Let the people decide the fate of Jamaat

This party has some degree of conviction towards democracy, although its performance reveals that it is likely to be nothing more than a fringe party

  • Why can’t Jamaat’s fate be determined democratically?

It seems that the possibility of a dialogue between the two major parties is now purely contingent upon the solitary precondition that has been thrown towards the BNP by the ruling Awami League.

The AL’s obdurate position regarding the BNP leaving Jamaat-e-Islami as an alliance partner to create any room for negotiations has been met with an equally unyielding response where the BNP justified its alliance purely on strategic grounds and refused to cave in to such demands.

As the stalemate continues, the issue of Jamaat is getting even murkier with the allegation of links with al-Qaeda, although the authenticity of such claims is yet to be verified. The matter needs to be viewed from a broader discourse in order to harbour any hope of a resolution. A microscopic view of the Jamaat issue from the perspective of the two parties is likely to prolong the deadlock.

It is important to note that the Jamaat has participated in all the credible national elections starting from 1991. Thus, it can be assumed that this party has some degree of conviction towards democracy, although its performance trend clearly reveals that it is likely to be nothing more than a fringe party.

It is safe to assume that the people of this country, through their mandate over a number of elections, have determined the fate of Jamaat as a political entity. So what has changed now? Why cannot the people of this country determine the political future of Jamaat through a free and fair election at this particular juncture?

The ruling party has projected the issue of Jamaat’s presence in Bangladesh politics as a threat to national security, and if this is the dominant view that resonates with the people of this country, they are likely to display it by outright rejecting Jamaat and its much stronger ally in an inclusive national election.

So, what is really stopping the ruling party from proceeding with such an election, overseen by a neutral government, which supposedly also serves to reaffirm and lend credibility to their ideological stance against the Jamaat and eventually vindicate their position? The answer seems to reveal three distinct possibilities.

Either the ruling party itself (a) lacks conviction in what it actually believes in, or (b) it lacks confidence in securing the mandate of the people, thus leveraging the Jamaat issue to avoid election and prolong their stint in power, or (c) it could be a bit of both.

Let us analyse these three possibilities clearly. If the AL actually firmly believes that the ideology garnered by the Jamaat is detrimental to the nation, then it has the option of overtly banning the party’s politics as a whole, and not just halt at cancelling their party registration.

The one-sided election of January 5 has bestowed the AL with absolute power, and they will never be in a better position to proceed with such measure. However, in a bid to gain political mileage, they have continuously passed on the responsibility to the BNP and shied away from making the difficult decision.

Secondly, in the matter of elections, the AL knows clearly well that the Jamaat issue is not a big enough factor to swing the votes their way as witnessed in the mayoral elections preceding the national election in January. In this case, the apparent strategy seems to be to sustain their stay in power and try and shape public opinion till they reach a favourable status, and then proceed to give an election to attain a favourable outcome.

Analysing the first two possibilities behind the government’s reluctance to move forward with an interim poll to end the prevailing political crisis reveals that, in fact, the third possibility holds true by default.

All said and done, only a free and fair election can serve to bring some perspective on the presence of Jamaat and its subsequent existence in the political sphere of Bangladesh. The political dimension of the Jamaat issue seems to have overridden the ideological standpoint regarding a fair election to a certain extent, and that needs to be reclaimed by the people.

Saying that, time has come for the BNP to re-evaluate its political strategy and engage the people rather than relying on its allies to mobilise and give fruition to its political programs. The one-sided election has lent them a legitimate voice, and it is about time they make their voice relevant to the people.

The issue of Jamaat cannot be a reason for a standstill between the two parties, as there are far greater things at stake. Let the people decide the fate of Jamaat like they have always done. So far, people’s mandate clearly shows that they do not represent the majority, and probably never will.

Source: Dhaka Tribune