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Islamic parties may emerge as major factor in next parliament in Bangladesh

Bangladesh, Al Qaeda, Ansar Al Islam, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Hefazat-e-Islam, Bangladesh Islami Front, Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Zeker Party, Jamiyat-e-Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh, Bangladesh Nejamey Islami Party, Bangladesh Supreme Party, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, Islamic parties, Awami League

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Islamic parties may emerge as major factor in next parliament in Bangladesh

While Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is in dilemma about participating in the next general elections, which is scheduled to be held in January 2024, due to “leadership crisis”, Islamic political parties such as Bangladesh Islami Front, Islami Andolan Bangladesh, Zeker Party, Jamiyat-e-Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh, Bangladesh Nejamey Islami Party, Bangladesh Supreme Party, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan and Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish are taking preparations with the ambition of emerging as the major factor in the next parliament. Meanwhile, pro-Caliphate Hefazat-e-Islam (HeI), which has strong vote bank within madrassa teachers and students although is not yet registered with the Bangladesh Election Commission as a political party is also having secret negotiations with several Islamic parties with the target of filing its own candidates in at least 100 constituencies. It may be mentioned here that, Hefazat-e-Islam has connections with several militancy outfits including Al Qaeda franchise Ansar Al Islam.

Seeking anonymity, a high-ranking leader of Hefazat-e-Islam said, some of the Islamic parties are ambivalent about participating in elections. Talking to the leaders of these parties, two types of indications were sensed. In that case, there may be a situation like fragmentation centering participating in the next general elections.

Another source said, BNP is frantically pursuing several Islamic parties to boycott the next general elections unless it is held under non-party caretaker government. Bangladesh Nationalist Party is also seeking support from the Islamic parties in disrupting the 2024 general elections and is making promises of giving “significant number of seats” and “important ministries”, if those Islamic parties can help BNP in winning the next general elections.

BNP leaders also are pursuing leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam to stand behind it in the “upcoming anti-government movement”, while it has also made pledges of implementing “several demands” of HeI towards enforcing “moderate sharia rule” in Bangladesh, once it wins the 2024 general elections. Similarly, military dictator Hussein Muhammed Ershad’s Jatiya Party also is trying to form alliance with Islamic forces, including HeI.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, in addition to its ongoing efforts of influencing Western policymakers by appointing lobbyists and spending millions of dollars every month is sending message to the US, Britain, and EU about its readiness of “unconditionally listening” to “advices” of these countries once BNP can return to power in January 2024. But one major hurdle for BNP in gaining confidence of the Western nations as its current leadership crisis as its chairperson Khaleda Zia is serving rigorous imprisonment, while her son – the second-in-command of the party, Tarique Rahman is living in Britain with several criminal charges and convictions. Neither Khaleda Zia nor her son are willing to delegate their power and position to any of the leaders of the party.

According to a highly-placed source of BNP, this party is nervous about participating in the next general elections for “multiple reasons” one of which is “nomination trade” by Tarique Rahman, who had in the past nominated “wrong candidates” in exchange for cash.

The source further said, currently Tarique Rahman is focusing on “collecting substantial cash” for “expediting” lobbyist activities in the US and other Western countries, while he has formed a media team to coordinate massive anti-Awami League propaganda in the international print and electronic media, which is scheduled to commence from April 2023. While Tarique Rahman is looking for “at least” US$20 million exclusively for his “media team” projects, family of a convicted war criminal has already contributed US$2 million in it, while BNP leader Mahmudur Rahman is working for arranging “significant amount” from a number of countries.

Sohail Choudhury is the Executive Editor of Blitz

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