No one in the party seems to have a proper answer to the simple question: “What benefits might the Islamist party bring to BNP through the alliance?”
In recent polls, Jamaat has commanded a support base of only 4%, nationally.
The mythical street power of the party has been proven insufficient time and again to cause not even a stir in the capital. Does it have a great ally somewhere in the East or West? Evidently not.
What exactly is the formidable strength of Jamaat seems to be a question that can only be answered by astrologers and “security experts.”
In the current geopolitical reality, the party which vows to fight Islamist terrorism claims to be centrist, but aligns with an Islamist party, is a congregation of amateurs at best.
BNP must remember that it is not a revolutionary political party capable of inducing violence. It should do what it did pretty well for the last 40 years -- regular politics at the middle ground.
Fortunately, the BNP has rightly realised the dangers of Islamist terrorism looming over the country. To that end, its call for an all-party anti-terrorism alliance is indeed commendable. Given the fact that they have a better track record than AL in tackling Islamist terrorism, and ruling parties in Bangladesh never pay heed to the opposition, their call for unity is likely to fall on deaf ears.
India may compromise for a middle ground, taking back its blank check to the AL, but only if they are assured of a decent third force. It is in a shambolic situation like this that a no-objection pledge could be crucial for the party
This actually offers the BNP a great opportunity to rebrand their politics.
Instead of severing their ties with Jamaat, they can abolish the 20-party electoral alliance altogether, which has lost its purpose. Electoral alliance is a strategy for winning a fair election. It is a pointless exercise when the polls are blatantly rigged. They couldn’t stop the no-holds-barred rigging in 2013, what makes them confident that they’ll be able stop the next one?
Few would dispute that the need of the hour is to form a coalition of political parties against terrorism.
If the BNP is honest and upright about their commitment, they should lead from the front and do it fast. A need-based alliance (ie the coalition against terrorism) without Jamaat, as opposed to the prevailing electoral alliance (ie the 20-Party Alliance) is an infinitely better option.
Needless to say, it will not transform the party overnight into a darling of the West -- probably nothing will.
But it could be just enough to obtain, at least, a no-objection pledge. Under the current status quo, the external pressure against the current regime that BNP is desperately hoping for, if ever materialised, is unlikely to go in favour of the party.
India may compromise for a middle ground, taking back its blank check to the AL, but only if they are assured of a decent third force.
It is in a shambolic situation like this that a no-objection pledge could be crucial for the party.
The BNP may not win Western support in the foreseeable future, but the on-the-ground situation in Bangladesh is so bad that the party may do just well enough if they strategise well in this (quasi) great game.
Faham Abdus Salam is currently working in the Australian Government in Pharmaceutical Evaluation.