Why Jamaat is still alive…
As the mass uprising is continuing at Shahbagh there is a simple question reeling all around. Why is Jamaat still alive? Why is Jamaat surviving?
And answer is Jamaat is still alive and will remain alive. You know why? Let me give you some simple accounts and analyses why Jamaat is still alive today. Even in 2013 we all can see Jamaat in hale and hearty condition because this extremely dirty political party has been patronised and nourished by both pioneer political parties – the Awami League (AL) and BNP. In fact, I would rather say that it is more of AL who tried to optimise their political gain by playing with and around Jamaat. However for BNP, Jamaat is the key co-player to help each other like a dovetailed relationship. And I know as Jamaat is a prime factor for both AL and BNP, these two self-seeking parties will never shun Jamaat for their personal benefits.
It goes without saying that only Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his the then associates were really strong against Jamaat and parties alike and they banned Jamaat being true to their hearts respecting the demand and emotion of pro-liberation forces of Bangladesh.
After the gruesome assignation of Bangabandhu by anti-liberation forces in 1975 Jamaat became a deciding factor for all the regimes then on. Ziaur Rahman needed Jamaat because he was in his heart pro-Pakistani and it was Jamaat who could serve his agenda by defending the pro-liberation forces and political parties – which essentially were Awami League (Bakshal) and the left parties. As per his version Ziaur Rahman wanted to make politics difficult and for this he needed Jamaat. Subsequently he harboured many pro-Pakistani politicians and discarded freedom fighters.
During Ershad’s regime in 80’s Jamaat emerged as one of the 3 major parties – the other two are AL and BNP. For portraying to global communities that his parliament was represented by multi-party democracy Ershad welcomed all three. But as it was decided by AL and BNP that they would not join impending farcical election of Ershad in 1986, AL broke the promise with BNP and joined the election with Jamaat. Here for the first time Jamaat started getting an upper hand in politics in Bangladesh. So it was AL of Sheikh Hasina who started the patronage to Jamaat.
After the fall of Ershad and establishment of parliamentary system in 1991, both Hasina and Khaleda made an agreement that all the war criminals would be tried and punished. But it could not be maintained because of the avaricious mind-set of Sheikh Hasina. She simply cannot tolerate if any personality emerges as a superseding factor for her. When Jahanara Imam emerged as a leading personality in the movement against war criminals in 1992, the AL floated another movement to outshine her. Most surprisingly in 1996 AL sat with Jamaat extremely cordially and closely to make an alliance against BNP. In fact there was no emotional gap between these two parties at that time. Before that AL bought the lucrative brainchild of Golam Azam the caretaker government system to make sure its way forward to assuming power. It was during this time Jamaat realised how important they were for the major political parties. Jamaat’s alliance with AL made them more popular and many people who had strong allegiance to AL reduced their negation to Jamaat and thus gradually Jamaat got its full shape.
In 2001 when Jamaat went against AL after having been deserted by their ally and joined the alliance led by BNB, Jamaat became an eyesore to AL. To corner Jamaat AL raised the issue of trying war criminals. But by that time Jamaat had already got fused with BNP and received a couple of national flags later to flutter on their cars. However, the tricky AL this time made Jamaat a bait to go to power. They are well-aware that the general people have strong sentiment against Jamaat and they wanted to capitalise this by incorporating trial of war criminals in their election manifesto. We general people grasped it and mobilised thousands to vote for AL in 2008. AL got the landslide – obviously the main reason for such a landslide was the promise of trial.
AL started the trial but only under the umbrella of AL itself. Although they had an agreement with BNB for doing such trial, AL did not care about it and gave cold shoulder to BNP. The reason is very clear. AL always wants to get benefit out of any move it makes. They made the start of the trial as an ‘ace of spade’. In the real sense they merely did care about the sentiment and emotion of the general people who voted them to power (Padma Bridge project is a burning example). They made Jamaat a bully. In the process of the trial they exerted power through what looks an invisible intimidation. They formed disputable and unskilled War Tribunals just somehow to go ahead with the trial to show people that they were keeping their election manifesto. They pressed the War Tribunals to give verdict of death penalty to Bachchu Razaka. The verdict was rewarding for them in many ways. As Bachchu Razakar has been absconding there was no pressure expected from Jamaat in regard to the death penalty; the verdict provided a threatening signal to Jamaat that if Jamaat would not come to an agreement with AL the fate of others accused would be the same; the verdict played an acid test for AL in regard to observing the repercussion from the general people; and AL could make a show to the general people that they had kept their promises what they had made in their election manifestos.
The verdict of Bachchu Razakar paved the way for AL to make Jamaat come to an agreement with them. There was a deal undoubtedly made as was made in 1996. As a result the next verdict saw an unprecedented deviation in handing the punishment to accused. Even having many more proven crimes Kader Mollah was sentenced to ‘life imprisonment’!
And this got on the nerves of the general people. Born was ‘Shahbagh Square’! Hundreds of thousands of youths who now represent lion’s share of the population joined. AL high-ups found themselves in jeopardy but did not lose their tricky brains. They got the youths to demand what they need to pave their way next to power.
Once again Jamaat is deserted by AL. The equation is very simple. If the death penalties are executed the sentiment of general people will be in favour of AL and BNP’s claim for caretaker government will be subsided. If then AL comes to power rare will be the chances from the opposition to raise their voices even if there had been mass irregularities in voting – because AL will then already have the edge by ensuring death penalties for the war criminals. Maybe these death penalties will be unfounded in terms of legal perspectives, but so what when the volatile boom is already there pulsating all over the country? But one thing is utterly sure that AL will never ban Jamaat, because that will evidently increase the crude vote-bank of BNP as a single party. The equation is very simple: the 8% of Jamaat will then join the 39% of BNP which equals 47%. This is far too ahead of AL’s 41%. So, if the division remains the vote-bank of BNP will remain less – which is no doubt very good for AL.
Now, say had there been no Shahbagh uprising what would have happened? AL then will continue to strike the deal with Jamaat and in exchange of saving the war criminals they will detach Jamaat from BNP. Then on the BNP would have been helpless because much of their political mobilisation depends on Jamaat’s active politics. However, it is also true that AL is in real crisis now. If they cannot ensure death penalties now, the 47% will increase to at least 57% – the extra 10% being the ‘shouting youths’.
The conclusion is: Jamaat will survive and keep alive by the grace of AL and BNP in future.
[The writer is a non-partisan political analyst; email: email@example.com]