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A Bengali army officer, who sided with the Pakistani forces during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, will be put on trial for committing crimes against humanity, becoming the first Pakistani army officer to face the charges. Coordinator of a special investigation cell on war crimes Mohammad Abdul Hannan on Tuesday said that the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) finalised its investigation report on accused 75-year-old former Pakistani army Captain Mohammad Shahidullah. “We found his involvement in crimes like murder, confinement, torture and looting,” Hannan told reporters. The ICT, during its investigation that continued from 11 October 2015 to 20 March 2017, could primarily prove three counts of charges against Shahidullah who been in jail since his arrest on August 2, 2016.
“He was posted in West Pakistan and on leave at his home… He reported to duty at Dhaka cantonment as the war broke out and (subsequently) committed monstrous crimes in Comilla district as he was transferred there,” Hannan said. Shahidullah is the first Bengali former army officer to be put on trial for crimes against humanity but investigations were underway against several other Bengali army officers who took part in atrocities as members of Pakistan army in 1971.
Bangladesh launched the belated process of trying 1971 war criminals in 2010 while all those who were tried until now are civilians and mostly belonged to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, which was opposed to the independence. Six 1971 war crimes convicts, including five Jamaat leaders and one from the former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, have been executed so far.
Three convicts were sentenced to “imprisonment until death” and two of them died in jail. Most Bengali military officers stationed in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) revolted against Pakistan after the sudden crackdown on unarmed Bengali population in 1971 while several others fled West Pakistan to join the Liberation War. But 1971 war veterans and researchers said several Bengali officers were there who preferred to side with Pakistani troops and went to West Pakistan after laying down weapons along with the defeated Pakistan army.