Jamaat turns violent in Bangladesh over HC verdict

Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami activists on Saturday held violent demonstrations, exploding several homemade bombs, to protest a Bangladeshi court ruling that barred it from contesting future polls.

Last Updated: Aug 03, 2013, 17:26 PM IST

Dhaka: Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami activists on Saturday held violent demonstrations, exploding several homemade bombs, to protest a Bangladeshi court ruling that barred it from contesting future polls.

Jamaat and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, held a procession near Mohakhali flyover in Dhaka and resorted to the vandalism and blasts, police said.

They exploded several homemade bombs and vandalised a CNG-run three-wheeler at Mohakhali area. In Bogra, the Islamists hurled explosive devices at police, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets.

No casualties were reported in the incidents.

Jamaat`s demonstrations were part of planned street protests against the High Court verdict scrapping the party`s registration with the Election Commission (EC) and disqualifying it from contesting future polls as its charter breached the secular Constitution.

The Jamaat has called a 48-hour nationwide general strike from August 12 to denounce the judgement. It has also announced to challenge the verdict before the apex Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

In an editorial, Bangladesh newspaper Prothom Alo blasted the Jamaat saying, "legal battle and street vandalism do not go hand in hand" and called the new generation of the party leadership to decide if they would continue to shoulder the misdeeds of their leaders during the 1971 war.

The High Court allowed the Jamaat to challenge the verdict as the issue involved constitutional matters.

Legal experts said the judgement did not declare the party unlawful and just disqualified it from contesting polls on constitutional grounds.

The Jamaat, which was once the East Pakistan wing of Jamaat-e-Islami of Pakistan, also received support from its erstwhile mother organisation in Islamabad. Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan criticised the court judgement, calling it "unconstitutional, partial and biased".

Hasan said the Jamaat in Bangladesh was being "victimised" and its leadership has been convicted and sentenced to life terms and even deaths by a special tribunal since the trial of war crimes suspects began in 2010.

"So far, this was being done by a `so-called tribunal` (International Crimes Tribunal) but now the High Court had stepped in to do the same," the Pakistani Jamaat chief said.

The Islamists in Bangladesh have been protesting against the sentencing of its top leaders by the tribunal for "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war siding with Pakistani troops.

So far five Jamaat leaders have been sentenced to death for murder, mass murder, rape and religious persecution in the 1971 war.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina`s expatriate elder son Sajib
Wajed Joy said Hasan`s comments proved Bangladesh`s Jamaat does not belong to Bangladesh but to Pakistan.

"This (Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami) appears to be a Pakistani party," the Samakal newspaper quoted him as saying as Joy is now in Bangladesh along with his US-born wife and visibly preparing to join the politics.

"(The issue is) strictly (Bangladesh`s) internal matter," a spokesman of the Pakistan foreign office told newsmen in Islamabad yesterday.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) also extended its veiled support to its crucial right-wing ally yesterday without referring to the judgement, saying it was opposed to the ban on any party.

Acting secretary-general of BNP Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said "politics should be handled politically".

The Daily Star newspaper in a front page analysis titled "Ban not on govt`s plan" said the ruling Awami League too was unlikely to ban the party "in the existing political reality" though ministers and Awami League leaders may keep echoing the popular demand for banning it.

"The government will instead wait for the Appellate Division`s disposal of Jamaat`s appeal against the verdict that on Thursday declared illegal the party`s registration with the Election Commission," it read.

Bangladesh Tariqat Federation, a group that preaches Sufi philosophy and promotes secularism, and 24 others had filed a writ petition in 2009 challenging Jamaat`s registration.

They said Jamaat does not believe in principle that people are the main source of power as declared in the constitution and the Representation of People Order (RPO) law also does not allow registration of a communal outfit as a political party.

Tariqat said the EC registered Jamaat in 2008 in violation of the country`s Constitution and the spirit of the RPO.

The left-leaning and youth groups also opposed the party, saying it does not believe in the very emergence of Bangladesh while its leaders and activists carried out massive atrocities in the 1971 war.

Immediately after the independence, Jamaat was banned but it reappeared after a military putsch on August 15, 1975 when Bangladesh`s founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was killed along with most of his family members.

The coup toppled the post-independence secular Awami League government while the subsequent regimes allowed the religion-based parties, including Jamaat, to return to politics lifting a previous ban under the 1972 constitution.