DHAKA—Thousands of police were deployed Wednesday in Bangladesh after the main Islamist party’s leader was executed for war crimes, in a country reeling from a string of killings of secular and liberal activists.
Jamaat-e-Islami party president Motiur Rahman Nizami was hanged at Dhaka’s Central Jail late Tuesday, after the top court upheld his death sentence for the massacre of intellectuals during the 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.
Nizami, a 73-year-old former government minister, was the fifth and the most senior opposition figure executed since the secular government set up a controversial war crimes tribunal in 2010.
Police erected checkpoints on major Dhaka roads to deter violent protests and officers and the elite Rapid Action Battalion were patrolling the capital, officials said.
“Several thousand policemen have been deployed in the capital as part of the stepped up security measures,” Dhaka police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told AFP.
Security was also tight in Nizami’s northwestern ancestral district of Pabna after his body was taken under armed escort overnight for burial in the family graveyard.
“At least 16 activists of Jamaat were arrested Tuesday night as part of the security clampdown,” Pabna police inspector Ahsanul Haq told AFP.
Jamaat has called a nationwide strike for Thursday in protest over Nizami’s execution.
Executions of Jamaat officials in 2013 triggered the country’s deadliest violence in decades. Around 500 people were killed, mainly in clashes between Islamists and police.
But a fresh wave of bloodshed is considered unlikely following a major crackdown by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government that has seen tens of thousands of Jamaat supporters arrested and detained.
Mubashar Hasan, an assistant professor at Bangladesh’s University of Liberal Arts, said Tuesday’s execution sounded the death knell for the already embattled Jamaat.
“With the execution of Nizami, the Jamaat leadership who revived the fortune of the party in the post-1971 period are now almost gone,” said Hasan.
“It’s a big blow for the party.”
Hasan also warned that the execution and crackdown could further radicalise Jamaat supporters against the secular government in the Muslim-majority nation.