Jaamat-e-Islami's central leadership will meet with alliance chief Khaleda Zia with a list of Jamaat’s candidates for the next election
Jamaat-e-Islami is moving forward with efforts to shake off its association with the war crimes of 1971 as part of a long-term action plan to regain ground in the battle for ballots.
The right wing Islamist party, a key ally of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), will meet BNP chief Khaleda Zia in London and ask for 82 seats in the next parliamentary election, sources in the party said.
According to the sources, the party’s central leadership will meet with alliance chief Khaleda with a list of Jamaat’s candidates for the election.
Of these 82 seats, Jamaat considers 43 to be their heartlands, where they have popular leaders and a strong voter base.
If BNP fulfills its demands, Jamaat and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir will actively engage in an anti-government movement ahead of the election, Jamaat sources confirmed. They will apply experience gained from the previous election to this end.
Jamaat and Shibir undertook a strong anti-government movement with the BNP-led 20-party alliance in 2013. However, they have been off the streets in recent years.
The sources said that even if negotiations with BNP fall apart, Jamaat will run these candidates in the 2019 election as part of its long-term plan targeting the 2024 election.
Because Jamaat is currently not registered with the EC, the candidates will either take the BNP ticket or vie for the seats as independents.
Most of the members chosen for the candidacies are young and have little or no criminal record. But few have election experience either, prompting Jamaat to view the upcoming elections as a training ground for fledgling leaders.
Most of these leaders are around 40 to 55 years of age, and the party wants to build their experience for the future.
A party source says Jamaat’s view is that the older central leadership have become incapable of running elections as some are convicted of war crimes, some are in jail and some are unable to work due to age.
The party wants to retire them and promote younger leaders and former student leaders as the new face of Jamaat.
“In 2008, Jamaat contested in around 40 constituencies with BNP, now we can strongly demand these constituencies,” a Jamaat central leader, requesting anonymity, said.
Jamaat central leaders who spoke to the Dhaka Tribune refused to be named. However, they said that the constituencies that the party had picked out were all “sure shots” for Jamaat and there was “no chance that they would lose in any of them”.
The Jamaat central committee did not respond to requests for comment.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Khaleda Zia’s London visit is only for her medical treatment and for meeting with her son and family members.
Jamaat’s key targets
We looked at 10 constituencies out of Jamaat’s star-marked 43 constituencies. The party is preparing to contest the parliamentary polls in these constituencies with fresh leaders.
Lalmonirhat 1: BNP candidates here are Barrister Hasan Razib Prodhan and rebel candidate Joynal Abedin Shorkar. Prodhan is a central committee member and Shorkar is the district committee vice-president. Current MP from Lalmonirhat 1 is Awami League’s Motahar Hossain. In this constituency, both BNP and Awami League are known to be anti-Jamaat.
Although Abu Hena Md Ershad Hossain Saju stood as the Jamaat candidate in 2001 and 2008, the party is grooming Anwarul Islam Raju, Jamaat Middle East affairs secretary and Shura committee member. He is a much younger man and there are no cases against him.
Rangpur 5: Jamaat’s expected candidate here is Hafizur Rahman, a central Mojlish-e-Shura member. Another alternative candidate is Gulam Rabbani, the suspended Upazila chairman. BNP’s organisation is not strong in this constituency.
Kurigram 4: Jamaat’s candidate is Shopon, the district ameer and also a central committee member. Jamaat is in a strong position in this constituency. BNP’s candidate is Saiful Islam Rana, general secretary of Kurigram district unit of BNP.
Gaibandha 1: Jamaat’s candidate is former MP Maulana Abdul Aziz. He, however, went into hiding after allegations of war crimes surfaced against him. BNP is not in a good position in this area and is yet to form a full-fledged committee.
Gaibandha 3: Nazrul Islam, the district ameer of Jamaat, may seek nomination for the constituency. BNP’s candidate is the party’s district unit president Dr Moinul Hasan Sadique and Awami League’s candidate is Yunus Ali Sarker.
Thakurgaon 2: Jamaat’s possible candidate is Abdul Hakim, the district ameer. Jamaat is in a so strong position that it has always been contesting in this constituency. On the other hand, Awami League candidate and present lawmaker Dabirul Islam’s political reputation is not so good.
Dinajpur 1: Jamaat’s candidate is Mowlana Hanif, the incumbent mayor of Birganj municipality, and BNP’s candidate is Mozurul Islam, president of the party’s Birganj upazila unit. Current PM from Dinajpur 1 is Awami League’s Monronjon Shil Gopal. Jamaat’s Hanif is the most popular candidate in the area.
Dinajpur 6: The Jamaat candidate’s name is Anowarul Islam, the district ameer and also one of the youngest leaders in Jamaat. He is free on bail from court and has three cases against him. This constituency always favours Jamaat.
Chapainawabganj 3: Jamaat’s candidate here is central executive committee member Nurul Islam Bulbul, who is also a former president of Jamaat’s student front Islami Chhatra Shibir. He has long been maintaining close ties with BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and Rajshahi Divisional Organising Secretary Harun-ur-Rashid.
Chapainawabganj 2: Jamaat’s candidate Nazrul Islam is the municipal mayor of Chapainawabganj. BNP’s candidate is Shahjahan Mia, the former district unit president. BNP is in a strong position in this area, but Jamaat has a strong base as well.
Our Lalmonirhat Correspondent Moazzem Hossain, Nilphamari Correspondent Taieyb Ali Sarker, Dinajpur Correspondent Faruk Hossain and Thakurgaon Correspondent Zakir Mostafiz contributed to this story