Ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) wants to maintain strategic relations with Hefazat-e-Islam keeping the next general elections in mind.
And that is why the AL-led government has taken initiative to meet the demands of Islam-based group.
Talking to the Prothom Alo, party policymakers claimed that the AL government’s position towards Hefazat-e-Islam and other Islam-based groups is temporary.
However, most of the components of the AL-led 14-party ruling political alliance consider the AL’s “strategic position” harmful.
They think the AL will never be able to get the votes of these religious groups and that is why it should not have put its democratic and secular position into question.
Several 14-party alliance leaders, seeking anonymity, told the Prothom Alo that the government has attached more importance to suggestions put forth by the administrative machinery than making political analysis.
They said the government has just listened to those government agencies that maintain contacts with the religious groups while taking decisions.
Some of the AL leaders echoed these leaders of the 14-party alliance. They think the AL has always been victim of a smear campaign centring on religion, so a temporary strategy can be adopted keeping the party’s ideals intact.
A senior AL leader, also on condition of anonymity, told the Prothom Alo that none of the followers of Hefazat amir Shah Ahmad Shafi would vote for the AL even if he writes himself letter to his followers to vote for the AL.
“However, the government might keep a strategic relation with it so that the BNP-Jamaat alliance can’t use this group in the next elections,” he said.
In the face of the demand of Hefazat-e-Islam, the government has brought changes to the textbooks and the prime minister and AL president Sheikh Hasina told a function attended by Shah Ahmad Shafi at the prime minister’s official residence, Ganabhaban, that she herself found no rational for keeping the sculpture of Themis goddess on the Supreme Court premises.
At that Ganabhaban meeting, the prime minister also announced the government’s recognition of the Qawmi madrasa education system.
Earlier, the AL had signed a 5-point agreement with another Islam-based party Khelafat Majlish in 2006 ahead of the general elections, too.
Most of the AL leaders think that the government's decision to give Qawmi education the recognition is a right decision. They, however, spoke of attaching some terms and conditions while recognising the Qawmi education system.
But, they think the decision of bring changes to the textbooks was wrong and the sculpture of Themis goddess should not be brought down.
At a press conference on Thursday, the AL general secretary, Obaidul Quader, said the ruling party has no alliance with Hefazat-e-Islam.
“There is no alliance of the Awami League with Hefazat. It is also not right that both parties have the same thinking. Hefazat and Qawmi madrasa are also two different things. The government approved the Qawmi madrasa in the context of the present situation of the country”, the senior AL leader said while speaking at a press meet at the AL president’s Dhanmondi office in the morning.
“We're practising politics in keeping with the present situation of the country. Progressive politics can only be followed by accepting reality; that is what we are doing,” Obaidul Quader added.
AL presidium member Abdur Razzak told the Prothom Alo that there are no ideological similarities between the AL and Hefazat. “There is no scope to make any compromise with them. The government, however, can try to bring this force into the mainstream.”
*The piece originally came up in Prothom Alo print edition is rewritten in English by Taib Ahmed.