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JeI Ban : Bane or Boon?

June 15, 2016

In the wake of targeted killings and hanging of war criminals, the demand for banning Jamaat-e-Islami(JeI) has been pitched higher. Senior minister hinted that JeI’s fate might be decided by June. But govt and all other involved need to ponder whether such ban could be bane or boon for JeI. This news calls into question govt’s intention as we saw JeI linked financial institutions swollen while those belong to BNP stalwarts witnessed decline in recent years. And the doubts further gain ground since govt has no desire to ban religion-based parties.

AL’s dual role about the extremist parties needs to come under close scrutiny. At the one hand , AL flaunts being the sole contender to fight such dark forces in Bangladesh. Having subdued BNP, this aids AL to prolong the status quo. On the other hand, it cut some sort of ties with religious parties, and took a backseat when fanatics swooped on bloggers.

Recent spate of blogger and minority killings made a heavy dent in AL’s image. It brought to fore the demand of JeI ban in a bid to recuperate that lost trust.

The ban will only give JeI a new identity and baptize it into democracy because it will retain its monolithic party structure and the loyal party cadres.

Taking off the caution label from the poison bottle does not make it safe. Similarly, banning JeI and allowing it to operate under a new banner does not mean they will discard their dogmatic beliefs and will take on a peaceful stance in politics.

One may argue that rebranding will make JeI a more civilized democratic party. It may keep its nose clean after the ban. But political parties are like experience goods whose quality can only be evaluated after we experience them. In this light we can say we already experienced JeI politics: its instigating role in Lahore riots, its 1971 campaign of annihilating Bengalis opted for Bangladesh, its hatred campaign against the minority communities, its terror campaign at public universities to subdue rivals, its stirring troubles across country to jeopardize war crimes trial. All its past deeds still rankle with Bangladeshis. New JeI may remain the same since its policies and operations will be based on old political literature and modus operandi.

In this regard govt is playing the role of a plastic surgeon who is taking off JeI’s old war crimes burden and giving it another chance into our politics.

The stigma-free JeI will have unwarranted access to many areas where it is considered political outcast. With its new look, JeI will consolidate its position in public universities, cultural institutions, judiciary, media where all these years it had relatively weak presence. It will be too late when we will wake up to the fact that they have a formidable position in these places.

Countries that do not want stability in Bangladesh will not spare the opportunity to build rapport with a force of causing unimaginable destruction. The ban will make that task much more easier. In the past we saw JeI cadres responsible for subversive activities were given refuge to neighbouring states of India and allowed to flee abroad.

When such a ban comes into effect, many JeI supporter will change their color and melt into leading parties, deteriorating further the fragile ambiance of political coexistence as they are notorious for their anarchistic activities. The rest will rally behind far right-wing extremist groups who are ready to trample everything on their ways.

This govt ban only covers the restriction of political activities of a party. We are not hearing much about its affiliates and financial institutions , which are the blood of a political party. Does the govt have specific plans about it?

In recent years, as I’ve mentioned earlier, its financial institutions did tremendously well and invested heavily in various sectors including the SMEs with Awami endorsement.

Even JeI’s silence to govt decision raises one’s eyebrows. It is not a party to remain quiet when its existence is threatened or its stakes are in danger. We have not seen yet any menacing messages from it.Maybe turning the country into a house of war will pose serious risks to JeI’s investment projects.

This move by the govt, it seems to me, intends to give a kind of acceptability to its association with JeI. It can tell the world, “ Hey look, JeI no longer exists and the chaps with whom we are doing business right now are affiliated with another party.”

So this plastic surgery, the ban, is imperative to make everything halal (allowed).

The best way to address the problems of hatred preaching, communalism, bullying others , and rise of poisonous ideologies is by introducing a unified code of conduct into politics. The political code will oblige all the political parties to follow some guidelines in what they say, what they introduce as literature for their followers, what they do and what they say about others. Since this code does not mean for just one particular party and rather applicable for all the parties, no party will think that it is designed to constrain its activities and no party will follow a violent path when its interests are in danger. The best part of this code is it will prevent the rise and spread of fascist ideologies.

Apart from the opportunistic quarter embedded inside the ruling party, all the responsible and thoughtful persons should weigh the pros and cons of such a decision. Instead of taking opaque move, govt should spell out its plan about parties with extreme ideologies. If there is none, then it needs to discard the role of plastic surgeon and chalk out a long course of action to weed out the seedlings of terror.

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