Bangladesh: Turkey, Pakistan Protest Nizami Execution

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
160512-BD-execution-react-620.jpg Pakistani supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami head Motiur Rahman Nizami offer absentia funeral prayers in Karachi, May 11, 2016.

Diplomatic fallout from Bangladesh’s execution of the chief of the country’s largest faith-based party grew Thursday when Turkey summoned home its ambassador to Dhaka after condemning the hanging.

The “Turkish Foreign Ministry has asked Turkey’s ambassador to Bangladesh to report to Ankara for consultations in the aftermath of hanging of a senior Jamaat-e-Islami party leader in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka,” Turkey’s state-run Anatolia News Agency reported Thursday, citing an unnamed diplomatic source.

Meanwhile, a diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Pakistan escalated over Wednesday’s hanging of Motiur Rahman Nizami for war crimes allegedly committed during the Bangladeshi war of independence in 1971, when the country was known as East Pakistan.

On Thursday Turkish ambassador Devrim Ozturk boarded a homeward flight, a day after Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the execution of Nizami, the chief of the opposition Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) party, Bangladeshi officials said.

“The Turkish ambassador left Dhaka at 6:20 a.m. Thursday on a Turkish airlines flight,” Kazi Imtiaz Mashroor, the officer-in-charge of immigration at the Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, told BenarNews.

However, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam told reporters that the Turkish government had not officially informed Dhaka about a recall of its ambassador.

“He [Ozturk] has informed us that he would be out of the country from May 12. And he also informed us who would be serving as ambassador in his absence,” Alam said, without naming who would assume that role.

The statement from the Turkish foreign ministry pointed out that Turkey had abolished capital punishment.

“We strongly condemn the execution, since we do not believe that Nizami deserved such a punishment and wish God’s mercy upon the deceased,” the statement said.

“For the protection of social harmony and peace in Bangladesh, we have in the last three years repeatedly called upon the leaders of Bangladesh at the highest level to suspend the execution of death sentences and conveyed our concerns that the practice of capital punishment may cause new tension in the society due to its unjust nature,” the ministry added.

Elsewhere, Pakistan on Thursday summoned Bangladesh’s acting high commissioner in Islamabad, Nazmul Huda, to deliver a “strong protest” letter. Hours later, Bangladesh summoned Pakistan’s envoy to Dhaka, Shuja Alam, and delivered its own protest letter.

“The attempts by the government of Bangladesh to malign Pakistan, despite our keen desire to develop brotherly relations with it, are regrettable,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said a statement.

On Wednesday, the Pakistani parliament adopted a resolution denouncing Nizami’s execution.

‘Very tough’

Former Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury described Ankara’s apparent decision to recall its ambassador as an act of protest over Nizami’s execution as extreme.

“Pakistan has not recalled its ambassador, but Turkey has. So, the events show that they are very tough on this issue,” he told BenarNews.

He said Turkey also reacted angrily when Bangladesh executed its first convicted war criminal in December 2013.

“The current President [then Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan telephoned our prime minister and expressed his frustration about the execution of Abdul Kader Molla,” Chowdhury said.

The United States, where the death penalty is enforced, was among countries and organizations voicing concern about whether Nizami and other convicted war criminals like him had received a fair trial by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), the Bangladeshi court that has been trying and sentencing to death suspected war criminals from 1971.

Hours before Nizami’s execution, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday called for improving the judicial process in Bangladesh while expressing misgivings about executions there.

“While we have seen limited progress in some cases, we still believe that further improvements to the ICT process could ensure these proceedings meet domestic and international obligations. Until these obligations can be consistently met, we have concerns about proceeding with executions,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said.

“Again, we support bringing to justice those who committed crimes during the war of independence, but we also have remaining concerns about proceeding with executions under these conditions which we will raise with the Government of Bangladesh.”

War crimes

JeI opposed the war of independence in 1971. The party sided with the Pakistan army even as civilians, including minority Hindus, were killed.

Bangladesh claims that 3 million people, including 300,000 women, were killed between March and December 1971, a figure rejected by Pakistan.

JeI formed armed auxiliary units to stop efforts for Bangladeshi independence. Nizami was the head of one such armed group, al-Badr that was held responsible for the extermination of leading Bengali intellectuals on Dec. 14, 1971 – two days before the Pakistani army surrendered in Dhaka.

Nizami was hanged in Dhaka for the killings of intellectuals and “genocide” in his hometown Pabna. The JeI student front, Islami Chhatra Shibir, on Wednesday clashed with police in the cities of Chittagong and Rajshahi over holding of a gayebana janaza (funeral prayer in absentia).

JeI called for a countrywide general strike on Thursday, which passed without incident, according to authorities.


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