What’s the future of BNP-Jamaat relations

Communication between the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami has increased in recent times. However, it doesn’t mean that the two parties have become very close again, the leaders say.

Last week, the leaders of both parties joined the iftar mahfils organised by each other, which was not the case until last year. The relations between the two parties came into discussion again following that. 

BNP formed the four-party alliance, including Jamaat, and came to power in 2001. However, the two parties were not on good terms for a long time. BNP had been avoiding Jamaat, which opposed the liberation war, due to several regional and international political factors.

The party took this stance to achieve the confidence of India, especially ahead of the 12th national polls. As part of this strategy, the BNP-led 20-Party Alliance was dissolved ahead of the polls. Jamaat was a major part of this alliance. Later, the other parties in the alliance joined BNP in its simultaneous movement to topple the government separately. Although the BNP had been holding meetings with the allies from time to time to maintain the communication, it avoided the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Informed people say even after that Jamaat initially observed some of the programmes of simultaneous movement separately. However, the party embarked upon separate programmes after learning about BNP’s intention to avoid them.

The BNP eventually increased communication with Jamaat again after failing to get the support of the neighbouring country in the 12th national polls. Jamaat started setting programmes following the BNP after 28 October. However, both parties went silent in the aftermath of the general polls.

Interest from both parties

The relations between the BNP and Jamaat improved a little centring the iftar mahfils throughout the holy month of Ramadan. The BNP invited four Jamaat leaders, including Jamaat Ameer, in their iftar party on 28 October. The Jamaat also invited nearly 50 BNP leaders, including party secretary general and all members of BNP standing committee, in their iftar party held two days later.  As many as 18 BNP leaders, including BNP standing committee member Mirza Abbas and Jamir Uddin Sarker, joined the iftar mahfil organised by Jamaat. However, BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir did not join the mahfil.

Speaking regarding this, Jamaat-e-Islami central assistant secretary general Abdul Halim told Prothom Alo, “You can say there has been a little improvement in our relations with the BNP. But I don’t feel that the two parties have become very close. Not only BNP, we want to keep ties with any patriotic political party for the sake of national interest. However, we have no idea about BNP’s policy in this regard.”

Speaking to several Jamaat and BNP leaders at different levels, it has been learnt that there is still a gap between the two parties. However, there has been a realisation among the BNP leadership that maintaining a distance with an organised party like the Jamaat amid the suppressive actions of the government is no longer the right political move.

Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami is also interested in maintaining a close relationship with BNP like the past on the basis of the understanding between the two parties. India’s ‘one sided’ support towards the Awami League in the context of politics and power practice in Bangladesh has paved the foundation of bringing the two parties together.

Meanwhile, BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury has a different view over this. He said, “The relations between the two parties are not any issue here at all. Those, who want BNP to separate from Jamaat, want to make an issue out of this. There are some 62-63 political parties. Why does all the talks circle around only Jamaat-BNP.”

Counter opinions

Despite the recent improvements in the relations between the two parties, there is a faction inside and outside BNP who don’t want to be close with Jamaat. Saiful Haque general secretary of Biplobi Workers Party, one of the major allies in the simultaneous movement, refrained from joining the iftar mahfil organised by the BNP as they invited Jamaat leaders.

At the same time, many of the invited BNP leaders avoided Jamaat’s iftar citing different reasons.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a top level BNP leader said time and context has separated BNP from Jamaat. And time will determine the relations between the two parties in politics. However, he feels despite the recent rise in the intercommunication, both Jamaat and BNP are very cautious in this regard.

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu