to allow any religion-based political party to register with it.
In response to the call, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda last month said though the war criminals should have been tried immediately after independence, successive governments did not move to bring them to trial.
Earlier on March 27, when some freedom fighters at a tea party demanded that the war criminals be prosecuted, Chief of Army Staff Gen Moeen U Ahmed said he would bring up the issue at meetings with the government high-ups.
JAMAAT DOUBTS POLLS ON TIME
During the talks at the EC Secretariat conference room, Jamaat said due to slow pace of the voter roll preparation the commission might not be able to implement its electoral roadmap that aims to hold the long-stalled parliamentary polls by December next year.
It placed a five-point recommendation including the one for having the voter list prepared by June through increased involvement of the armed forces, teachers, and imams of local mosques.
It suggested bringing about a democratic climate by allaying fear among the political parties.
People want the election to be held as early as possible. The sooner the polls, the better it is for the nation, argued the Jamaat leaders.
In reply, the EC assured them that they would take measures to speed up enumeration and a voter list with photographs would be ready in time.
JAMAAT FOR INCREASED POLLS EXPENDIUTRE
In its written proposals, Jamaat suggested that the EC raise the election expenditure ceiling for a candidate to Tk 25 lakh from present Tk 5 lakh.
"The election expenses are a major obstacle to honest candidates and political parties," the Jamaat secretary general noted adding that the current expenditure limit is silly.
The CEC said the EC wants to see the elections free from influence of money. "We have come up with the proposal for reducing the length of electioneering since it will bring down the expenditure," he said.
Jamaat also proposed setting the ceilings on donation to the political parties at Tk 10 lakh for an individual and Tk 50 lakh for an institution.
According to the EC proposals, no individual would be allowed to contribute more than Tk 5 lakh in cash or assets or service to a single registered political party while the amount will be no more than Tk 25 lakh for a contributing institution or a business entity.
JAMAAT FOR SIMPLER REGISTRATION PROCESS
The party demanded that the commission simplify the political parties' registration by scrapping all criteria proposed to that end. It wants the EC to allow every party to register and then place them under observation during the next national election to see if they qualify for registration.
The Jamaat leaders said registration of a political party should be cancelled if it fails to obtain at least two percent of the total votes cast in the polls.
They also opposed elections to upazila parishad before the parliamentary polls.