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Bangladesh’s Top Islamist Leader Sentenced To Death

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Motiur Rahman Nizami

Motiur Rahman Nizami

Dhaka: Motiur Rahman Nizami, the chief of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party, was sentenced to death Wednesday for crimes during the 1971 Liberation War, prompting his supporters to call nationwide protests.

A special tribunal ruled that the 71-year-old leader was guilty on eight of the 16 charges levelled against him in a historic trial that began four decades after Bangladesh became an independent nation.

The Jamaat-e-Islami chief led the Pakistan Army’s vigilante militia outfit Al-Badr during the 1971 war in a bid to foil Pakistan’s break up and to abort Bangladesh’s birth.

Nizami’s party called for a country-wide shutdown, media reports said.

The announcement was made on the party’s website after the International Crimes Tribunal-1 in Dhaka found Nizami guilty of leading the execution of intellectuals, mass killings, rape and looting during the nine months of Liberation War, the Daily Star reported.

The Liberation War culminated in the December 1971 India-Pakistan war. Pakistan lost East Pakistan and thousands of its soldiers surrendered to the Indian military.

Rejecting the court’s verdict, the party claimed that the government filed motivated and baseless cases against Jamaat leaders to strip the party of its leaders. It announced a shutdown from Thursday 6 a.m. to Friday 6 a.m. and from Sunday 6 a.m. to Tuesday 6 a.m.

“Charges brought against Nizami are totally false, fabricated and politically motivated,” it said.

Nizami asked his supporters to remain calm, saying he would battle the death verdict awarded to him “legally”. He dubbed the allegations against him as lies.

But a section of Jamaat supporters resorted to violence in some areas.

Nizami was blamed for the June 1971 killing of a schoolteacher, Kasim Uddin, one of the millions in then East Pakistan who favoured separation from West Pakistan as an independent nation Bangladesh.

Nizami was accused of guiding the Pakistan Army into arresting Kasim Uddin, who was tortured and shot with two others in Nizami’s presence.

Earlier, on May 10, Nizami invited residents of Baushbarhi village to a school for a meeting. But Pakistani troops reached the site and massacred 450 people of Baushbarhi and Demra villages.

The soldiers also raped 30-40 women.

On Tuesday night, the Jammat leader was brought to Dhaka from Gazipur’s Kahsimpur Central Jail and taken to the tribunal Wednesday morning.

He sat forlorn in the court’s lock-up. With his trademark Jinnah cap, clad in a white kurta and brown vest, Nizami looked about blankly, bdnews24.com reported.

Justice Rahim began with preliminary remarks before reading out a summary of the 204-page judgment shortly after 11 a.m.

Two other judges — Jahangir Hossain and Mohammad Anwarul Haque — were present in the heavily-guarded court crowded with lawyers, journalists and observers, Bangladeshi media reported.

Nizami served as the minister of agriculture from 2001 to 2003, then as the minister of industry from 2003 to 2006 in the four-party government of Khaleda Zia.

Hordes of 1971 war veterans as well as young men opposed to Islamist politics greeted the capital punishment, bdnews24.com said. Similar scenes were reported from other parts of Bangladesh too.

But the sentence was denounced by Nizami’s defence team as a breach of justice. His lawyers vowed to appeal against the verdict.

The government has beefed up security across Bangladesh.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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