BNP makes Jamaat smile

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BNP didn’t extend “moral support” to Jamaat’s 48-hour hartal from today as part of a strategy not to demonstrate together with its key ally and “maintain distance” from the anti-liberation force for some more months.

But it now hardly matters to Jamaat-e-Islami men, who are emboldened by the stance of BNP that announced a countrywide hartal for Tuesday, protesting Thursday’s police action on demonstrators following the death sentence to Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee.

“We feel a new strength as BNP takes to the streets,” Amiruzzaman, ameer of Chittagong metropolitan [south] unit of Jamaat, told The Daily Star yesterday.

“We are glad that they [BNP] are also launching protests against the government, and believe that the gap between BNP and Jamaat will be minimised soon.”

A number of district-level Jamaat leaders echoed his view. They, however, asked not to be named.

A senior BNP leader said, “The youths’ demonstrations against Jamaat put BNP in an awkward position, and it could not take a clear stance on the demonstrations initiated by youths at Shahbagh.”

BNP opted not to hold any agitation programmes with its key electoral ally Jamaat since the Shahbagh protest began on February 5 for death penalty for all war criminals.

“We will maintain distance from Jamaat for some more time for strategic reasons,” Moudud Ahmed, a member of BNP national standing committee, told The Daily Star.

He said the BNP-led 18-party alliance will remain intact and they will hold joint programmes when the time comes.

Though BNP extended support to Jamaat’s hartal on January 31, it remained silent when Jamaat called hartal for February 4 and 5 and 18. BNP didn’t even hold the rally scheduled for February 9 under the banner of the 18-party alliance. The rally was eventually held on February 18 without Jamaat taking part.

Since then Jamaat has been staging violent demonstrations in the streets, engaging in clashes with law enforcers.

However, BNP changed its mind and decided to take to the streets following Thursday’s violence.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, some Jamaat leaders said they could not even imagine that the Leader of the Opposition and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia would term Thursday’s violence genocide.

“We did not expect it. But Khaleda Zia termed the violence genocide and compared it to the genocide of 1971,” a leader of Jamaat’s Jessore district unit told The Daily Star.

Asked about BNP’s refusal to extend support to Jamaat’s 48-hour hartal, the leader said he believed it might take some time to bridge the gap between the two parties.

“BNP leaders and activists took to the streets and clashed with police and Awami League men. The government will strengthen the police force to suppress BNP, and that will certainly help a lot to bridge the gap between BNP and Jamaat,” said a Jamaat leader, referring to BNP men’s clashes with police in the capital and with AL men in Sirajganj yesterday.

General Mahbubur Rahman, a member of BNP national standing committee, told The Daily Star, “The way the government is committing atrocities, it will eventually unify the agitating parties.”

“I don’t know whether the government is doing it on purpose or without knowing its consequences.”

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