On November 19, 2023, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh dismissed an appeal from the ruling Islamist party seeking to overturn a 2013 ruling that barred it from participating in elections for violating the constitutional provision of secularism. The nation will hold its next national elections on January 7, 2024.
A five-member bench of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan handed it out to the ruling. The main lawyer of the Jamaat-e-Islami did not appear before the court due to personal problems, and his petition filed previously seeking to postpone the hearing for six weeks was also rejected.
The decision of the High Court a decade ago cancelled the party’s registration with the Election Commission, thus barring it from participating in elections or using party symbols. But it did not ban its political participation.
Reasons for Ban
The ruling at that time came amid calls to ban the party for opposing the country’s 1971 Independence war against Pakistan. The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, after coming to power in 2009, sought to try Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami top leaders for their roles in genocide and war crimes during the country’s independence war. Some of them have been hanged and awarded a life sentence since 2013.
Supporters of Verdict
“The verdict of the High Court has been upheld,” Tania Amir, a lawyer who stood against the Jamaat-e-Islami party, said on November 19, 2023. “If they (Jamaat-e-Islami) attempt any meetings, rallies or identify their party as legal to the High Commission, embassy, foreign agency, or state, we are at liberty to bring a new charge of contempt of court against them and an injunction, she said.
Opposition to the Verdict
However, Matiur Rahman Akanda, a lawyer for the party, said that it would continue to be politically active. “the court gave its opinion on whether the registration with the Election Commission will be upheld, he said, “There is no to ban politics constitutionally.” There have long been multiple calls In Bangladesh by secular forces and others to ban the party, but the government has not complied yet.
Despite the decision by the High Court on November 19, 2023, it remained unclear if the Jamaat-e-Islami could continue its activities. Usually, the Ministry of Home Affairs is the entity that bans the radical groups deemed as anti-state.
About Jamaat-e-Islami Party
The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (BJI) is the largest Islamist Party in Bangladesh. It was founded in 1941 in British-India, by Maulana Mawdudi, a prominent South Asian Islamist leader. Jamaat-e-Islami has been a key partner to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who has been the archrival of the current government led by Shiekh Hasina for decades. The Islamist Party and Zia shared the power in 2001-2006, when the latter was the premier.
In January 2024, Sheikh Hasina will return to power for a fourth consecutive term, while Zia’s party has threatened to boycott the polls. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami says that they will also boycott elections under Sheikh Hasina.