A change in Jamaat's politics?

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Before the Ninth National Parliament Election, held in 2008, Awami League had a covert understanding with Jamaat-e-Islami. A secret meeting took place at a flat in Segun Bagicha of the city. Present at the meeting were Jamaat's Amir Maulana Matiur Rahman Nizami, a representative of Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina, a certain American national as well as Brigadier General ATM Amin, one of the most prominent persons of the 1/11 military-backed caretaker government. In fact, it was Brigadier Amin who had reportedly arranged this meeting. At the meeting Nizami was told that he would have to persuade BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia to join the election. In return, if Awami League came to power, they would exonerate Jamaat leaders from all war crime charges. They would not try them. Khaleda Zia had been adamant not to join the election. She refused to contest in any polls under the Fakhruddin- Moeenuddin government. However, Jamaat swallowed the bait and stepped into Awami League's trap. After that meeting, the Jamaat leaders set the wheels in motion and finally managed to convince Khaleda Zia to participate in the polls. After that the events are there for all to see -- BNP's defeat, Awami League's landslide victory and finally, Jamaat leaders being put in the dock for war crimes of 1971.

Speaking to PROBE about developments within the party, a prominent advisor of Jamaat revealed details of the secret meeting. He says, "Awami League betrayed us; they broke their word. Awami League can no longer be trusted. Jamaat will not be duped by the government anymore."

Eight top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, including Ghulam Azam, are presently in jail. They are being tried by the 'International Crime Tribunal'. The trial of Maulana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, Matiur Rahman Nizami and Mujahid is supposed to be completed by December this year. Jamaat is lobbying hard in international circles, but is being unable to stop this trial. The present leadership of the party seems to be resigned to fate -- whatever will be, will be.

Speaking to leaders of various levels within Jamaat, it was noted that the party was preparing to deal with various issues, including the war crimes trial and the coming election.

Firstly, if BNP is agreeable, Jamaat will adhere to its alliance with BNP, despite any pressure from the government. The movement will be carried out by the four-party alliance. Jamaat will also provide full support to BNP in its demand for elections under a non-party caretaker government. If the government does not acquiesce, they will boycott the polls if necessary. The senior leaders of the party's Majlis-e-Sura, mostly of the conservative ilk, are all agreeable to this. They feel Jamaat must no longer look for short-term benefits, but look for longer term results.

The party is turning towards the villages now, using social work to influence the people regarding Islamic ideology. This Eid they distributed free copies of the Quran on DVD and other books and booklets. These veteran leaders are against violent politics and are in favour of a more regulated and regimented style.

The senior leaders of the party want all-out legal support for the incarcerated leaders. If these imprisoned leaders have to face their punishment, then there is ultimately nothing to be done but accept it.

Sources in the party say that they are prepared to immediately form a new party if the government suddenly decides to ban Jamaat. They will delete the word 'Islam' from the party's name and c all it Justice Party. The Majlis-e- Sura even has a copy of this proposed party's organogram and manifesto. Thisparty will act more on lines of an NGO, laying stress on social work. However, they feel the government will not go to the extent of banning Jamaat.

Compared to any other political party of the country, subscriptions from party members is the highest in Jamaat-e- Islami. Presently, one million members of the party pay a monthly membership fee. Then the student from Shibir has 800,000 members and they pay five percent of their monthly earnings to the organisation. Each member has to pay a minimum monthly fee of 100 taka. So, calculations show that Jamaat's minimum monthly income is 200 million taka. The entire subscription money is used to run the party.

A policy maker of the party, on condition on anonymity, says, "Some many feel that Jamaat may have been weakened by its leaders being in jail. However, this is not correct. Every year, Shibir's elections are held. This gives former Shibir leaders a chance to come into the central committee of the party. Their numbers are increasing by the year. They are basically Jamaat's main force. In the absence of the veterans who are behind bars, it is this young leadership which is at the party's helm. That is why the party's organisational strength remains as staunch as before.

However, there are visible differences of opinion between the seniors and the junior leaders. While the seniors want to avoid violence in order to save the party from the government's ire and oppression, the younger leaders are of the opposite view. The senior advise that social work be taken up rather than a movement on the streets; the younger ones are inciting the party activists to action on the streets. This is clearly noticeable in a recent booklet published by Dhaka City unit of Jamaat.

This 40-page booklet entitled 'The Amir of Dhaka City Committee's Call" has been distributed about the workers of the party. It calls for the workers to be fearless in their efforts to free their leaders from jail. The Amir of the party's Dhaka City Committee, Rafiqul Islam Khan, who is also a member of the party's executive council, is presently in hiding. The booklet was distributed free of cost among the party workers in the first week of August. In the first go, 60,000 copies of it were printed. The booklet stated that Jamaat workers value their movement and the lives of their leaders more than their own. Verses of the Quran and Hadith were used to inspire the activists to be ready to give up their possessions and even their lives for this cause. The workers were called upon to be prepared for a movement at anytime.

BNP has long being contending that the government is working within the party to split BNP. Jamaat has similar contentions. There had been talk of modern leaders like Mir Kasem Ali and Barrister Abdur Razzak forming a new Jamaat. However, these rumours were quelled with the arrested of Mir Kasem Ali on war crime charges.

A senior leader points out that the Majlis-e-Sura is the highest policymaking forum of the party. It is not possible for anyone to take up a position outside of this to split Jamaat. From the centre down to the grassroots, all the leaders are loyal to this Majlis-e-Sura. The senior and conservative leaders have always been in control of the Majlis-e- Sura. It will not be possible to break the party.

Analysts say, if Jamaat leaves its street movement, it will become little more than an NGO. That is why, possibly, the junior leaders have chosen to turn a deaf ear to the directives of the seniors, are ready to give their lives for the cause of the party.


This is a Prove Report 

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