Ban On Key Opposition Islamist Party Upheld In Bangladesh

Report reaching the desk of Africa Today News, New York has it that the highest court in Bangladesh has upheld a ban on the country’s largest Islamist party taking part in polls, even as political tensions worsen ahead of key January elections.

Millions of people support Jamaat-e-Islami, a significant opposition party, but in 2013 high court judges declared that the charter of this 170 million-person country with a Muslim majority violated the secular constitution. As a result, the party was prohibited from running for office.

Jamaat also filed a challenge with the Supreme Court to overturn the judgement after being prohibited from taking part in elections in both 2014 and 2018.

Chief Justice Obaidul Hassan dismissed the appeal.

“By virtue of the High Court order, which is upheld by the Supreme Court today, Jamaat as a political party is banned,” Ahsanul Karim, one of the lawyers representing the original petitioners, told reporters.

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“It means they are banned from holding assembly, association or any political activities under the platform of Jamaat-e-Islami.”

But Matiur Rahman Akand, Jamaat’s lawyer and also party spokesman, said the order does not ban the party, but rather bars members from contesting polls under the party banner.

“This order doesn’t bar Jamaat-e-Islami from regular political activities and rallies,” Akand told AFP.

“It is solely related to the electoral process of the country.”

Jamaat has joined the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in holding a two-day nationwide strike that began Sunday.

Bangladesh’s opposition — including the BNP, Jamaat and dozens of smaller parties — have demanded Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina quit power ahead of the January 7 election and let a neutral government hold polls.

The government has rejected the call as unconstitutional.

Hasina has overseen phenomenal economic growth during her 15 years in power but Western nations have sounded the alarm over democratic backsliding and thousands of extrajudicial killings.

Late last month the opposition held a giant rally sparking clashes in which a police officer was killed.

Hasina then launched a crackdown, with most of the top BNP leadership arrested, as well as more than 10,000 of its supporters.

Jamaat said at least 2,300 of its activists and leaders were arrested.

Africa Today News, New York

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