Dhaka, Dec 15 - The reaction of the people at hearing the news that the Butcher of Mirpur had got his just desserts was spontaneous and expressed the collective pain of a nation.
Gonojagoron Mancha activists, who were camped in Dhaka's Shahbagh since December 10 waiting for the verdict to be implemented, burst into cheers after the execution.
"The execution of Quadar Mollah is a tribute to the country's three million martyrs," said Gonojagoron Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarker.
A torch-light procession aptly expressed their feelings.
Said one freedom fighter waving the national flag - "I've waited for this day for 42 years. Perhaps, Allah has kept me alive till date to see this."
"This is the happiest day of my life," said another with tears in his eyes. "We can go to sleep tonight knowing that we didn't let our predecessors' sacrifices go in vain."
Appeals in the war crimes cases against six others are now pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. They are former Jamaat Ameer Ghulam Azam and leaders Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, Delawar Hossain Sayedee and Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and its former leader Abdul Alim.
The War Crimes Tribunals have already awarded the capital punishment to Mojaheed, Sayedee, Kamaruzzaman and Salauddin and sentenced Ghulam Azam to 90 years in jail and life imprisonment to Alim for their wartime offences.
The Supreme Court is now holding hearings on the appeal in the case against Sayedee. The court is yet to fix any date for hearing others.
Before the execution, the Jamaat had threatened "The government and the Awami League will have to pay for every single drop of blood if Abdul Quadar Mollah is killed."
Following the execution, reaction from the Jamaat was on expected lines. Awami League leaders were beaten up, Hindu homes and shops were burnt, more hartals have been called for.
Even earlier, Mostafa Hawlader, a key witness in the war crimes case against Delawar Hossain Sayedee, was stabbed in his house on December 8, after which, he succumbed to his injuries on December 10.
This death was followed by the torching of the village home of a senior judge of the War Crimes Tribunal, Surendra Kumar Sinha, at Kamalganj in Moulvi Bazar, and of Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, chairman of International Crimes Tribunal-1.
A number of prosecution witnesses have received death threats in the last two years and, recently, bombs were exploded near the residences of several prosecutors.
All right thinking people in Bangladesh will have to gird their loins, stay firm and withstand a repeat of the 1971 tactics of the Jamaat.
Sheikh Hasina has done well for executing the verdict in the first case despite direct and indirect international pressure. She has responded remarkably to popular sentiments to see that the ends of justice are met, even 42 years later.
But where is the BNP and Khaleda Zia in all of this?
Khaleda has obviously been caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. The Jamaat is their ally and provides the street and muscle power for the BNP's on-going hartals to force Sheikh Hasina to step down and install a neutral caretaker government.
Yet, the popular mood is totally in favour of the war crimes trials and the collective happiness at Mollah's hanging could not have escaped Khaleda.
Does the BNP join the celebrations and antagonize their muscle power and thus diminish their chances of forcing Hasina to step down or, do they stay quiet and be out of sync with the popular sentiments?
A Hobson's choice really for Khaleda, but from the weak responses so far from the BNP, it is not hard to assess which way the party is going.
In a signed statement by the BNP chairperson's press secretary Maruf Kamal Khan, Khaleda Zia stated that this government has shattered Bangladesh's dream for independent judiciary and the people's trust on it has been damaged. She added that not only in the country, serious questions are being raised in the international arena about the judicial system.
While thanking the governments of the U. S., UK, Canada, Australia as well as the UN and the European Union, all of whom had cautioned against executing Mollah, she called upon the government and people of India also to express solidarity with the world community showing respect to the sentiments, feelings and demands of the overwhelming majority of the people of Bangladesh.
The BNP has clearly read the tea leaves wrong, and this will cost it dearly as and when it participates in the elections.
The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Salim Haq. By Salim Haq (ANI)