Bangladesh social activist calls for ban of Islamists for wartime atrocities

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 19, 2013 12:50 hrs

Bangladesh social activist, Ibrahim Khaled termed the demand for the banning of the country's biggest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, as genuine and blamed the organisation for the wartime atrocities committed during the 1971 liberation war.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamist ally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), opposed independence from Pakistan, denies accusations that some of its leaders committed murder, rape and torture during the conflict.

The trigger for this year's spasm of unrest came in February when a tribunal set up by the government to investigate abuses during the war sentenced a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party to life in prison, sparing him execution.

President of Kochi Kachar Mela, the National Children Organisation and chair professor of Institute of Bank Management of Bangladesh, Ibrahim Khaled, said: "It's a strong and genuine demand because Jamaat-e-Islami or Islami Chhatra Shibir, these are not Islamist organisations. They have used the name 'Islam' for the purpose of brutality. In 1971 during liberation war, we have seen them killing persons, raping women and what not. So, in the ... (sic) of Islam, they have no Islamist ideology. They have created a terror in this country. So, that's why I strongly feel that this organisation should not exist in a free country, in a democratic country."

Wrangling over a war that ended 42 years ago might puzzle outsiders, but it underlines the unresolved rift within this South Asian country of 160 million between secular nationalism and a belief that Islam is the defining core of the state.

Khaled lashed at the Jamaat-e-Islami for opposing the birth of Bangladesh.

"Government can sue them in the court and if the court verdict goes against the party and in the favour of the government. They have every right because they have opposed the birth of the country," he added.

The tribunal's failure to sentence Abdul Quader Mollah to death sparked public outrage that was fuelled by secular activists who used blogs and social media websites to call for mass protests.

Tens of thousands poured into the Shahbag area of central Dhaka, staging rallies and vigils. The rise of their movement was soon referred to as a "Tahrir Square" moment, after the scene of protests in Cairo that led to the overthrow of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Blood-letting erupted across the country at the end of February when the war crimes tribunal condemned a top leader of the Jamaat party to hang.

The army was deployed after furious Jamaat activists attacked police with crude bombs, swords and sticks, burnt down houses of Awami League leaders and Hindus, and raided Hindu temples.

At least 30 people were killed on the day of the ruling alone, and the toll ratcheted up over the next few days.

Khaled said that the country required good governance.

"There is no substitute of good governance. There is no substitute of political will and strength of political parties. Popular verdict is in favour of the government but the situation will have to be tackled by the government itself. So, I think they should purge the police force, the administration and other institutions of the country so that they purely work on the basis of professionalism and not on anything else," Khaled also said.

For now, the feud between bloggers and Islam has diverted attention from a stand-off between Prime Minister Hasina and BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia over whether to install a caretaker authority to ensure a free and fair election.

Both heirs to political dynasties, Hasina and Khaleda have rotated as prime minister since 1991 amid unending enmity.

Diplomats in Dhaka say the interim administration row will come to a head around September.

If that impasse is not broken, the BNP may boycott the poll, unleashing fresh unrest - or there could be a repeat of 2007, when the army stepped in and installed a provisional government to crack down on the political thuggery and violence. (ANI)

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