A joke indeed
Jamaat-e-Islami sprang quite a surprise when it accused the ruling Awami League of conspiring to turn Bangladesh into Pakistan.
Many find it amusing since the accuser is the party that collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces in 1971 to massacre Bangalees, and the accused is the party that led the Liberation War.
At a press briefing on Friday, Jamaat's acting secretary general ATM Azharul Islam said the government is plotting to turn the country into Pakistan. It is persecuting the opposition leaders and workers like dictator Ayub Khan did in the then Pakistan.
His remarks belie his party's usual line of rhetoric. Known for its anti-Indian diatribes and politics playing on people's religious sentiment, Jamaat has always accused AL of being subservient to India.
It has hardly ever criticised anything Pakistani in the last 40 years.
Until 2008, this religion-based party, founded in Pakistan in 1941, used to be called Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. Some political analysts observe that Jamaat had chosen to be named that way because it still considered itself a branch of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan.
However, it renamed itself Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami before registration with the Election Commission during the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led caretaker government rule.
In 1971, Jamaat not only opposed the country's Liberation War but also joined forces with the Pakistan army, which killed three million Bangalees and raped more than a quarter million women.
During the war, Jamaat used to describe Awami League and freedom fighters as “Bharoter Char” (Indian agent), “Bharoter Dalal” (Indian stooge), “Hindu,” and “enemy of Islam.” It has used the same invectives against AL and other secular forces over the last four decades.
In 1971, its former ameer Ghulam Azam said, "Pakistan is the house of Islam for the world Muslims. Therefore, Jamaat activists don't justify being alive should Pakistan disintegrate."
Jamaat's incumbent ameer Motiur Rahman Nizami, who was the chief of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the party's student wing in 1971, said, "Sacred land Pakistan is the home of Allah for establishing His rules."
Measured against Jamaat's historic allegiance to Pakistan, its acting secretary general's comments on Friday are nothing but hypocritical, say researchers and political analysts.
Noted educationist and writer Muhammed Zafar Iqbal told The Daily Star, “Jamaat always lies. They always cheat and confuse people in the name of religion. This is yet another example of their hypocrisy.”
Prof Muntasir Mamun, an academician and political analyst, said Jamaat as an organisation has been shattered since the process of war crimes trial began.
“At present, there's no chain of command in their party. Many of their leaders are scared…out of their mind and talking rubbish,” said Mamun, also a freedom fighter.
Talking to The Daily Star about his remarks, Jamaat's acting secretary general Azharul said he was just pointing out the “similarities between the Ayub regime and the present Awami League government in terms of torture on people”.
The Ayub Khan government in the then Pakistan, he observed, used to oppress people through various black laws. They even repressed people in the name of anti-adulteration drive.
“We won freedom from Pakistan and built an independent country so that people get justice. But this government [AL government] is resorting to black laws like the then Pakistani ruler did to oppress the opposition leaders and workers,” added Azharul.
“What's the difference between the then Pakistani ruler and the present Bangladeshi ruler?” he asked.
The irony is that Jamaat has never criticised the barbaric acts of the Pakistani rulers and the occupation forces. It also has not yet apologised to the nation for its own heinous role during the Liberation War.
When Azharul's attention was drawn that Jamaat leaders always portray Awami League as the party dedicated to serving the interests of India, he said his party did not mention India's name while criticising AL in the past.
His statement, however, does not add up. On plenty of occasions in the past decades, Jamaat described AL as “Indian agent” and warned the public, “Awami League will sell Bangladesh if it comes to power.”
Even a few months back, on April 7, in a press release, it said, “This [AL-led grand alliance] government has given up country's interests to India after assuming power with the blessings of imperialist forces.”