Tariq A. Al-Maeena-There is a simmering divide in the political landscape of Bangladesh. It is one that could potentially drive the country toward civil war. Critics of the government contend that the government is on a witch-hunt to eliminate any opposition to their policy, an action that undoubtedly will bear terrible consequences.
Syed Abdul Bais, a human rights activist and a self-proclaimed “agent of change” lamented the stance taken by Sheikh Hasina’s government in its relentless persecution of leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. Abdul Bais petitioned hard and fast for the release of Ghulam Azam following his arrest by the Bangladeshi government in January 2012, but to no avail. Azam died a couple of years later still incarcerated.
The All Parties Hurriyet Conference, an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations, has also raised its concerns over the political turmoil in Bangladesh. The current Chairman Syed Ali Geelani requested the Bangladeshi prime minister to stop persecuting Jamaat-e-Islami members and to immediately release all Islamic leaders held in prison without proof of any crime. In a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Geelani said that the government action against the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership was “uncalled for and can prove detrimental for the country”. He added that the cases of sedition being filed against Jamaat-e-Islami leadership in the country were “fictitious”.
Charging that the Bangladeshi government’s actions were generated by political vendetta, Geelani said that all cases of war crimes were settled in the period of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman following the independence of the country in 1971. He referred to the actions of Bangladesh’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who released 195 officers guilty of war crimes after a meeting of the external affairs ministers of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh had charged 37,471 persons under the Collaborators Order but 34,623 people were later let off due to lack of evidence. Some 2,848 people were brought to trial of whom 752 people were charged as guilty. Mujibur Rahman’s government later declared a general amnesty in 1973. Geelani now questions Sheikh Hasina as to why people who were not even arrested during that period are now being charged after 40 years, a clear indication that the actions are political in their nature. He termed it a “direct violation of international laws and detrimental to the image of this country”.
Geelani further added that the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership removed itself during the struggle for the creation of Bangladesh as it believed that the country was being carved out with Indian support. Fearing that it would soon end up as an Indian satellite state, Geelani said that had there been no Indian input to the struggle, the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership would have wholeheartedly participated in the liberation of the country.
Geelani charges that the suspicions of the Jamaat-e-Islami leadership of 40 years ago are realities today. India during the past 45 years has proved that it is not a friend but a foe of Bangladesh. Had it been a friend it would not have sponsored an insurgency in Chittagong.
Geelani also reminded Sheikh Hasina that if India had been sincere, it would have done justice in water distribution to Bangladesh and its Border Security Force would not be killing innocent Bangladeshis on a regular basis. He said whatever the reasons behind the division of the subcontinent, every Muslim of the world today wishes for a stable Bangladesh.
Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are well-wishers of the country and their patriotism should not be doubted. Calling the arrest of people for their political ideas “unacceptable in a democratic setup”, Geelani requested the prime minister to allow Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious organizations to work in a democratic way. He also asked international agencies to intervene in the matter.
Bangladesh matters, but it must tread its waters carefully and judiciously. Politically motivated killings and hangings will foster increased division. With an estimated half of the population favoring the opposition, Sheikh Hasina’s government should put extra effort into forging peaceful alliances with all political parties internally rather than seeking such externally.
— The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena