Pakistan – Bangladesh Relations After The Death Of Abdul Mulla Qadir
Steeped in a history of violence and dissonance, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a relationship that is tenuous at best. The nine-month war between the then East and West Pakistan with its death and destruction served as a precursor to the future of both these countries as well as the future relationship they would forge. It was believed that Jamaat-E-Islam (JEI) along with several other pro-Pakistan political supporters provided not just ideological but also support in the form of paramilitary forces in the 1971 War that saw the massacre of about three million Bangladeshis. To determine the culpability of those involved in what the government of Bangladesh termed as ‘Genocide’ of their people, the International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh was set up. Abdul Mulla Qadir of the JEI also known as the ‘Butcher of Mirpur’ charged on six counts of ‘Crimes with humanity’ after being found guilty by the tribunal was the first of five to be executed.
In the aftermath of the execution, Bangladesh was the venue of violent protests by JEI party workers, supporters and sympathizers alike. The international community also protested the actions of the government in changing the law and applying it retroactively to overturn the life imprisonment verdict pronounced by the Tribunal, in favor of the death sentence. The people of Pakistan and its government also voiced their disapproval of these actions. There were protests in the country that turned violent and a number of political leaders criticized this move by the Bangladeshi government. Foremost among them was the Federal Minister for interior, who while expressing his grief termed this act a ‘Judicial murder’. Furthermore, the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a resolution against the execution with a majority, demanding that the Bangladesh government settle all cases against the leaders of JEI amicably. This it was believed in Pakistan was a reviving of old wounds after 42 years. In retaliation to these words and actions in Pakistan, the government of Bangladesh proceeded to question the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Bangladesh in what it deemed as an ‘interference in a domestic matter’. The High Commission of Pakistan in Dhaka was also the venue of protests by the Bangladeshi people against Pakistan’s reaction to the execution.
The War of Bangladesh and the lives lost remain as a mental and verbal reminder of their differences with Pakistan. Although both the countries maintain that their relation are entirely cordial, there is simmering under the surface a continued resentment over the events of 1971 and what was lost. What remains to be seen is if any future reminders maintain this hard kept peace between Pakistan and Bangladesh or if they regress their past of strife, or will peace in the interest of both nations prevail.