Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hefajat to muscle in

Dhaka blockade starts today, continues till called off by its chief

Hefajat to muscle in

The Qawmi madrasa-based Islamist group Hefajat-e Islam is to lay siege to the capital today.
The organisation claimed that it would mobilise several lakh workers and supporters at Amin Bazar, Abdullahpur, Demra, Jatrabari, and at Kanchpur, Postogola and Babubazar bridges to make the Dhaka siege programme a success.
The organisation has recently been campaigning to realise its 13-point demand that includes stern punishment to “atheist leaders” of the Shahbagh movement.
Hefajat Secretary General Junaid Babunagri told The Daily Star yesterday that their programme would begin at daybreak. He said Hefajat’s ameer Shah Ahmad Shafi would say when to end the siege.
With the country’s main opposition BNP rendering its support to the siege, Hefajat-e Islam yesterday rejected the prime minister’s call to call off the programme.
It said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had not given any assurance of meeting its 13-point demand.
“In her speech, there was an effort to confuse the nation through contradictory and wrong interpretations [of the demands],” said Mufti Fayezullah, joint secretary general of Hefajat-e Islam.
“That’s why, we have decided to continue with the May-5 Dhaka blockade programme,” he said.
Additional Secretary Khandakar Mainuddin of the home ministry said law enforcers would cooperate with Hefajat in holding peaceful rallies at the entry points of the capital.
However, Hefajat’s appeal for permission to hold a rally in front of Baitul Mukarram mosque this afternoon was turned down.
Inspector General of Police (IGP) Hassan Mahmood Khandker, who yesterday had a meeting with different deputy commissioners of Dhaka and superintendents of police of different districts surrounding the capital, told The Daily Star that public life would not be disrupted during the siege.
Asked whether people would be able to get in and out of the capital, the IGP said they would try their best to make sure people do not have to suffer.
The organisers of today’s siege expressed the hope that around three lakh people from Chittagong, one lakh from Sylhet and 50,000 from Rajshahi would join Hefajat-e Islam activists and supporters of Dhaka.
According to sources, many Hefajat adherents, some of whom support different pro-Islamist components of the BNP-led 18-party combine, reached Dhaka over the last two days and had also attended the 18-Party rally at Shapla Chattar in the capital yesterday.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia in her rally speech yesterday asked the audience if they were ready to stay there for 24 hours.
Amid chants and slogans in support of her suggestion, Khaleda said Hefajat’s siege programme was scheduled for today and that was why she issued an ultimatum to the government to meet the opposition’s demand for restoration of the caretaker government system within 48 hours.
Hefajat had announced the siege programme on April 6 during its rally at Motijheel to press home its demands.