Recently, the reformist section of influential religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh
(JIB) launched a new, separate party. The new party is named Amar Bangladesh Party (ABP) as per party’s general secretary Mujibur Rahman Manju, who is a former president of the central committee of the Islamic Chhatra Shibir, the JIB’s student wing. The ABP claims its distinctness from JIB, which is infamous for opposing the independence of Bangladesh and supporting the Pakistani army in the Liberation War of 1971
. Launching the party over an online media briefing from Dhaka, Manju informed that liberation war in 1971 and the victory achieved is one of the significant platforms of the national consensus and the party pledge to set that platform on a solid base. Despite ABP’s claim of divergence from JIB, people remain suspicious of its intention and are approaching its activities with caution.
The reformist members of JIB who joined ABP are- AFM Solaiman Chowdhury- the party’s convener, and Manju, the member secretary. The party claimed to have many leaders of JIB and intellectuals as its advisors, prominent amongst of them is lawyer Abdur Razzaq, former senior Assistant General Secretary of JIB. Soleiman and Manju were members of Majlis-e-Shura, the highest policy-making body of the JIB. In February 2019, Manju was expelled by the JIB for a difference of opinion about the party’s role in the liberation war and subsequent reforms. Razzaq also resigned from the party on the same grounds in February 2019 while Solaiman resigned in December last year.
The buzz about the Jamaat’s reformist leaders floating a separate political party was observable since last year. In 2019, Manju had launched a platform called Jana Akankhar Bangladesh
. At the launch, ABP declared the initiation of its research wing by the same name. The new political party has a 222-member committee of conveners and its members are primarily activists of JIB and Islamic Chhatra Shibir. The committee of conveners will be responsible for establishing the district committees and for forming the party structure. The leadership of the party will be elected through a national convention soon. Additionally, the party claimed religion is not its base and that its objective is to establish a welfare state and ensure civil and democratic rights of all people irrespective of religion. The 7-point agenda of the party suggests that it will work for national consensus, democratic and fundamental rights, increase motivation, research and development, leadership, social and state reforms to form a welfare state.
This new party is evoking various questions in the minds of the public discourse. Questions such as why did the reformists' leaders join JIB are being asked. Were they not aware of the party’s background? JIB’s role in the liberation war and the inhumane torture of freedom fighters by its cadres in alliance with the Pakistani army that time is well known. Besides, how easy will it be for the leaders to overcome the fundamentalist mindset of which they have been accustomed to due to their standing association with JIB? Following JIB’s indoctrination results its cadres to develop an exclusionist band of mind, which is contradictory to the ideal put forward by the new party in its objective.
Again, people are questioning the timing of the launch of the party. ABP is launched at a time when JIB’s survival is facing a challenge. The party has been facing trouble after the Awami League government established the Internal Crime Tribunal
in March 2012 to put the criminals who carried out atrocities in the 1971 war on trial. A significant number of JIB leaders are convicted of war crimes and many of its top leaders have been executed for the same, including its emir (chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami
. Moreover, the party is discredited for its role in the liberation war and this added to its unpopularity. JIB’s electoral future stands uncertain after its registration was cancelled and declared illegible to participate in the election by the judiciary due to non-conformity of the party’s constitution with the constitution of the country. People feel the party was launched for the necessity to survive in politics more than commitment to an ideology. The popular perception about ABP is that it is a party only with a changed name to continue with the activities of the Jamaat. In other words, it is old wine in a new bottle.
Furthermore, presence of activists from Islami Chhatra Shibir in the party give a reason for apprehension. Islami Chhatra Shibir
cadres are notorious for carrying out street violence and allagedly attacked people before the 2014 parliamentary elections. If the leaders could not control their cadres then how can they guarantee these cadres will not imitate the same nature of politics in the new party? Additionally, questions are raised about the funding of the party and political analysts feel it might be an attempt by some external factors to influence Bangladesh’s politics. Given JIB’s closeness to Islamabad, many suspect involvement of Pakistan, a claim that yet demands substantive evidence to prove its validity.
Considering the trends in Bangladesh’s politics, the sccess of this new party is mired in doubts. Bangladesh’s politics is dominated by two major political parties, Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party, any new entrant could orchestrate a major impact. Nevertheless, it will be worthy of following the future moveements of the ABP, and whether it can prove its critics wrong and establish itself as a new trend in the country’s politics.
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