Khaleda makes Jamaat smile
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's rejection of the International Crimes Tribunal as partisan and her demand for release of the top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami held as war crimes suspects underline fresh political challenges to their trial.
Five detained Jamaat leaders, including its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami, have been accused of committing crimes against humanity during the country's Liberation War in 1971.
Jamaat-e-Islami collaborated with the Pakistani occupation forces which killed three million people and raped two lakh women during the nine-month war.
Khaleda's demand at Tuesday's rally in the capital has made Jamaat leaders happy as they see it as a success in their efforts to come closer to the main opposition party and jointly wage anti-government street agitations, political analysts said.
They said BNP's latest stance will boost Jamaat's morale and reinforce the allegation that the trial process is not neutral.
At the rally organised by the BNP-led four-party alliance, Khaleda said “A mockery of trial” is going on in the name of trying war criminals. The international crimes tribunal formed by the government is nothing but a partisan body, and it has no acceptance both at home and abroad, she said.
BNP distanced itself from its main ally Jamaat since the debacle in the December 2008 parliamentary election. It had a lukewarm response when the government cracked down on the Jamaat leaders.
Since the crackdown in the middle of last year, five senior leaders of Jamaat including its chief Motiur Rahman Nizami and Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed, and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury were arrested.
The embattled Jamaat then turned to BNP for launching a joint movement. But BNP did not respond, and Khaleda reportedly refused to meet Jamaat leaders.
In a change of mind, BNP agreed to hold Tuesday's rally under the banner of four-party alliance. Jamaat being a major component of the alliance, its leaders shared the same podium with BNP leaders for the first time since the last parliamentary polls.
"What Khaleda Zia said on Tuesday about the trial of war crimes is our victory as well of the people," Jamaat lawmaker ANM Shamsul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday.
Shamsul, also chief of Chittagong city unit of the party, said Khaleda's speech supporting Jamaat's views on the war crimes tribunal will boost the morale of his party men.
From now on, the alliance will jointly fight the AL-led government, he said.
Shafiqur Rahman, acting secretary general of Jamaat, recently told The Daily Star, "Jamaat wants to wage agitation jointly with BNP to use the later as a shield to protect our leaders and activists from the government's actions."
Contacted yesterday, two members of the BNP national standing committee explained the party's latest stance on Jamaat and war crimes trial.
"We have been observing the government move regarding the trial of war criminals. Now we are convinced that the trial is nothing but the government's strategy to destroy Jamaat and the unity of Islamic forces," said MK Anwar.
The BNP chief's speech was in line with the party's changed stance, he said.
BNP's new position, however, disappointed Maj Gen (retd) KM Safiullah and Major (retd) Rafiqul Islam, two war heroes campaigning for the trial of war criminals.
"Khaleda Zia made a historic mistake by supporting Jamaat leaders who committed war crimes during the Liberation War," Safiullah, also a former army chief, told The Daily Star.
He said the government will face more challenges to the trial as BNP has publicly opposed it.
Rafiqul Islam, also an AL lawmaker, criticised the government for the delay in the trial process. "People may become sceptical about the trial process due to the delay," he said.
Asked about Khaleda's comment on the International Crimes Tribunal, Akbar Ali Khan, a former caretaker government adviser, said, “This sort of statement is unwanted before completion of the trial process.”
“It's a premature statement that will politicise the trial process,” said Akbar, who is also a freedom fighter.
Khaleda's support for Jamaat leaders has also been criticised by MA Hasan, chairperson of War Crimes Facts Finding Committee.
“This will certainly create obstacles to the war crimes trial process," he said. “She has thrown a challenge to the tribunal.”