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Bangladesh EC allows hardline Islamist party to contest Dec 30 general election

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DHAKA:
Bangladesh‘s
Election Commission on Sunday allowed Jamaat-e-Islami, a crucial ally of jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia‘s Opposition BNP,
to
contest the December
30
generalelections, two months after it scraped the fundamentalist
party‘s registration.

The Jamaat will
contest from 25 seats in the parliamentary polls with ‘sheaf of paddy’, the electoral symbol of the BNP.

“The Commission does not have a legal option
to cancel their (Jamaat leaders) candidacies. Their candidatures will, therefore, stay in place,”
EC secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed told reporters here.

The
EC‘s decision came after the High Court earlier this week directed it
to swiftly decide on a plea of 25 leaders of the unregistered
party
to
contest the
election as independent candidates on behalf of their alliance partners.

On October 29, the
EC formally scrapped Jamaat’s registration as a political
party in compliance with an order of the Supreme Court.

A high court bench in 2013 declared Jamaat’s registration with the
EC illegal on a writ petition filed by several Islamic groups, saying the
party‘s ideology was contrary
to
Bangladesh‘s Constitution.

The Supreme Court upheld the high court judgment when Jamaat challenged the verdict in the apex court.

The
hardline
Islamist
party, however, is now in a dilapidated state with most of its senior leaders executed in the past five years after being convicted by special tribunals on 1971 war crimes charges.

Jamaat was opposed
to
Bangladesh‘s 1971 independence from West Pakistan and its leaders and workers sided with Pakistani troops in carrying out atrocities and genocide in then East Pakistan (now
Bangladesh).

Bangladesh‘s post-independence government banned Jamaat but the subsequent regimes withdrew the ban allowing the
party
to re-emerge in politics.

The
party became a crucial partner of Zia’s BNP-led four-
party alliance government in 2001 and its chief Moti-ur-Rahman Nizami and secretary
general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujaheed became ministers.

The incumbent Awami League government assuming power after its victory in the 2008 elections and initiated a process
to bring
to justice the Bengali perpetrators of the 1971 war crimes.

Both Nizami and Mujaheed were sentenced
to death along with several other
party stalwarts by special courts.

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