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Islam and Politics ( 21 Jan 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Bangladesh: The Jamaat Factor


By Shahriar Feroze

January 21, 2014

BNP must clarify if Jamaati votes are more important to it than the public animosity of its ties with Jamaat-e-Islami. Sadly it's not behaving as per its political ideology and located far way from where the public wants BNP to be. Even the mounting global pressure is failing to persuade BNP to cut its ties to Jamaat. Jamaat's recent attacks on the cops in Gaibandha only re-affirms how violently reckless its becoming in terms of spreading its anarchy based political creed.

We don't know why but it could be that BNP's key decision makers are not guiding it in the right direction or perhaps there are divided loyalties within the party regarding Jamaat.BNP should address the wishes of the public and the international community for that matter. The truth for BNP is to realize that vote banks are built on public choices, so it should give public opinion the top priority regarding its political alliance with Jamaat. If guided by political astuteness, then BNP should have realized that it was the public who twice gave it mandate to rule, not ensured by a handful of constituencies of Jamaati strongholds.

If there is any practice of democracy inside BNP, then there be an internal poll on how many of its leaders think it should slash its ties with the right-wing Islamist party. Unquestionably, there will be many who would cast their votes against BNP's Jamaati ties.  Now that the global voice is being raised to cut all ties with Jamaat-e-Islami, BNP should seriously consider its political strategies based on what grounds it wishes to sustain as a political force in Bangladesh. On the other hand it's up to the government, to pinpoint specifically what's their actual position on Jamaat. There are several options but dealing with Jamaat would need a coherent approach cutting across party lines.

Awami League, as yet, has not declared what it plans to do with an isolated Jamaat - if BNP splits with Jamaat. Many fear that they may have to witness an Al-Jamaat alliance of sorts. According to some political analysts, a banned Jamaat is likely to emerge as a potentially dangerous organisation with a different identity. Such ominous possibilities should be analyzed too. The call for a dialogue by the rulers with BNP, provided it leaves Jamaat could have come earlier before the elections. Why did not it come then? What's the motive now? To conclude, Jamaat's vote bank factor should be ignored by the two political parties for the benefit of the country.

Shahriar Feroze is Current Affairs Analyst, The Daily Star.