Challenges ahead to avoid controversies
The government is going to publish a fresh list of Razakars and anti-liberation elements within March 26 next year when Bangladesh will celebrate its 50th Independence Day.
While talking to Dhaka Tribune on Monday, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Huq came up with the new deadline after missing the previous one on March 26 this year.
The fresh announcement of publishing a new list of Razakars, Al-Badr, Al-Shams, and other paramilitary forces that had collaborated with the Pakistani army during the Liberation War, came a year after the government witnessed a debacle by preparing a flawed list of them and thus drawing huge criticism.
Officials concerned said they are finding various challenges while making the fresh list of collaborators as there should not be any mistake by any chance.
After the publication of the Razakar list last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also expressed frustration over the faulty list.
Minister Mozammel Huq said they would scrutinize the previously published list and add new names of collaborators in the fresh list.
Lawmaker and former minister Shajahan Khan, who headed a parliamentary sub-committee formed to prepare lists of the anti-liberation elements, said: "The parliamentary committee is working to prepare a list of collaborators. Hopefully, the first phase of collaborators' list will be published by March 2021."
The issue of the collaborators' list came to the fore after the cabinet in principle approved a draft of the "National Freedom Fighter Council Act 2020" on December 7.
According to Section 5(e) of the draft law, the National Freedom Fighter Council will prepare the list of Razakars, Al-Badr, Al-Shams, and other paramilitary forces.
However, a top official of the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs said they would decide the procedure of making the list only after the approval of the drafted law.
"The previous list containing names of more than 10,000 Razakars will be reviewed and some new names will be included in the fresh list after the new law becomes effective."
Minister Mozammel Huq said: "Earlier it was our moral responsibility to make the list of the Razakars as there was no legal basis. However, several days ago, the cabinet approved the draft of 'National Freedom Fighter Council Act 2020' incorporating a provision of preparing lists of Razakars, Al-Badr, Al-Shams, and other paramilitary forces of 1971."
The minister hoped that the drafted law would be passed in the next session of the parliament while officials concerned said the session might be held in January next.
Razakar list fiasco
A day ahead of the Victory Day, on December 15 in 2019, the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs published the first installment of the list containing names and addresses of 10,789 people, who it believed were Pakistan's collaborators during the 1971 Liberation War.
However, the list caused some controversies as some valiant freedom fighters' names were also included there.
The ministry said that they got the list from the Ministry of Home Affairs but the latter claimed that the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs published the names without scrutinizing them properly.
Following the fiasco, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said it was a matter of regret that the names of freedom fighters came in the list of Razakars just before the 49th Victory Day, celebrated on December 16.
She said the confusion was created as the Liberation War Affairs Ministry had hurried to release the list without properly scrutinizing it or reviewing the footnotes, even though she had asked to not rush the process.
Tapan Kanti Ghosh, secretary to the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, told Dhaka Tribune on Monday that the list of Razakars was withdrawn from the ministry website on December 19 last year.
After removal of the flawed list, no visible development has been seen yet about preparing a fresh list although the minister had set March 26 this year for publication of the new list after scrutiny.
Parliamentary sub-committee formed
In August 2020, a six-member parliamentary sub-committee, headed by MP Shajahan Khan, was formed to work on enlisting and publishing the lists of anti-liberation forces, including Jamaat-e-Islami, Razakar, Al-Badr, Al-Shams, and Peace Committee.
Then Shajahan Khan told the media: "We'll entrust all commanders of every upazila with the collective responsibility of enlisting the names of collaborators [in their respective upazilas]."
The lawmakers will also be asked to facilitate and monitor the tasks in their respective constituencies, he said, adding that: "We will provide the names to the Liberation War Affairs Ministry for publishing the list."
On Monday, former shipping minister Shajahan Khan told Dhaka Tribune that they have already collected the names of collaborators from 14 to 15 districts of the country and hoped to complete the list by next March.
Seeking anonymity, a lawmaker and also a member of the six-member parliamentary sub-committee told Dhaka Tribune that it would be very difficult to make the list of collaborators after 49 years of independence.
Expressing apprehension, he said local influential people of the respective districts might deliberately put some names of innocent men in the list only to create a huge controversy again.