December 13, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5564

Bangladeshi And Indian Reports On Islamist Leader's Hanging: 'The Butcher Of Mirpur'; 'Jamaat-e-Islami Is Undergoing A Crisis Of Legitimacy In People's Eyes, Especially In Pakistan And Bangladesh'

December 13, 2013
, Bangladesh, India, Bangladesh | Special Dispatch No. 5564

Abdul Quader Mollah accused of 1971 war crimes

On December 12, 2013, Bangladesh executed Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Mollah for war crimes committed in the 1971 Liberation War, which saw the birth of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) as a sovereign Islamic nation. The war had resulted after the Bengali-speaking people of East Pakistan suffered sustained economic and political discrimination at the hands of the Urdu-speaking political and military elite from West Pakistan.

During the Liberation War, Jamaat-e-Islami sided with the Pakistani military and formed Al-Badr and Al-Shams paramilitary forces, which are accused of war crimes including mass murders, rape of women, and targeted killings of Bengali-speaking intellectuals, artists, activists, and poets. In 2010, the current secular government headed by Awami League leader and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina established an international war crimes tribunal, which handed the death penalty to several religious and political leaders. Abdul Quader Mollah is the first among several Jamaat-e-Islami leaders set to be executed.

The Hasina government, which has rejected appeals for amnesty from international human rights groups and the United Nations, enjoys the support of nationalist and secular forces, but is also seen as pushing the fragile Islamic democracy towards the brink, especially since the largest opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is boycotting the general elections slated for January 5. The government feels confident that it can control any violence resulting from Mollah's hanging, and also hold the elections.

Given below are excerpts from two reports: one published by the leading Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star and titled "Butcher Of Mirpur Hanged," which captures the country's nationalist mood regarding the hanging, and the second an article titled "Separate Politics From Religion" and written by Tufail Ahmad, director of MEMRI's South Asia Studies Project, which appeared in The New Indian Express. It examines how Jamaat-e-Islami, for the first time since its founding in 1941, is undergoing a crisis of legitimacy in Pakistan and Bangladesh, while in India it is forced by the country's democratic ethos to stay on the path of pluralism.

"The Hanging Of Mollah, Who Earned The Nickname Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher Of Mirpur) For His Sinister Role During The Liberation War, Represents A Watershed In The Nation's Pursuit Of A Closure On The Wounds Inflicted In 1971"

Following are excerpts from the report in The Daily Star:[1]

"The digital display showed 10:01PM at the Dhaka Central Jail gate. The entire nation had waited long for this moment. It was the moment when Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Mollah walked the gallows, barely four days before the nation celebrates Victory Day [December 16, when allied forces defeated the Pakistani army in the 1971 Liberation War]. Around 42 years back, Mollah didn't wince even once nor did his heart skip a beat when he led his men to thrash a two-year-old child to death and slit the throats of a pregnant woman and two minor girls. In the first-ever execution in a war crimes case last night, the 65-year-old Jamaat man finally paid for these acts of cold-blooded savagery.

"The hanging of Mollah, who earned the nickname 'Mirpurer Koshai' ('Butcher Of Mirpur') for his sinister role during the Liberation War, represents a watershed in the nation's pursuit of a closure on the wounds inflicted in 1971…. The Jamaat leader was executed hours after the Supreme Court [SC] rejected his petition to review the death sentence, bringing an end to the drama that had played out for two days since Tuesday evening [December 10]. Mollah's counsels took out an order from the SC chamber judge on Tuesday night to stay his execution only one and a half hours before he was to hang at 12:01am. The apex court yesterday [December 11] rejected Mollah's plea for reviewing his death sentence…. In an instant reaction after the execution, Shafiuddin Mollah, who testified against the Jamaat leader, told The Daily Star, 'We are very happy. Much of the grief and agony that have weighed on us for the last 42 years will go now.' Shafiuddin, who lost his paternal uncle in a massacre at Alubdi village in Mirpur, said they would feel happier when all 1971 war criminals get their due punishment. He thanked the prime minister and all pro-Liberation War forces for their continuous efforts to bring the war criminals to justice.

"Mozaffar Ahmad Khan, the first prosecution witness…, said, 'Our efforts to bring the war criminals to book have finally seen some success. As a freedom fighter, I am very happy today.' Mollah, then-leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, later renamed Islami Chhatra Shibir [the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh], never expressed remorse over the war crimes he committed 42 years ago. His party also never regretted its role during the Liberation War. Driven by deep political conviction that Pakistan should remain united even at the cost of one of the worst genocides in the world, he had targeted freedom-loving Bangalees [Bengali-speaking Pakistanis, now Bangladeshis] and led his gang in at least two mass killings in Keraniganj near Dhaka and Mirpur, taking the lives of around 400 unarmed Bangalees.

