Political Party

Political Party At partition of India in 1947 there was virtually one overwhelming party in East Pakistan, the muslim league. In the elections of 1996 in Bangladesh, eighty one political parties participated. In spite of the rise of so many political parties over time, the public is essentially grouped under two major political parties, awami league and bangladesh nationalist party, the next major parties being jatiya party and jamaat-e-islami bangladesh. With the exception of few among the remaining, all other parties remained unrepresented in the jatiya sangsad.

Political parties since 1885 The foundation of the All India National Congress as a formal political party was not immediately followed by other similar organisations. This was the time when separatist Muslim politics was gradually gaining ground. Instead of joining the Congress or forming separate political parties, the Muslim leaders continued to follow old style politics of associations. mohammedan literary society Mohammedan Literary Society of Abdool Luteef and central national muhamedan association of Syed Ameer Ali followed this pattern. Loyalty to the British raj was the trend of Muslim leadership. All India Muslim League was formed in 1906 under the dictates of the post-partition (1905) politics. Nawab khwaja salimullah of Dhaka took the initiative in forming the Muslim League.

In addition to National Congress and Muslim League, some revolutionary groups began to operate from the beginning of the 20th century. Most important of them were anushilan samiti and the jugantar party. The central samiti of the Anushilan group appears to have started at Dhaka in 1906. Three other separate samitis were also set up with headquarters in Barisal, Faridpur and Mymensingh. Until 1908 the Central Anushilan Samiti operated openly as a cultural organisation with secret branches in many parts of Eastern Bengal, and had its membership restricted to the Hindus. The Jugantar group was also founded in 1906 in Calcutta, which also espoused violence to end British rule in India. The revolutionary political parties declined in the 1920s and early 1930s, and in their places rose new socialist parties, the earliest of them being the Communist Party of India established in 1925.

Peasant parties With the beginning of electoral politics in the 1920s, peasant politics began. Every major political party set up a para-political party in the name of peasantry. The Congress sponsored peasant party was the bengal provincial krishak sabha, and the Nikhil Banga Praja Party and praja party were sponsored by the Calcutta based Muslim political leaders. ak fazlul huq with the support of some lawyers and journalists founded the Calcutta Agricultural Association. Fazlul Huq established the krishak praja party in 1935. He could win all other peasant factions over to his party. chitta ranjan das formed Swarajya Party within the fold of the Congress in 1922. In the next three decades appeared several communal and radical parties such as, hindu mahasabha, Anjumani Ulama, forward bloc (1939), Revolutionary Socialist Party (1940), Radical Democratic Party (1940), Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (1941).

Parties after 1947 All India Muslim League changed its name to Pakistan Muslim League in December 1947. The rapid decline of Muslim League from 1948 is the most remarkable feature of the history of political parties. The dissident elements of the Muslim League formed new parties, such as Awami Muslim League, Nezami Islam, Khilfat-i-Rabbani Party, Krishak Sramik Party, etc. All these parties were formed at the expense of the parent Muslim League. The League's steep decline and virtual death were registered in the 1954 elections of the East Bengal Legislative Assembly in which the united front scored a landslide victory.

The political instability in Pakistan provided an opportunity for the promulgation of martial law on 7 October 1958, which banned all political activities. In 1962, Ayub Khan, the military dictator, in his efforts at civilianising the regime, allowed the revival of political parties. Ayub caused a split in the Muslim League to float his own party known as the Pakistan Muslim League (Convention). He became its president in 1963. The other branch of the Muslim League, known as the Council Muslim League, remained mostly a West Pakistan based party and underwent a gradual decay. Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) led by Ayub Khan ruled Pakistan till 1969, when mass upsurge in the two wings of Pakistan led to the overthrow of the regime.

Parties after liberation During the war of liberation (1971) both the factions of the Pakistan Muslim League supported Pakistan and were thus banned in Bangladesh after liberation. In July 1976, the party was revived under the name of Bangladesh Muslim League. The party has now fragmented into a number of factions and holds very little public support.

Jamaat-e-Islami Jamaat-e-Islami Hind was established on 26 August 1941 by Syed Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979). In Pakistan the party tried to gain public support by demanding an Islamic constitution. It had very little appeal in East Pakistan, and in the general election of 1970 all the Islamic parties together got only one seat from East Pakistan in the Pakistan National Assembly. The party was banned immediately after liberation. But it was allowed to revive itself in 1976 along with several other parties. The party joined the Anti-Ershad movement in the late 1980s and gained some degree of acceptance. It has pockets of strong support in the country.

