Before this week started and anyone asked me what I thought would happen to Molla, my standard answer was that I did not think that the government would go ahead with an execution before the elections unless it wanted a rationale to announce a state of emergency. At that time my thinking was as follows: if there was competitive elections with the BNP, then arguably it could serve the AL’s political interests to hang Molla, as it would at least make enthuse its political base essential for an election. But since the elections are not going to be competitive, with just the AL and a few of its small party allies taking part, I could not see much of an advantage for the AL – and in fact why would they do something like executing Molla which would open up a new violent front against it.
Of course, if the AL wanted an excuse to call a state of emergency then executing Molla would be the perfect thing to do. Execution, would be followed by widespread violence (over an above the existing unstable situation) and that this could provide the AL an excuse to call in the army, blaming the Jamaat at the same time.
When suddenly, the execution was announced on Tuesday, it suddenly appeared, with the US Asst Sec General in town, that there might be another explanation. I had around that time heard numerous reports that the UN diplomat had made progress, and that he had come with a plan, that many in both parties accepted, the prime minister would be relieved of her executive powers, with the president taking them over. It seemed plausible that perhaps the Molla execution was a sign that a political deal was in the offing and that the prime minister wanted to deal with the execution quickly before she lost her executive powers.
A diplomat that I spoke to scoffed at the above idea and thought that it was more likely the Awami League was trying to put the BNP into a difficult position. If it sided with the Jamaat, the AL could blame it for the violence and for leaving the dialogue (assuming it did that). If the BNP did not support Jamaat, their alliance would be put under strain.
By view now is as follows:
- although there is no competitive election, the AL needs to enthuse its base, at least to make sure its supporters come out at the election. Molla’s execution would help with this
- the war crimes trials was an election commitment, and one that the party needs to show that it fulfilled. An execution, would be the perfect example of this
- the AL leaders must feel pure hatred for the Jamaat and the role that they have played in supporting the BNP’s seige and other opposition activities. The execution would be payback.
- who know what will happen in the future, so best to get it done with
- and of course it will be useful in putting the BNP in a difficult position (as stated above) and also could provide a rationale for emergency (if they wanted to use it)