Throwing Jamaat off balance?
by ANWAR PARVEZ HALIM
Ahle Hadith Andolan has announced the formation of a political party, Insaf or Justice Party. They have also given a month�s ultimatum for the release of their leader Dr. Asadullah Al Ghalib. At their meeting held on Friday, September 1 at Muktangan, the Ahle Hadith leaders said, �The election is ahead. At least for the sake of votes, release Ghalib.� They threatened to observe hartal and a siege of Dhaka city if he was not released. The leaders blamed Jamaat-e-Islami, an ally of the ruling coalition, for the arrest of Ghalib and for his not being released.
PROBE investigations reveal that there are presently about 2 crore 75 lac Ahle Hadith followers in the country. Of them, about 1.5 crore are voters. However, Ahle Hadith presently has two divisions. One division is led by Dr. Ershadul Bari. The leader of the other faction is Rajshahi University�s teacher Dr. Asadullaj Al Ghalib.
The majority faction is under Dr. Ghalib. This is the Ahle Hadith Andolan. The leaders of this group claim that Ahle Hadith Andolan is not a political platform. The objective of the group is to uphold the fundamental ideology of Islam.
PROBE investigations reveal that all over the country Ahle Hadith has 600 mosques, five madrassas and orphanages. Other than the headquarters of the organisation in Rajshahi, it has two affiliated organisations � Tauhid Trust and Hadith Foundation. Hadith Foundation brings our all their publications. And Tauhid Trust is a registered NGO. It runs on foreign funding. One of its largest donors is Revival Heritage. This Heritage would bear the expenses of 304 children of the Ahle Hadith orphanages in Rajshahi. One thousand taka would be allocated for each orphan every month. So Heritage would provide a 36 lac taka grant to Ahle Hadith just for the orphanages.
Heritage also provided funds for the construction of the 600 mosques. The imams of these mosques would be selected in keeping with Heritage�s choice. Other foreign donors would also provide funds to Ghalib. However, with Ghalib under arrest, the foreign funds have been held up. This has created serious problems for the large orphanage.
Why Dr. Ghalib was arrested
From the beginning of 2005, the media was full of reports about Islamic militants being given shelter and arms training in mosques and madrassas up north. It was said that Dr. Ghalib and Shaikh Abdur Rahman were behind this. And then, based on intelligence reports, Dr. Ghalib was arrested from Rajshahi University on February 23. He was also accused of having several passports and using these to travel to India on several occasions. He has been in jail since then.
Ahle Hadith leaders claim that the charges brought against Ghalib are false. Intelligence investigations could not come up with further evidence. Even after JMB leaders Shaikh Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai were arrested, they did not speak of any involvement of Dr. Ghalib in JMB activities. The leaders say that neither he not Ahle Hadith had any connection with Abdur Rahman and JMB.
Ahle Hadith leader Dr. Abdul Latif has told PROBE that Dr. Ghalib us basically a victim of Jamaat-e-Islami. He says that Jamaat was behind his arrest. The alliance government has repeated assured that they would release Ghalib but that hasn�t happened till now. That is why they plan to form a political party and rebuff Jamaat in the coming election.
Driven by religious compulsions, Ahle Hadith followers had always voted for Jamaat. In fact, 70 percent of their votes went to Jamaat. The remaining 30 percent was divided among the other parties. But at one stage ideological differences emerged between Jamaat and Dr. Ghalib. Before his arrest Dr. Ghalib visited various districts and organised the Ahle Hadith followers and spoke against Jamaat. This made Jamaat apprehensive as it was a threat to their vote bank and they took a stand against Ghalib.
Ahle Hadith leaders say that when Dr. Ghalib was arrested, they called upon several Jamaat leaders, entreating them to have their leader released. The Jamaat leaders didn�t bother to meet them. But they did manage to meet certain BNP leaders. Top leaders of BNP assured them of Ghalib�s release. But he hasn�t been released till date and Ahle Hadith followers blame Jamaat for this. They allege that after Ghalib�s arrest, Jamaat was using their power to harassing Ahle Hadith leaders in various ways. For example, Ahle Hadith leader Dr. Muslehuddin lost his job the Islamic University in Chittagong. The university is under Jamaat control.
Ahle Hadith is presently well organised in 40 districts. They are strong in the Rajshahi and Khulna divisions. Districts with strong Ahle Hadith influence include Satkhira, Khulna, Kushtia, Rajshahi, Comilla, Kurigram, Gaibandha, Gazipur, Chittagong, Chapainawabganj, Jamalpur, Jaipurhat, Jhenaidah, Thakurgaon, Dinajpur, Naogaon, Natore, Nilphamari, Pabna, Panchagarh, Bogra, Bagerhat, Pirojpur, Meherpur, Mymensingh, Dhaka, Narsingdi, Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, Jessore, Rajbari and Sirajganj.
Dr. Ghalib�s birthplace is the village Bularhati of Satkhira sadar thana. This is under Satkhira-2 (sadar) constituency. Presently Jamaat leader Abdul Khaleq Mondal is the MP here. Ghalib has about 30 thousand followers here, according to investigations. They will certainly work against Jamaat in the next election.
At the meeting held in Muktangan, Acting Amir Shaikh Abdus Samad Salafi said that they would put forward candidates in 150 seats in the election. They said they had a chance of winning 25 to 30 seats. They may support any of the alliances.
According to PROBE�s information, Jamaat will be the hardest hit if Ahle Hadith contests in the polls. Hey are capable to defeating Jamaat in at leas 20 to 25 seats. In fact, candidates of Ahle Hadith�s proposed Insaf Party may even win a couple of seats.
The proposed Insaf Party may not create a sensation in politics, but it can be a vital factor in determining the victory or defeat of the four-party alliance candidates or the opposition candidates in areas of Ahle Hadith influence. After all, Ahle Hadith has one objective right now � the release of their leader Dr. Ghalib. They will put all their support behind the party or alliance who is willing to help them in this regard.