Despite no provision in Awami League’s constitution, the party has two groups under the name of Awami Ulema League. Several central party leaders often attend programmes of these two groups.
Both the groups use 23 Bangabandhu Avenue, that is, Awami League’s central office, as their address. They claim prime minister Sheikh Hasina is their leader, though their statements, speeches and programmes do not match the ideology and principles of the party.
A faction of Ulema League is led by Maulana Mohammad Akhtar Hossain Bokhari as president and Maulana Md Abul Hasan Sheikh Shariatpuri as general secretary. The other group’s president is Maulana Ilias Hossain Helali and general secretary is Belal Hossain.
Both the groups claim to be the real Ulema League and to follow the principles and ideology of AL.
A faction claimed they have a total of 151 members in the central committee while the other claimed to have 161.
The Bokhari-Shariatpuri faction formed a human chain on Saturday in front of National Press Club claiming text books had anti-Islamist contents and demanded that these be withdrawn.
The demonstrators at the human chain termed the present education policy anti-Islamic. They demanded capital punishment for hurting religious sentiments.
The constitution of AL calls for a secular, democratic society and state-system imbued with the spirit of Liberation War.
Experts have raised questions over Ulema League’s communal politics, being a part of AL.
AL joint general secretary Mahbub-ul-Alam Hanif told Prothom Alo, “Awami League does not have any wing or associate group by the name of Ulema League. They have no political link with the party.”
“Some of our leaders sometimes just join the programmes of Ulema League,” Mahbub added.
“However, AL general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam on 6 August directed the central leaders to avoid programmes of such organisations which have no affiliation with the party,” he added.
The Bokhari-Shariatpuri faction general secretary Abul Hasan Sheikh Shariatpuri claimed that they conduct the organisation following the directives of prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
“PM’s political affairs adviser HT Imam, AL's publicity and publication secretary Hasan Mahmud and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, religious affairs secretary of AL’s central committee and PM’s special assistant Abdus Sobhan Golap take care of our organisation,” Shariatpuri said.
“HT Imam, himself, invited us to his residence during the Hefazat-e Islam movement and we demonstrated against the Hefazat men as per his directions,” he added.
As HT Imam and Hasan Mahmud are now abroad and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah is unwell, their reaction to Shariatpuri’s statement could not be taken.
Abdus Sobhan Golap, however, told Prothom Alo, “Ulema League is not part of AL. I won’t comment on whether I take part in its programmes or not.”
Abul Hasan claimed they take to the streets when AL falls is trouble. The prime minister sent him on hajj this year. Abul Hasan and others were invited to an iftar party hosted by PM this Ramadan.
Talking to Prothom Alo, Abul Hasan said they used to have an office at the Bangabandhu Avenue central party office earlier but now their office is at AL president Sheikh Hasina’s Dhanmondi office.
When asked about their recent political programmes, Abul Hasan said, “We have been protesting on some issues from our own Islamist beliefs. Besides, we want to attract practising Muslims to join AL.”
The other faction, which is known to be backed by disaster management and relief minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, has opened its office at the second floor of Bangabandhu Avenue’s central party office.
This faction’s leader Maulana Ilias Hossain told Prothom Alo that AL leaders Maya, Hanif and Hasan Mahmud join their political programmes.