It all began on the very day of execution of two infamous war criminals- Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid- in Dhaka. The senior BNP leader Salauddin and Jamaat Secy Gen Mujahid were hanged for war crimes at 12:55am on November 22nd at Dhaka Central Jail. Surprisingly, Pakistan, as a state, came up with a statement within hours of the executions.
The statement revealed that Pakistan found the executions of the war criminals as “unfortunate”. Pakistan had “noted” the executions “with deep concern and anguish”. Pakistan was also “deeply disturbed” at the executions. The three-paragraph statement claimed that “There is a need for reconciliation in Bangladesh in accordance with the spirit of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh Agreement of 9th April 1974.”
Bangladesh summoned the Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka and protested against the statement on November 23rd. On the next day (Nov 24th) Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English–language daily newspaper Dawn published a 5-column article in its front page that essentially elaborates Pakistan’s statement.
The writer, Mr. Baqir Sajjad Syed, begins his article, titled ‘Reference to Mujib’s promise offends Bangladesh’, with wrong information. He writes: “Bangladesh has felt offended over Pakistan reminding it of its founding father’s promise contained in the 1974 tripartite agreement under which Dhaka had agreed not to proceed against those whom it had accused of ‘war crimes’ during the 1971 separation.’’ (emphasis added)
It is true that a tripartite agreement was signed between Bangladesh-India-Pakistan on April 9th, 1974 in New Delhi. But Bangladesh did not announce clemency for the war criminals. According to the tripartite agreement (section 15) Bangladesh agreed not to try 195 Pakistani prisoners of war whom Bangladesh had accused of ‘war crimes’ during the 1971 separation.
Dawn, in the name of Mr. Syed, continues its intentional misinterpretation in the article by saying the agreement had included a promise by the Bangladesh foreign minister that “the Government of Bangladesh had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency”. It is quite easy to make a fool of a Pakistani or any other other reader who has never heard of or read the tripartite agreement in their lifetime as Mr. Syed has quoted part of sentence which is easier to be misinterpreted.
Mr. Syed and Dawn, both seems to be careless in clarifying what “the trials” means in the sentence. The partially quoted sentence actually exists in the 15th section of the tripartite agreement. The word ‘trial’ was used only twice in the 16-section agreement.
First in section 4 where it says: “Inspired by this vision” and “in the larger interest of reconciliation, peace and stability in the subcontinent”, “they [India & Bangladesh] jointly proposed that the problem of the detained and stranded persons should be resolved on humanitarian considerations through simultaneous repatriation of all such persons except those Pakistani prisoners of war who might be required by the Government of Bangladesh for trial on certain charges.” (emphasis added)
And ‘trial’ again appears in section 15 of the agreement: “In the light of the foregoing and, in particular, having regard to the appeal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency.” (emphasis added)
Here “the trials” clearly indicates the issue of 195 Pakistani prisoners of war which was clearly stated in the following sentence of the section: “It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war might be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in the process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement.”
There’s no scope to apply or relate the 1974 clemency to the Bangladeshi collaborators and war criminals like Salauddin and Mujahid.