Another Jamaat-e-Islami leader will be executed soon in Bangladesh. The Sheikh Hasina government’s determination to punish forces that collaborated with Pakistan in the 1971 war of liberation and unleashed killings and rape on East Pakistanis, has so far seen three Jamaat leaders, and one from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, hanged. Motiur Rahman Nizami, whose plea against the death sentence was rejected by the Supreme Court on Thursday, was convicted on 16 counts of genocide, rape and torture by the war crimes tribunal set up by the Hasina government in 2010. The 72-year-old is the head of the Jamaat, and was a minister in the Khaleda Zia BNP government.
Every nation chooses its own way to seek justice for historical wrongs. The path chosen by Bangladesh has as many supporters in the country as it has detractors within and outside it. Undeniably, though, if the goal of such a process is to bring about reconciliation, Bangladesh does not seem to have
picked the right way. Each execution since 2013 has proved to be politically polarising. The Hasina government has been accused of using the tribunal against political rivals. Independent legal experts see the process as flawed, and human rights activists have condemned the executions.
Parallel to this mission for war crimes justice, Bangladesh has witnessed a spate of horrific murders of secular and aethist thinkers, writers, bloggers and academics since the 2013 killing of blogger Rajib Haider. Last week, first a university professor, and then an editor of a magazine on LGBT issues and his friend, were killed by machete-wielding men. Al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent claimed the professor’s killing, and Islamic State the second incident. But the Hasina government has blamed, instead, the Jamaat for being behind the killings.
Police blame Ansarullah Bangla and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangla, two Islamist groups, both with ideological links to the Jamaat-e-Islami. Whether the perpetrators are local or foreign, what is worrying is that the government has not been able to stop these killings despite claims of over 100 arrests in the last three years.
The execution of Motiur Rahman is not going to make Bangladesh a safer place. Indeed, it may only unleash another cycle of violence. The other executions had led to violent protests and killings as supporters and opponents of the government clashed on the streets. The Jamaat has called for a strike on Sunday against the Supreme Court’s rejection of his appeal. Concerns in India over the strife in Bangladesh are bound to rise.