12:00 AM, January 13, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:57 AM, January 13, 2019

Taking Jamaat men along to polls a mistake

Says Dr Kamal

Jatiya Oikyafront Convener Dr Kamal Hossain yesterday said it was a mistake on the part of his party Gonoforum to have joined the December 30 polls with Jamaat-e-Islami leaders contesting under the alliance banner.

He also said they would put pressure on the BNP to sever its ties with Jamaat in order to keep the unity of the Oikyafront intact and strong. 

Dr Kamal made the statements following a meeting of his party's central committee at its office in the capital's Arambagh.

"I've already publicly said that I was not aware of Jamaat's participation in the election [under the banner of the Oikyafront]. When I gave consent [to contesting the polls under the alliance's banner], I was not informed about Jamaat. I think you can call it a mistake," he told journalists.

Around 70 leaders from the Gonoforum's central committee participated in its first meeting after the 11th parliamentary polls. It began at 10:00am and concluded around 3:45pm.

The meeting was organised to discuss the party's next course of action following the election.

The Awami League-led grand alliance won the polls bagging 288 out of the 299 seats. The election to the remaining seat of Gaibandha-3 will be held on January 27.

The Jatiya Oikyafront won eight seats, including six for the BNP and two for the Gonoforum.

Twenty-two Jamaat leaders contested the election with the “sheaf of paddy”, the BNP's electoral symbol.

One of the framers of the country's constitution, Dr Kamal had earlier been criticised for allowing Jamaat leaders to take part in the polls under Oikyafront's banner.

Jamaat-e-Islami had opposed the country's 1971 Liberation War and its top leaders were involved in crimes against humanity.

The BNP has claimed that whoever contested the election with the “sheaf of paddy” symbol were candidates of their party, not of Jamaat's.

The AL said that one of the reasons for the Oikyafront and the BNP's defeat in election with a margin so huge was that they allowed Jamaat leaders to participate in it.

Jatiya Oikyafront rejected the election results, alleging widespread polls irregularities and rigging. They also demanded fresh polls following a national dialogue with all stakeholders.

The AL rejected the demand.

After Gonoforum's meeting, Dr Kamal told reporters that he never did politics along with Jamaat and would not do so in the future either.

"My position is clear. We never did politics along with Jamaat nor [are we] thinking of doing so in the future. Whatever you've said about our politics involving Jamaat, we were not aware of it," he said.

When asked what the Gonoforum's position would be if the BNP did not sever its ties with the Jamaat, he said, “We will talk about it if it happens.”

Gonoforum General Secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu said their party forged the alliance with the BNP, not with the 20-party or the Jamaat. 

He said, “We raised our objection when the 22 Jamaat leaders were nominated to contest the election with the 'sheaf of paddy'. The BNP's secretary general told us they [the Jamaat leaders] were nominated as BNP candidates.”

Asked whether his party's two elected MPs would take oath, Montu said they would discuss it and decide later.

At the meeting, he said their leaders discussed the post-election atmosphere and worked out their party's future course of action.

Montu said their leaders strongly believe that to wage a democratic movement in the days to come and to “restore democracy”, there was no other alternative to national unity.

Dr Kamal said there was no disagreement among the people regarding the formation of the parliament through a fair and acceptable election.

“No one apart from the ruling party spokesmen are saying that a fair election was held on December 30, while there is no scope for saying it. I don't think it's a big deal to resolve such a problem. The government should hold a fair election within two to three months, enabling everyone to cast votes in the interest of the country and the constitution.

“People should be given a chance so that they can cast their votes as per their will. If you get the majority of the votes in a fair election, it'll be meaningful. If a government is formed through a fair and credible election, it will be easier for it to discharge its duties properly.”

Speaking to The Daily Star, several Gonoforum leaders who were present at the meeting said they discussed the strengthening of the Oikyafront in such a manner that no one can “malign its reputation because of the Jamaat and the BNP Acting Chairman Tarique Rahman.”

The meeting also decided to hold its central council on March 23 and 24.

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