Tensions continue to brew between pro- and anti-government leaders from Hefajat-e-Islam and Qwami madrasas over securing the top posts of the Chattogram-based Islamist group, Qawmi Madrasha Education Board (Befaq), and Al-Haiyatul Ulia Lil-Jamiatil Qawmia Bangladesh, which is the highest level of Qwami madrasa education in the country.
The posts fell vacant at the same time with the demise of Shah Ahmad Shafi on September 18.
The two sides have also reportedly engaged in a grave dispute over establishing grip on Hefajat, which came to the fore for its massive rally in the capital’s Shapla Chattar on May 5 in 2013, and its stronghold Hathazari madrasa in Chattogram.
When this in the situation, the executive committee of Befaq elected Maulana Mahmudul Hasan, principal of Jatrabari madrasa and khatib of Gulshan Azad Mosque in the capital, as the board’s acting chairman yesterday. He defeated his rival candidate Maulana Nur Hossain Kasemi.
As ex officio, Mahmudul would also become the acting chairman of Al-Haiyatul Ulia Lil-Jamiatil Qawmia Bangladesh.
Multiple sources in Hefajat and Befaq said Mahmudul is considered to be a pro-government Islamic cleric, while Kasemi is a top leader in the BNP-led 20-party alliance and also the secretary general of Jomiat-e Ulamae Islam, a component in the alliance.
Yesterday’s meeting was held at the head office of Bangladesh Qwami Madrasa Education Board at Kajla, Jatrabari in Dhaka.
Hefajat leaders and several members of the Befaq executive committee told this correspondent that Mahmudul was elected because of government lobbying.
One member, who participated in the meeting, said Mahmudul got support from 63 members while Kasemi from 55 members of the Befaq committee.
“I have information that different agencies phoned the executive committee members asking them to support Mahmudul. People from the agencies threatened to file false cases against those who would not listen to them,” the member said, wishing not to be named.
This member, who is a principal of a madrasa in the capital’s Mohammadpur area, claimed that he too received such a phone call.
Amid pressure from the anti-government group, Kasemi was made senior vice-chairman of Befaq, said sources in the meeting.
Several lakh students study at Qawmi madrasas across the country and different political forces use them to materialise their goals, according to political analysts.
Meanwhile, talking to this correspondent, Abul Kasem Kasemi, a Hefajat leader from Dhaka city, claimed top police officials called the Befaq executive committee members asking them to lend support to Mahmudul.
In another development, Mahfuzul Haq, principal of Jameya Rahmania Madrasha in city’s Mohammadpur, was elected secretary-general of Befaq.
Beside, the posts of senior vice-chairman and secretary general fell vacant after Maulana Abdul Quddus, principal of Faridabad Madrasha at city’s Sutrapur, resigned from the posts all of a sudden.
Asked, Mahfuzul said he made the decision because of health reasons.
But sources at Befaq said he was forced to resign after allegation of corruption surfaced against him.
The Daily Star could not get his comment on the issue.
The chairman, senior co-chairman and the secretary general of Befaq would carry out their responsibility until Befaq council is held. The next council is scheduled to be take place after two and a half years.
Asked about the rivalry between pro- and anti-government leaders over establishing control over Hefajat and Hathazari, several of the leaders said both the sides remain active.
“But as the Awami League is in power for a long time and they have somehow managed to control Hefajat after its failed movement in 2013, those against the government seem to be the weaker side here,” said Hefajat Joint Secretary General Maulana Zafrullah said.
Hefajat Secretary General Junaid Babunagari is reportedly leading the anti-government group in Hefajat and Hathazari madrasa, while Ahmad Shafi’s son Anas Madani is reportedly heading the pro-government group.
Shafi, who often drew controversy for opposing women’s empowerment and education, passed away, on September 18, a day after he resigned as the director general of Hathazari madrasa. He was 103.
He was forced to quit the post he had held since 1986 following an unprecedented student unrest at the madrasa.
The unrest was fuelled by Babunagari and several others who were not on good terms with Shafi since he leaned towards the AL after the failed 2013 movement, said Hefajat sources.
Shafi’s son Anas Madani, who reportedly has good relations with the AL government, was also removed from the post of assistant director of the madrasa on Wednesday night.
At present the Hathazari madrasa, the largest Qawmi madrasa in the country is run by a three-member interim body.