IN A dramatic volte face, the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, on June 7, 2011, declared that she wished to keep Islam as the 'State Religion', thus preserving the illegal changes made to the Constitution in 2007 by the Provisional Government led by Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed. The announcement was in complete contrast to the ruling Awami League's (AL) declared pro-secular approach. Hasina, who also leads the AL, appears to be targeting the support of some radical Muslim formations in a replay of her last tenure, 1996-2001. The present posture suggests that the Hasina Government may increasingly incline to the use of Islam for political maneuver. Meanwhile, the Dhaka High Court, on June 8, asked the Government to explain the legality of its standpoint on the status of Islam as the 'State Religion'.
First published in SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW, Weekly Assessments and Briefings, Volume 9, No. 50, India June 20, 2011
Sanchita Bhattacharya, Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management, India