The Politics of Alliance: Bangladesh Experience

Any intellectual or political movement must pause from time to time to look critically at itself and to assess its performances in order to be able to map its own future course. But in Bangladesh this is not really the practice. The political culture of Bangladesh is such that the country’s leadership never publicly admits their mistakes. This is by and large true of all political parties more so of the key players in the political arena- the Bangladesh Awami League (AL), Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JI) and Jatiya Party (JP)

Unfortunately, AL until now did not admit that it committed in 1975 a gross mistake by imposing one party BAKSAL rule in the country and by gagging the press. AL even today tries to justify this action on different alibi. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is being criticized for inducting government servants, both civil and military, as members of BAKSAL. Today’s situation is still worse for every political party that was in power in Bangladesh in the recent past has created vested interest groups particularly among the civil bureaucracy by giving undue promotion and posting and interfering the recruiting process and thereby politicizing the administration. It is alleged that one particular political party is giving membership to the government servants, even to the civil bureaucracy.

Immediately after the independence of Bangladesh, leftwing Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) acted foolishly and attacked the residence of the then Home Minister Capt. Monsur Ali in violation of the country’s law for which Police had to fire on the attackers, as a result of which several persons got killed. But JSD is yet to admit that it was an unwise decision. JSD stirred rebellion in the army with the help and support of several retired army officers for which these army officers were later tried under court martial and hanged. JSD until now did not confess that it was wrong on its part, being a political party, to use army for political purposes and encourage sedition in the army.  

JI is yet to publicly admit that its collaboration with the Pakistan army in 1971 was both morally and legally wrong. It was morally wrong on the part of JI to support the army when it was killing innocent civilians1, more so when it claims itself to be the torchbearer of Islam. Supporting the Pakistan army was legally wrong, for the Majlish-e-Shoora of Jamaat-e-Islami East Pakistan decided to support the independence of East Pakistan from the western wing of the country, the then West Pakistan, even before the crack down by the Pakistan army on the night of 25th March, and hoisted the flag of Bangladesh in its office at Kausar House as mark of its support to the freedom and independence of Bangladesh. Earlier, the Central Majlish-e-Shoora of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan authorized the Provincial Majlish-e-Shoora of East Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami to take decision whether to remain part of the federation of Pakistan or to secede in view of the political development in the eastern wing. The resolution inter alia states: “The Majlish-e-Shoora of East Pakistan Jamaat reviewed the situation prevailing in the country and favoured constitutional separation rather than armed struggle2 In spite of this resolution, the coterie leadership of JI that was present in Dhaka on the night of 25th March reversed this historic decision of the East Pakistan Majlish-e-Shoora of Jamaat having no legal authority to do that and thereby plunged the whole Party on road to destruction and diminished its future political prospect. Political observers opine that this the coward JI coterie leadership did out of fear of possible atrocity by the Pakistan army over them or because of their link with the deep-seated conspiracy of the hawks of the Pakistan army that hitherto remained masked.  Jamaat also until now did not come out with any statement explaining why it earlier took decision that it “favoured constitutional separation rather than armed struggle” and what prompted it later to reverse this historic decision of the Majlish-e-Shoora of East Pakistan Jamaat.

The 1995-1996 assessment of JI that situation obtaining in Bangladesh is ripe for its political comeback and its decision to nominate 300 candidates in the parliamentary election was also not wise. This JI did because the organization, again like 1971, became hostage in the hands of relatively young coterie leadership and also because of emotional response by its top leader Prof. Ghulam Azam to his imprisonment by the ruling BNP government failing to realize the would be consequences of his stance. Commenting on AL ascending to power in 1996 that greatly harmed Bangladesh national interest (which even JI admitted later) because of the JI tooth and nail opposition to BNP, the then chief of JI Prof. Azam is on record to have said: “it was necessary to bring AL to power in 1996 to let the new generation know what is AL” 3   This shows that Prof. Azam did not really regret for adopting wrong electoral strategy. Indeed Prof. Azam did long term harm to the country by supporting the rebellion of the civil bureaucracy in 1996 against the constitutional government that hastened the fall of the government of Begum Khaleda Zia. Instead of condemning the rebellion of the civil servants, he sarcastically remarked: What else the civil servants could do?4  JI leadership was so charged that the then Assistant Secretary General of JI Ali Ahasan Mohammad Mojaheed, now Secretary General of Jamaat and Minister for Social Welfare, talking to the journalists of Daily Sangram, the official mouthpiece of JI, reiterated his firm determination to bring Sheikh Hasina to power even if for a day. However, the JI review paper submitted in the U.K. Conference on “Mechanisms for Construction of Joint Political Stance” admitted that its 1995-1996 election strategy of “joining hands with AL in the movement against BNP government in the mid nineties was disliked and disapproved by Jamaat’s electorate” 5 A senior attorney of JI privately confined to this writer that JI loss in political terms was more in 1996 than in 1971 for more workers left the party or became inactive as a result its policy in 1996 than in 1971.  

BNP is yet to admit openly that its decision to isolate JI was politically wrong for it was JI that helped it to form government in 1991 by giving unqualified support.

But whether JI or BNP admits their mistake openly or not, they did homework to find out the reasons of their political debacle in the 1996 parliamentary election. In 1996 election JI seats came down to 3 parliamentary seats; whereas, in the previous parliament it had as many as 20 members. BNP in 1996 election not only had to leave power, its seats in the parliament came down to as low as 116. After analyzing the result of 1996 parliamentary election both JI and BNP reached the conclusion that it was for their mutual advantage that they should form a political alliance to contest the next election (that was held in October 2001), particularly because of the cronyism, nepotism, misrule, rampant corruption, murder of political opponents and, above all, the anarchic political environment created by the government of Sheikh Hasina, the AL president and daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. JI became fed up with fascist nature of AL governance and politics and “equated it with Hitler’s Nazi Party” 6.

Commenting on the core difference of AL and BNP, a pro-Jamaat professional, not happy with JI hobnobbing with AL, said to this writer: “Some people within JI leadership do not find any difference between AL and BNP for their lack of understanding of the politics of these two parties. Yes, AL is not an anti-Islamic Party and its leaders offer five times prayer. But when AL is in power the anti-Islamic activities flourish. On the other hand, BNP is not an Islamic Party either, and its leaders do not offer five times prayer regularly. But when BNP assumes power grounds are created for Islamic work and Islamic culture and environment flourishes. This is the difference between AL and BNP” 7.

The parliamentary election of October 2001, in which JI and BNP formed an alliance along with like-minded rightist, centrist and Islamic parties, proved beneficial both for BNP and JI. BNP emerged in the political scene with absolute majority commanding more than two-thirds of the parliamentary seats in a parliament of 300 members and JI won in 17 seats; whereas, it had only 3 members in the previous parliament. After the election, the four-party alliance formed government in which the component parties joined.

After stocktaking the result of the October 2001 parliamentary election, JI realized that the cause of BNP-Jamaat victory is the alliance. “But for the BNP-Jamaat unity, Awami League would have returned to power with a comfortable majority. BNP would have lost 75 seats and Awami League would have gained the same number in a 300-member parliament. Without alliance, Jamaat may not have got 17 seats”, states the JI review paper presented in U.K. Conference 8.  Thus, it is obvious that JI realized that its 1995-1996 election strategy was wrong though it did not publicly admit it.

Bangladesh enjoys a unique situation because of its geographical location, particularly because India has a narrow corridor on northwest of Bangladesh more widely known as “chicken corridor” that connects mainland India with its eastern flank--the eastern India where she is facing armed uprising for freedom. Indeed India is using all diplomatic channels and trying to induce Bangladesh to give land corridor to facilitate India’s movement of troops across Bangladesh to eastern India. India has an interest in the land corridor through Bangladesh for that would facilitate the marketing of its products to eastern India. India has an interest in this corridor for in case of an Indo-China war in the Nefa front, India would require land corridor through Bangladesh for immediate movement of troops and supplies. India has also interest in Bangladesh natural resources, particularly gas. Some analysts say that Pakistan also uses Bangladesh as a launching pad to make trouble in eastern Indian states to compel her to deploy substantial troops in the eastern front and keep India busy to contain insurgency and thereby force India to reduce the deployment of troops in the western front with Pakistan and ease pressure. Bangladesh denounces such baseless allegations.  

This being geo-political situation, India very much wants to see a friendly government in Bangladesh, and who is friendlier to India in Bangladesh than Awami League, which reportedly maintains warm relations with India. AL relations with India were consolidated during 50s and 60s and during the Indian involvement with the freedom movement of Bangladesh. This relation was further strengthened when Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996.

The people of Bangladesh became suspicious of AL, which, after forming government in 1996 after more than two decades, took such steps that exposed nakedly its subservient attitude towards India. Sheikh Hasina even did not take it into cognizance, nor she protested, when she was described as chief minister at a function in India. This enraged the people of Bangladesh who earned their independence after so much sacrifice of lives. AL government also took such steps that hurt the sentiments of the common Muslims and alienated the Muslims voters. The ulama chiefly became unhappy over the AL government because of the cut down of grant to the madrasha (religious school). The people were highly critical of Police overdoing in the national mosque Baitul Mukarram, particularly Police entering the mosque with their boots on to arrest political opponents that took sanctuary within the mosque premise to evade arrest. At this time, six persons got killed in Brahmanbaria because of Police firing on the peaceful procession of the ulama who were demonstrating against the court verdict to curtail their right to issue fatwa. The ulama became furious at being the target of AL government vengeance when they were arrested and tortured for every bomb blast in the country, notably the Ramna Botomul, Udichi Jessore, Narayangonj and Kotlipara. The ulama also disliked pro-government media playing caricature with beard and cap, the symbol of Muslim identity that is highly regarded in the society. The hatred of the ulama against the government of Sheikh Hasina reached its climax when Police arrested the imam of a mosque in Muhammadpur, Dhaka when a dead body was found inside the mosque, which others thought to be a conspiracy of the government to discredit the mosque imams, who are largely anti-Awami League, and termed it as an AL attempt to tarnish the good image of the Islamic religious scholars in the country. People largely believe that the Awami agents kept the dead body inside the mosque to create uproar in the country against the Islamic elements. In this backdrop, the rightwing centrist, nationalist and Islamic forces united into a common political platform on 30th November 1999 that ultimately defeated AL government by an overwhelming majority. 

Political analysts believe that it is important that the present alliance between the nationalist and Islamic forces is maintained, for any setback of the alliance will bring AL to power which is thoroughly secular and widely suspected for its link with India. The results of the last several parliamentary elections depicts that the nationalist BNP and ultra secular AL have almost equal voting strength. JI commands approximately 9 percent votes, and other small Islamic parties put together have one percent votes. Any swing of these 10 percent pro-Islamic votes largely affects the formation of the government. This has been amply proved both by the election results of 1991 and 1996. It is both for the interest of the country in general, and JI and BNP in particular, that they maintain their unity, political observers opine.

The most significant outcome of the alliance in the political arena is that it has been able to isolate students from national politics. It was Chattra Shibir and Chattra Dal strife that created rift between JI and BNP in the aftermath of the parliamentary election in 1991. This time both JI and BNP have taken lesson from the past mistakes and are now controlling respective student organizations with iron hand precluding the possibility to make national politics hostage at the hands of the students.

It is important to evaluate how BNP is benefited by forming the alliance with JI and the like-minded parties apart from the fact that BNP got the votes of the alliance partners in those constituencies where JI and other partners of the alliance did not nominate candidates which helped BNP achieve landslide victory and form government. The most noteworthy advantage that BNP got out of this alliance is that huge number of dedicated workers of JI participated in the campaign for BNP candidates. This writer has direct knowledge of Jamaat’s women workers campaigning door to door in the Dhaka city that undoubtedly helped BNP candidates to have an edge over AL candidates and achieve, sometimes, easy victory. A large number of elected BNP MPs also acknowledge this fact. 

The image of the BNP increased tremendously among the patriotic forces and anti-Indian electorates because of its alliance with JI and like mined parties. It also increased the image of the BNP among the Muslim countries, particularly among the countries of the West Asia.

Now the question is, is the alliance beneficial for the onward march and advancement of the Islamic movement? Is alliance government helpful to push the Islamic agenda or obstacle to the stride and progress of dawah. This needs to be addressed dispassionately.

