A group of former leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shibir yesterday launched a new political initiative named Jana Aakangkhar Bangladesh.
It is being headed by former Shibir president Mojibur Rahman Monju, who according to several Jamaat leaders was known to be a hardliner.
Monju made the announcement at a press briefing at a city hotel. Seated next to him were other key organisers, including advocate Tajul Islam, a defence counsel for Jamaat leaders facing war crimes trials and Chittagong University professors Abdul Ohaed Minar and Kamal Uddin.
The move came following differences of opinion within the Jamaat over reforms and whether it would apologise to the nation for opposing the 1971 Liberation War.
The Jamaat, which opposed Bangladesh’s birth, had already been in trouble after its senior leaders were handed down punishment for crimes against humanity, according to its insiders. Besides, the Election Commission cancelled the party’s registration with it.
On February 15, Jamaat assistant secretary general Barrister Abdur Razzaq quit the party, citing its failure to apologise for its role in the 1971 War and bring reforms to its constitution.
The following day, Jamaat’s policy-making body Majlish-e-Shura member Monju, who had been vocal about bringing the reforms, was expelled from the Jamaat for “breaching discipline” and “anti-party activities”.
In the following days, several other Jamaat leaders were expelled over similar reasons.
About the numbers and names of those involved in the new initiative, Monju said it would require one or two months to finalise the matter. “Every day new leaders and activists are joining our initiatives,” he said, without giving details.
He informed reporters that the political initiative would turn into a full-fledged political party within a few months to build what he said was a new Bangladesh based on the spirit of the Liberation War.
Asked, he said Razzaq was not a part of the initiative. Replying to another question, he said,” The ruling Awami League is not providing us with any assistance.”
Monju then said their upcoming party would not be based on religion, rather it would be open for people from all communities. “This is totally an independent initiative. We have no connection with any political party, including Jamaat.”
Citing the Jamaat’s controversial role in the Liberation War, Monju said the party ignored calls for offering apologies on several occasions in the past.
Talking to The Daily Star over phone recently, Razzaq, who has been in London since 2013, said he pushed the Jamaat leadership to apologise for the party’s role in 1971 but he was “rebuffed by a section of the top leadership”.
Talking about their goals, Manju said the opposition parties failed to launch any effective movement against the “autocratic rule” of the incumbent government. “But the young quota reformists and road safety protesters inspired us to make efforts for forging national unity.”
He also said they had already formed five committees to carry out the initial activities of the party before its formal launching.
“The committees would work on drafting political proposal; monitoring and mass communication; fund raising; media and social platforms as well as information technology. A planning committee would decide on the organisational structure of the party,” he said.
Former Jahangirnagar University Prof Dilara Chowdhury, Columnist Gautam Das, rights activist Robi Amatullah, former minister Nazimuddin Al-Azad, and Bangladesh Minority Janata Party Secretary Supriti Kumar Mandol, among others, were present at the programme.
Meanwhile, in his impromptu reaction to the new initiative, ruling Awami League acting general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said those behind the move were none other than Jamaat men.
“They don’t have any right to do politics even if they change their name and identity,” he told reporters at a programme in the capital yesterday.
Talking to The Daily Star last night, several Jamaat leaders said Monju was a top leader of Shibir in Chittagong University. During that time, the unit was infamous for unleashing terror on the campus, including cutting tendons of their rival student body members, they added.
Despite repeated attempts, The Daily Star could not contact Monju for comments in this regard.