Obstructed to hold rallies, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami yesterday called a countrywide hartal for today in a desperate bid to fight the government on the street.
Hours after the announcement, the main opposition BNP late last night extended moral support to its main ally's hartal.
In a press release, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Jamaat was a registered political party as per the existing law. It had called countrywide dawn-to-dusk hartal in protest of the government obstruction to their peaceful rally, which was logical and democratic.
“Against such backdrop, Bangladesh Nationalist Party is extending its moral support to the hartal called by Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami,” said the press release.
Meanwhile, in a pre-hartal showdown, Jamaat men yesterday set fire to a vehicle and vandalised four more in the capital's Jatrabari area. Jamaat activists also clashed with police in Dinajpur. The clash left one Jamaat man dead.
The party was supposed to hold rallies in the capital and in some other districts yesterday afternoon to press the government to release the top Jamaat leaders facing trials on charges of crimes against humanity.
The hartal announcement came around 12:10 pm through a press release signed by Jamaat's acting secretary general Shafiqur Rahman. In the statement, all units of Jamaat had been called upon to enforce the strike.
“We are left with no other choice since we were denied permission for today's [Monday's] rally,” said Shafiqur Rahman.
Jamaat sources said the party's senior leaders had instructed the grassroots-level leaders and workers to take preparation for making the hartal a success, even if it needed to defy police obstructions.
“We have been asked not to leave the streets in the face of police action,” Amiruzzaman, chief of Jamaat Chittagong City (north) unit, told The Daily Star yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, the announcement of hartal triggered concern of street violence, as the home minister had directed police to take action against Jamaat men to foil their programme.
Although being a key component of the BNP-led opposition alliance, Jamaat has alone been taking to the streets to press their core demands -- cancellation of, what they had termed, “farcical war crimes trial” and release of their party high-ups.
In their statement, Jamaat, however, cited restoration of the caretaker government system, price hike of essentials, deterioration of law and order, misrule of the government and attack on the values of Islam as the issues for the hartal.
Jamaat is also agitating along with the opposition alliance that had already declared a series of agitation programmes for December, including a nationwide road blockade on the 9th.
The party leaders yesterday at a meeting of opposition alliance's senior leaders had sought BNP's support for the hartal, said Shawkat Hossain Nilu, chief of National People's Party, a component of the BNP-led alliance.
Liberal Democratic Party, Islami Oikya Jote, Islamic Party, National Democratic Party, Jatiya Ganotantrik Party, Bangladesh Labour Party and Khelafat Majlish -- all components of the BNP-led alliance -- had extended their support to Jamaat's hartal, said Hamdullah Mehedi, secretary general of Labour Party.
Contacted, MA Rashid Pradhan, secretary general of Islamic Party, and Shahadat Hossain Selim, joint secretary of Liberal Democratic Party, confirmed their solidarity with Jamaat.
With the party's top leaders, including its chief and secretary general, now in detention and facing charges of crimes against humanity, Jamaat has been going through the toughest time since its resumption of activities in Bangladesh after 1975.
The party's central office in the capital has been kept closed since the police raid on September 19 last year, after its violent protest against the crackdown on its high-ups.
Since, some mid-level central leaders have been running the party over telephone and by issuing press releases. Reportedly, they have also been meeting local party leaders of different areas in the capital to keep them actively involved in party programmes.
Jamaat insiders said the grassroots units of the party have been working to gear up political activities and boost the morale of local leaders and activists.
They said under the cover of social, cultural and educational programmes like study circles, discussions and Quran recitation competitions, they had been preparing for a “proper time” to fight back the government.
Meanwhile, section 144 has been imposed in different districts including Sylhet, Noakhali, Feni and Bogra, as Jamaat, and Awami League and its associate bodies were set to hold rallies at the same place and same time yesterday.
In the capital, Jamaat men brought out sudden processions in some areas including Bhatara, Uttara and Badda.