BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia yesterday called a nationwide dawn-to-dusk hartal for Tuesday to protest what she said was â€œgenocideâ€ during Thursday's violence over death sentence for Jamaat leader Sayedee.
At a press conference, she also announced her party would bring out processions in the capital and other cities and district headquarters around 3:00pm today.
On Thursday, Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing unleashed a countrywide terror and clashed with law enforcers soon after Delawar Hossain Sayedee received the sentence for crimes against humanity during the Liberation War, 1971.
Jamaat-Shibir men were already out on the streets to enforce a shutdown when the International Crimes Tribunal-1 pronounced the verdict.
The violence claimed at least 33 lives.
In a press statement later that night, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir termed the incident the â€œcruellest genocide in the history and worse than the genocide by the [Pakistan] occupation army during the Liberation War in 1971â€.
Yesterday, Khaleda Zia at the press conference said, "I am stunned. I am outraged. I am deeply hurt. I have no words to condemn and protest. Heinous genocide is taking place again in our country. People are being killed like birds.
"The government has gone on a barbaric killing spree. Old people, children, adolescents and even chaste women are not being spared. It looks like foreign occupation forces are committing atrocities against the people of Bangladesh.
â€œIt's beyond our imagination that a government can carry out genocide against its own people. We liberated our motherland in 1971 standing against such genocide. We cannot accept that any government for any reason would choose the path of genocide in that independent country."
The opposition leader demanded the government immediately stop this â€œgenocideâ€. "Otherwise,â€ she warned, â€œthe consequences will be dreadful.â€ She also urged the people to demand justice for the â€œcruel killingsâ€.
Khaleda Zia called upon all the members of police and other law enforcement agencies not to use the weapons bought with the people's money against the same people mindlessly.
She urged them not to engage in "genocide" by carrying out unjust order of a â€œfailed governmentâ€.
Expressing her solidarity with the people's â€œagitation and resistance against fascismâ€, she said, "I think it will be possible to save the country from anarchy created by the government only by establishing democracy and people's rights."
Khaleda, also the opposition leader in parliament, said the government had adopted the tactics of â€œmurder and genocideâ€ to divert public attention from its unlimited failure and corruption and to retain power via a farcical election.
The BNP chairperson defended the recent agitation by some Islamist groups against â€œhurting Islam by atheist bloggers of Shahbaghâ€, and questioned the motive of the youth movement and neutrality of the war crimes tribunals.
The former PM also alleged the government launched planned attack on houses of minorities to divert the people's democratic movement.
Flanked by senior party leaders, Khaleda said the country is in grave crisis and such a dreadful situation was not created since the independence. â€œThe whole nation is now divided.â€
She alleged a vested quarter had been engaged in ill campaign against Islam, the Almighty Allah and Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) in the name of the spirit of Liberation War.
Ordinary citizens who are soft on religion were being tortured and termed war criminals, anti-liberation elements and collaborators when they took initiative to protest peacefully against the anti-Islam campaigns, she added.
Khaleda said the government was patronising a group which was spreading hatred as well as provoking division in the nation.
Referring to the Shahbagh youths, she said they were threatening the country's eminent citizens for expressing personal views. They were also threatening to stop anti-government newspapers and television channels and putting pressure on the government to arrest brave editor Mahmudur Rahman.
Turning to the ongoing war crimes trials, she said the government had totally destroyed the atmosphere of getting justice through fascism which amounts to crimes against humanity.
â€œWe have clearly again and again said we want the war crimes trial. But the trial has to be transparent and of international standard. But you all know a lot of questions are being raised at home and abroad centring the trial process, tribunals and its law.â€
Khaleda said the government expressed solidarity with the movement against a war crimes verdict although none but the government had formed the tribunals and prosecution and war crimes investigation teams.
The opposition leader said the remaining hope of getting justice was shattered when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in parliament supported the Shahbagh youths demanding capital punishment to all convicted war criminals and called upon judges to consider the demand.
Under the circumstances, Khaleda said, it would not be possible for any of the judges to conduct trial process and deliver verdict independently and neutrally.
â€œTherefore, every verdict of these tribunals will be questionable now,â€ she said, adding that the government has no right to stay in power after extending support to protesters who are putting pressure on the trial process.
After the press conference yesterday, Mahbubul Alam Hanif, joint general secretary of ruling Awami League, said the BNP chief had announced the hartal to obstruct the ongoing trials of war criminals and to make Jamaat happy.
Talking to The Daily Star over the phone last night, he also criticised the opposition leader for speaking against the Shahbagh youths.