Jamaat-e-Islami in dilemma over post of secretary general

Selim Zahid . Dhaka | Update:

Jamaat-e-IslamiAfter the controversy over its ameer election, Jamaat-e-Islami is now in a dilemma over the post of its secretary general as several factions have emerged over nominations for this position, the party insiders have said.

The Jamaat leaders said many are unhappy with the newly elected ameer, Shafiqur Rahman as he is creating his own sphere of power within the party.

Shafiqur Rahman hasn’t taken oath as ameer of the party as yet. The election to the party’s central majlis-e-shura is over. It will hold a meeting shortly, or the ameer will be sworn in at a meeting of the central council. According to the party’s constitution, after taking oath, the ameer will nominate the secretary general from among the central leaders. This matter is now a bone of contention within the party.

Constitutionally Jamaat has no provision to have candidates for its leadership. However, this time they have broken from tradition and tension prevails among the central leaders over who will be secretary general. This tension has had an impact on the activists and supporters and this is reflected in the social media.

The names of six leaders are reportedly being discussed in connection with the post of secretary general. They are central nayeb-e-ameer (vice president) Miah Golam Parwar, executive council member ATM Masum, Syed Abdullah Md Taher, assistant secretaries general Rafiqul Islam Khan and Hamidur Rahman Azad and central publicity secretary Tasneem Alam.

Leaders and activists of the party said that Syed Abdullah Md Taher is ahead in popularity, but has been sidelined on suspicion of being a ‘reformist’. He became the president of the party’s student front Chhatra Shibir.

Tasneem Alam is unwell and not so active. There is controversy about him in his own area in Cox’s Bazar, where he is said to have business conflict with Hamidur Rahman.

Topping the list of possible secretaries general are Golam Parwar, ATM Masum and Rafiqul Islam Khan. Masum was the chief election commissioner in Jamaat’s recent ameer election. Party men feel he may be controversial as the chief election commissioner of the election that ushered in Shafiqur Rahman.

Masum’s son who studies in Malaysia has, at various times, criticised Jamaat in his Facebook posts. He is in a fix with his son.

Rafiqul Islam Khan is the most discussed as the possible next secretary general, but he does not have good relations with ameer Shafiqur Rahman. Rafiqul Islam Khan himself is quite influential within the party and was the president of Shibir. He later became the Jamaat Dhaka city ameer. After the arrest of Nizami, Mujahid and others, he was the acting secretary too. At that time he reportedly made many of his close associates members of the executive council.

There is also a strong possibility of nayeb-e-ameer Miah Golam Parwar being made secretary. He was on the three-member ameer panel this time. However, many party men feel that if he is made secretary general from the post of nayeb-e-ameer, this will be a violation of the party norms. The assistant secretary generals may react strongly against this.

Miah Golam Parwar has said he has not heard anything about being made secretary general. He rejected this as false. He told Prothom Alo, “So much is written about Jamaat. Some of our brothers also say so many things. Journalists also enjoy writing so many things about us.”

- About the new ameer -
Ameer Shafiqur Rahman reportedly does not want any former central Shibir president to hold the post of secretary general. He himself was never in top Shibir leadership, nor were any of those whom he eyes for the post. He had been president of Sylhet city Shibir.

Miah Golam Parwar had been central member of Shibir and president of its Khulna unit. Hamidur Rahman Azad was central vice president of Shibir and ATM Masum was its central baitul mal secretary (treasurer). Abdullah Md Taher, Rafiqul Islam Khan and Tasleem Alam were central presidents of Shibir.

Jamaat’s central executive council and majlis-e-shura has decided to form a party with a new name as an alternative to Jamaat-e-Islami. A five-member committee had been formed with secretary general Shafiqur Rahman as the head to determine the name of the new party, its constitution and structure. Nine months have passed but nothing has been done. Party men feel that the matter has made no progress due to the disinterest of Shafiqur Rahman and Hamidur Rahman Azad who is also a member of the committee.

Sources within the party say that Shafiqur Rahman is not interested in remaining with the BNP-led 20 party alliance. He is more interested to actively join the Jatiya Mukti Mancha platform led by Oli Ahmed. This has evoked speculations within the party.

With the present ameer Maqbul Ahmad inactive, Shafiqur Rahman has a monopoly of power in the party. Many of the party leaders and activists are annoyed with his decision to put up a candidate against BNP in the Sylhet city corporation polls and also to contest from Mirpur in Dhaka city despite neither having the preparation nor the support.

Unlike many of the other Jamaat leaders, Shafiqur Rahman faces no bar in travelling out of the country. He has visited the UK, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Maqbul Ahmad, after remaining out of sight for long, went to Saudi Arabia this month to perform Umrah, but only after his step-down from the post of ameer was announced.

Meanwhile, protests arose against a report published on 19 November in the online edition of Prothom Alo about questions over Jamaat’s new ameer. The report said that certain quarters within the party had criticised the three-member panel for the ameer election. Ameer Maqbul was sidestepped on grounds that he was physically unwell. In his absence, Shafiqur Rahman was declared ameer.

Jamaat’s chief election commissioner ATM Masum protested against the report, saying there was no scope to influence the election. Maqbul Ahmad had submitted an application to step down from party responsibilities on old age grounds. He said it was untrue that Maqbul Ahmad had intentionally been dropped and the report aimed at creating confusion among the party men.

However, the correspondent has spoken to leaders and activists at all levels within the party before preparing writing the report. The party men had questioned whether Maqbul had actually applied in writing to step down as ameer. If he did apply on his own accord, they asked, where was the application? Was it shown to the party’s rokons and members of the majlis-e-shura?

The party men say that constitutionally there is no scope for anyone to be a candidate or to ask for votes in Jamaat-e-Islami. Everyone is a candidate and everyone is a voter. Did the constitution have any provision to ask not be voted on old-age grounds or for any other reason? Were any such applications made in the past? They ask, if Maqbul was so ill, how come he has gone to perform Umrah where he needs to be physically fit?

* This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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