With the parliamentary elections looming round the corner and the gridlock persisting between the ruling Awami League and the opposition BNP over an election-time government, the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS) launched a report, “Political Islam & the Elections in Bangladesh”, at the University of London on Monday.
Ahead of the tenth national election, the report is intended as a briefing paper for visiting journalists, election observers and others, with chapters covering Islamisation, Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist groups, war crimes, and Shahbagh movement.
The report’s author, Frances Harrison, a former BBC correspondent and visiting research fellow at the ICS, highlights the ideological clash between secular Bangalees and the Islamists.
The launch event with a discussion, “Bangladesh Election: Issues & Challenges”, was chaired by Frances Harrison with a panel of experts that included journalist Kamal Ahmed, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh researcher Abbas Faiz, anthropologist Dr Delwar Hussain and Chief Editor of New Age Islam Sultan Shahin.
The audience examined the ideological and political differences between various political parties, alliances and militant groups in Bangladesh.
Abbas Faiz cited the case of minority persecution and said a mechanism had to be in place to prevent the repeat of violence against minorities following the 2001 election.
About the war crimes trial, Kamal Ahmed said the Shahbagh movement should be seen as a final cry to seek justice and to end the culture of impunity.
Delwar Hussain termed the young bloggers and online communities, who led the movement, as an alternative voice as opposed to established political parties.
On Hefajat-e Islam’s rise as a reaction to Shahbagh, Sultan Shahin said Jihadi Islamists’ rise should be seen within the context of foreign funding and Wahabi-backed doctrine.
Francis Harrison concluded the meeting, saying the forthcoming election would take place within a bipolar politics with the added dimension of war crimes trial and the appearance of hardline Islamist Hefajat.
The report is available at ICS and was published by New Millennium.
Source: The Daily Star