The former Jamaat-e-Islami ameer, who had joined the Language Movement in 1948 as a student of Dhaka University, started opposing the birth of Bangladesh in 1970.
A news item of daily Azad published on June 20, 1970 quoted Ghulam Azam saying that fighting for “Bangla” was a wrong decision with regard to the establishment of Pakistan since Urdu was widely used and “all Muslims of the Indian subcontinent understand it.”
A student of political science at the DU, he had also been elected general secretary of Dhaka University Students’ Union for two consecutive terms (1947-49 and 1948-49).
He later joined Rangpur Carmichael College as a lecturer and became a professor.
Ghulam Azam was born on November 7, 1922 at his maternal Laxmibazar home in Dhaka. His ancestral home is Maulvi Bari at Birgaon village, Nabinagar of Brahmanbaria where he attended a madrasa. He completed his secondary school education in Dhaka.
He joined Jamaat on April 22, 1954 and became the general secretary of its East Pakistan wing in 1957. He had been arrested in 1964 and jailed for eight months, and Jamaat was banned due to radical religious activities.
He became the ameer of East Pakistan Jamaat in 1969 and served till late 2000.
Ghulam Azam had begun campaigning against the birth of Bangladesh since 1970, and played the key role in forming Peace Committees, razakar, al-Badr and al-Shams forces the next year. These auxiliary forces sided with the Pakistani occupation army during the Liberation War and committed genocide, rape, arson and lootings.
He also campaigned against the freedom fighters and the Awami League. On August 12, 1971, in a statement published in daily Sangram, he said: “The supporters of the so-called Bangladesh Movement are the enemies of Islam, Pakistan, and Muslims.” He is also said to have legitimised rape during the war.
Jamaat under his leadership had taken part in the election that was supposed to be held from November 25 to December 9, 1971. But on October 15, the Pakistani government suddenly declared that 15 candidates were elected without any competition. According to the declaration of November 2, as many as 53 candidates were elected without any competition; Jamaat won 14 of the uncontested seats. Ghulam Azam had addressed the receptions of two new ministers from Jamaat in mid September.
Key activities in 1971
Ghulam Azam along with Nurul Amin and Khwaja Khairuddin on March 16, 1971 met the then governor of East Pakistan, General Tikka Khan, and extended his support to the Pakistan government. Two days later, he had an exclusive meeting with Tikka Khan. He was one of the prominent members of Peace Committee, which was formed on April 7 headed by Khairuddin. On May 4, it was decided that Peace Committee units be formed across the country.
On June 16, Ghulam Azam proposed to the then Pakistan president Yahya Khan the formation of razakar force and asked the government to provide arms to those supporting the unity of Pakistan.
On August 26, Azam spoke at Peshawar where he termed the freedom fighters and their aides “traitors.”
Moreover, he had made several statements and addressed party meetings in Dhaka and across the country during the war inciting party supporters against the freedom fighters.
He had held several meetings with the Pakistan rulers in 1971, and continued his campaigns in the Middle East and other Muslim countries asking those governments not to recognise Bangladesh.
After the war
He had left the country before the war ended. For his anti-Bangladesh stance, Ghulam Azam’s citizenship was revoked in April 1973. Jamaat had also been banned after the independence in view of the adoption of secularism as state policy.
The Jamaat leader returned home on August 11, 1978 on a temporary visa with a Pakistani passport when BNP founder Ziaur Rahman was in power and revived the party in 1979 when the ban on religion-based political parties was withdrawn.
He had been living in Bangladesh from 1978 to 1994 as a Pakistani national without any valid visa. After his retirement in December 2000, he was succeeded by Matiur Rahman Nizami, who is also facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Crimes Tribunal.
Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, led by Jahanara Imam - mother of a martyr, in 1992 in a mock people’s court sentenced Ghulam Azam to death by hanging for his anti-Bangladesh role.