Did really Bangabandhu forgive the war criminals? – It is a common myth in Bangladesh that he did, but it’s a blatant lie. The reality is Ziaur Rahman made all arrangements to establish them in Bangladesh by repealing the Collaborators Act of 1972 and blocking the way for justice.
Bangabandhu always used to speak in favour of the trial of war criminals and collaborators and took necessary measures to this end. On his Homecoming Day on January 10, 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made it clear in his speech at the Racecourse Ground that the war criminals of 1971 would be brought to justice by any means.
Under the Collaborators Act, arrests of the collaborators involved in the 1971 war crimes started in January 1972 and the trial began in April of the same year. The government set up a total of 73 special tribunals across the country for speedy trials.
A total of 37,441 people were charged with war crimes in this trial.
Meanwhile, as the list of the accused included a lot of names among whom many were innocent but were indicted for personal enmity, the ‘Bangabandhu government’ declared a general amnesty for 26,441 persons on November 30, 1973, for not having any specific allegations of war crimes against them.
So, then the number of accused war criminals stood at 11,000. Out of the final accused, 2,848 people were brought to justice. Among them, 19 accused were sentenced to death, 30 to life imprisonment and citizenship of 48 persons was revoked and the rest were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment.
So it is proved that the Bangabandhu government did not pardon any of the 11,000 accused and convicted who had specific allegations of war crimes, and their trial and execution were going well.
But the assassination of Bangabandhu changed everything.
Bangladesh witnessed Pakistani rule after the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 15 August 1975. During this period, the trial of war criminals was not only postponed but also they were rehabilitated in Bangladesh.
On December 31, 1975, the Pakistani ‘Zia government’ repealed the Collaborators Act of 1972 through puppet President Abu Sadat Mohammad Sayem.
As a result, a total of 11,000 war criminals convicted under the Collaborators Act were released at the direct instruction of Ziaur Rahman.
Therefore, the trial of war criminals, which started under the initiative of the Bangabandhu government after the independence, was stopped at the betrayal of the military dictator Ziaur Rahman
However, after a long three decades, the trial of war criminals started again in 2009 on the initiative of Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangabandhu and elected Prime Minister of Bangladesh, which is still going on.
So it is crystal clear that Bangabandhu did not forgive the war criminals, rather Ziaur Rahman forgave and rehabilitated the war criminals in Bangladesh.