Category Archives: Bangladesh

2016: Mir Quasem Ali

On this date in 2016, Bangladesh hanged tycoon Mir Quasem Ali for crimes against humanity committed during that country’s 1971 War of Independence from Pakistan.

Known at the time of his death as the wealthiest patron of the party Jamaat-e-Islami, Mir Quasem Ali was in 1971 a first-year physics student at Chittagong College.

This cataclysmic year saw “East Pakistan” — as it was then known — separated from Pakistan amid an infamous bloodbath, and it was for this bloodbath that Ali hanged 45 years later. At the time, he was a member of the Islamist student organization Islami Chattra Shangha;* in the autumn of 1971, that organ was tapped for recruits to the pro-Pakistan paramilitary Al-Badr which helped carry out wholesale massacres. Some three million people are thought to have died during this war.

The court that noosed him found that Ali helped to orchestrate the abductions of pro-independence activists to a three-story hotel in Chittagong commandeered from a Hindu family. Victims there were tortured and some murdered, although others survived to tell of Al-Badr guards announcing the defendant’s arrival with the words “Mr Quasem is here. Mr Commander is here,” seemingly establishing quite a high degree of responsibility for events under that roof.

After a bad result in the war, he fled to Saudi Arabia and embarked on the business career that would see him into the global oligarchy as a billionaire media mogul and (once back in Bangladesh) the chief financier of the chief Islamist party. When a score-settling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed initiated a tribunal to try human rights crimes from the 1971 war, Mir Quasem Ali immediately started spreading millions around Washington D.C. lobby shops in an unsuccessful bid to use international pressure to shut down the proceedings.

He maintained his innocence to the last, even refusing to seek a presidential clemency since that would have entailed an admission of guilt. These trials, several of which have ended at the gallows, have been intensely controversial within Bangladesh, and without.

* Its present-day successor organization is Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir … which was founded in 1977, by Mir Quasem Ali.

2009: Minurul Islam and two friends, for a dowry death

On this date in 2009, a husband was hanged with two friends for murdering a wife who shorted him on his dowry.

The three were hanged at one minute past midnight in western Jessore jail after they failed to secure presidential pardons for the murder of Minu Ara, 18, the official, Kamrul Huda, said.

Minurul Islam and his two friends were sentenced to death in 2002 by the supreme court for killing Ara after her father failed to pay a promised dowry of 100,000 taka. [$1,450 US]

Their execution follows that of two men in southern Bangladesh in December over a similar dowry murder.

So-called “dowry deaths” — including not only outright murder but suicide driven by in-laws’ mistreatment — reportedly produces several thousand deaths per year in South Asia, including Pakistan and India.