Bangladeshi activists who fought in the 1971 war shout slogans as they celebrate outside The Supreme Court in Dhaka on August 30, 2016, after Mir Quasem Ali lost his final appeal against his death sentence. Photo: AFP
A file photo of Bangladeshi activists celebrating outside the Supreme Court in Dhaka on August 30, 2016, after Mir Quasem Ali lost his final appeal against his death sentence. Photo: AFP

Courts in Bangladesh are continuing to hand out death sentences to people who sided with Pakistan and were involved in mass killings during the 1971 liberation war.

The Indian website South Asia Terrorism Portal reported on June 4 that the special International Crimes Tribunal has sentenced Reaz Uddin Fakir, a member of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami’s student organization during the war, to death for murdering eight Hindu villagers in 1971.

“Thus far,” the website reported, “the War Crimes Trials, which began on March 25, 2010, have indicted 124 leaders” of various then pro-Pakistani and mostly Islamic organizations. “Verdicts have been delivered against 69 accused, including 43 death penalties and 26 life sentences.” Six of those 43 have been hanged.

Sheikh Hasina Wazed’s Awami League (AL)-led government, which came to power after winning the December 2008 elections, had made it one of its pledges during that the campaign to go after what those who assisted the Pakistan Army in 1971 and then, according to her and her party, were guilty of complicity in genocide.

Sheikh Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, led the fight for separation from Pakistan, which led to the formation of Bangladesh in 1971. He was assassinated by a group of disgruntled army officers in August 1975.

The problem is that new elections should be held in Bangladesh this year, and the opposition consists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and various Islamic-oriented allies. The BNP, led by Begum Khaleda Zia, the widow of Ziaur Rahman who was president from 1977 until he was assassinated in 1981, was prime minister from 1991 to 1996 and again from 2001 to 2006.

She will not be able to contest the election because she was given a five-year sentence in a corruption case in February, and the law prohibits a convicted person sentenced to over two years from taking part in an election. But if her party and its allies should win, Bangladesh could be entering a day of reckoning when the BNP and its allies take revenge on the AL, and that could plunge the country into yet another political crisis. If the AL-led coalition wins, the purge of pro-Pakistani and Islamic elements will most likely continue.