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Azad’s family must not be made to pay for his crime



THE detention of two sons and a brother-in-law of the war crimes suspect Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchhu Razakar, by the Rapid Action Battalion on Monday raises a number of questions that border on both legal and moral. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, the media wing director of the battalion claimed that Azad’s ‘two sons and brother-in-law told us that he had fled to India through Dinajpur’s Hili border’ and that ‘his destination is Pakistan.’ It is pertinent to recall that Azad has supposedly gone into hiding since the International Crimes Tribunal on April 3 issued a warrant of arrest against him ‘for collaborating with the Pakistan occupation forces and committing excesses during the liberation war in 1971.’ Accused as he is of committing crimes against humanity, Azad must be prosecuted and, if proved guilty, punished. However, in no way must his sons or other members of his family be harassed, legally or extra-legally, for the crimes that Azad is accused of having committed. After all, the rule of law dictates that one cannot be liable for the crime committed by another regardless of their relationship — familial or otherwise — so does Islam, which is constitutionally recognised as the religion of the state.
Of course, the battalion may justify the detention of Azad’s two sons and brother-in-law on the rationale that they have abetted his escape and thus obstructed justice. The problem, however, is that when the battalion is involved, the law of the land is more often than not turned on its head. Not only has the battalion continued with extrajudicial murders of so-called crime suspects in the name of ‘crossfire’, ‘encounter’, ‘gunfight’, etc, it is also alleged to have caused enforced disappearances, employed torture as a means to extract confession, etc. Little wonder then that Azad’s daughter on Monday moved a petition for a habeas corpus writ with the High Court, claiming that her two brothers and maternal uncle had remained without trace since they were forcibly picked up early Monday. Although she withdrew the petition on Tuesday, after the three had been shown arrested, the cause of her initial reaction is not too difficult to fathom.
The arrest of the three could also be construed as the battalion’s attempt to have something to show for, especially given its failure along with that of other law enforcement agencies to arrest Azad in line with the warrant issued by the International Crimes Tribunal. In fact, the government needs to call the battalion and other law enforcement agencies to account for their failure. Azad has always been a suspect and it was never a question of if the tribunal would order his arrest. Hence, the law enforcement and security agencies should have been on alert and kept an eye on him and his movements.
In any case, the government needs to ensure that Azad stands trial for the crimes he is accused of. His sons and brother-in-law may help the law enforcers trace, and perhaps arrest, the suspect. If so, they should be afforded the right they are legally and constitutionally entitled to. Most importantly, they should not be, or even appear to be, treated unfairly because of the crime Azad is accused of having committed. And this should be the norm, not an exception.




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