Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh has been a crucial part of any BNP-led alliance since 1999, but recent events indicate that the Islamist party’s long-time tried and tested ally, which is looking to stage a political comeback, decided to keep Jamaat at arm’s length.
Jamaat, once a major player in national politics, has been reduced to a spent force in recent years as most of the party’s brass either were sentenced to death for their crimes against humanity back in 1971 or driven underground due to the government’s clampdown on the party’s activities.
BNP’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir at a press conference on Dec 8 last year, for the first time, conceded that his party would not form an official alliance with others to wage a joint anti-government campaign.
Many analysts believe that announcement was essentially the death knell for the BNP-led 20-party alliance, of which Jamaat was a significant element.
The party’s representatives were notably absent from the liaison committee BNP formed with other parties on Dec 26 and from the Dec 29 meeting with the newly-formed 12-party alliance, a remnant of the 20-party alliance.
Multiple senior BNP leaders interviewed for this report indicated that the party has no plan to announce any joint campaign with Jamaat. Instead, they have “orders to keep a safe distance” from Jamaat.
The incumbent Jamaat leadership was largely disappointed with BNP’s stance of maintaining distance, which the party’s Central Publicity Affairs Secretary Matiur Rahman Akanda did not attempt to hide.
“We wanted to stand beside BNP for any joint political movement. However, BNP announced its programmes without consulting us, essentially making those movements BNP’s own. Jamaat is a different party and has different political agenda. It’s not our job to make BNP’s movement successful,” he said.
Regarding the liaison committee, Akanda said they do not mind if they are consulted about any future joint political programmes.
THE SIGNS OF A WIDENING GAP
Since BNP’s 10-point announcement from a rally in Dhaka’s Golapbagh on Dec 10 last year, Jamaat as a party announced a plan to stand with BNP in every step until Dec 30, the last time the Islamist party participated for the sake of a joint movement.
BNP on Dec 17 announced a large procession for Dec 30 from in front of the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque. Jamaat officially said its members would participate in the procession but eventually did not.
Instead, Jamaat brought out its own procession from Malibangh on the same day, which ended with a clash with the police. At least 15 people were arrested, and five criminal cases were filed in this connection.
Since then, BNP has organised at least three joint programmes -- on Jan 11, Jan 16 and Jan 25 and the official word was that Jamaat would participate in these programmes.
Jamaat did not take part in any of it.
BNP’S DEAFENING SILENCE
bdnews24.com approached multiple senior BNP leaders to make the party’s stance on Jamaat, but almost all of them refused to speak on the record, saying the party's high command put an embargo on discussing the matter with the media.
Sidestepping the question, Nazrul Islam Khan, a member of BNP’s Standing Committee, the party’s highest policymaking body, said BNP would not make any official statement regarding its relationship with Jamaat.
“Everyone knows which parties are participating in the joint political movement. We are also aware that some of the parties with similar agendas cannot participate due to the government’s clampdown on them,” he said.
Jamaat’s Akanda also made it clear that his party will not pursue the issue of joint political movement further and will wait until BNP asks the Islamist party to join in with their hats in hand.
“Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, Nazrul Islam Khan -- all the senior leaders on multiple occasions said that BNP and Jamaat will organise political events jointly. However, now, if they don’t keep their word, what option do we have but to stay away?”