Taking Jamaat men along to polls a mistake

Jatiya Oikyafront convener Dr Kamal Hossain yesterday said it was a “mistake” by his party — the Gonoforum — to have joined the December 30 polls with Jamaat-e-Islami leaders contesting under the alliance banner.

He also said they will “put pressure on the BNP to sever its ties with Jamaat” in order to keep the unity of the Oikyafront intact and strong. 

Dr Kamal made the statements following a meeting of the party’s central committee at its central office in the capital’s Arambagh.

“I’ve already publicly said that I was not aware of Jamaat’s participation in the election [under the banner of Oikyafront]. When I gave consent [to contesting the election under the alliance’s banner], I was not informed about Jamaat. I think you can call it a mistake,” he told journalists at the meeting.

Around 70 leaders from the Gonoforum’s central committee participated in the maiden meeting after the 11th parliamentary polls. It began at 10:00am and concluded around 3:45pm.

The meeting was held to discuss the party’s next course of action following the election.

The Awami League-led grand alliance won the polls with a landslide bagging 288 out of the 299 seats.

The Jatiya Oikyafront won eight seats, while the BNP six seats and the Gonoforum two.

22 Jamaat leaders contested the election with the “sheaf of paddy”, the BNP’s electoral symbol.

One of the architects of the country’s constitution, Dr Kamal was criticised by different quarters, including the ruling AL, for allowing leaders from the Jamaat, which opposed the country’s liberation in 1971 and whose leaders were involved in crimes against humanity, to take part in the polls under Oikyafront’s banner.

The BNP has claimed that whoever contested the election with the “sheaf of paddy” were candidates of the party and not of Jamaat.

The AL said that one of the reasons for the Oikyafront and the BNP to lose the election with a margin so huge was that they allowed Jamaat leaders to participate in it.

Jatiya Oikyafront rejected the election results, alleging widespread irregularities and rigging. They also demanded fresh polls following a national dialogue with all stakeholders. The demand was rejected by the AL.

After Gonoforum’s meeting, Dr Kamal told reporters that he never did politics with Jamaat and will not do so in the future either.

“My position is clear. We never did politics with Jamaat nor [are we] thinking of doing so in the future. Whatever you’ve said about our doing politics with Jamaat, we were not aware of it,” he said.

When asked what Gonoforum’s position will be if the BNP does not sever its ties with the Jamaat, he said, “We will talk about it if it happens.”

Gonoforum General Secretary Mostafa Mohsin Montu said their party forged the alliance with the BNP, not with the 20-party or the Jamaat. 

He said, “We raised our objection when 22 Jamaat leaders were nominated to contest the election with the ‘sheaf of paddy’. The BNP’s secretary general told us they [Jamaat leaders] were nominated as BNP candidates.”

“We surely want a solution to the issue as we will not do politics with Jamaat,” he added.

Asked whether his party’s two elected MPs would take oath, Montu said they would discuss it and decide later.

At the meeting, he said their leaders discussed the post-election atmosphere and worked out their party’s future course of action.

Montu said their leaders strongly believe that to wage a democratic movement in the days to come and to “restore democracy”, there was no other alternative to national unity.

“But a strong national unity will have to be forged in the future after correcting the unintentional mistakes that took place during hurried formation of the Jatiya Oikyafront,” Montu said.

Kamal said there was no disagreement among the people regarding the formation of the parliament through a fair and acceptable election.

“No one apart from the ruling party spokesmen are saying that a fair election was held on December 30, while there is no scope to say it. I don’t think it’s a big deal to resolve such a problem. The government should hold a fair election within two-three months, enabling everyone to cast votes in the interest of the country and the constitution.

“People should be given a chance so that they can cast their votes as per their will. If you get majority votes in a fair election, it’ll be meaningful. If a government is formed through a fair and credible election, it will be easier for it to discharge its duties properly,”

Speaking to The Daily Star, several Gonoforum leaders who were present at the meeting said they discussed the strengthening of the Oikyafront in such a manner that no one can “malign its reputation because of Jamaat and the BNP Acting Chairman Tarique Rahman.”

The meeting also decided to hold its central council on March 23 and 24.

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