Jamaat-e-Islami will have a new name in Bangladesh

Bangladesh Live News | @banglalivenews | 25 Feb 2019

Jamaat-e-Islami will have a new name in Bangladesh
According to a report carried in the Daily Sun (February 14), Jamaat-e-Islami has almost finalized its move to reappear under a different name. The party has started its ‘transformation process’ to improve its image and get rid of the stigma of being a party of war criminals.

“Our preparation for renaming Jamaat is almost final”, said a senior Jamaat leader to the daily, adding that ideology and organizational structure of the party will however remain unchanged.

In a major development the Jamaat Assistant Secretary General Barrister Abdur Razzaque has quit his post as the party has not ‘sought apology for its acts against the country’s independence’. After hanging of some top brass of the party for war crimes and crimes against humanity the party leaders have been presently lying low and carrying out organizational activities secretly. Jamaat has lost its registration with the Election Commission.

The two close allies - BNP and Jamaat – are now maintaining a strategic distance amid growing pressure at home and abroad to cut ties.


Jamaat’s auxiliary forces, such as Peace Committee, Razakar, Al Badar and Al Shams organized a systematic reign of terror all over Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) to crush the liberation struggle. Pakistani Army provided them arms and training for this purpose. During the 1971 war, Jamaat activists killed hundreds of thousands of freedom fighters, raped thousands of women and forcefully converted a large number of Hindus into Islam.


It was none other than the first military ruler and BNP’s founder late General Ziaur Rahman who, in his bid to capture and consolidate power, picked up from the dustbin of history Jamaat-e-Islami, which was banned as a political outfit soon after Bangladesh’s  emergence as an independent nation in 1971. Ziaur Rahman also rehabilitated Jamaat and gave it enough political space to counter the Awami League, the dominant political force at that time.


Many of the pro-Pak elements including the Jamaat who opposed the Liberation War in 1971 were made prime minister and cabinet ministers by General Ziaur Rahman who also changed the country’s constitution by supplanting ‘secularism’ as one of the four guiding principles of the constitution to strengthen Jamaat’s religion based politics in the country. He allowed the then Jamaat chief Ghulam Azam, who had gone into hiding in Pakistan soon after liberation, to return to Bangladesh. Khaleda Zia, true to her late husband Ziaur Rahman's political doctrine, embraced the Jamaat as partners in governing Bangladesh.

Jamaat had been banned after the independence and remained so till 1975 for its anti-Bangladesh role. After the assassination of founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, Gen Ziaur Rahman paved the way for Jamaat's revival. The Collaborators Act was annulled and over 23,000 war crimes accused were released by him. Even those whose conviction on war crimes charges had been secured were let off.

Jamaat, under the helm of war crimes mastermind Ghulam Azam, had extensively campaigned abroad – mainly in the Middle East, even after the liberation war to prevent countries from recognizing the newly liberated Bangladesh. The party, like Pakistan, has not apologized to the nation. They maintain that what happened in 1971 was civil war and not liberation war.


Jamaat has been able to gain organizational as well as financial strength as it enjoyed patronage and support from military rulers and BNP. It has established scores of business establishments starting from banks to insurance companies to media houses. It also has a strong media base both inside and outside Bangladesh.


Jamaat has, over the years, assiduously built up a huge corpus and created resources that generate substantial income for the party. Jamaat-controlled Islami Bank Bangladesh, largest financial institution in the country, ranks among the top three banks of south Asia.


Jamaat does not recognize the liberation war and Bangladesh’s independence. By describing the liberation war as ‘civil war’ after  more than four decades of independence, the party sent the message that even now there has not been any change in its perceptions about Bangladesh’s independence. To its followers, Pakistan, Islam and Jamaat are synonymous. Like Pakistan, Jamaat too slandered the heroic fight for independence, terming it as India-engineered conspiracy to break Pakistan.


International Crimes Tribunal, while delivering verdict on former Jamaat Amir Ghulam Azam on war crimes charges, observed that there is no proof that those who played anti-liberation role in 1971 have ever changed their attitude towards the liberation war or the country’s independence even now by showing respect to the departed soul of 3 million martyrs.


The ongoing trial of crimes against humanity will make the entire top brass of Jamaat leadership walk the gallows if fair trial and faster procedure is ensured. Taking advantage of this situation, many young generation leaders, particularly those born after the liberation war and not involved in war crimes, are planning to take over leadership of this Islamist party after the segments of war criminals in Jamaat are eliminated through trial of war crimes.


In a study conducted by IHS Inc, and titled “IHS Jane’s 2013 Global Terrorism and Insurgency Attack Index”, Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of Jamaat, has been ranked the third most dangerous active, non-state armed group in the world. The US based research group published the Terrorism Index on February 13, 2014.  It places the Taliban immediately above Islami Chhatra Shibir with Barisan Revoluci Nasional of Thailand at the top of 10 such terror groups, adds the IHS website.


It may also be noted that in a report of the ‘National Consortium for Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism’ brought out by the US Department of Homeland Security, it has been stated that apart from carrying out violent activities and killings, the Jamaat student front Islami Chhatra Shibir is associated with international terror network.

Prior to liberation of Bangladesh, Jamaat’s student front was known as Islami Chhatra Sangha. It gained notoriety as collaborators of the Pakistani occupation forces by indulging in barbaric and gruesome killings of freedom fighters and intellectuals, torturing and maiming them and raping Bengali women.

As the name Islami Chhatra Sangha evoked hatred and condemnation in the mind of the people, it had to assume a different name, Islami Chhatra Shibir, to get rid of the stigma attached to it. Rebirth of Islami Chhatra Sangha as Islami Chhatra Shibir did not bring about any change in its ideology or modus operandi.


Similarly, even with change in name and leadership Jamaat will continue to remain a fundamentalist party which will play active role in repressing the religious minorities and pursue its mission of Islamizing Bangladesh. Progressive and secularist forces will remain its worst enemies as it has always been in the past. It will continue to remain vulnerable to Pakistan’s overtures and manipulations. Moreover, its connection with ISI signals one point that the party’s main agenda will remain the same - to sabotage Bangladesh’s independence and sovereignty, turning the country in to a subservient nation to Pakistan.


People who respect the spirit of independence and recognize the sacrifices of the freedom fighters, women who were tortured and sexually assaulted, and those who had to flee to India leaving their hearth and home, want to see Jamaat and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir completely uprooted, with no trace whatsoever in independent Bangladesh. All their establishments, sources of funds and support system need to be identified and choked for ever to ensure that Bangladesh is freed from this evil.

Image: A function of the Jamaat in Bangladesh

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