Islamist party ‘accepts’ Bangladesh’s liberation after 36 years

October 21st, 2008 - 2:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Oct 21 (IANS) Thirty-six years after Bangladesh gained freedom, Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party, has recognised the 1971 war that led to the separation of the country from Pakistan. For the party that opposed the freedom movement and operated underground in the initial years, the policy change was forced by the desire to keep itself going as a parliamentary party registered with the Election Commission (EC), the Daily Star reported Tuesday.

The poll body preparing for the December elections for the first time enforced new amendments to the Representation of the People Order (RPO) that required that the constitution of a political party seeking registration cannot contradict the country’s constitution.

JeI’s provisional constitution, which was submitted to the EC for getting registered as a parliamentary party, also renamed the organisation as Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami.

Jamaat also dropped a symbol with the words “Allahu” and “Aqimuddin” in Arabic from the cover of its provisional constitution, which was first adopted in 1979.

Its also allows non-Muslims to be members of JeI, but puts the responsibility of protecting the country’s independence and sovereignty by taking an oath only on them, while the Muslim members are exempted from taking that oath.

“I shall actively play a role in defending the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh,” reads a section of the oath scheduled for non-Muslim members, whose inclusion was prompted by the party’s latest necessity for removing religious and gender discriminations within the organisation.

According to JeI’s interim constitution, which will be ratified by a national council within six months of the first sitting of the next parliament in accordance with its promise to the EC, both Muslim and non-Muslim members must swear to abide by the rules and decisions of the party.

Among other fundamental beliefs and spirits, Jamaat also accepted the spirit of the liberation war of 1971 by inserting a paragraph into the preamble of its new provisional constitution.

The heroic struggle of the people and freedom fighters that liberated Bangladesh and put it on the world map as an independent country has been mentioned as a part of the fundamental beliefs and spirits of the party.

Submitting the application for registration and the provisional constitution to the EC for being qualified to contest in the upcoming parliamentary election, Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, assistant secretary general of JeI, said his party has been in politics since May 1979 by accepting the creation of Bangladesh through the liberation war.

JeI was constitutionally banned for years in the newly independent country for its anti-liberation activities and collaboration with the invading army in 1971. Many JeI leaders were facing charges of war crimes and some of them were on the run.

But the party was allowed to resume its activities in 1979 as the constitutional ban on forming religion based political parties was repealed after the bloody regime change of Aug 15, 1975, when the father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members were killed.

JeI aligned with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and shared power from 2001 to 2006.

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