The Jamaat-e-Islami has almost finalised its move to reappear under a new name without words like “Islam or Muslim” if the party is banned for 1971 war crimes.
Talking to The Daily Star, a number of central leaders said they are looking for a modern name which will attract youths. “There will be no words like Islam or Muslim in the new name,” said one of them.
The party will also discard the word Jamaat, they said.
“Our preparation for renaming Jamaat is almost final,” Amiruzzaman, ameer of Chittagong (North) Jamaat, told this newspaper recently. “District- and upazila-level leaders have received instructions in this regard.”
Jamaat policymakers started preparing to have a new name after an investigation agency in August 2013 began probing the war crimes allegations against the party.
However, the process of trying or banning Jamaat for the 1971 crimes remains halted, frustrating justice seekers and campaigners.
“Everything depends on the government's move. Though our preparation to rename the party is at the final stage, we will not proceed until the government takes the initiative to ban us,” a central leader said, wishing anonymity.
Another Jamaat leader said the party has thousands of leaders and activists who will not just sit idle if the government bans it. They will be with the “new party”.
“Banning Jamaat will be good for us as we will get rid of the bad name with the disappearance of the word Jamaat.”
Another party leader said, “Jamaat policymakers think people will forget the party's previous mistakes if it comes up with a new name. Besides, many people, including youths, dislike the word Jamaat.”
According to insiders, well-known Jamaat leaders -- central or grassroots -- will not be in any posts but they will run the “new party” from behind. Little-known or mid-ranked leaders will hold the portfolios.
For example, a Jamaat leader said, Abbas Ali Khan was Jamaat's acting ameer from 1976 to 1992. But in reality, it was Ghulam Azam who led the party from behind. After getting citizenship, Ghulam became the Jamaat ameer.
Amiruzzaman of Chittagong (North) Jamaat said his position as the unit chief will be renamed “chairman” when the party takes the new name.
THE WAIT FOR TRIAL
Justice seekers and victims and their families have long been pressing for the trial of Jamaat as a party.
Their demand received fresh vigour after February 5, 2013 when youths occupied Shahbagh intersection in the capital demanding highest punishment for war criminals and a ban on Jamaat and its student body Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Following the unprecedented Shahbagh Movement, the government amended the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 and the investigation agency launched the probe.
The agency handed over the probe report to the prosecution in March 2014, recommending a ban on Jamaat and six other organisations, which were associated with the party in 1971. The probe body found involvement of these anti-liberation bodies in grievous crimes committed during the Liberation War.
Based on the report and other documents, the seven-member prosecution team started working to prepare formal charges for initiating trial.
But 15 months after the amendment, the law minister in May 2014 said the amended war crimes law was not enough to try and punish any political party, as it had no provision for punishment of a guilty organisation.
Against this backdrop, the prosecution team has stopped their preparation for filing a case against Jamaat, frustrating the justice-seekers and campaigners for the war crimes trial.
“Whenever we ask the law minister about banning or trying Jamaat for its involvement in crimes against humanity, the minister assures us that the government is taking measures to amend law,” Shahriar Kabir, war crimes researcher and executive president of Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee, said yesterday.
“In January, the law minister promised us that he will take necessary steps within February to amend law to pave the way for trying Jamaat. But the minister is yet to do this,” he said.
“The government will be able to explain why they are not amending law to try Jamaat.”
He also said it would be suicidal not only for Awami League but also for the country not to ban Jamaat politics. Until it is banned, the party's conspiracy against the pro-liberation forces will continue.
The Daily Star failed to reach Law Minister Anisul Huq despite several attempts.
Shahriar Kabir said only banning Jamaat is not enough. The government should also ban different NGOs, financial and other organisations run by the party to stop the spread of Moududibad.
“The government will also have to snap Jamaat's ties with different international bodies.”
Founded by Abul Ala Moududi in 1941, Jamaat was banned twice during the Pakistani era in 1959 and 1964 for its communal role. It got banned again just after independence in 1971 but was allowed to return to politics after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
Last year, a UK review revealed that Maududi's takfiri ideology that permits use of “extreme violence” for establishing Islam in the society was adopted and followed by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, a UK review reveals.
According to the review, takfiri ideology has consistently been understood as a doctrine permitting the stigmatisation of other Muslims as infidel or apostate.
Former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins and Charles Farr, the director general of the office for security and counterterrorism in the Home Office, conducted the review.
In Bangladesh, two special tribunals set up to deal with wartime offences in several verdicts put the spotlight on Jamaat's role in 1971 and termed it a “criminal organisation”.
According to historic documents and witness accounts, Jamaat opposed the birth of Bangladesh and took part in atrocities during the Liberation War. It, however, never repented for this.
In august 2013, a special High Court bench by a majority view declared Jamaat's registration with the Election Commission illegal.
In July 2014, the law ministry completed a draft for bringing about amendments to incorporate specific provisions for punishment of organisations.
Under the draft amendment, the war crimes tribunal will have powers to ban any organisation and prohibit its activities in any name or any form or in disguise, if convicted of war crimes, said sources.
But no progress has been made in this regard.
Tureen Afroz, who led the prosecution team while preparing the case, said, “It does disappoint us to a certain extent as, after repeated media statements from the ministry of law, the amendment to the ICT law is not taking place.”
Making or amending law is the responsibility of parliament, Tureen told The Daily Star, adding, “Until parliament passes the amendment, we can't proceed with the trial of an organisation.”