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Dhaka Tribune

WikiLeaks: Jamaat had plans to re-emerge

Update : 02 Aug 2013, 02:08 AM

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami had kept back-up plans ready as it sensed the possibility of either a ban following the abolition of the Fifth Amendment, which introduced religion-based politics in 1979, or cancellation of its registration as a political party because of the provisions in its charter, which were contradictory to the country's constitution.

The trial of its top leaders for their key role against the birth of Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War also worried the party high-ups about its existence, according to a US embassy cable leaked by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks on September 1, 2011.

Banned after the country's independence, Jamaat, a key ally in the present opposition alliance, floated as a party again in 1979.

The Supreme Court on February 2, 2010 dismissed two petitions challenging a 2005 High Court ruling that declared the constitution's Fifth Amendment illegal. However, while bringing the 15th Amendment to the constitution in 2011, the government did not remove the provision of allowing religion-based politics.

Moreover, pressed repeatedly by the Election Commission since 2009, Jamaat in December last year amended its party charter "“ for the 49th time "“ and replaced most of the "objectionable" provisions, including its objective to establish an Islamic state.

The government has recently amended the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, incorporating a provision to try groups and parties for war crimes.

Razzaq briefed US envoy on 'rebirth method'

On February 10, 2010, Jamaat Assistant Secretary General Abdur Razzaq, who is also the chief counsel for the party leaders facing war crimes charges, had discussed the possibility of a ban on Jamaat with the then US ambassador in Dhaka, James F Moriarty, and pleaded for US assistance to handle the situation.

He also revealed how the party would re-emerge if declared outlawed, reads the confidential cable Moriarty had written to Washington on February 16 under the subject line of "Jamaat pleads its case before ambassador."

The US envoy mentioned that Razzaq repeatedly stressed Jamaat's commitment to the Bangladesh constitution and the rule of law. "Razzaq contended that recent events had betrayed the government's lack of interest in the rule of law and highlighted its desire to crush the Jamaat-e-Islami.

"Turning to the reason he had sought the meeting, Razzaq provided his perspective on the recent judicial decisions that repealed the Fifth Amendment of Bangladesh's Constitution. The repeal of the Fifth Amendment paved the way for the government to outlaw religious-based political parties, including Jamaat."

Razzaq said by fighting Jamaat, the government would foster an autocratic nation without constructive mechanisms for dissent.

"If Bangladesh banned religious-based political parties, Jamaat will emulate the response of religious-based political parties in Turkey. Jamaat will rename itself and remove religious tenets from its constitution, but will at the same time challenge the ruling in court," reads the cable.

The Jamaat leader said a ban on religious parties would cost the party some money that was tied to bank accounts and trusts in the party's name, but it would survive. "It will be a wound, but a wound that could be healed."

However, Razzaq at the same time uttered warning against the "autocratic government" while claiming that Jamaat was a "democratic organisation in belief and practice."

"It will be disappointing "“ and potentially dangerous "“ if the government silenced the voices of moderation in this way. If the government tried to control democracy [if it closes democratic avenues] then it is breeding the discontent that led to the September 11 attacks in the United States," Moriarty quoted Razzaq as saying.

Comments of Moriarty

In his remarks, the envoy wrote to Washington about his suspicion over Razzaq's claims that "the party would accept the rule of law" when the hardliners within the Awami League believed that "the time is right to crush Jamaat and other Islamic parties."

Moriarty observed that the Jamaat was facing "its greatest challenge since 1971" as the government increased pressure on it. 

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