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The political jigsaw

Edit Date:7/21/2010 12:00:00 AM


With the government coming down hard on Jamaat-e-Islami, BNP finds itself between a rock and a hard place

by ANWAR PARVEZ HALIM

PROBE    Vol 9 Issue 4 July 16-22 2010

With the process of trying the war criminals having begun, political parties of the nationalist ilk find themselves pushed up against the wall. Jamaat-e-Islami has been directly targetted in this trial and this is likely to affect the four-party alliance of which it is a partner. In fact, the major party of the alliance, BNP, is may well find its political power weakened somewhat by the predicament of its ally. Another ally, Islami Oikya Jote, is already in shambles and Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP) exists in name alone. The BJP chief Barrister Andaleeb Rahman Partho MP is related to the Awami League President and people question whether he will actually oppose the ruling party in the days to come.


BNP is in a fix. With the government coming down hard on ally Jamaat, BNP finds itself between a rock and a hard place. It is difficult for it to come out and directly support Jamaat.Even the top leadership of the party agrees this would be suicidal. They would only stand to lose in directly supporting Jamaat. Jamaat, though, has appealed to BNP for its full support regarding the war crimes trial. Jamaat leaders have said that for every one BNP activist that takes to the street on this issue, there will be 10 Jamaat activists joining them. BNP has not responded, but has not rejected the call outright either. After all, one of the main successes of this government and its affiliated organisations has been the war criminal issue. They have been successful also in driving a wedge between BNP and Jamaat. There has been no significant protest against the arrest of the Jamaat leaders. A large section of the younger generation views the war crimes trial positively. Aware of this, BNP is keeping Jamaat at arm's length.


In the meantime, BNP is trying to consolidate itself with the old leaders and a return of the 'reformists'. But the government is not making things easy for them. Once Jamaat is tackled and the war crimes trial is underway, the government will turn its sights towards BNP. The cases against Tareque Rahman and Koko will be brought forward. Awami League will try to create a distance between Ziaur Rahman's family and the rest of BNP. Age is catching up with Begum Zia and both Tareque and Koko face several charges. This makes survival hard for BNP.


Analysts feel that BNP leaders sans the Zia clan and Islamic political forces sans 'war criminals' are not likely to join up with Awami League. It is more likely for them to gravitate towards Jatiya Party. If this political polarisation does take place, Jatiya Party will be a weak opposition force which Awami League won't mind at all.


Commentators say that Awami League hasn't even started its games with the brute majority that it holds. They have a pile of agendas awaiting attention. According to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, all Islamic political forces, parties and organisations will be banned. But BNP will first be cut off from the Islamic forces so that pro-Islamic quarters don't join BNP. The government is also mulling over an annulment of the caretaker government system.


Under these circumstances, analysts see things bleak regarding any sort of opposition movement from BNP. During the last hartal on June 27, by arresting and coming down hard on persons like Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, known to be a gentleman in BNP, powerful leader Mirza Abbas and Shahiduddin Chowdhury Anni, the government has delivered a strong message of no mercy. And it does not look like these leaders are going to be released from jail anytime too soon. The same goes with businessman and Editor of Amar Desh Mahmudur Rahman. Arrested and facing harsh times, he is paying the price for being outspoken and this too is a message for the media.


BNP leaders have been shaken up by these arrests and treatment of the leaders. After all, cases have been filed against many of them. It is doubtful whether they will risk taking to the streets in protest. With the leaders on such shaky grounds, it will be hard to Begum Khaleda Zia to drum up any effective movement against the government.


Jamaat leaders Nizami, Sayeedi, Mujahid, Qamaruzzman and Qader Mollah have been arrested. There are a dozen or so more Jamaat leaders on the ‘waiting list’ and it won't be long before they find themselves behind bars too. 


Though Mujahid and Sayeedi are listed as war criminals, they have been arrested on other charges. This has confused even pro-government quarters. After all, they have been worried about the trial taking a wrong turn along the way. It has been noted that Sheikh Hasina lacks no sincerity when it comes to trying the war criminals and the government is serious about this too. The other cases against the Jamaat leaders are merely strategies, a means to the end. Once the trial behind, the government is in no hurry for it to end. It is clear that these Jamaat leaders are going to remain in jail for this tenure of Awami League government. Sources say that Sheikh Hasina has taken up the war crimes trial in all seriousness, having the approval from international quarters.


Once it has apprehended the Jamaat leaders involved in 1971, the government will then turn its attention towards Jamaat's fund sources. Now the government will take account of the Jamaat-related businesses like certain banks, clinics, educational institutions, insurance companies, trusts, etc. They will probe in where the income of these institutions is being channeled. Bangladesh Bank has already investigated allegations against the Islami Bank Foundation. However, no irregularities were found.


A certain Awami League leader contends that Jamaat's main strength lies in its vast funds. That is why the government wants to stop up its fund sources. In the meantime, businessman Mir Kasem has moved away from Jamaat politics due to differences with the party leadership and is concentrating on his business instead. He is involved with various Jamaat-related businesses including Ibn Sinha.


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