On Thursday night, Bangladesh executed Abdul Quader Mollah, the assistant secretary-general of the Jamaat-e-Islami party (JI). The International Tribunal Court (ICT) found Mr Quader guilty on 5 counts of crimes against humanity. There is a misperception in Pakistan that the Islamist leader was executed solely for his pro-Pakistan stance during Bangladesh’s struggle for independence in 1971. It is also being propagated that the daughter of the slain pro-independence leader, Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman, currently serving as the PM of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajid, is exacting revenge by subjecting members of the opposition to political victimization.

The fact that widespread atrocities were committed against Bengalis during 1971 is generally accepted around the world. Pakistan Army officers, who were detained as prisoners of war after India intervened in 1971, were handed over to Pakistan without facing an accountability over their alleged crimes, as part of a deal reached between Islamabad and Delhi. However, for over 40 years families of victims have campaigned persistently for bringing the rest of the perpetrators to account. During the election campaign in 2008, Ms Hasina Wajid, promised to set-up a special tribunal, which will specifically deal with the issue and ensure justice. She was elected to office with an overwhelming majority.

The International Tribunal Court (ICT) was established in 2010, and immediately started hearing cases pertaining to crimes against humanity. Mr Mollah is one of the several Islamist leaders tried and convicted by the court. He was convicted on the following five charges: complicity in murder for acting as the mastermind in the murder of a civilian named Pallab. Complicity in murder as a crime against humanity for providing moral support and encouragement to the gang of perpetrators responsible for the murder of Meherunessa and others. Complicity in murder as a crime against humanity for culpable association of the accused with the principals responsible for the murder of Khandoker Abu Taleb, a pro-liberation civilian. Murder as a crime against humanity for accompanying and assisting the principals with full "awareness" in committing a massacre of unarmed civilians at Alubdi. Murder and rape as crimes against humanity for physically participating in the attack targeting Hazrat Ali and his family members, and for rape committed by members of the attacking group.

The court had originally sentenced him to imprisonment for life. But, the news was not well received by many in Bangladesh who took to the streets demanding a death sentence for Mr Quader. Due to this, an amendment in the law was made which allowed the prosecution to challenge the sentence, and so they did. A death sentence was then announced which was followed by celebrations and protests from different parts of the country. The overall mood in Bangladesh appears to be in favour of the ongoing trials, but there also exists an imminent danger of escalation in violence and unrest, following the execution of the man many remember as “the butcher of Mirpur”. It also stands to question whether street protests ought to be allowed to influence a life imprisonment sentence changing to a death penalty.