Abdur Razzak
Abdur Razzak

AB Party, the new political party formed by reformists from Jamaat-e-Islami, is drawing up its work plan and strategy. Leaders of the party have said they are proceeding under the shadow leadership of Barrister Abdul Razzak. Many leaders from within and outside of Jamaat, including Abdur Razzak, will formally join the party in the near future.

Amar Bangladesh Party (AB Party) was formally launched on 2 May. The party has been floated by a group of reformists of Jamaat and its student wing Chhatra Shibir who were irate with the Jamaat leadership for not apologising for the party’s role during the liberation war and for not taking up pragmatic reforms.

Abdur Razzak, long exiled in the UK, said he resigned from Jamaat as the party was not apologising to the nation for opposing the liberation was and also was not taking up reforms in keeping with the changed political circumstances.

A significant number of former Jamaat leaders and activists, including many among the younger generation, are reportedly eager to join AB party. Most of them are unwilling to bear the anti-independence stigma or tolerate the defamation of Razzak. They had hoped that after the top leadership of the party had been hanged for war crimes, it would take up reforms as well as a new name. However no tangible decision was taken and this group is waiting for the right time to break away from Jamaat. Abdur Razzak will also take over the party’s leadership at one point of time.

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The newly appointed convenor of AB party, AFM Solaiman Chowdhury, told Prothom Alo, “We approach Abdur Razzak for advice and support whenever we need. Time will tell whether he will take up a responsible position in AB Party or not.” Concerned persons have said that Abdur Razzak will eventually take over leadership of the party, but till then he will take lead from behind the scenes.

However, speaking to Prothom Alo, Abdur Razzak said, “I am not involved in active politics at the moment.” He said in the nearly 50 years since the independence of Bangladesh, there has been ideological polarisation and divisions in the political arena. This was an obstruction to nation-building. It was important for the nation to be united now. The new party has called for national unity. He felt that this call would lead to the beginning of constructive politics.

Abdur Razzak, long exiled in the UK, on 14 February last year had resigned as Jamaat’s central assistant secretary general. In his resignation letter he said he was resigning as Jamaat was not apologising to the nation for opposing the liberation was and also was not taking up reforms in keeping with the changed political circumstances. Abdur Razzak had been the chief legal counsel for Jamaat leaders in the war crimes case tried by the international crimes tribunal.

The day after Abdur Razzak resigned, Jamaat’s central majlis-e-shura member and former central president of Chattra Shibir, Mujibur Rahman Manju, was expelled from the party. Then on 27 April Mujibur Rahman announced the formation of the new party. It had initially been Jana Akhangkhai Bangladesh, which is now AB Party.

Leaders of the new party have said they will not join any political alliance of Awami League, BNP or of any other group for the time being. However, if their views and beliefs match and if citizens’ rights are restored, they will have no problem in joining in an alliance with even Awami League, they said.

However, there is very little possibility of that happening, a leader of the party said. After all, he said, they have come under a two-sided attack and criticism ever since they announced the new platform. On one hand there is the ruling party and its like-minded quarters, and on the other side is the old party Jamaat and Shibir.

Jamaat had issued no official reaction to the new party, but its activists and supporters have been critical in their comments on the social media. And the ruling party, along with its supporters, term AB Party as Jamaat’s ‘B Team’.

Former secretary Shah Abdul Hannan, known to be an intellectual of Jamaat leaning, pointed out that those who had left an Islamic party to form a new party, had no mention of Islam in their manifesto. He questioned, did that mean they basically wanted to reform Islam from Jamaat?

Executive president of the Ghatak Dalal Nirmul committee (against collaborators who opposed the liberation war), Shahriar Kabir, speaking to Prothom Alo about the new party, said, “You will note that these are the people who have changed the party constitution, changed leaders or even the party name, every time Jamaat-e-Islami came up against hard times. This is nothing new. It is merely a snake changing its old skin.”

There is a general feeling of doubt among the other political parties, both left and right wing, as to whether AB Party was actually a party fundamentally different from Jamaat. They felt it may even be a sort of shadow party of Jamaat.

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AB Party’s member secretary Mujibur Rahman rejects such suspicions outright. He told Prothom Alo, “Time will prove who we are. Over the last few days we have come under coruscating criticism from Awami League, Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee and others of that ilk, as well as from a section of Jamaat. In fact, Jamaat seems to have zero tolerance towards us. They are even threatening us.”

Former secretary Shah Abdul Hannan, known to be an intellectual of Jamaat leaning, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “As far as I know, Jamaat is not bothered about this at all.” He pointed out that those who had left an Islamic party to form a new party, had no mention of Islam in their manifesto. He questioned, did that mean they basically wanted to reform Islam from Jamaat?