Monday, 28 November, 2022

Out Of The Box

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Dr. Rashid Askari

The sudden appearance of Bangladesh Development Party (BDP) has aroused considerable controversy in the country’s political arena. To create a political party in Bangladesh is no big deal. There are already more than a hundred and one, and some more are expected to come into existence on the eve of the parliamentary elections in the offing. However, the question of BDP’s registration has set the scene for a heated debate across the country. Is this then a storm in the teacup? The situation calls for sober reflection about what is going on in our pre-election politics.

The controversy surrounding BDP is for the simple reason that those who are involving themselves in the creation of this party seem to have been loyal to the outlawed extreme right-wing party called Jamaat-e- Islami. And when it comes to the revival of the most hated political party in the country, the question of public opinion soon becomes more apparent than the legality of the issue.

It is a matter of common knowledge that Jamaat-e-Islami opposed the Liberation War of 1971. Its leaders were implicated in all kinds of war crimes or crimes against humanity—genocide, rape, pillage, arson and stood accused of aiding and abetting the occupation army. Immediately after independence, the new Government under Bangabandhu imposed a ban on the party and brought its leaders to justice. After his assassination in August 1975, the ban was lifted by Gen. Zia who introduced all the anti-liberation forces in the post-Mujib regime politics. After the party high-ups—Ghulam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Ali Ahsan Mujahid and many others were convicted for their part in 1971 war crime and served their sentences, the politics of Jamaat came to an abrupt halt. The Supreme Court convicted not only the war criminals but also their party. Again, in 2018 the Election Commission cancelled its registration and the party died a death. They could not assert themselves for quite a long time and lived a parasitic existence depending on BNP and other like-minded parties.

The emergence of BDP is an outburst of Jamaat’s political existence and an astute move that shows considerable tactical shrewdness. It is such a coolly calculating attempt that the less known leaders of Jamaat have been kept at the forefront pretending otherwise. They have played such make-believe that the Chief Election Commissioner has made a spectacular U-turn on his stance on BDP’s registration. He, who earlier said that the party whose registration was once cancelled on grounds of association with war crimes will not be allowed to have registration much as they angle for permission playing tricks on the people, is now singing a different tune and putting a new slant on the rebirth of Jamaat on the legal ground. This has also provoked debate.

The pro-liberation thinkers have raised a storm of protest against what they call pouring old wine in a new bottle. The president of Ekattorer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee (The Committee for Uprooting the Killers and Collaborators of Seventy-One) Shahriar Kabir has blasted the attempt to create the so-called BDP, which will, in his view, raise the spectre of religious fanaticism in the politics of Bangladesh once again. Shahriar Kabir is of the opinion that whatever colour they take on, the Jamaat-e-Islami and the people affiliated with it should not be allowed to take part in politics of Bangladesh as per the constitution of 1972 and in honour of the noble sentiments of the pro-liberation folks of the country. Article 38 well testifies to his claim. It declares people’s freedom of association which, of course, ensures their right to form associations or unions, but subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of morality or public order.

Jamaat-e-Islami is like a chameleon, which is much given to adapting to the new situation in order to survive. The BDP men are also changing their party’s name, constitution, logo and everything for their survival.

Though the BDP leaders claim that they are new brooms, it is evident that they had strong connection with Jamaat. And Jamaat means the realization of the political goals of Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami in the subcontinent. He was the father of political Islam and modern jihadism and spread the poison of racial hatred in post-partition Pakistan. He was convicted guilty of the 1953 Lahore riots and was sentenced to death, but later escaped by Saudi intervention. Jamaat was banned even in Pakistan. After the independence of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu banned Jamaat and cancelled the citizenship of its top leader Ghulam Azam who fled to Pakistan and organized the “East Pakistan Recovery Movement”. There is still a lot of stigma attached to their politics. So, much as they disguise themselves as innocent civilians asking for EC’s registration by right, it would be a terrible policy blunder to allow Jamaat to revive in disguise.

Some may, however, argue that if a group of people comply with the terms and conditions of the Election Commission, why should not they get registration as a new party. Apparently, it sounds convincing. But the point is, who these men are. A man is known by the company he keeps. A staunch supporter of Jamaat/ Maududism/ political Islam/ modern jihadism may use other political parties as transit points, but in the end, they will pin their faith on politicizing their religion which is not enshrined in the country’s constitution. This is a trick to take different political hues remaining the same in essence.

Jamaat’s dissociation from the BNP-led alliance is also a herald of its recovery from the recent debacle.  People have expressed alarm at the prospect of BDP’s registration, which is . If the new variant of Jamaat is given permission, they will come out of hibernation shedding skin like a snake and resume their activities with redoubled enthusiasm. This time they are cleverer and shrewder. They will focus more on social movement than political activities aimed at sowing the seeds of Maudidism in the hearts and minds of our younger generations. And this will cause irreparable harm to the country’s secular health. Because they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.


Dr. Rashid Askari is freethinking writer, academic and translator. Email: [email protected]