The government yesterday said leaders and workers of Hefajat-e Islam must leave the capital peacefully by evening (yesterday), or else it would go tough against them.
As of 2:00am today, law enforcers were closing in on the Hefajat rally venue at Shapla Chattar and were preparing to go into action.
LGRD and Cooperatives Minister Syed Ashraful Islam, also general secretary of the Awami League, earlier said the Hefajat men would no more be allowed to hold programmes in Dhaka.
“If necessary, they won't be allowed to come out of their houses,” he said at a press briefing at the AL president's political office in Dhanmondi.
Ashraf went on, “The so-called Hefajat has unleashed a reign of terror by torching and vandalising political party offices, vehicles and public property. The government is ready to take any action to maintain law and order.”
The minister said BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefajat are "one and the same" and a large number of BNP and Jamaat men joined the Hefajat's programme yesterday.
The government has so far shown patience but that does not mean the government and the AL are weak, Ashraf said, adding his party alone could resist Hefajat if it resorted violence any more.
The ruling party leader termed Hefajat men “sons of Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams and believers of Pakistani ideology”. He blasted them for using “vulgar and offensive language" against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at their Shapla Chattar rally.
“It was not expected that the ulema [religious scholars] will use vulgar words,” he said, asking them to use decent language.
The minister also said many of the Hefajat's 13-point demand have already been met in the constitution.
He criticised the Islamist group for discouraging women from joining various professions.
Immediately after Ashraf's press conference, senior leaders of the AL went to the Gono Bhaban and held a meeting with the prime minister.
Hasina, president of the AL, directed the party's Dhaka city unit to remain alert and stand beside the people to thwart Hefajat-BNP-Jamaat's bid to unleash terror, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury told The Daily Star around 9:15pm.
Another highly placed source said top leadership of Hefajat had earlier promised to the government they would leave the capital by yesterday evening after holding their rally peacefully.
As they violated their commitment, Ashraf spoke of tough action, said the source. Officials of an intelligence agency had been trying to pursue the Hefajat chief to honour his word but he declined to budge after getting support from the BNP high command.
Asked what the government would do if Hefajat did not leave the capital, Matia, also a top AL policymaker, said the government could not go beyond law.