Abdul Alim has been quite a lucky man.
Though his war crimes have finally caught up with him, in the years after 1975 Abdul Alim was able to climb back to prominence and national attention in a country whose birth he had vigorously opposed in 1971. Thanks to the violent political change-over in August, 1975, and the rise of the military regime of General Ziaur Rahman, he was able to serve as an elected chairman of Joypurhat municipality and Joypurhat Sadar upazila twice, president of Joypurhat Bar Association twice and a parliamentarian thrice. His most satisfying moment came when he was inducted as a minister in the Zia regime. The tragedy of August, 1975, ensured that Alim, and many others who had like him energetically opposed the birth of Bangladesh, would be rehabilitated and would go on to serve a country they had never had cause to believe in.
In Alim's case, it was ironic that although he was taken into custody soon after liberation on charges of collaborating with the Pakistan occupation army in 1971, he found himself out on bail a mere two years into independence. Until he was netted for war crimes in March 2011, Alim stayed a free man, playing a prominent role in Zia's political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
Born on November 1, 1930, in what is today West Bengal, Alim with his family migrated to Joypurhat in 1950-51. In 1958, he joined the Muslim League. He rose to being an influential leader of the Convention Muslim League headed by Pakistan's first military dictator Ayub Khan. In 1971, he served as vice chairman of Bogra District Council.
According to evidence presented by the prosecution at his trial, Alim, in his days as a student, was involved in the All-India Muslim Student League, the student wing of the Muslim League and was a cohort of its top leader Shah Azizur Rahman.
Shah Aziz, who himself would serve as a collaborator of the then Pakistan government, led the Pakistan delegation to the UN General Assembly on behalf of the murderous Yahya Khan junta in September 1971. Aziz later became prime minister of Bangladesh under General Zia.
On June 11, 2012, when war crimes charges were framed against him, Alim claimed that he had been involved in progressive politics since his days as a student and taken part in the Language Movement in 1952. Closer to the truth is the fact that the Muslim League, which was in power in 1952, had directly opposed the language movement.
Alim, as a residential student of Salimullah Hall at Dhaka University, completed his master's in 1951 in Islamic History and LLB in 1953 from the university, his defence said.
According to the prosecution, Alim contested in the election of 1970 as a candidate of the Convention Muslim League but was defeated. He was chairman of Joypurhat Peace Committee and Razakar commander there during the nine-month-long war.
The members of the peace committee and the Razakar force actively collaborated with the Pakistani forces in committing genocide and mass killings in the nine-month-long war during which 30 lakh Bangalees were killed and over two lakh women raped, historic and prosecution documents say.
Alim set up an army camp, peace committee office and training centre for Razakars and accommodation for one Pakistani Major Afzal occupying the Gadi Ghar [trading office] of one Shownlal Bajla, a jute trader of Joypurhat, after he was compelled to go to India, leaving behind all his assets, the lawyer panel said.
While the nation was engaged in a life-and-death battle against the occupation forces and their local collaborators, Alim took part in a by-election to the East Pakistan provincial assembly on a CML ticket and was elected uncontested, the prosecution said.
But the defence claimed that Alim had gone into hiding after the Pakistan army entered Joypurhat in April, 1971, and was not involved in any crimes committed in Joypurhat. The alibi was binned in yesterday's verdict.
According to a book titled Ekattarer Ghatak O Dalalra Ke Kothai, which was a prosecution document, Alim was captured by locals and put in a cage for exhibition when Joypurhat was freed.
But Alim's son Sazzad bin Alim, who testified at the trial as a defence witness, said his father had surrendered before a court on February 28, 1972 following the government proclamation under the Collaborators Act, 1972, and a case was filed against him under the same act on March 9, 1972. But his father was acquitted from the case owing to lack of evidence, he claimed.
A defence petition, however, contradicts Sazzad's claim.
Alim's discharge petition says, a special tribunal ordered police to go for further investigations into the case; and “in the meantime” the High Court on January 14, 1974, granted him bail; and Alim was released on January 18.
Alim was elected chairman of Joypurhat municipality in 1975 and 1977, according to the defence.
Having taken charge of the country, Ziaur Rahman made Alim a minister in 1978. Initially, he was made textile minister. After sometime, he was given charge of the ministry of communications. Alim joined Zia's then newly formed party BNP, as per defence and prosecution documents.
Alim was elected chairman of Joypurhat Sadar Upazila in 1985 and 1990, and president of Joypurhat District Bar Association twice in the 1990's. He was elected a parliament member in 1979, 1996 and 2001 from the BNP.
A family member of Alim told The Daily Star that Alim was the 28th founding member of the BNP and number one member of Joypurhat BNP. In 2008, he sought a nomination from the BNP but was denied as he was considered to be a reformist. He, however, was active with BNP politics till before his arrest in March, 2011.
Alim is a widower and the father of four sons and a daughter.