Bangladesh: Realities and Challenges for new Jamaat leadership

A new leadership has to respond to a varied set of local and international challenges

Bangladesh: Realities and Challenges for new Jamaat leadership

Mohammad Hossain | Bangladesh 

The political landscape of Bangladesh has been heavily reshaped in light of the role of the governing party Awami League and its handling of the political opposition since it came to power in 2009. While not much has changed in terms of growth, development and the bridging of deep social divides, the government has been ramping up the implementation of repressive policies through punishing societal and media dissent, and stifling socio-political opposition. In the midst of a steadily shrinking political space, the political opposition has been losing steam, often being out-maneuvered by the ruling party and a partisan administration. A combination of weak leadership, lack of organisation, political will or clear political alternative, coupled with authoritarian government rule, has rendered the political opposition weak and ineffective. The situation has also been aggravated by the stances of members from the international community who have increasingly looked the other way as long as their interests remain served by the current Awami League administration. A result of this attitude has been that Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladeshi premier, has retained the support of major international players such as the US, China and India, even winning awards on occasions, despite being accused of perpetrating grave human rights abuses by rights organisations such as Amnesty or Human Rights Watch, or even the UN rights body. 

On the domestic scene, recent developments bespeak of the rise of terrorism as a tool of political control in Bangladesh. The government has been accused of abduction of general people and opposition figures and their family members, only to kill them as “crossfire victims”, or make them “appear” as accomplices of terrorism and terrorist activities later on. In this light, there remains genuine fear that recently executed Jamaat central leader Mir Quasem Ali’s son, Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem, along with other high profile abductees such as Hummam Chowdhury, son of late Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury and ex-Brigadier General Abdullahil Amaan Azmi, son of late Ghulam Azam, now several months into their abduction by government security forces, will become ultimate victims of state sanctioned enforced disappearances, or be questionably implicated with terrorism charges over recent events such as the heinous Gulshan attacks.

At this critical juncture of Bangladeshi politics, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami has elected a new Ameer (chairman) to lead the party after the hanging of its previous party chief, the late Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami on May 11, 2016 for his alleged role in the 1971 conflict. Maqbul Ahmed, the acting Ameer of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, took oath as elected Ameer of the party on Monday, the 17th of October, 2016, according to a press release issued by the party on its website. Prior to that, Maqbul Ahmed was the acting Ameer of the party for the past six years after late Maulana Nizami was arrested by security forces on June 29, 2010. Along with this, Dr Shafiqur Rahman was chosen as Secretary General of the party, coming in place of late Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, who was executed by the government for his alleged role in 1971 on November 22, 2015, again through a trial process that was widely labelled as flawed and unjust. 

The new Jamaat Ameer Maqbul Ahmed hails from Feni district in Bangladesh, from the village of Umrabad, Purbochondropur Union in subdistrict Dagonbhuiyan. He was a teacher at Feni Model High School before he resigned from his job in order to devote himself entirely to the activities of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, where he eventually rose through its ranks to become a Nayeb-eAmeer, and eventually it’s Acting Ameer after 2010. On the national scene, Maqbul Ahmed unsuccessfully contested the national polls in 1991 from Feni-2 constituency. Within the organisation, Maqbul Ahmed is known for his exemplary dedication to the service of the party, and is among the senior most figures in the party leadership. In his statement after being sworn in, he recalled the sacrifices of “the valiant and courageous freedom fighters and the people of all classes who had made outstanding contribution and sacrifice during the war of liberation in 1971”. In a clear attempt to set an amicable tone on the political horizon, among others, he also praised the memory of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as the “architect of independent Bangladesh”, and at the same time invoked the memory of martyr President Ziaur Rahman. 

His statement and positive approach however, seems to have fallen on deaf ears, as media outlets such as Bangla Tribune, Dhaka Tribune, bdnews24, Prothom Alo, Daily Star and even BBC Bangla Service among others have taken the lead in raising allegations of the new Ameer’s involvement with “anti-liberation activities” in the 1971 war. Although no evidence has been cited, aside from dubious allegations from Feni Awami league supported freedom fighter organisation leaders, the claims have already triggered talk of upcoming investigations in Maqbul Ahmed’s alleged 1971 role by the prosecutors of the International war crimes tribunal. 

The new Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami Ameer, however, has much more pressing issues at hand than merely responding to such allegations. The new leadership has to respond to a varied set of local and international challenges. Local challenges include but are not limited to dealing with the spectre of terrorism, widening of scope and nature of activities and support base of Jamaat, addressing the need to taking effective steps to boost morale among the beleaguered support base of the party, and perhaps most importantly at this juncture, critical assessment and development of relevant strategies to cope with new sociocultural, economic, intellectual and political realities in the country. On the international stage, Jamaat will need to pursue a dynamic policy to find friends who will provide support during times of need. The challenge therein lies in assessing whether Jamaat needs to work towards building stronger policy level contacts on the international scene than simply focusing on fellow Islamist movements and other traditional allies as it has done in the past. The ability, or otherwise, of the new leadership to take timely decisions, meet existing challenges and show positive leadership at this critical phase of its history will decide the direction of the Islamic movement in Bangladesh in the near future.

Last Mod: 25 Ekim 2016, 16:59
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