The Dhaka High Court’s decision on 1 August banning the Jamaat-e-Islami as a political party with the Bangladeshi election commission, deeming it illegal and having it deregistered, is a welcome development and a milestone in the chequered history of the country’s march towards consolidating a truly secular nation-state.
Already, consensus had been building in Dhaka against the Islamic fundamentalists in the land, as was evidenced by the massive demonstrations at Shahbag Square calling for secularism and end of religious orthodoxies of all hues.
The Awami League, led by Sheikh Hasina, has been at the forefront of this painstaking process of laying the bricks of a secular edifice that is a truly modern nation-state. The ruling party is supported in its commendable effort by the liberal intellectuals and the youth of the country, even as it faces ire of the Islamists, particularly the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party, led by Khaleda Zia.
However, it is to the credit of the Dhaka High court that the courageous move to altogether dismantle the dangerous political party, the front of several global terrorist outfits with links to many others, had been taken, braving possibility of protests and communal unrests from swathes of Jamaat loyalists.
It is obvious that Jamaat’s existence was in stark opposition to Bnagladesh’s constitution, given its mammoth role in the 1971 war crimes and the verdicts that have been passed on the banned party’s top brass. Although 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s 153 million strong population are Muslim and the constitution was amended in 1988 making Islam its state religion, still, the use of religion within politics was prohibited as per the original document. It is certain that the Awami League government is trying to resurrect the legacy of the original secular spirit that drove Bangladesh’s secession from the clutches of the pungently theocratic Pakistan. However, Dhaka must not underestimate the cadre base that Jamaat had built over decades and try win it over as well.