Jamaat rally after a decade: Speculations run rife over govt strategy
Saturday's rally of Jamaat-e-Islami in the capital after a decade has raised many eyebrows and many believe that the new US visa policy might have led the government to allow the rally.
Although some Awami League leaders claimed that the BNP was behind Jamaat's rally, several of its top leaders defended the government's go-ahead for the rally, reasoning that the party is not banned.
The remarks backing the decision to allow the rally have raised suspicion among some BNP leaders who suspect Jamaat and the government might have had an understanding. The BNP recently restored its communication with its long-term ally to go for the one-point movement demanding elections under a non-partisan interim government.
Jamaat, however, denied the allegation of having made any deal with the government. Rather, it said that it would intensify its organisational activities in the coming days to realise its demand for the restoration of the caretaker government system.
However, many believe that holding the rally was a new Jamaat strategy to see first-hand the government's attitude towards it in the wake of the new US visa policy.
Under the policy, the US can impose visa restrictions on individuals and their immediate family members if they are responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.
A section of AL leaders believes that the US visa policy might be a reason.
"Visa policy might be a reason for allowing Jamaat to hold the rally. I think it was an embarrassing decision for the government and it had no alternatives," an AL leader told The Daily Star wishing anonymity.
AL Joint General Secretary Hasan Mahmud on Sunday said Jamaat was allowed to have the meeting since the party is not banned and that it sought permission.
Besides Hasan, at least four ministers on Sunday tried to justify the government's decision.
Senior BNP leader Gayeshwar Chandra Roy yesterday said, "In fact, the government was forced to give Jamaat the permission [to hold the rally] because of the US visa policy."
According to AL insiders, there are two different views within the party about the issue.
A section of the leaders believes that by allowing Jamaat to have the rally, the AL's image as a secular party has been harmed and that it sent the wrong message.
The other section feels it is a strategic decision by the government to demonstrate that it is not imposing any restriction on any organisation.
They also think if Jamaat resorted to violence as it had done before, the government's previous stance against the party would be justified in the eyes of the global community.
Al Masud Hasanuzzaman, professor at the Department of Government and Politics at Jahangirnagar University, told The Daily Star, "So far it seems it is a political strategy of the ruling party. Yes, it is a political surprise as Jamaat was allowed to hold a rally after such a long time. There are pressures from different corners of the government to allow the opposition parties to hold rallies.
"With this, the government can say that opposition parties have full freedom to hold rallies."
Masud said the government will obviously see how Jamaat behaves in the coming days and the political equations will be clearer. "So, we have to wait a bit to get a clear picture."
Sources in Jamaat said the party leaders found a good opportunity to make their presence felt on the streets after being denied the chance for years.
They said Jamaat took full advantage of the US visa restriction policy. Had the government denied them permission for the rally, Jamaat would have said that the government was obstructing the democratic process.
Asked about the claims of a deal made with the government, Jamaat Nayeb-e-Ameer (deputy chief) Abdullah Md Taher told The Daily Star that no consensus was made between the government and his party.
"We were focused on our organisational activities in the last 10 years. Now we are focusing on political activities to wage a movement for our demand for caretaker government… ," he said.