"Mollah, assistant general secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami, was finally shown arrested in a war crimes case on August 2, 2010, after enjoying impunity under the auspices of the Jamaat and the BNP [Bangladesh Nationalist Party governments]. He was then put on trial and awarded a life term by the International Crimes Tribunal-2 [set up in 2010 by the current secular government led by Awami League party leader and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina] on February 5 this year. But the lenient sentencing [of life term] gave birth to the never-seen-before Shahbagh movement [mass movement led by liberal bloggers and civil society activists] that demanded maximum punishment for war criminals. The movement prompted the government to amend the relevant act to ensure the state's right to appeal on behalf of the victims of the 1971 war crimes."

"The Jamaat Leader, Who Was President Of Islami Chhatra Sangha's Shahidullah Hall Unit At Dhaka University In 1971, Organized The Formation Of The Infamous Al-Badr, An Auxiliary Force Of The Pakistan Occupation Army"

"As the government appealed against the verdict, the Supreme Court on September 17 sentenced Mollah to death, overruling the ICT-2 judgment. The countdown to Mollah's execution started after ICT-2 sent the death warrant to the Dhaka Central Jail authorities on December 8. But confusion arose over the date of execution as the defense lawyers claimed that their client had the right to seek review of the SC verdict… [On December 11] Minister for Law Qamrul Islam said the constitution left no scope for Mollah to file any review petition, since he had been convicted and sentenced to death under the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973. Things started to change fast on Tuesday evening when the jail authorities asked Mollah's family members to meet him at 8:00PM, giving rise to speculations that the Jamaat leader would be hanged that night.

"Mollah's counsels then rushed to the residence of Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain, chamber judge of the SC, and obtained a stay of execution. On completion of a hearing yesterday [December 11], a five-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Md. Muzammel Hossain dismissed Mollah's review petition. Mollah's wife Sanowara Jahan and his other family members met him inside the jail for one last time around 6:25PM yesterday [December 11] on the prison authorities' permission. The authorities had taken tight security measures ahead of the execution, deploying several hundred law enforcers in and around Dhaka Central Jail. People from all walks of life and family members of the martyrs have expressed satisfaction at the hanging of the convicted war criminal. Hundreds of people, mostly youths, burst into cheers as the news of Mollah's execution reached… Shahbagh [which emerged like the Tahrir Square of Cairo].

"The Jamaat leader, who was president of Islami Chhatra Sangha's Shahidullah Hall unit at Dhaka University in 1971, organized the formation of the infamous Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of the Pakistan occupation army. He joined the Jamaat in 1979. In the early '80s, he served as executive editor of the party's mouthpiece daily Sangram and also as personal secretary to ex-Jamaat emir Ghulam Azam. Freedom fighters and families of the martyrs had to witness Mollah and other anti-liberation forces consolidate their positions, as they were patronized and rehabilitated politically over the years in independent Bangladesh.

"On December 17, 2007, freedom fighter Mozaffar Ahmad Khan… filed a case against nine Jamaat leaders, including Mollah, on the charge of killing two freedom fighters in 1971. But the justice seeker had to wait until the Awami League-led government formed the ICT on March 25, 2010, as part of its electoral pledges. On May 28 last year, the tribunal framed six charges that include: the killing of Mirpur Bangla College student Pallab; the killing of poet Meherunnesa, her mother, and two brothers; the killing of journalist Khandker Abu Taleb; a mass killing in Ghatarchar of Keraniganj; the killing of 344 people in Alubdi village in Mirpur; and the killing of Hazrat Ali Laskar, his wife, three daughters, and two-year-old son. ICT-2 found Mollah guilty on five charges and acquitted him on one charge related to the Ghatarchar killing, and sentenced him to life imprisonment. But the Supreme Court found him guilty on all charges and awarded him the death sentence for killing Hazrat Laskar and his family members."

"As The Largest Religious Outfit Of South Asia, Jamaat-e-Islami Is The Lead Movement Responsible For Sowing An Exclusivist And Hateful Narrative; In Pakistan, It Led A Violent Campaign In 1953 Against Ahmadi Muslims"

Following is the text of Tufail Ahmad's article in The New Indian Express:[2]

"A religious war is raging on two sides of India's borders. To the west, Pakistan is inching closer to a jihadist takeover, metamorphosing into a Sunni version of what Shia Iran became after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. To the northeast, Bangladesh is sinking into a religious-political war of murder and hate. Both countries illustrate how mixing religion and politics in public life mutilates an average man's intellectual capacity to grasp what a good society should look like. People are used as fuel for advancing religion.

"In the two countries, minority groups like Hindus, Christians, Shias, and Ahmadi Muslims are being systematically murdered. In Pakistan, not a day passes when a Shia Muslim is not killed. In Lahore, a 72-year-old Ahmadi Muslim was recently jailed for reading the Koran. In Bangladesh, members of Jamaat-e-Islami are attacking Hindu homes, laying siege to the streets and killing rivals. In March, Daily Ittefaq of Dhaka carried an article, warning: 'A power is rising slowly in Bangladesh; it violates our liberty and life. It violates our very existence. The adversary is not a man but an ideology.'

"The violence raging on India's borders is not random; it is predictable, part of a pattern, originating from an ideological narrative about Islam. The narrative can spill over into India, home to a large Muslim population. Indeed, Indian clerics are already waging a Pakistan-like hateful campaign against Ahmadi Muslims in Punjab, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. As the largest religious outfit of South Asia, Jamaat-e-Islami is the lead movement responsible for sowing an exclusivist and hateful narrative. In Pakistan, it led a violent campaign in 1953 against Ahmadi Muslims, who are now declared non-Muslims.

"Founded in 1941 by Sunni theologian Maulana Abul A’la Maududi, Jamaat-e-Islami defined Islam as an all-encompassing way of life and began nursing, like other religious groups, a vision of an Islamic state that would regulate all spheres of life. For historical reasons, it split into organizationally autonomous units, now functioning in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir. Not for the first time in its history, Jamaat-e-Islami is undergoing a crisis of legitimacy in people's eyes, especially in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"On November 4, Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami leader Syed Munawar Hasan described Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief killed in a drone strike, as a 'martyr' for waging 'jihad against enemies of Islam.' Despite criticism from the Pakistani military and people, Hasan reiterated the argument, also noting that Pakistani soldiers killed in the war against terrorism cannot be called martyrs. Hasan's description of terrorists as martyrs mirrors the ideological narrative nursed through past seven decades by Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious groups."

"Al-Qaeda Terrorists Have Been Routinely Captured From The Homes Of Jamaat-e-Islami Leaders In Pakistan"; "On November 29 … [Jamaat-e-Islami Activist] Abdur Rehman Was Among Terrorists Killed By A Drone In Waziristan"

"Recently, [Pakistani] journalist Amir Mir recorded how Al-Qaeda terrorists have been routinely captured from the homes of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders in Pakistan. In 2002, the Khwaja brothers, who belonged to Jamaat-e-Islami, admitted sheltering Al-Qaeda leader Yasser Al-Jazeeri. In 2003, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the mastermind of 9/11, was captured from the home of a Jamaat-e-Islami leader in Rawalpindi. In 2003, Terrence Thomas, an Australian Al-Qaeda militant held in Karachi, used the house of a hockey player whose wife is a Jamaat-e-Islami member. In 2004, Attaur Rehman—an official of Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT), the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami—was involved in an attack on an army general's motorcade in Karachi. Dr. Akmal Waheed and Dr. Arshad Waheed, who were arrested in the case, were working for Al-Qaeda and belonged to Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, a Jamaat-e-Islami affiliate. Recently, Al-Qaeda members were arrested from an IJT member's hostel room in Punjab University. On November 29, IJT member Abdur Rehman was among terrorists killed by a drone in Waziristan.

"Over the years, Jamaat-e-Islami has supported violence against minority sects, military dictators of Pakistan, and jihadist groups, while operating as a political party. In the 1971 war for Bangladesh, it created two paramilitary groups, Al-Badr and Al-Shams, which were involved in the killings of Bengali intellectuals and political activists. Several top Jamaat-e-Islami leaders including Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, Abdul Quader Mollah, and Ghulam Azam are among those convicted of the 1971 war crimes by a tribunal in Dhaka this year. Now, a Bangladeshi court has declared Jamaat-e-Islami illegal, banning it from politics. Some writers like Taslima Nasreen supported the ban, saying it is practically a terrorist group.

"In India, Jamaat-e-Islami would have followed a similar trajectory, but India's thriving democracy has forced it to stay on the path of pluralism. One thing it cannot do is to try to impose its ideology on India's unwilling society. However, about five percent of Jamaat-e-Islami members in the middle ranks do nurse an extremist orientation, but the leadership is working within the wider framework of Indian democracy and pluralism, especially by doing educational and humanitarian work, says Dr. Ishtiaque Ahmed, who teaches at Jawaharlal Nehru University [of New Delhi]. He says Jamaat-e-Islami has in fact taken steps to participate in politics by floating the Welfare Party of India. Ahmed notes that despite ideological unity, Jamaat-e-Islami in India has done well for itself by dissociating from its counterparts in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Kashmir.

"On a recent visit to Dhaka, Syed Haider Farooq Maududi, son of Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Maududi, argued that a democratic state should stay away from religion, observing that 'religion is for the people and people are not for religion.' Arguing that religion should stay within the personal life of individuals, he said: 'The holy Koran does not talk about politics, it rather talks for the person so that one can become better. Political interpretation of religion always brings destruction in the society.' It is clear that the war in Pakistan and Bangladesh underlines an urgent need for separation of religion and politics - a precondition for a free society, a challenge for Islamic nations across the world, and a lesson politicians in India also need to learn."


[1] The Daily Star (Bangladesh), December 13, 2013. The original English of the reports used in this dispatch has been mildly edited for clarity and standardization.

[2] The New Indian Express (India), December 12, 2013.

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