Profile of Professor Gholam Azam
Professor Gholam Azam (also periodically spelled Golam or Ghulam) was born in Dhaka, which was then part of the British held sub-continent, in 1922. He obtained his Masters in Political Science from Dhaka University. After the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Gholam Azam resided in then East Pakistan, today’s Bangladesh. He joined the Jamaat-e-Islami political party in 1954 and held the position of Secretary from 1957 to 1960. He was Ameer (Chief) of party from 1969 to 1971. Before and during the Independence War of 1971 Gholam Azam opposed the separation of Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh. After the war Gholam Azam resided in London for seven years. He returned in August of 1978 and again became Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami. He held the position until Motiur Rahman Nizami was elected as Ameer. He retired from active politics in 1999. Currently 90 years old, Gholam Azam is the oldest Defendant being held by the ICT.
It is alleged that in addition to being Jamaat-e-Islami’s Ameer, Gholam Azam was instrumental in establishing the Peace Committee and held the third highest position within that organization. The Peace Committee was a key force in the mobilization of Razakars and other auxiliary military forces such as Al-Badr and Al Shams.
The Prosecution alleges that during the Liberation War, as Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami and a leader of the Peace Committee, Gholam Azam controlled Razakar and other auxiliary forces, and also exercised control over the Pakistani military itself. They argue that through inciting speeches as well as direct orders Gholam Azam carried out attacks on the civilian population that amount to Crimes against Humanity, Complicity, and Conspiracy.
The Defense’s Case
The Defense alleges that the trial against Gholam Azam is politically motivated and aims to destroy the accused’s reputation. They assert that Gholam Azam played a prominent role in the Language Movement in Bangladesh, being arrested in 1952 and 1955, and losing his job as an assistant professor at Rangpur Carmichael College because of his activism. They also claim that far from instigating violence by the Pakistani Army, he made representations to the Pakistani government asking them to use political means to reach consensus as opposed to violence. He claims that in late November of 1971 he traveled to Lahore for a Jamaat-e-Islami conference but was unable to return on 3 December because the Indian government was bombing Dhaka. He instead went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and then to Karachi. However, when the new government under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was established his citizenship was cancelled and he moved to London. He returned to Bangladesh on a visitor visa in 1978 and, after a legal fight, had his citizenship restored by the Supreme Court in 1993.