Awami League In March 1948, huseyn shaheed suhrawardy promoted the idea of floating a new party called Pakistan National League. The intra-party conflicts among the conservatives and the progressives in the Muslim League climaxed in early 1949. The progressive elements established the East Pakistan Awami Muslim League (EPAL) at a convention held on 23-24 June 1949 under the leadership of maulana abdul hamid khan bhasani. sheikh mujibur rahman was an active leader of this group and became the party's joint secretary along with khondakar mostaq ahmad, General Secretary of the party being Shamsul Huq of Tangail. In February 1950 the All Pakistan Awami Muslim League was founded under the leadership of HS Suhrawardy. In the council session of the party in October 1955, the term Muslim was dropped from the name of the party. Even this new organisation contained within it two distinct factions, the pro-American faction led by HS Suhrawardy and a populist left faction led by Maulana Bhasani. It led to another split in the party in July 1957 when Maulana Bhasani disassociated himself from the Awami League and formed the National Awami Party (NAP).

The EPAL resumed its political activities in East Pakistan as a component of the National Democratic Front (NDF) which was formed on 4 October 1962. However, the EPAL was formally revived in East Pakistan as a party in pursuance of a decision made in its working committee meeting on 25-26 January 1964. The revival of the West Pakistan Awami League had taken place a little earlier. Although the All Pakistan Awami League re-emerged in March of the same year, it failed to produce a manifesto and the EPAL began to act virtually as an independent party. The issue of disparity had already attracted attention of a number of intellectuals, civil servants and businessmen/industrialists. After the death of Suhrawardy, there was no leader who could act as a bridge between two provincial parties of the All Pakistan Awami League. In this context Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the secretary general of the EPAL, emerged as the sole leader of the Awami League and launched the movement for autonomy through the six-point programme in 1966.

The Six-Point Formula received great popular support. But Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was taken into custody and was accused of high treason through the agartala conspiracy case. A mass upsurge led mainly by students finally compelled the government to withdraw the case, and accordingly Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and other accused were released.

The Awami League under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won a landslide victory in the general election of 1970. But the Pakistani military rulers and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party could not accept the results of the election. The Pakistan army began committing genocide in Bangladesh from 25 March 1971. Sheikh Mujib was arrested and taken to West Pakistan as a prisoner. Awami League leaders renamed the party as Bangladesh Awami League (AL) on 5-6 July 1971. They had already formed a provisional government of independent Bangladesh at Mujibnagar on 10 April and after the end of the War of Liberation, took over the control of the new nation on 16 December 1971. In the first general election of the country in 1973, the AL again won overwhelmingly. But in the context of the deteriorating economic conditions and the famine of 1974, Awami League switched over to a presidential form of government and a single party system called the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (BAKSAL) in 1975. This phase ended with the brutal killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members on 15 August 1975.

In 1976, the AL resumed political activities. But between 1970 and 1981 several people and groups left Awami League to form their own parties, which include the Jatiya League (1970) by ataur rahman khan, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD, 1972), Jatiya Janata Party (1976) by General mohammad ataul ghani osmany, Gana Azadi League (1976) by abdur rashid tarkabagish, Bangladesh Democratic League (1976) by Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad.

The Awami League, however, endured the worst of all these crises following the brutal killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The remainder of the AL leaders later got reinforced through the merger of several breakaway groups and anti-Ershad movement. It secured 88 seats against Bangladesh Nationalist Party's (BNP) 140 in the general election of 1991. Awami League won 146 seats in the parliamentary election of 1996 against BNP's 116 and formed the government with the support from Ershad's Jatiya Party and JSD.

National Awami Party From the mid-1950s the Awami League suffered a growing conflict between two of its leaders, HS Suhrawardy and Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani around the issues of foreign policy and regional autonomy. Bhasani, a populist leader of great influence among the peasants and workers, opposed HS Suhrawardy for his pro-American foreign policy and his lack of support to the autonomy of East Bengal. This eventually led to a split within the Awami League when Bhasani in a convention held in Dhaka on 25-26 July 1957, floated the National Awami Party (NAP) with the support of the left-leaning leaders and workers of the AL. Bhasani was elected the president of the new party. Within a short time after its formation and then after its revival in March 1964, NAP emerged as an important left party of the country.

The party, however, fragmented into the NAP (Bhasani) and the pro-Moscow NAP (Wali) in 1967 following the Sino-Soviet conflict. The pro-Chinese party led by Maulana Bhasani had its major support in former East Pakistan, while the pro-Moscow NAP was strong in former West Pakistan. Maulana Bhasani remained a popular leader and his party played an important role in the mass movement of 1969. It was the first party to oppose the Awami League in 1972. But by 1988, the party split into as many as 13 separate parties and factions. The pro-Moscow NAP also underwent a similar process of fragmentation during the 1970s and 1980s.

