Skip to main content

Bangladesh high court declares rules against Islamist party

By Farid Ahmed and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
(File photo) Police charge a suspected Jamaat-e-Islami activist during a nationwide strike in Dhaka on February 6, 2013.
(File photo) Police charge a suspected Jamaat-e-Islami activist during a nationwide strike in Dhaka on February 6, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jamaat is one of two main opposition parties
  • With ban, it can't take part in upcoming general election
  • The petition says Jamaat is religiously-steeped
  • The potential for violence is all-too-real

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Bangladesh's high court has declared the registration of the country's largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, illegal.

Jamaat is one of two main opposition parties and a constant thorn in the side of the ruling Awami League.

With the declaration, Jamaat will not be able to take part in the country's upcoming general election -- certainly welcome news to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Opinion: Bangladesh on the brink

But such a ruling can also reignite a fresh round of political unrest in the South Asian nation.

Drumbeat gets louder

Jaamat enjoys considerable support, particularly in rural areas. And periodically, it will summon the masses to swarm the capital city, Dhaka, as a reminder.

But in recent months, the drumbeat to ban Jamaat has gotten louder, especially from progressive groups that point to the party's role during Bangladesh's struggle for independence in the early 1970s.

Read more: Bangladesh Islamists rally for blasphemy law

Between one million and 3 million people were killed in the nine-month war.

In 2010, Bangladesh set up a court that it called the International Crimes Tribunal to bring to justice those it accused in the massacre.

Among those the court has convicted of crimes against humanity are several top Jamaat leaders.

Jamaat acknowledges that it opposed Bangladesh's struggle for independence, but it has decried what it calls a smear campaign.

It has also questioned why the ruling Awami League is only now pressing forward on war crimes trials when it didn't do so while in power during the 1970s and 1990s.

A petition to ban

The court case calling for its ban resulted from a petition filed in 2009 by Bangladesh Tariquat Foundation, a Sufi organization that wants to make Bangladesh a secular nation.

Read more: American says he would die for justice in Bangladesh

The petition said Jamaat is a religiously-steeped political entity that actively worked to undermine the independence movement.

The Awami League has sided with those calling for a ban.

"We're examining all possible ways of doing it," the law minister said in February.

Fear of violence

But the fear of violence igniting from such a ruling is all-too-real.

Every time one of Jamaat's top leaders have been convicted by the war crimes tribunals, angry Jamaat supporters have clashed with police.

Since February, at least 150 protesters have been killed and at least 2,00 wounded in such clashes, the Human Rights Watch said in a report released Thursday.

The group laid the blame on security personnel using excessive force.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
updated 12:07 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
With so many new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Thomas Malthus famously predicted that rising populations would create a food crunch: Could this be true?
updated 5:45 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
The lives of everyone close to Oscar Pistorius and the girl he killed are changed forever, his siblings say.
updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
From "Sick Man of Europe" to the world's fourth largest economy.
updated 9:31 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Serbia and Albania try to play but the major game is called off after a drone flying a political flag enters the stadium.
updated 7:36 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
George Clooney's new wife, is now Amal Clooney, raising the issue of married names.
updated 1:57 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
The mysterious unmanned X-37B space plane returns to Earth after more than two years in space. But the U.S. Air force isn't saying much.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT