Jamaat-e-Islami taking advantage of political unrest in Bangladesh: Expert

Dhaka, Dec.9: Bangladeshi economist and political activist, Anu Muhammad has said the Jamaat-e-Islami is propagating its agenda and taking advantage of the political turmoil that has led to violent protests.

Violence has gripped Bangladesh as protests and a series of shutdowns with transport blockades led by the main opposition party, demanding next year’s election be held under a non-party administration.

Bangladesh will hold its national election on January 5, the Election Commission said in November, enraging the opposition, which took to the streets in protest and called for a blockade of roads, waterways and railways across the country.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formed a poll-time administration this month involving members of the ruling party and opposition to oversee the ballots, as is the usual pattern in Bangladesh to try to ensure a free and fair vote.

“In the volatile situation and uncertainty over election, Jamaat has taken its own course and putting their own instruments and workers and making different types of violent activities to show their strength, to make their agenda and to create a situation by which Jamaat can be survived and war criminals can be freed,” he said.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) says the interim cabinet is not impartial and has rejected any attempt to hold an election until it is satisfied a neutral interim administration is in place without Hasina.

Bloodletting 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 dispute over the conduct of the election, nothing new in Bangladesh where power has flipped between the dynastic parties since the 1990s, has led to the deaths of some 25 people in protests and the arrest of some BNP leaders over the past weeks.

It comes against the backdrop of protests over conditions in factories supporting Bangladesh’s $22 billion garment export industry, the economic lifeblood of the poor country of 160 million that has been rocked by a string of deadly accidents.

Muhammad added the violence in the country to the political impasse and said that the problem needs to be addressed by both parties effectively.

“The sudden rise of violence is a result of continuous conflict on the issue of election, how election mechanism will run. Both Awami League and BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party), the major two parties, they do not have a common space to negotiate because, Awami league wants to retain power and BNP wants to make sure that they can go to power. In between the Jamaat forces, they have their own agenda,” he added.

If the 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.

The two parties differ little in terms of policy, with voters frequently just booting out the incumbent in the hope that change will bring improvement. (ANI)