Stir against Islamist parties contesting Bangladesh polls


Dhaka : Former freedom fighters and secularists in Bangladesh have stepped up campaign against Islamist parties contesting the Dec 29 polls as many allege they had collaborated with Pakistani authorities in killing unarmed civilians in 1971.

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Their principal target is the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party, and a combine of smaller parties who are in alliance with two-term prime minister Khaleda Zia.

Besides wooing the voters, the secularists are critical of the Election Commission that committed initially, but shied away from debarring the Islamists from fighting elections, mainly because the military-backed caretaker government of Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed has promised an all-inclusive parliamentary poll.

“Another war round the corner, 37 years after,” The Daily Star newspaper said Tuesday, which was also ‘Bijoy Diwas’ or victory day when the joint forces of India and Bangladesh entered Dhaka and effected the surrender of Pakistani soldiers.

Media reports marking the occasion recalled that the JeI and other Islamist parties had been banned when the country became free. Brought back to political arena by slain president Ziaur Rahman, Khaleda Zia’s husband, they continue to be led by “collaborators of the Pakistani Army” and documentary proofs exist against them, a report said.

Among those accused of “collaboration” are JeI’s Amir (chief) Motiur Rahman Nizami and secretary general Ali Mohammed Mujaheed. Both are contesting election.

Prior to the celebration of Victory Day, the sector commanders and other Liberation War forces have already identified 14 candidates as war criminals in the BNP-Jamaat alliance.

The secularists want that the “war criminals” be debarred from the poll. They take heart from the Election Commission’s move to debar war criminals from polls and included a provision in the Representation of People (Amendment) Ordinance, 2008.

The provision states: “A person shall be disqualified for election as or for being a member if he has been convicted as war criminal by any national or international court or tribunal.”

But the move to debar war criminals from polls fell flat on its face as the government has not initiated a move to officially identify them.

Former army chief Lt Gen (retd) M. Harun-ur-Rashid told The Daily Star: “The government has neither initiated any move to identify war criminals nor even informed the Election Commission about them though the government has many old records and documents in this regard.”