In a major blow to the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami ahead of polls in Bangladesh, the Election Commission on Thursday said the party cannot participate in the general election in line with a court order. Election Commissioner Shah Nawaz said the Jamaat would not be able to participate in the polls as the High Court had declared its registration illegal.
Banning the Jamaat may find support in some sections of Bangladesh’s civil society, but the action reeks of political persecution, coming as it does on the eve of elections. If the Jamaat’s attempts at stoking communalism for electoral gain are detestable, the guardians of Bangladesh’s secular character must ask themselves why it has been successful in this pursuit. In June, the BNP-Jamaat alliance trumped the AL comprehensively in elections to four major city corporations. Thanks to its lacklustre performance in office, Sheikh Hasina’s government has grown increasingly unpopular; banning the Jamaat will not resuscitate its poll prospects. In fact, doing so will not only deepen the theological-secular divide in Bangladesh, but also ensure the scars of 1971 remain open.