It however needs to be critically examined and analyzed the benefits that the Islamic parties are deriving from the alliance with semi-secular centrist rightwing party. What are the demerits of such power-sharing, if any, and what are the possible formidable obstacles which Islamic parties might face in future because of such half-hearted unity, for such alliance is a marriage of convenience and politics of expediency and not to pursue common ideological goal and objective. One thing clear is that although such alliance does not usher in the process of Islamization, the negative trend of de-Islamization and its speed has certainly become slow, if not reversed, nonetheless, it is also true that Islamic parties in the long run cannot hope to cope with the secular leadership without postponing or delaying the implementation of some of the principled issues. It seems, Jamaat wants to take such a situation with good grace till such time the people are ready for total Islamic transformation. In this connection Jamaat frequently quotes the saying of Imam Hasan al Banna to justify its political stand. He said: “Let us help one another in all matters on which we agree, and let us excuse one another where we differ”. JI thinks in the long run the experience of such alliance might prepare the ground for social change, and joining the alliance government might appear as participation in the training school for good governance.

The history or the experience of forming alliance, unlike neighboring India, is new in Bangladesh. This culture of power sharing is yet to take its firm roots in Bangladesh that has been reflected in the recent reshuffle of the cabinet. Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, without prior consultation with the partners of the alliance, reallocated the Ministry of Industries to JI chief Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami that caused commotion among the rank and file of JI. Moulna Nizami felt so much embarrassed, shocked and humiliated over the reallocation of the Ministry without prior consultation that he expressed his desire to leave the Ministry at a meeting of the Majlish-e-Amela, the Central Executive Committee, of the Jamaat. Jamaat Majlish-e-Amela, after detailed deliberations, however, advised Mulana Nizami to continue his ministerial role. Analysts opine that Moulana Nizami was transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture for some of the BNP leaders felt allergic about his good performances, while others felt unhappy over the horizontal expansion of JI at the grass root level that Moulana Nizami could muster because of his opportunity to frequently visit different areas of the country, which he had to do for the good performance of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Another interesting recent development is that as soon as Moulana Nizami took over the charges of the Ministry of Industry, the government could easily get approval of the two DAP (Die Ammonium Phosphate) projects, one Japanese and one Chinese, to be executed in Chittagong under supplier’s credit and buyer’s credit that would involve Bangladesh Taka 3.92 billion and Taka 4.51 billion through Economic Affairs Committee. Earlier, M. K. Anwar, the then Minister for Industry, himself a trained civil servant, was objecting the implementation the two projects for evaluation reports suggested that the two projects, if implemented, would incur a loss of approximately Taka1.00 billion annually. To create the justification for approving the two projects, the government conducted fresh evaluation of the two projects. Informed sources say that Moulana Nizami could do little to forestall the implementation of the projects as sons of two powerful Ministers of the government are alleged to be the local agents of the two projects. Moulana Nizami in an interview with the daily New Nation on 6th September 2003 however justified the implementation of the two projects for what he said “in the interest of the nation”9 although the interim Caretaker Government in 2001 “postponed the work”10 of the projects.

Moreover, there is a belief in a section of Jamaat that it is not getting the fair treatment it deserves from BNP. While formulating committees at different levels of the administration, the representatives of Jamaat are inducted in such committees that are not important. JI leaders at the grass root level view it as an attempt by the BNP to contain Jamaat. A noticeable example of the BNP’s attempt to contain Jamaat is that whenever Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia addresses the nation over radio and television in national hook-up on special occasions to highlight the performances of the government she calculatedly avoids to mention the performance of the ministries which are headed by Jamaat chief Moulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahasan Mohammad Mojaheed. It seems Begum Zia deliberately avoided mentioning the performance of Moulana Nizami both as Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Industries. JI has a feeling, which is also shared by the other component parties of the alliance, that major issues should be discussed in the alliance meeting before raising such issues in the cabinet meeting. Alliance partners including JI feel dismay that the issues like whether to give transit facilities to India, exporting gas to India, withdrawal of water by the India in the upper riparian of the rivers, ethnic conflict in the Hill Tracts etc. have not been raised in the alliance meeting by the Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of BNP, the major partner of the alliance. Jamaat has a feeling that unless it is able to implement one or two Islamic agendas, as for example, the banning of prostitution, it might be difficult for it to face its electorate and its participation in the alliance ultimately might turn out to be negative for it. Jamaat believes that this cannot be done unless the committees of the alliance take a full structure and its meetings are held regularly and major issues affecting the future prospect of the alliance are discussed in such meeting. The small partners of the alliance have a feeling that they are being ignored and the alliance is a unity between the unequal. The Islamic parties in the alliance now think that it was wrong not to bargain in the initial stage during the formative stage of the alliance with BNP and give unqualified support. JI has also a feeling that representatives from the other partners of the alliance should have been inducted in the cabinet considering its size. Jamaat is apprehending that the exclusion of the Islamic Oikkya Jote leaders from the government might harm the unity of the alliance in the long run.

