ISLAMABAD: Bangladesh authorities have refused entry to five Pakistanis who wanted to appear as defence witnesses for Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)’s Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.
Chowdhury had been sentenced to death by a tribunal set up by the Awami League-led government in 2010 to prosecute alleged war crimes committed in the 1971 war.
The tribunal’s chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir, while pronouncing Chowdhury’s death sentence, said “We are of the unanimous view that the accused (Chowdhury) deserves the highest punishment for committing such crimes that tremble the collective conscience of mankind.”
Chowdhury had listed eight defence witnesses, including five from Pakistan. These included former caretaker prime minister Mianmuhammad Soomro, former state minister for information Ishaq Khan Khakwani, Muneeb Arjumand Khan, Amber Haroon Saigol and Riyaz Ahmad.When these witnesses sent their sworn affidavits, the tribunal deemed them inadmissible and rejected them except for Soomro’s. An appellate division, where Chowdhury had challenged the sentence, too rejected the affidavits.
Simultaneously, the Bangladesh government moved to bar entry of the five Pakistanis. It wrote a letter to the international airport immigration police with the names and photographs of the witnesses, with request blacklist them. The international body subsequently communicated the ban to Pakistani authorities.
Khakwani told The Express Tribune that they have approached the Supreme Court of Bangladesh over the tribunal’s refusal to accept them as witnesses. He further expressed disappointment over the Bangladesh government’s move to bar their entry.
“We are protesting the Bangladesh government’s decision regarding our ban on every forum,” Khakwani stated as he questioned the tribunal’s logic to not allow international witnesses. Chowdhry was one of the first members of the opposition party BNP who were sentenced by the Bangladesh war crimes tribunal around two years ago.
Human rights groups and the BNP maintain that the tribunal, which has so far convicted 24 people falls short of international standards, with critics maintaining that the case was politically motivated.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2015.