Barrister Abdur Razzaq, the man who led the defence of 1971 war crimes convicts, has recently resigned from the Jamaat-e-Islami citing its failure to apologise for its anti-liberation role and reform party charter. The top leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who held the position of assistant secretary general, issued a media statement after sending his letter of resignation from the UK to the party chief. However, the Jamaat-e-Islami has expressed dissatisfaction over the resignation of its Assistant Secretary General. The party issued a statement hours after Razzaq tendered his resignation.
After Razzaq’s resignation Bakhtiar Uddin, General Secretary of Jamaat, Bherberi Union under Khansama Upazila in Dinajpur tendered his resignation before the upazila Ameer of Jamaat. Bakhtiar, a village doctor and former president of Islami Chhatra Shibir, Nilphamary district unit, in his resignation letter said the resignation of Abdur Razzaq has opened up his eyes to understand that Jamaat is an anti-liberation war force.He also advised Jamaat to offer its apology before the nation for its role in 1971.
The Jamaat-e-Islami is an organisation which had tried to strangle Bangladesh to death at its birth, and which being unsuccessful in its mission views Bangladesh as the symbol of its defeat. Jamaat men had collaborated with the Pakistani army to butcher the Bengali freedom fighters and prevent the secession of East Pakistan from West Pakistan in 1971. Jamaat had formed various killer armies namely Al Badr, Razakars, Al-Shams which worked hand-in-hand with the Pakistani army to slaughter the Bengali freedom fighters. But all their efforts went in vain when Bangladesh ultimately emerged as an independent nation on 16th December 1971. In their effort to abort it, the Jamaat and its killer armies together with the Pakistan’s military junta had killed three million people, raped 425,000 women, destroyed hundreds and thousands of habitations and forced 10 million people to leave their homes and lead the unfortunate lives of refugees in India.
The Jamaat-e-Islami is the biggest religion-based political party in Bangladesh. It aspires to transform the political, social, religious, cultural and economic structure of Bangladesh according to Islamic Sharia Law. Jamaat-e-Islami has exclusive membership process, networks and strong organisational structure from local to national level. It has accelerated the Islamisation of Bangladeshi society which has had the effect of disturbing religious tolerance and increasing violence in the country. Its patronage politics and strong affiliation with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) since the last one and half decades has won support among sections of the public. The Jamaat wishes to change the existing political order and system to establish an Islamic state and replace a political and social system based on parliamentary democracy with a theocratic Islamic state, which will have no place for nationalism, secularism and socialism.
With Islam as its sole capital, Jamaat always tries to penetrate deep inside the Bangladeshi politics, society and culture, thereby Islamising the entire nation. The primary agenda of the party is to indoctrinate the mind of the people according to Islamic injections on the basis of Sharia law because of, theoretic Islamic state, ‘can be established only by those who know and practise Islam according to the Jamaat’. Fundamentally, the party believes that without effective support of Islamic society, Islamic state cannot be achieved in the country. So it always attempts to highlight an Islamic consciousness and to brainwash the people. The process of the Jamaat is done by operating various front organisations such as Islami Chhatra Shibir, Islami Chhatri Sangstha and other religious cultural organisations such as Bangladesh Masjid Mission, Bangladesh Islamic Centre.
For some time, Jamaat had remained a political outcaste, but gradually since the regime of Ziaur Rahman till that of Begum Khaleda Zia, Jamaat has been well assimilated in the Politics of Bangladesh so much so that during the second regime of Begum Khaleda Zia (2001-2006), Jamaat formed a part of the coalition government. Ziaur Rahman had allowed Ghulam Azam, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islam to come to Bangladesh in 1979. After the 2001 elections, Jamaat-e-Islami leaders were made ministers and they roamed the country with the flag of Bangladesh, which they opposed in 1971. In 2001, during the BNP-Jamaat regime, thousands of Hindus left the country after constant persecution. They became a political tool in the hands of these right-wing political parties to target the Awami League which has traditionally won over these minorities come election time. Jamaat-e-Islami has been largely responsible for this violence.
After returning to power in January 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Bangladesh’s independence hero Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, established the International War Criminal Tribunal in March 2010, almost 40 years after the 1971 war. Five Jamaat-e-Islami party leaders - Mir Quasem Ali, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Abdul Quader Molla, Muhammad Kamaruzzaman and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid - have already been executed for 1971 war crimes. Apart from them, BNP leader Salaudin Quader Chowdhury was executed for war crimes. Both BNP and Jamaat have dismissed the court as a government ‘show trial’, saying it is a domestic set-up without the oversight or involvement of the United Nations.In 2014, members of Jamaat and its youth wing, Shibir, and supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party have engaged in countless attacks on security forces and others in name of movement. Attacks have included throwing homemade grenades and petrol bombs at police, arson attacks to enforce a road blockade, derailing passenger trains, setting fire to the homes and businesses of Hindus and Awami League officials, and throwing grenades into crowded streets. 85 people have killed in the violence; of them 51 have been killed directly by BNP-Jamaat arson attacks through petrol bombs or Molotov cocktails. 1320 people have been injured, including those with various degrees of burn injuries; 570 vehicles (including passenger buses, trucks, mini-vans, private cars etc) have been torched and 454 others vandalised. 11 incidents of railway sabotage took place, resulting in derailment of trains, subsequently killing and injuring passengers. At Least 8 marine vessels known as ‘launches’ came under attack, primarily from arson. Children have been killed and injured in the violence, including by picking up stray homemade grenades.
The Election Commission revoked the registration of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami after it received a copy of the full order of High Court that declared the registration of the party illegal. Election Commission issued a notification cancelling the registration of the party. The notification was issued as per article 90H of the Representation of the People Order 1972. Before the 10th parliamentary elections, the High Court on August 1, 2013 declared Jamaat’s registration by the Election Commission void and illegal. The High Court came up with the verdict after Bangladesh Tariqat Federation’s Secretary General Rezaul Haque Chandpuri and 24 others filed the writ petition on January 25, 2009. Jamaat-e-Islami is a religion-based political party and they do not believe in independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. It is to be noted that on November 14, 2008, Election Commission listed Jamaat as a registered political party in violation of the Constitution and the spirit of the Representation of People Order (RPO) Ordinance.
Razzaq’s resignation might be a plan to regain Jamaat’s registration with the Election Commission. Why have they decided to ask forgiveness 47 years after the independence? The government must consider whether it is part of a strategy. The Jamaat-e-Islami has formed a five-member high-powered committee to devise a strategy for emerging as a new political party with a different name. The committee would work on the formation of a “new party”, its constitution and other strategies to make them “acceptable to the country’s people”. The government should come forward to preach true Islam in a united way so that mass people could be aware about Jamaat-e-Islami and their heinous crimes against the country.
(The author acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.)
The writer is a Chinese Government PhD Fellow and Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Jagannath University, Dhaka