An additional difficulty that the JI is facing is that, being the part of government; it is not in a position to openly express its dissatisfaction over BNP activities. Only recently (2nd August 2003) Jamaat MP Dr. Abdullah Muhammad Taher was reportedly attacked at Narayangonj by extortionist allegedly belonging to pro-BNP Chattra Dal. Dr. Taher refused to oblige the extortionist, in retaliation, the extortionist fired at him. Dr. Taher narrowly escaped, although two of his companies got injured in the incident. The national press reported the incident. Dr. Taher, however, was neither allowed to hold a press conference on this issue by the JI as it would discredit BNP, the major partner of the alliance, nor did JI itself publicly protest the attempt on the life of its MP, although government took stern action.

Even JI could not make protest when in the budget for 2003-2004 provision was kept to reduce the rate of duty, to the great embarrassment of JI, on alcoholic drinks; whereas, the rate of duty on such items as salt was enhanced. The duty on alcohol was, however, re-imposed the same day it was reduced. The Islamic parties of the alliance have a feeling that they have no control over the government.

Another hurdle, which the alliance might face in future, is the sharing of seats among the partners of the alliance in forthcoming parliamentary election to be held in 2006. Some analysts are of the opinion that in the upcoming parliamentary election JI might demand more parliamentary seats, and the scenario might be such that JI might contest in as many as 10-15 open constituencies with BNP still remaining a partner of the alliance. During the 1996 parliamentary election both BNP and JI candidates contested in a parliamentary constituency in Chittagong, although both the parties were partners in the alliance.

Having said this, it needs to be studied objectively the merits of such power sharing by parties like JI that still claims to be working for an Islamic renaissance.

With the slur of having opposed the creation of independent and sovereign Bangladesh and its collaboration with Pakistan army to defend the unity of Pakistan, particularly when its workers took up arms to resist the Mukti Bahini, Bangladesh freedom fighters, armed by the Indo-Soviet axis, JI was not in a very comfortable situation after the birth of the new nation for its “negative role” 11 in the liberation movement. The party ceased its open activities immediately after the liberation. In such a backdrop, it is no mean achievement that JI is in power in Bangladesh. The participation of JI in the elected government is a significant development in Bangladesh politics. By joining the government JI has, in fact, entered the mainstream politics. Jamaat thinks that joining the government was important to establish that it is a patriotic political force and has the right to govern Bangladesh. By joining the government, JI has been able to erase much misgivings about it which the result of mal propaganda by pro-Indian quarters that if JI comes to power it will conspire to make Bangladesh part of Pakistan. Now that JI is in the government, such negative propaganda will not work in future. In the days ahead, it would be difficult to brand JI as an “anti-liberation force”.

The most notable achievement of joining the alliance government is that JI leadership is realizing what is the corridor of power, how modern statecraft operates and what is hegemony. How World Bank, IMF, United States and other major powers of the West force Third World counties to toe to their line in the name of aid, grant, etc. How India creates instability in Bangladesh and how India floods Bangladesh market by dumping goods, etc. The forward looking leaders within the Jamaat thinks that experience in the government will hopefully give its leadership the necessary vision to make changes within and make its policy pragmatic and bring it closer to reality, and modify the compulsory reading materials, what it calls course curriculum, for its manpower to enlighten its workforce on the hard realities of modern life and political process.

In the post September 11 scenario, the fact that JI is in the alliance government, the United States could not make it a target branding it a fundamentalist force and US attempt to link JI with Taliabn and Al Qaeda did not succeed. Had JI not been in the government, definitely it would become the victim of Western wrath and vengeance. 

