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Dhaka Tribune

Will BNP maintain ties with Jamaat?

Sources in the BNP said the party is under a lot of pressure to cut its ties with Jamaat, but is unable to do so due to Jamaat’s vast bank of voters

Update : 28 Aug 2018, 01:46 AM

In preparation for the 11th parliamentary election, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is working on forming another political alliance to gain a strong footing in the election – without disbanding its existing coalition. 

Many political parties have already shown interest in this new “broader” alliance, but they have one condition – Jamaat-e-Islami cannot be a part of it. 

Sources in the BNP said the party is under a lot of pressure to cut its ties with Jamaat, but is unable to do so due to Jamaat’s vast bank of voters. 

Because of the vote bank, Jamaat will continue to be a part of the 20-party alliance, but will not be given a place in the broader coalition, sources said.  

BNP is currently in talks with five political parties regarding the new coalition: Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Krishak Sramik Janata League, Nagorik Oikya, and Gana Forum. 

All five have expressed interest in the coalition, but all five have said they will not be a part of it if Jamaat is. 

However, they don’t have any issues if BNP also remains a part of the 20-party alliance, which includes Jamaat.

“The other political parties have reservations about Jamaat as its leaders were involved in crimes against humanity (during the 1971 Liberation War),” said Dr Zafarullah Chowdhury, public health activist and a pro-BNP intellectual. “They fear harsh treatment from the government if they form an alliance with Jamaat. 

“This is why, while Jamaat will remain a part of the old 20-party alliance, it will not be a part of the new coalition,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. 

The Dhaka Tribune contacted Jamaat for a comment in this regard, but did not receive any response as of yesterday evening.

Anti-Jamaat sentiments growing within BNP

Not only the potential political allies, but the grass roots activists of BNP don’t want to remain tied with Jamaat – even for the sole purpose of having a strong presence during the election. 

In a recent party meeting, they requested the BNP high command not to involve Jamaat in its plans for election. 

Jamaat’s history of violence during street movements is a cause of concern for many BNP leaders and activists, particularly after Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir was largely blamed for the violent street protests, which led to the loss of lives and properties – during the months leading to the 2014 national election. 

Pro-BNP thinkers and political analysts have suggested, on several occasions, that BNP sever its ties with Jamaat, especially after its violent anti-government movement in 2014 and 2015.

The Jamaat activists also carried out violent protests after its top leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee was convicted of war crimes in 2013.

Yet, some top BNP leaders are still in favour of keeping Jamaat as a political ally – because of its vote bank. 

“Our alliance with Jamaat is purely electoral – not ideological. They are just a partner in our alliance, so there should not be any problems with it,” said a BNP Standing Committee member, requesting anonymity. 

BNP Standing Committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury recently told the Dhaka Tribune that the alliance with Jamaat was solely to make a coalition. 

He added that BNP and Jamaat only worked together in times of crisis. “When the crisis is resolved, the situation between BNP and Jamaat is quite different. One does not work with the other,” he said.

Rift growing between allies?

Despite BNP’s intention to maintain its ties with Jamaat, trouble seems to be brewing between the two allies. 

During the recently held Sylhet City Corporation election, the political alliance became strained as the two parties could not agree on a mayoral candidate for the polls.

In the end, both BNP and Jamaat had their own candidates running for the mayoral post in Sylhet. BNP-backed candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury won the election.

The pressure on BNP to cut ties with Jamaat has been mounting over a number of years. BNP has defended its Jamaat relations saying it was purely for political gains and could be severed when necessary. 

After the 2014 election, which BNP boycotted, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia told the New York Times that her alliance with Jamaat was “not a permanent one” and hinted at breaking away when “the time comes.”

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