DHAKA: Bangladesh’s biggest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami on Wednesday called a nationwide general strike tomorrow to protest the execution of its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, the senior-most Islamist to be executed for war crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.
In a statement, Jamaat, which was opposed to Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, described 73-year-old Nizami’s execution as a “planned murder” and called a nationwide 24-hour strike from 5 am tomorrow to 5 am on Friday.
“He (Nizami) was deprived of justice. He is a victim of political vengeance,” acting Jamaat chief Mokbul Ahmed said in the statement urging people to observe the strike.
Jamaat’s previous such strike calls protesting the trial of their senior leaders for war crimes largely went unheeded.
The party last called a nationwide hartal on May 6, a day after the Supreme Court rejected Nizami’s review petition reconfirming his death penalty.
Nizami was hanged at midnight, a day after the Supreme Court verdict reached authorities at the Dhaka Central Jail.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Nizami had preferred not to seek presidential clemency as his last effort to avoid the noose “because he understood the crimes he had committed were unpardonable”.
Nizami was buried in line with Islamic rituals at his village home at northwestern Pabna’s Sathia sub-district early this morning in presence of family members and neighbours while armed police kept a sharp vigil.
An ambulance escorted by police cars carried the body straight to Sathia for burial though family members of the 1971 war victims and freedom fighters in the neighbourhood earlier declined to allow it to be buried there.
After pursuance by the local administration the freedom fighters and atrocity victims backed off a planned siege on the highway leading to Nizami’s home while several groups earlier demanded the body be sent to Pakistan for burial.
TV footage showed hundreds of people rallying at central Dhaka’s Shahbagh Square to celebrate the execution under the banner of Ganojagaran Mancha which was instrumental in building up a massive campaign seeking punishment for the war criminals.
“It will serve as a source of strength to the present
generation and convey the message that even 45 years after the event, we did not spare the culprits,” spokesman of the Mancha Imran H Sarkar told the rally.
Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal (ICT-BD) had originally handed him the capital punishment on October 29, 2014 for war crimes convicting him of “superior responsibility” as head of the notorious Al-Badr militia force manned by Jamaat men during the liberation war.
The militia force is blamed for conducting a systematic massacre of a large number of intellectuals just ahead of Bangladesh’s December 16, 1971 war victory.
“It would be a failure of justice, unless he is handed down the death penalty,” the ICT-BD commented as it pronounced the verdict to Nizami convicting him of “superior responsibility” as Al-Badr chief in 1971.
The Daily Star in a front page report said “Nizami (had) let loose his militia to cripple the soon-to-be-born Bangladesh intellectually” while leading Bangla daily ‘Samokal’ carried a special front page commentary headlined “History forgives none”.
A former minister in ex-premier Khaleda Zia’s BNP-led four-party coalition government, Nizami was in jail since 2010, when he was arrested to be tried for war crimes.
He was particularly found guilty of systematic killings of over 450 people alone in his own village.
With his execution, Nizami became the fifth top perpetrator to be hanged for crimes against humanity since the trial process began six years ago.