Posts filed under 'Pakistan'

1943: Hemu Kalani, Sindh revolutionary

1 comment January 21st, 2011 Headsman

On this date in 1943, the British hanged India independence activist Hemu Kalani in Sukkur for attempting to sabotage a rail line.

You could say the Sindh youth was not cowed by the Empire’s suppression of the Quit India movement.

“In the face of this shameful capitulation of the ‘left’ leaders,” he raged of respectable pols prepared to accept office at the pleasure of the British during wholesale confinement of political prisoners, “what should the rank and file ‘leftists’ do?”

It is only by waging unremitting struggle against capitulation in every form, by fighting against dissolution of their own organizations, that they can seriously fight to attain the goal. Intransigent opposition to every capitulationist masquerading as a ‘leftist’!

As the British rounded up the Quit India leadership, less conciliatory young people like Kalani came to the fore (pdf) and then were further radicalized by British intransigence.

If you’re going to lock up Mr. Nonviolence himself, Mahatma Gandhi, you’re going to get to deal instead with the elements he keeps in check. That was certainly Gandhi’s argument: he refused to condemn violence, observing that the British themselves had called it up.

Mass protests gave way to more aggressive direct action; in Kalani’s case, that meant derailing a train bringing ammunition to the European forces occupying his native province.

Caught in the act, he refused under torture to shop his comrade, earning a hemp necktie from the occupiers and the tribute of posterity on the subcontinent.

Somewhat ironically, the relative intransigence of Quit India supporters during this period, as compared with the Muslim League‘s greater support for Britain’s immediate World War II exigencies, helped to cleave apart Pakistan and India when independence did come in the late 1940s … which is why the Hindu Kalani is most honored in India, even though his native soil is now in Pakistan.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,England,Execution,Hanged,History,India,Martyrs,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan,Power,Revolutionaries,Torture,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1971: Martyred Intellectuals’ Day in Bangladesh

3 comments December 14th, 2009 Headsman

This date’s observance marks the systematic execution by (West) Pakistani forces of the intellectual class of East Pakistan at the end of the civil war which would detach the east as the independent nation Bangladesh — an unavenged war crime as cynical as it was brutal.


Executed intellectuals in the Dhaka Rayerbazar, 1971.

This was not a single discrete massacre, but a continuing policy during the March-December 1971 war. December 14, just two days before the Pakistani army surrendered, was the peak date of a dreadful endgame paroxysm that saw hundreds of scholars, teachers, lawyers, doctors, artists, writers, engineers, and the like rounded up and summarily executed in a bid to decapitate the new Bengali state’s intelligentsia.

Though the martyrs were subsequently venerated in Bangladesh, the higher-stakes regional geopolitics have always made effective redress a nonstarter.

Gorgeous pictures of another memorial.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Artists,Bangladesh,Borderline "Executions",Death Penalty,Doctors,Execution,Famous,History,Innocent Bystanders,Intellectuals,Lawyers,Martyrs,Mass Executions,Mature Content,No Formal Charge,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan,Popular Culture,Power,Shot,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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2002: Ahmed Sultan and Mohammad Humayun, who murdered Meena

1 comment May 7th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 2002, the killers of one of Afghanistan’s most noted feminists were hanged in Mach Jail outside Quetta, Pakistan.

Afghan feminist Meena Keshwar Kamal had founded in 1977 the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. RAWA works (and has done so against the successive Soviet, Taliban and Karzai regimes) for secularism, democracy and equality — per this poetic manifesto of its founder (Source):

I am a woman who has awoken
I have arisen and become a tempest through the ashes of my burnt children
I have arisen from the rivulets of my brother’s blood
My nation’s wrath has empowered me
My ruined and burnet villages replete me with hatred against the enemy
O compatriot, no longer regard me as weak and incapable
My voice has mingled with thousands of arisen women
My fists are clenched with fists of thousands of compatriots
To break together all these sufferings, all these fetters of slavery
I am the woman who has awoken
I’ve found my path and will never return.

Meena was assassinated in Quetta in 1987 just shy of her 31st birthday; that her killer(s) be brought to justice was long one of RAWA’s key political demands, and the organization supported this day’s hanging.

