War veterans form party, gear up for Bangla polls

Dhaka, October 21:

A group of over 300 Bangladeshis who fought Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s have formed a political party and will contest polls in Bangladesh in December, their leader said today.

Islamic Democratic Party (IDP) chief Kazi Azizul Haq said his party would maintain the country’s secular legal system but promised to introduce an Islamic parallel for those who wanted to adhere to it.

“We don’t believe in violence. We also believe in equal rights for non-Muslims and tribal groups. We want to implement Shariah only for the willing Muslims and civil laws for others,” Haq said.

He said the party was hoping to contest at least a third of the parliamentary seats up for grabs when democracy is restored in Bangladesh with national elections on December 18.

The IDP is a splinter group of the banned Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami (HUJI), which was accused of carrying out a 2004 grenade attack that injured former prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and killed 20 others.

HUJI leader Mufti Abdul Hannan — also an Afghan war veteran — was arrested in late 2006.

The IDP is centred around some 300 to 350 Bangladeshis who fought in Afghanistan against occupying Soviet forces in the 1980s.

Thousands of Muslim volunteers from around the world, backed by billions of dollars of US and Saudi funding, fought the Afghan war.

The country’s election commission has yet to decide whether it will enlist IDP as a legal political party.

Party registration for Bangladesh’s national elections — the first to be held in seven years — closed on Monday.

More than 100 parties have expressed their intention to stand in the December 18 polls, according to English language daily New Age.