Bangladesh

Jamaat takes to Internet-based communications tools

Rashidul Hasan: Now in hiding to avoid arrest, top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami are using different Internet-based messaging and telecommunications applications to communicate with party colleagues, according to the party insiders.

After the party’s normal ways of communications broke down for the arrest of its top leaders in connection with war crimes charges, eight members of the party’s executive committee, which the highest policy-making body of the party, led by its acting chief Maqbul Ahmad now take key decisions.

Almost all of the eight members – Majibur Rahman, Rafiqul Islam Khan, Hamidur Rahman Azad, Abdullah Mohammad Taher, Bulbul, Abdul Halim, and Shafiqur Rahman – are hiding now.

To communicate among themselves, they now use Viber, Skype, Tango and Google Hangouts and convey their decisions to a “communications cell”, Jamaat insiders said.

The cell later emails press releases or statements to the media and uploads those on the party’s website.

The recent press releases do not carry the signatures of any top leader. Some members of the ‘Central Publicity Wing’ sign at the bottom of the statements of press releases.

The latest statement which was issued today announcing a 24-hour hartal protesting the Supreme Court’s upholding of death penalty to Jamaat Secretary General Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed is signed by one ‘M Alam’.

Ali Ahmed, another member of the publicity wing, also sent such releases and statements recently.

To convey the executive committee’s decisions to the grassroots levels—district, upazila, union and ward, the communications wing use mobile phones to communicate with the leaders in nine divisions.

The communication is one way. No grassroots-level leaders can reach central leaders, according to the party insiders.

To dodge tracking by intelligence agencies, members of the communications cell frequently change mobile phone numbers, sources in Jamaat told The Daily Star.

Jamaat high-ups also convey their messages to the party’s grassroots regarding nature of enforcing any hartal—whether it will be tough or not.

None of the Jamaat’s top leaders use any mobile phone personally at present. In case of any emergency, they use mobile numbers of their trusted aides, who also change their numbers frequently.

Almost all offices of Jamaat including its two offices in the capital have been closed since 2011—the year Jamaat created violence in different parts of the country including Dhaka to protest arrest of its top leaders in charge of crimes against humanity.

In face of police actions, Jamaat stopped all its activities including rallies, discussions, press conferences in public and almost all its top leaders from central to upazila levels also went into hiding.

On advice of Jamaat high-ups, the party has been carrying out different activities including holding study-circle, workshop, training, increasing quality of the party men, evaluation of report cards of party men dodging law enforcement agencies.

The party’s fund, which they call ‘baitul mal’, enriched since the party fell in trouble as the party’s “well-wishers” are donating more, according to a Jamaat insider.

The party takes the month of Ramadan to unite its top and district level leaders through holding Iftar mahfil.

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