RAWA itself — which enjoyed a brief turn at the height of worldwide vogue as the United States prepared to invade Afghanistan and found itself suddenly inspired by the plight of women under the mullahs — holds its fallen founder as a martyr and continues to agitate.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 21st Century,Afghanistan,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Crime,Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,History,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Pakistan,Ripped from the Headlines

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1979: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan

Add comment April 4th, 2008 Headsman

In the small hours of the morning this date, the Pakistani military junta hanged former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

At the end of 1971, Bhutto, a former cabinet official who had broken with Pakistan’s military strongman, rode a wave of discontent into power as the economy crumbled, and East Pakistan broke away from Islamabad to form Bangladesh.

Born to a well-heeled Muslim family in British India, the charismatic and often arrogant Bhutto had feets in the streets and a way with both the domestic audience and the global one:

But he did not necessarily have a power bloc equal to the weight of the Pakistani military as he navigated the storm of controversial domestic challenges; in retrospect, it seems only a matter of time before his hold on power would slip.

In July 1977, Army Chief of Staff Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, a fellow clan member whom Bhutto had promoted ahead of more senior officers, repaid his sponsor by overthrowing him in a virtually bloodless coup.

A protracted — and vengeful — legal drama with a pre-scripted ending unfolded over the ensuing two years, with Bhutto twice released and twice re-arrested, convicted of an earlier political murder on the testimony of “witnesses” who had obviously been tortured and coached, and his sentence upheld by a divided Supreme Court gamed to avoid the presence of a pro-Bhutto judge.

It was not out of character for this affair that the fallen Prime Minister was hanged secretly and before he expected, his (widely protested) death not announced until the following morning.

Allegories of Bhutto and Zia struggle for power in this early Salman Rushdie novel (more).

Bhutto makes a flawed saint, but his turn at power stands as an island of something like democracy in a sea of Cold War Pakistani dictatorships.

The Pakistan Peoples Party he founded still remains a principle organ of liberalism in Pakistan, and still honors its martyred leader. Reflective of both the vision and the personal autocracy of its progenitor, its leadership has passed dynastically through Bhutto family members, most famously daughter Benazir Bhutto, who succeeded Gen. Zia (he died in a suspicious plane crash) as Prime Minister — the first female elected head of state in the Islamic world.

Benazir Bhutto, of course, was assassinated this past December, just ahead of parliamentary elections that have just now produced a coalition government that will vie with Islamabad’s most recent military ruler for power.

The website bhutto.org preserves a considerable collection of the elder Bhutto’s writings, as well as photography, video and other resources.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Martyrs,Murder,Notable Jurisprudence,Notably Survived By,Pakistan,Political Expedience,Politicians,Power,Ripped from the Headlines,Wrongful Executions

1949: Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin

15 comments November 15th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1949, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin was hanged at India’s Ambala Jail, together with one of his co-conspirators.

Often spoken of posthumously as little less than a saint, Gandhi was deeply immersed in the controversial rough-and-tumble politics of his time — India’s independence movement, and the shape of the nascent state. Winston Churchill, for instance, scorned him as “a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace.”

The hatred of a Tory M.P. at the twilight of the empire might be expected, but it was a Hindu nationalist who struck Gandhi down after the partition into a Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan. Gandhi had vocally opposed partition on the grounds of interreligious tolerance — but he eventually assented to Pakistan’s separation when he became convinced that the alternative was civil war.

Distrusted by Hindu partisans for his “appeasement” of minority groups within India, Gandhi survived numerous attempts on his life. But he sealed his fate by fasting to compel Delhi to make its agreed-upon partition payments to Islamabad even in the midst of war. Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist, gunned him down during evening prayers on January 30, 1948.

(For a less Hollywood take on Gandhi, a five-hour documentary available online surveys his life.)

Godse never betrayed doubt or regret. On the contrary, he cogently justified the murder at trial:

I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honour, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me and dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason which I consider to be necessary for sound nation-building.

I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus. There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots.

Sixty years later, the subcontinent and the world at large seem more strained than ever by the collision between these men’s visions — the secular and egalitarian as against violent religious animosity.

Godse’s old party, the RSS, has become a substantial far-right bloc in the modern political scene. And while the party has always disavowed responsibility for the murder, some still consider Godse a hero. Pakistan, for whose birth Gandhi was slain, totters on the brink of an abyss.

Gandhi, meanwhile, is not only the official “father of his country” but has become the very watchword for nonviolence, his tactics and ideas inspiring such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. But his life and legacy remain live topics of research and dispute.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,India,Infamous,Martyrs,Murder,Notable for their Victims,Occupation and Colonialism,Pakistan

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