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Dhaka Tribune

Does Quasem’s execution sound Jamaat’s death knell?

Update : 05 Sep 2016, 01:57 AM
With the execution of 63-year-old Jamaat-e-Islami policy maker Mir Quasem Ali for 1971 war crimes, the “big trials” come to a close. More than anything else, this execution probably marks the beginning of the end of purging the Jamaat leadership of the taint of criminality and collaboration during the Liberation War. The war crimes tribunal has so far hanged two assistant secretaries general of Jamaat, Abdul Quader Molla and Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed and Jamaat chief Motiur Rahman Nizami. The spiritual head of the party and former party chief Ghulam Azam, sentenced to 90 years in prison, died in jail. Although not a frontline politician, Quasem Ali has long been a Jamaat stalwart and was very much a party insider. Said to be instrumental in founding the al-Badr militia and leading the vigilante group’s activities in Chittagong, Quasem Ali was third within the al-Badr command structure. But those dubious credentials hardly reflected the knack for commerce which Quasem proved later in life. After coordinating for NGO Rabeta Alam al-Islami in 1980, Quasem Ali went on to set up Islami Bank and Ibn Sina Trust. He has stakes in Keari Group and heads Diganta Media which boasts a newspaper and a television station. Together, Quasem Ali’s interests span ventures in tourism, telecoms, shipping, pharmaceuticals, real estate, medical education, diagnostic centres, schools, colleges, madrasas and a host of other institutions that virtually sustain Jamaat as an organisation not just through finance but also through employment and services. There is no reason, however, to believe that Jamaat would crumble from the loss of their senior leadership or that its finances would crumble with the execution of an individual. Loss of a significant financier is an eventuality that an organised party like Jamaat would have contemplated and contingencies would almost certainly have been in place for such an eventuality. As it is in politics, a lot hinges upon the general perception. It has as much to do with the institution as with the individual. That is perhaps where this execution becomes significant since it brings an end to the trial of the ‘old guards’ of Jamaat. Quasem Ali was not just instrumental in founding al-Badr during the Liberation War, he proved to be extremely successful in commerce and industry. His personal success enabled Jamaat to see its financial interests grow and diversify. Despite efforts against religion-based politics in general and Jamaat-e-Islami in particular, to the extent of banning Jamaat altogether, commercial establishments and financial institutions with pro-Jamaat leanings continue to do business as usual. And despite the almost cosmetic changes at the top echelons of banks and trusts, there is little to indicate that they have ceased to provide the sustenance for Jamaat as before.
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