By joining the government, JI has been able to erase some of the misgiving about it in the West; as for example; JI is opposed to women leadership and does not believe in equality between men and women.

Now that JI is a partner in the government, the major partner being a secular democratic force, it has become easy for JI to prove that it is not a militant force and does believe in the change of government through peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. 

The JI ministers are seen visiting the Hindu mandop (platform to offer worship to a deity) during their puja festival and this has greatly helped to erase the misgiving that JI is a communal force.

JI top leaders, being government ministers, got ample opportunities to mix with the Western diplomats and donors, and create good impression that it is ready to work peacefully for social change. They are getting reasonable exposure to present their viewpoints both to national and international media. In addition, JI leaders in the government are getting the chance to meet the world leaders. The interaction of the leaders of the Islamic movement with the Western leaders is important for giving a true picture about Islam and removing many doubts in the Western mind about Islamic movement that is the result of mal propaganda. In the past, it has been seen that the West do sometimes intervene in the Third World, especially the Muslim countries, because of suspicion and misunderstanding. It is important for the Muslim leadership to explain its world vision and points of view particularly to those sections of the Western intellectuals and leaders who are fair-minded and not agenda-driven. It will help the Muslim leadership to expose the prejudiced Westerners in their respective countries and to isolate them in their own societies. 

By joining the government, JI leadership got the first hand direct experience of running the government and ‘proved their efficiency’12. Both the JI ministers have earned ‘good reputation’13 for their honesty, and this has ‘enhanced the good image’14 of the JI and its leaders among the common people. This has created positive impact on the modern and secular educated people about JI whom they found, for the first time, a different kind of people. If you walk through the corridor of the Bangladesh Secretariat at Eden Building you will have the same impression. Until joining the government, JI leadership had absolutely no knowledge of the mechanism of the functioning of the government. So long the people believed that modern day politicians are bound to be corrupt, but JI ministers ushered in hope among them that good governance is possible even today, provided leaders are honest. JI leadership is getting opportunity to mix with their cabinet colleagues and influence the policy makers. It seems, they could influence in such vital areas as education by incorporating some of their ideas in the government agenda. Some of the Jamaat leaders are of the opinion that it should use the current opportunity to expand, consolidate and further strengthen its base in the socio-cultural sectors, particularly make efforts to establish new NGOs and bring out new and quality newspapers.

The hitherto wrong impression held by the elites that JI is not competent, nor is interested about the worldly well-being of the people and only allure people for benefit in the Hereafter has been partially removed by ‘successful handling’15 of ministries by the leaders of the JI.

Since the government is not patronizing terrorism, JI got opportunity to work for Islamic dawah. As the environment is relatively peaceful and the agenda of the government is not to fight the Islamic forces, JI is comparatively getting better and peaceful atmosphere to carry forward the Islamic cause without hindrance and concentrate in organizational activities, particularly in the development of its manpower. JI, for the first time, is getting opportunity to mix with civil and military bureaucracy and present its views which is important for the onward march and progress of the Islamic call and guidance. Experience has shown that a democratic party cannot come to power in Third World countries, specially in Muslim countries, even after electoral victory if it is not able to establish some sort of understanding or rapport with the army, or if it fails to remove misunderstanding about it, or is not able to wipeout negative idea about it, or neutralize the army about it. The notable example is Algeria where Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) could not come to power because Algerian army became a barrier to its ascending to power.

Because JI is in the government, it would naturally come to know and identify Islamic elements in the government machinery and naturally personal relations would be developed between it and friendly elements within the government that is essential for the ultimate success of the Islamic movement. It would develop support base everywhere in the government that would help to exert influence over government policy even if it is not in the government.

JI got the opportunity to mix with workers and leaders of BNP at all levels. This has created ‘positive impact’16 among many in the BNP. Party and individual level relations among the partners of the alliance can grow if properly nourished. Jamaat thinks that the good ideas and positive qualities of JI workers and leaders are influencing others in the alliance, and that it has the opportunity to cultivate inter-party relations and remove hitherto-held unfounded misunderstanding and enlighten others about Jamaat of which people are largely unaware.   Jamaat largely believes that the people have been so far ignorant about it.