Communist Party The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was formed in 1948 in the second congress of the Communist Party of India (CPI). The East Pakistan Communist Party (EPCP) was also established at the same time with its headquarters located in Dhaka. It had very little links with the CPP and functioned more as a secret organisation, although it was not banned until 1955. The EPCP broke into EPCP (Marxist-Leninist or pro-Chinese) and EPCP (pro-Soviet) in 1966. By 1970, the EPCP (ML) had fragmented into four parties: EPCP (ML), East Bengal Communist Party (EBCP), Coordination Committee of Communist Revolutionaries (CCCR), and East Bengal Workers Movement (EBWM). Over the years these parties have fragmented mostly into small-armed factions or cliques, and as many as 18 of them can be traced.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) The party emerged in the late 1970s as a state-sponsored party headed by President ziaur rahman. In the 1979 parliamentary elections, BNP won more than two-thirds of the seats. The party was further strengthened when more leaders of different parties joined it. President Ziaur Rahman was assassinated in an abortive military coup on 30 May 1981. His successor Abdus Sattar was forced out of power on 24 March 1982 by another military coup led by General hussain muhammad ershad.

BNP faced a crisis in 1983 when it split into three factions: BNP (Sattar), BNP (Huda) and BNP (Dudu-Nilu) over the question of leadership. The BNP (Dudu-Nilu) faction later established itself as a separate party called the Pragatishil Jatiyatabadi Dal. Shamsul Huda Chowdhury, the leader of the Huda group and some of his followers joined the Janadal when General Ershad allowed political activities and formed his own party. The Sattar group tried to consolidate itself under the leadership of begum khaleda zia. But soon another faction led by Shah Azizur Rahman left the party over the issue of participation in the ensuing parliamentary elections. BNP became consolidated under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia and drew strength from the anti-Ershad movement in the late 1980s. In the general elections of 1991, it performed well by securing 140 seats against Awami League's 88. In the general elections of 1996, BNP secured 116 seats. In the Jatiya Sangsad elections of 2001, the BNP-led four party alliance secured two-thirds of the seats of the Sangsad and formed the government.

Jatiya Party (JP) It is a state-sponsored centrist party floated on 1 January 1986 under the chairmanship of Lt General HM Ershad. In the parliamentary election held in May 1986 and thereafter in March 1988, it won easily, although both the elections were said to have been rigged heavily. The movement for restoration of democracy waged by the opposition parties and students forced Ershad to resign on 6 December 1990, and he was imprisoned. The election to the 5th Sangsad was held in 1991 under a neutral caretaker government and JP secured 35 seats and emerged as the 3rd largest party. JP has now fragmented into JP (Ershad), JP (Anwar Hossain Manju) and JP (Naziur Rahman Manju).

Jatiya Samajtantric Dal (JSD) The party emerged as a major leftist party after the emergence of Bangladesh. Its origin can be traced to the division within the Bangladesh Students League, a student front of AL. The leftist group led by Sirajul Alam Khan and ASM Abdur Rab steered the formation of the new party on 31 October 1972 with Abdur Rab and (Major) ma jalil as joint convenors. Its motto was scientific socialism and it sought to establish through revolution a classless society, free of exploitation, under the leadership of peasants and workers. The party vehemently opposed the Awami League in power from 1972 to 1975. It organised a people's militia to topple the AL government. It organised strong anti-government agitation during 1974 and 1975. JSD also established clandestine cells in the army under the rubric of people's revolutionary army. Following the coup of 15 August 1975 and a counter coup, JSD is said to have organised a revolution on 7 November 1975 under the leadership of Lt. Colonel (retd) abu taher. The government undertook strong measures against the party, and many of its leaders and workers were arrested. A faction of JSD led by Khaliquzzaman Bhuiyan left it and established Bangladesh Samajtrantik Dal (BSD) which claimed to be the true Marxist-Leninist party. In 1982, BSD fragmented into two parties, one led by Khaliquzzaman Bhuiyan and another by AFM Mahbubul Haq. JSD also split into three groups in 1984, JSD (Rab), JSD (Siraj), JSD (Jalil) over the issue of whether to participate or not in the upazila election, which was held in 1984. In 1986, JSD (Siraj) again broke into two: JSD (Inu) and JSD (Siraj). There was a further break-up in which JSD (Raja) turned into a separate party, which joined Awami League in 1991.

Islamic Oikyo Jote (IOJ) It was established in 1990 consisting of seven parties: Khelafat Majlis, Nezam-e-Islam, Faraizi Jamaat, Islami Morcha, Ulama Committee, a splinter group of NAP (Bhasani), and Islami Shashantantra Andolon. Its main objective is to steer a united political movement with a view to establishing an Islamic polity modeled upon the Khilafat. The organisation of the IOJ consists of a Majlish-e-Sura with five members from each of its component parties, and an advisory council. In the general elections held in 1996, IOJ won only one parliamentary seat.

Gana-forum Kamal Hossain, an eminent lawyer and a former leader of Awami League, floated Gana-forum in 1992. It was established as a political party in August 1993. It is a left-liberal party, which works for a stronger civil society and a rule based egalitarian society. [S Aminul Islam]