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Bangladesh: The hanging of Qadar Mollah (Part-I)

Dhaka, Dec.14 (ANI): In 1971, a 23-year old man and his Al Badr goons killed a two-year old boy by smashing him on the floor, slit the throats of his pregnant mother and two sisters, and raped his two other sisters, one of whom died from her wounds.

And, all this, because his father, a tailor was a mere supporter of the Awami League and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Forty-two-years later, justice finally caught up with the butcher. At 10.31 p.m. on December 12, 2013, the now 65-year-old Jamaat man finally paid for these acts of cold-blooded murder with his own life.

The man was Abdul Qadar Mollah, then president of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing, Islami Chhatra Sangha’s (later Islami Chhatra Shibir) Shahidullah Hall unit at Dhaka University in 1971, an organiser of the infamous Al-Badr, an auxiliary force of the Pakistan occupation army.

Post-1971, Mollah moved up the ranks of the Jammat and prior to his hanging, was the Assistat Secretary General of the Jamaat.

Mollah had earned the sobriquet of Mirpurer Koshai (Butcher of Mirpur) for his savagery during the Liberation War.

Not only as the first to be hanged for war crimes, Mollah will also go down in history as the man whose jovial acceptance of a lesser verdict of life imprisonment in February 2013, sparked the biggest demonstrations in Bangladesh called the Shahbagh movement.

On May 28, 2012, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) framed six charges that included: 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.

The ICT 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.

While legal pandits will no doubt debate the verdict and the legalities of the hanging, the reality is that with the Supreme Court having heard and rejected two review petitions, no legal avenue had been left unexplored in the case.

The Daily Star put it well in a lead article on December 13, 2013 “And we inform the world that Mollah died for reasons that were as valid in Dhaka as they were in Nuremberg and in Tokyo decades ago.”

Even more succinctly, it wrote in its editorial of December 13, 2013 – “In what was one of the most transparent and open trials, where the accused was given all the facilities to defend himself, something he did not accord to his many victims, and where all the legal procedures provided in the Constitution, including appeal, were made available to him, the sentence of death was awarded by the highest court of the country. That will, we hope, answer the critics and detractors of the trial about the clarity of the entire process.”

Mollah’s hanging is a watershed event by any standards for a country caught in a time warp desperately seeking closure of the painful wounds, both physical and psychological, it had been suffering since 1971. The first ever implementation of the war crimes trials, also marks the first steps for a closure of the trauma of 1971.

In a poignant article in the Daily Star on December 13, titled Justice triumphs, freedom wins, Syed Badrul Ahsan wrote “…for the first time in the forty two years we have spent, so far, in freedom… a war criminal, has met his due end only reminds us of what we must yet do to preserve our self-esteem as a nation. These forty two years have been symbolic of deep, penetrating pain for this nation for the very grave reason that we have seen the murderers of our compatriots – intellectuals, professionals, freedom fighters, citizens across the board – strut in all their hubris across a land they once tried to abort at birth. Now that justice has been done in Mollah’s case and will be done in the matter of others of his kind, it is time for the 160 million people of Bangladesh to inform the souls of our martyrs that we remember their supreme sacrifices, to let their pained families know that those who murdered their loved ones will pay the wages of their sins.”

“It goes to the credit of the nation that through all these troubled times, it has refused to forget its history. It has not ignored the need for justice because it knows that it owes its present and its future to those whom the war criminals and the foreign enemy they were beholden to murdered all those decades ago.”

Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League Government needs to be justly complemented for fulfilling the promises of its election manifesto, of not only setting up the tribunals to try war criminals but staying the course of the long hearing and implementing the judgment in the face of stiff opposition from within and from the international community.

The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Salim Haq. (ANI)

By Salim Haq