The Jamaat-e-Islami was conspicuous by its absence at BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia’s rally on Monday despite extending support to it.
This was evident as no one from the Jamaat spoke, though leaders of other constituents of the BNP-led 18-Party alliance, including Kazi Zafar Ahmed of a Jatiya Party faction, addressed the gathering.
The Jamaat is the second most powerful member of the alliance after the BNP.
Top leaders of the Jamaat are behind bars for suspected war crimes in 1971. The party has recently come under scathing criticism for its acts of violence in protest against the war crimes trials.
Supporters of the Jamaat have also been accused of attacking Hindus in many parts of Bangladesh after the Jan 5 general election.
The Hindus have been targeted apparently for voting in the poll.
The BNP-led 18-Party alliance had boycotted the polls, appealing to all to foil the them.
The alliance had failed to halt the election but 21 people were killed in poll-related mayhem.
The Jamaat is under fire both at home and abroad for its violence. Some foreign quarters urged the BNP to sever ties with the Jamaat.
In an interview with the New York Times, Khaleda had recently said she might someday decide on breaking up with the Jamaat. Significantly, she has not yet made any formal statement on this.
Khaleda had called the Monday rally to congratulate the nation on ‘not casting votes’.
Her party told a press conference on Sunday that this rally was solely theirs, though Jamaat issued a statement with a call for making the rally a success the same day.
The Jamaat’s acting Secretary General Shafiqur Rahman said in the statement, “I am urging the people to hold mass processions and rallies in cities, districts and Upazilas, and a mass rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan on Jan 20.”
The Jamaat leaders and activists were present at the Chittagong rally. Three Jamaat leaders as well as BNP leaders spoke there.
The Jamaat representatives were also seen at the meeting Khaleda had held along with the leaders of her party’s allies after the Jan 5 polls.
The BNP has demanded fresh elections setting aside the Jun 5 poll outcome.
The Awami League has said they may hold talks with the BNP over holding fresh elections if it leaves the company of ‘war criminals and terrorists’ party’ Jamaat.
Meanwhile, the European Parliament in a motion has called on the BNP to stay off the Jamaat, which analysts say has put it under huge pressure.
Days later, absence of the Jamaat leaders at the Monday rally had been all too apparent.
No Jamaat activist was seen with banners and festoons, demanding the release of and halt to the trial of suspected war criminals.
BNP activists and supporters of various wards in Dhaka City chanted slogans for Khaleda. Many of them had pictures of detained leaders in hand.
They took position on the road from the crossing of the Shahbagh to that of the High Court, though the rally venue was inside the Suhrawardy Udyan.
The stage was 22 feet in wide and 42 feet long. There were 120 loudspeakers across the rally venue.
LDP Chairman Oli Ahmed, BJP Chairman Andaleeve Rahman Partha, Kalyan Party Chairman Syed Mohammad Ibrahim, among others, spoke at the rally.
Kazi Zafar Ahmed spoke at the rally at a time when Jamaat leaders used to speak at Khaleda’s rally.
Just before Khaleda spoke, she said, “The country is now in deep crisis. I have never seen such a situation since the country’s independence. This illegal Awami League is responsible for this.”
Oli Ahmed blamed the ruling party leaders and activists for the attacks on Hindus.
Unrest will again grip the country if a fresh election was not held with taking the initiative for talks, he said.
Partha said, “This government had said we have missed the election train. We did not do that. We do not get into the train people avoid. You will be crushed under the train you have started travelling in.”
Source: Bd news24