Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami has planned to apply to the Election Commission for getting registration again in a new name to contest the next general election.
The party’s high command has taken a decision if they fail to get registration with a changed name, they will take a move to be merged with a registered party, party sources said.
The beleaguered party has taken the move after the EC has issued a public notice recently, urging new and unregistered political parties to get registered by October 29.
Jamaat was founded by controversial Islamist thinker Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi in undivided India under the British colonial regime in 1941.
“We’re thinking about this (changing name or merging with a registered party) as many of our well-wishers are giving us suggestions in this regard. If we take any decision to this end, we will inform it,” Jamaat-e-Islami Acting Secretary General Maulana ATM Masum told the Daily Sun.
The EC scrapped its registration on October 28 in 2018, leaving it unable to contest the general elections.
The party secured the registration with the EC on November 24 in 2008 after then army-backed caretaker government introduced a registration system for political parties to be registered with the EC.
Rezaul Haque Chandpuri, then secretary general of Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, along with 24 others filed a writ petition with the HC on January 25, 2009, seeking its order declaring Jamaat's registration illegal.
The petitioners said Jamaat was a religion-based political party and it didn't believe in independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. In the verdict, two judges of the three-member HC bench declared the registration illegal. However, the other judge disagreed with the decision of his two colleagues.
Jamaat then filed the appeal with the apex court challenging the HC verdict. However, the government has not banned the Islamist party yet.
“Although the EC cancelled the registration of our party, the government has yet not banned the party. However, a case has been pending with the appellate division of the apex court,” a Jamaat leader told the Daily Sun wishing not to be named.
In February 2019, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told parliament that the government could do nothing right now with the issue of banning Jamaat as a case in this regard had been pending with the court.
She hoped that Jamaat would be banned if the court gives verdict in favour of the ban.
Sources in Jamaat said after hanging the top leaders of the party for crimes against humanity, the party has been carrying out its organisational activities secretly and remains almost behind the scene.
The party now cannot work openly while it has lost its registration with the EC and cannot compete in any election with its symbol ‘scale’.
The party’s MP candidates contested the 11th parliament polls with ‘sheaf of paddy’, the electoral symbol of BNP.
Ahead of the next general election, the Jamaat high-ups have planned to rename the party and create a perception among people that it is not the party of war criminals, sources said.
A few Jamaat men said if their party changes its name, its ideologies will not be changed. The renamed party will follow the existing ideology and structure made by their founding leaders.
They also think if the party changes its current name, it will be benefitted in politics as no one can term them ‘a party of war criminals’. The party can also run their political activities publicly, they said.
Party insiders said the party leadership is now working to rename Jamaat to submit application to the EC to get registration. As part of the activities, they are now working to make a different party charter in combination of value of war of liberation and religious value.
The Jamaat Dhaka north city unit held a meeting in September where its leaders informed the activists that a new organization with a different name will be formed. A team of lawyers and legal experts are working to make its charter as well.
However, the Islamist party didn’t finalise the names of the new organization while some proposed names are under consideration of the party’s high command, the sources said.
Jamaat sent letters to the party’s leaders concerned in February 2019, saying that a five-member high-powered committee was formed to rename the party.
However, the process of renaming or switching to another party was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier, Jamaat Majlis-e-Shura held meetings in 13 regions across the country and they conveyed their decision to the central working committee.
Jamaat is now staying behind the scene and away from joint programme with BNP as both the opposition parties have already declared that they are not in alliance but they will go for simultaneous movement against the current Awami League government.