"War Crimes Trials in Bangladesh Create Opening for Islamist Militants"
Bangladesh, the world’s fourth largest Muslim country, has recently experienced an intense cycle of massive protest rallies marked by violent confrontations between moderate secularists and Islamic radical forces. The spark for these religious and political confrontations has been the ongoing trials for war-crimes committed by Islamist groups during and just after 1971’s Operation Searchlight, the Pakistani campaign that preceded the Bangladesh Liberation War. At the time, Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan and was part of a larger but geographically-divided Muslim state that included the more developed territory of West Pakistan (now the Islamic Republic of Pakistan). Dissatisfaction in East Pakistan with the leadership of Pakistani President Yahya Khan over the united territories led to a 1971 revolt that was brutally suppressed by the Pakistani military and local militias through the killing of hundreds of thousands of Bengalis and Hindus (exact figures are disputed). These events led to a general war between Pakistan and India (which supported the Bengali separatist movement) and the eventual independence of Bangladesh.
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