Dhaka remained virtually cut off from the rest of the Bangladesh since Friday morning as pro-ruling groups enforced nationwide road blockades and hartal, in an apparent move to foil the Islamists’ long march towards the capital city slated for Saturday.
Long-distance buses plying between Dhaka and outflying Bangladesh places stayed off the roads since Friday morning as transporters say they have been asked by the ruling party, allegedly backed by law enforcers, to halt operations for two days to thwart anarchy due to the long march.
Fears of a new round of violence in the coming days have raised in the political crisis-ridden South Asian nation as Hefajat-e- Islam, a group of non-political Islamic scholars, is set to hold its long march on April 6 demanding punishment for the “atheist bloggers”, several of which have already been arrested.
Although the bloggers, some of whom reportedly spearheaded Bangladesh’s Shahbag Square movement, have already denied the blasphemy allegations brought against them, the group, allegedly backed by Bangladesh-Jamaat-e-Islami party, has continued their movement.
In protest of the long march, Shahbag protesters enforced nationwide blockades of road, rail and water transports from 6 p.m. (local time) Friday to 4 p.m. Saturday.
In an apparent move to keep the Islamists refrained from their march, some 24 organizations, loyal to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Bangladesh Awami League (AL) party, have also called a 27-hour hartal starting from 3:00 p.m. Friday.
The administration reportedly claims to have information that pro-Jamaat and militant elements have already infiltrated Hefajat- e Islam and they might create anarchy.
No Jamaat spokesperson could be reached for comment.
Hefajat has called the long march apparently to gear up the ongoing campaign against the Shahbagh movement that demanded capital punishment for war criminals and a ban on Jamaat, leading English newspaper The Daily Star reported Friday.
The group says it demands restoration of the phrase “absolute faith and trust in the Almighty Allah” in the constitution, enactment of a blasphemy law and punishment of “atheist bloggers”.
The Hefajat leaders had earlier threatened to enforce a non- stop hartal from Sunday, if its program was obstructed and the hartal called by the 24 pro-liberation organizations was not withdrawn by Friday.
Sources said the government is worried as a large number of Islamists have already slipped into the capital in the last two days.
Bangladesh Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir Thursday claimed the authorities had information that militant operatives and Jamaat men will carry out subversive activities under the banner of Hefajat-e Islam.
Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Thursday criticized the ruling AL party government for hatching conspiracy to foil the long march in which Khaleda’s 18 party alliance has already extended its support.
Political tension in Bangladesh heightened in the recent months as the 18-party opposition alliance, which have already dismissed the tribunal as a government “show trial”, geared up anti- government agitation programs, demanding restoration of the non- party caretaker government system to hold parliamentary elections slated for early 2014.
Nearly 100 people, including several policemen and dozens of Jamaat leaders and activists, were killed and hundreds of others injured in the riots erupted since a tribunal awarded death sentence to the Jamaat’s Vice President Delwar Hosssain Sayeede for war crimes in 1971 on Feb. 28.