A bus set ablaze at the capital’s Kakrail yesterday afternoon, on the eve of the daylong hartal of Hefajat-e Islam. The BNP-led 18-party alliance has also called a 36-hour hartal starting tomorrow. Photo: Courtesy
The country lurches into yet another spell of hartals this morning amid fears of violence and a further blow to the economy, education and life of people.
Hefajat-e Islam on Saturday called a dawn-to-dusk hartal for today while the BNP-Jamaat-led 18-party opposition yesterday declared a 36-hour countrywide hartal from tomorrow.
Minutes after the announcement of the shutdown, opposition supporters torched at least seven vehicles in the capital and three in the port city of Chittagong.
With the shutdowns, the running week has only one working day left. The week began with 24-hour shutdown from Friday 6:00pm imposed by Sector Commanders Forum, Ekatturer Ghatok Dalal Nirmul Committee and 23 other likeminded bodies to resist Hefajat-e Islam's long march and rally on Saturday.
Shortly after a lower court had rejected appeals of eight top BNP leaders for bail extension and sent them to jail, the opposition arranged a press conference at the BNP's Naya Paltan office and declared its programme.
BNP Joint Secretary General Salahuddin Ahmed there said they were not extending support to today's hartal by Hefajat protesting "government obstacles" to their Saturday's rally.
BNP, Thakurgaon unit, however, called an indefinite shutdown to be enforced in the district from today on the grounds of BNP leaders' bail rejection.
ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury, former mayor of Chittagong City Corporation and president of Chittagong city Awami League, said the AL activists would resist the hartal called by Hefajat with the assistance of the people of Chittagong city.
If Hefajat men try to carry out vandalism and arson, they will be resisted strictly, he said.
The ongoing Higher Secondary Certificate exams will again face disturbance due to the hartals as English 2nd paper exam was scheduled for April 9.
The authorities would decide today whether the exam date should be deferred, the senior information officer of the education ministry told The Daily Star.
With the opposition alliance's latest hartal, this month sees shutdowns for five days till April 10.
Apart from district-level hartals, the opposition alliance enforced nine countrywide hartals in March, five in February and one in January to press home their various demands, inflicting huge loss on the economy and other sectors.
At least 356 private and public vehicles were torched between November last year and March this year, according to sources in fire services.
A day of shutdown causes a loss of Tk 1,600 crore to the businesses of all segments -- from exports to retail shops, a leading chamber said in a survey released on April 3.
The country faces, on average, 40 days of shutdowns a year, which means the financial losses stand at Tk 64,000 crore or 6.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) said.
The garment sector takes the hardest blow, counting Tk 360 crore in loss for a day of shutdown, said DCCI President A Sabur Khan.