The component parties of the alliance, particularly BNP and JI, are working in unison- up to grass root level, from the capital to Upazilla level. The JI workers and leaders are thus getting opportunity to mix with Deputy Commissioners, Senior Police officials and other government officials at all levels. They are thus getting importance. This is bringing them to exposure and now they can serve the interest of the people better. Because JI is in the government, it is not becoming the target and victim of the hostile administration.

Being part of the government JI is getting opportunity to participate in the developmental activities in their respective constituencies and create spheres of influence, particularly because JI workers and leaders could prove their financial integrity and transparency of their conduct. 

JI workers are by and large peace loving and not always skillful enough to maneuver and face the fascist AL workers. They, therefore, need protection of the like-minded groups and individuals. The alliance thus can be effective instrument to contain the muscle power of the AL. 

Islam is the solution, but is not in itself a blueprint for running a state apparatus. The experience in running the government in this trouble-ridden modern world is the necessary prerequisite for ultimately establishing Islamic social order.  Jamaat, therefore, says that it’s joining in the alliance is justified.

The senior leaders of the Jamaat17, however, think that it should be prepared to shoulder the burden of collective responsibility of the alliance government that might not be very comfortable always; and at the same time, its leaders want to be extra-cautious that its already materialist workers are not further polluted by materialism because of proximity to power, and that power does not increase their lust for money, and that they do not deviate from the Islamic way, and lose their Islamic spirit. The leaders of Jamaat seem to be determined not to allow moral laxity in any way among its workers and to see that they are not contaminated by the influence of others and do not loose the sprit of sacrifice. While adjusting its programme with the alliance partners, Jamaat leaders want to be cautious that it does not develop in it an all time compromising attitude to avoid the rough road of struggle. Jamaat wants to be careful that it does not give major concessions on the ideological issues, although they realize that circumstance might force it to remain silent in the face of the corruption by the government leaders, which it thinks might blacken Jamaat’s own image.

The Jamaat leaders seem to be very much alert that they do not become the victim of the conspiracy of a particular group of the partners of the alliance, conspiracy hatched by certain leaders or coterie beyond the knowledge of the principal leader of the party and that it does not become direct target of the major parties of the opposition outside the alliance so that JI in no circumstance become adversary of both BNP and AL at the same time.

It seems that JI Chief and Secretary General despite being the ministers are very much active in organizational activities, in spite of demanding state responsibilities and busy schedules, for they think that a dynamic and lively organization is the lifeline to establish Islamic social order, and ignoring organizational works might prove suicidal in the long run.

The ultimate success of the alliance depends on the goodwill of the partners. It is difficult, at this stage, to predict the eventual outcome of the alliance with so many ifs and buts, particularly when the partners of the alliance have deep conflict of values and interest that apparently are not always visible. In spite of many cautions optimism expressed by the JI leaders, it seems they are no less concerned about the future of the organization because of its proximity to power and its impact on its manpower. Jamaat is telling its workers that sharing power and to be in power is not always the same thing.


1.Prof. Dr. Maimul Ahsan Khan. ‘Human Rights in the Muslim World’. pp 13-14. Footnote- 10. Carolina Academic Press. Durham, North Carolina, USA. Edition 2003.

2 Muhammad Nuruzzaman. ’Prof. Ghulam Azam: A Profile of Struggle in the Cause of Allah’. Dhaka. p 51. Emphasis added.

3. Prof. Ghulam Azam’s interview with the weekly Akhon Samoy. Vol.2. No.1. November 6, 2001. New York. p 12..

4.Shah Abdul Halim. ‘Dialogue With the Deaf. [A Study on Jamaat-e-Islami Banngladesh].p 3.

5. Conference Papers. U.K. Conference on “Mechanisms for Construction of Joint Political Stance”.

6. ibid.

7.The person who made this comment does not want to be identified.

8. ibid. Conference Papers.

9. The New Nation. 6 September 2003. “Govt to honour MOU signed by AL govt”. Ist page report by Sheikh Mohiuddin.

10. ibid.

11. ibid. Conference Papers

12-15. Opinion of the officials who want to remain anonymous.

16. Interview with a mid level leader of Dhaka City BNP.

 17. Jamaat leaders mentioned in this and subsequent paragraphs are the central leaders of the organization.

1st November 2003