DHAKA: Bangladesh's Supreme Court has reinstated a ban on Islamic political parties after striking down a key constitutional amendment, law minister Shafiq Ahmed told AFP on Thursday.
In a detailed verdict released late Wednesday, the Supreme Court scrapped the bulk of the 1979 fifth amendment, including provisions that had allowed religious political parties to flourish and legalised military rule.
"Secularism will again be the cornerstone of our constitution," Ahmed said.
After independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh's first constitution made secularism a key pillar. Following a 1975 coup, the army-led government amended the constitution's guiding principle to "faith in Allah" in 1979.
Religious parties, which were banned in the original 1971 constitution but legalised by the 1979 amendments, are now banned again as the "faith in Allah" provision has been thrown out, said Ahmed.
"Islamic parties cannot use religion in politics any more," he said.
In 1988, a second military-led government made Islam the state religion in the Muslim-majority nation and incorporated Quranic verses into the constitution. Neither of those changes are affected by the court verdict.
"But following the scrapping of the fifth amendment, these later amendments can now be challenged in court," Ahmed said.
In the verdict, the Supreme Court declared the 1975-1990 military rule illegal, and recommended punishing military dictators, Ahmed said.
Since the Awami League's landslide election win over the Islamic-allied Bangladesh Nationalist Party in 2008, the government has cracked down on Islamic groups and political parties. The new government outlawed one Islamic party in October last year, accusing it of destabilising the country.
Four other Islamic organisations, including the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh, were earlier banned after they carried out a series of nationwide bombings that left 28 people dead in 2005.
This week, the four leaders of the country's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, were arrested by the country's fledgling war crimes court, set up to try those responsible for atrocities during the 1971 independence war.