The hanging of Mir Quasem Ali


PAKISTAN’S Foreign Office says Pakistan is “deeply saddened” by the execution in Bangladesh last week of Mir Quasem Ali. Mir Quasem was found guilty in 2014 by a Bangladeshi court of torture, multiple murders and arson. He was sentenced to death after what Pakistan describes as “a flawed judicial process”.

But why is Pakistan so worried about the integrity of Bangladesh’s judicial process? And why does our government care so greatly about the death of another country’s citizen — one accused of heinous crimes? The answer: when it comes to Bangladesh, Pakistan remains chained to its past.

Abstract concern for human life cannot explain why the FO expressed such strong feelings. Certainly, the death sentences passed on countless people around the world meet with complete indifference. Those horrors have not elicited even a murmur of protest from Pakistan’s civil and military establishments. In fact, the killing of Pakistan’s own citizens in foreign lands meets with silence. Think of the long list of Pakistanis beheaded in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for drug smuggling after being tried there by kangaroo courts.

Rather than try to defend war criminals, Pakistan must normalise relations with Bangladesh.

As for the fairness of the judicial process in Bangladesh, Amnesty International and other leading human rights organisations had already raised serious concerns about the process under which war crimes are being handled. These include denying defence lawyers adequate time to prepare their cases, and arbitrarily limiting the number of witnesses they could call upon. But Pakistan can scarcely accuse Bangladesh of unfair trials because its own judicial system has even shakier legs.

In contrast to Bangladesh’s — where the war crimes trials are held before a civilian court — Pakistani civilians accused of waging war against the state are tried behind closed doors by military courts. Further, they are not allowed to engage a lawyer of choice, nor allowed access to military court records. This is entirely inconsistent with modern ideas of judicial propriety.

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