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Mixing politics with religion
Awami League joins hands with BKM
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

AL-BKM 5-point deal

  • Certified Alems (Islamic clerics) will have the right to issue fatwas (Islamic religious edicts) if the grand electoral alliance comes to power.
  • A bar on enacting any law that goes against Quranic values,
  • Initiation of steps for proper implementation of the initiative for government recognition of degrees awarded by Qaumi Madrasas.
  • A ban on criticisms of Prophet Muhammad.
  • Those who do not believe in the assertion that the Prophet of Islam is the last messenger of Allah would forfeit their right to be known as a Muslim, an oblique reference to the Ahmadiyya community.

New Delhi, December 25
India is closely watching Awami League President Sheikh Hasinaís rainbow coalition for the January 22 general election wherein she has joined hands with Bangladesh Khelafat-e-Majlish (BKM), the ultra-orthodox Islamist group.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon has been updated about the evolving situation in Bangladesh by Indian Acting High Commissioner in Dhaka, Mr S. Chakravarti. The Foreign Secretary will brief External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee about the situation tomorrow.

As of now, New Delhiís single-point concern is whether the apparent dangerous alliance is a mere electoral tactic by Ms Sheikh Hasina or does it represent a major policy shift for the Awami League (AL)?

The stunning thing about the ALís largest-ever alliance of December 18 is its controversial five-point deal with the BKM.

The grand alliance consists of the AL-led 14-party combine, Jatiya Party (Ershad), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Islami Oikya Jote and Islamic Front. All the components of the AL-led 14-party coalition - the 11-party Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD) and National Awami Party (NAP) - have come out with separate statements condemning the deal. They have demanded that AL cancels the deal immediately to maintain its conformity to the 23-point common national minimum programme of the coalition, which includes a promise to ban religion-based politics.

The question of fatwa is fraught with dangers as it means that certain ulemas will be placed above the law of the land.

The signing took place in the Azimpur residence of BKM Chairman Allama Azizul Haque on December 23 in a sequel to an AL attempt to bring BKM into the fold of the grand alliance.

Even a large majority of AL central and grassroots members are opposed to the deal with BKM and see it as a sureshot political harakiri. JSD President Hasanul Haq Inu has gone on record saying that his party would not accept the deal ďunder any circumstancesĒ.

However, from New Delhiís point of view, the ALís grand alliance may just be an attempt to keep arch-rival Begum Khaleda Zia from winning the election. The AL is trying to downplay the MoU .

Incidentally, Sheikh Hasina had joined hands with Jamat-e-Islami party of Bangladesh in the 1996 elections. Significantly, less than 24 hours after the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, Sheikh Hasina sought the 'blessings' of all to build Bangladesh as a 'secular democratic' country.

But if the deal represents a policy shift for the AL, then it is a serious matter for India as it will be caught between the devil and the deep sea in that scenario. From ALís international perspective, the handshake with radical Islamic parties will be nothing short of having supper with the devil.

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