Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 68, 15 April 2020

Bangladesh: Abdul Majed executed for the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Adnan Aziz Chowdhury

In the news 

On 12 April, Bangladesh executed Abdul Majed, who was convicted in the murder of the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  He was captured by the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Unit of Bangladesh Police in Mirpur on 7 April 2020. His execution came after being denied of the presidential pardon.

Issues at large

Majed was active in the planning and killing of Bangabandhu in August 1975. He seized the Dhaka Radio Station right after the killings and was also involved in the jail-killing event of November 1975. Given immunity under the Indemnity Act, Majed stayed safe off any legal actions even as an assassin of the national leader. This act was subsequently scrapped by the Parliament in November 1996.

During all the regimes till 1996, Majed held positions of importance and was given the privilege by being appointed as the Deputy Secretary to the Bangladeshi Embassy in Senegal and later promoted to the rank of a Secretary. He worked at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation. He served as the Director of both the Youth Development in the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the National Savings Directorate. 

In 1997, Majed disappeared after Sheikh Hasina was elected as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. He fled to Libya and then to Pakistan before arriving in India where he lived for more than two decades. 

In 1998, he was sentenced to death for the assassination of Bangabandhu. In August of 2008, he was awarded a life sentence for the jail killing incident and subsequently the High Court confirmed a death sentence in November 2009. After the ruling in 2009, five of the 12 convicted in the assassination were executed in January 2010 while the remaining seven went in hiding. Among the seven convicts, one of them had died earlier in Zimbabwe in 2001. Abdul Majed is now executed. 

In perspective

The Bangladesh law minister has claimed the execution of Abdul Majed, a gift to the people in the Mujib Year. The execution has received public support and there have been no public debates or opposing sentiments to this decision from the citizens or any political party. However, some implicit impacts need attention. Majed was directly involved in the murder of six people, indispensable to the administration and governance of the country and the Awami League after independence. 

First, with the execution, Awami League hopes to gain mass support as one of its prime election promise stands fulfilled. In its election manifesto, Awami League had promised that justice would be brought to the murderers of the father of the nation. As the country faces the pandemic, the ruling party has now requested its people to have faith in the administration.

Second, in the time of the pandemic, Majed's execution has helped in turning the general public's attention to media. The government has been facing an arduous task to curb the dissemination of fake news during COVID-19 and with the news of execution the public has once again resorted to believing government-led data over false alerts. This has, in turn, helped the government in controlling the panic COVID-19. However, the paranoia remains as the community is in deep fear over the increase in the number of infected corona cases every day. The latest affected number crossed 1,00o, and more than 50 doctors and around 100 hospital staff are affected by the virus. 

Third, the decision of the execution may have helped invoke a nationalistic tendency among the people while establishing faith in the government. The government was able to forge solidarity by requiring the public to stay at home and self-quarantine with a compelled sense of nationalist sentiment and responsibility as the liberation war. Last, the execution was also a reminder to the people of the privileges that Abdul Majed have had under the other regimes. The people were reminded that the other regimes allowed Abdul Majed to have access to the civil service administration, and it was only the current administration which was able to ensure justice. 

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