Nizami was hanged to death after the Supreme Court rejected his final plea against a death sentence imposed by a special tribunal for genocide, rape and orchestrating the massacre of top intellectuals during the war.
Nizami’s execution comes at a time when Bangladesh has seen a recent resurgence in Islamist violence. At stake here, is the secular character that many Bangladeshis want to espouse. The war of 1971 is often used as an anchor for modern-day struggles in Bangladesh to maintain its secular identity.
These struggles reached their zenith during the Shahbag protests in 2013 that demanded the death sentence for senior Jamaat leaders accused of numerous war crimes in collusion with the Pakistani forces. The ruling Awami League government has used these struggles to not only prosecute people involved with war crimes but also perpetuate its “secular” credentials, as opposed to Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat.
But in the wake of the Hasina government’s actions, Bangladesh has witnessed a series of targeted murders of secular writers and intellectuals by banned Islamist groups, working allegedly on the behalf of the Islamic State. The most recent case was of Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique, who was hacked to death by murderous fanatics. Reports indicate that these murderous fanatics owe their allegiance to the Islamic State.
Although the Bangladesh government denies the presence of the Islamic State in the country, banned Islamist groups continue to strike fear and mayhem. “The basic conflict in Bangladesh is between modernism and Islamism,” said Saeed Naqvi, a veteran Indian journalist and commentator. “Bunched together as Jamaat-e-Islami and BNP, the Islamists constitute about 30 percent of the country living in an ‘Islamic’ past, divorced from the magic of its syncretism.”
There is an insidious intent behind these attacks on secular writers and bloggers, according to Naqvi. “Macabre attacks on soft targets in Bangladesh have multiple purposes: they discredit the Hasina government, intimidate liberals, the anti-Jamaat e Islami masses,” he said. “Under stress, the Hasina establishment responds to such criticism by unfurling its authoritarian fangs.” Religious fanatics in Bangladesh seek the formation of an Islamic state based on Sharia law. However, since the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League took office in 2009, Dhaka has taken stringent action against the terror group and its affiliates.
The Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, declares itself to be a secular party that is protective of minority Hindus and Buddhists. Until the recent spate of killings, this sort of extremist had struck in the Bangla countryside. But the latest attacks are in the heart of Dhaka have deepened concerns about Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s grip on the administration. A criticism of the regime has unfortunately invited knee-jerk response for the Hasina government.