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Parties based on religion banned

Edit Date:7/28/2010 12:00:00 AM

Says law minister Shakhawat Liton (Daily Star) Political parties and other organisations using religion as their guidelines now stand banned with cancellation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, says the law minister. Their activities are now punishable offence, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday. Following the Appellate Division's decision upholding the High Court's landmark verdict that declared the Constitution's Fifth Amendment illegal, restrictions on formation of organisations based on religion were restored. The existing article 38 of the Constitution allows every citizen to form associations or unions subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of morality or public order. But during the first martial law regime began after brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the proviso of article 38 was omitted opening the door again for political parties based on religion. The proviso said no person shall have the right to form, or be a member or otherwise take part in the activities of, any communal or other association or union which in the name or on the basis of any religion has for its object, or pursues, a political purpose. The law minister said this proviso was restored in the Constitution following the Appellate Division's decision. He said article 12 of the original Constitution of 1972, which was omitted during the first martial law, was also restored. Article 12 deals with the principle of secularism. It says the principle of secularism shall be realised by examination of -- (a) communalism in all its forms (b) the granting by the state of political status in favour of any religion (c) the abuse of religion for political purpose; any discrimination against, or persecution of, persons practising a particular religion. Referring to the ban, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shafique Ahmed said all political parties and organisations would have to carry out their activities following the constitutional provisions. "Carrying out activities of any political party based on religion is now punishable offence under the special powers act," the law minister told The Daily Star over phone. According to the Special Powers Act, 1974, the government may ban any political party or organisation if it contravenes the provision of the law. The government can also forfeit its property and funds. Any person who, after the dissolution of an association or union under the special powers act, holds himself out as a member or office bearer of that association or union, or acts for, or otherwise takes part in the activities of, that association or union, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both, says the law. Islamic political parties and organisations have mushroomed in the country since the constitutional ban on them was repealed during the first martial law. The intelligence agencies' records show existence and activities of about 100 Islamic political parties and organisations since repeal of the ban and many of them emerged as militant outfits. Only around 11 Islamic political parties were active in between 1964 and 1971. Even at least eight Islamic political parties including Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami got registration with the Election Commission as parliamentary parties before the last general elections. When his attention was drawn to it, the law minister said these political parties should be deregistered now. He suggested communicating with the Election Commission to learn about their action to this end. Contacted by The Daily Star yesterday over phone, Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussein said EC will decide about the matter after going through the verdict of the Appellate Division.

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