Hefajat chief Shah Ahmed Shafi walked on to a red sports utility vehicle from Lalbagh madrasa to join the rally at Motijheel in the afternoon. But then a call came on his cellphone from an opposition leader.
After the call, Shafi went back to Lalbagh, government sources told The Daily Star.
The call was to make sure the bigots had their programme linger to merge with opposition leader Khaleda Zia's 48-hour ultimatum to the government, the sources added.
A top policymaker of the government told this correspondent that the Hefajat chief had given them commitment to leave Dhaka after holding the rally at Shapla Chattar peacefully. And based on the commitment, the government gave them the permission to hold the rally. Subsequently the government allowed the Hefajat men who took positions at different entry points in the capital to go to Motijheel.
But everything went out of the government's grip around 3:00pm when, according to the sources, top opposition leaders managed to pursue the Hefajat chief not to join the rally and ask his men to leave the capital.
It was after this development that the AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam issued tough warnings to the Hefajat men.
In the afternoon, a Hefajat leader told this correspondent several times over the phone from Shapla Chattar that their chief would join the rally and give directives to the crowd. “We will follow what he says -- leave or stay.”
The Hefajat leader on condition of anonymity later said: “He was supposed to come and ask us to leave peacefully. But some opposition leaders communicated with several close leaders of our chief and gave a message that it was better for him not to come to the rally to end it.”
A series of moves were taken from the government side to pursue Ahmed Shafi to go to Motijheel and make the call for departure of his hundreds of followers, but until late night all efforts went in vain.
A highly placed source said Shafi was on his way to Motijheel in the afternoon on a “red jeep with black window” but he made a U-turn from Palashi area after getting a phone call from a top opposition leader who threatened him that the ties between Hefajat and the opposition would permanently end if he moved further towards Motijheel and ask his followers to leave the place.
Another Hefajat leader, however, said Shafi did not go to Motijheel as he was feeling "insecure".
In a late night development, Shafi in a press statement said a peaceful sit-in would continue at Motijheel until the government met their demands.
Earlier in the day, thousands of Hefajat men turned up for their post-siege rally at Motijheel.
Following the gathering at six entry points of the capital as part of their much-hyped Dhaka siege programme, the Hefajat men secured a last moment government permission to hold the rally at Shapla Chattar.
Thousands of Hefajat-e Islam activists converged on Motijheel, the capital's commercial hub, to join the rally at around 3:00pm where its leaders asked the government to meet its 13-point demand, including introduction of a blasphemy law.
At 9:15pm, its Secretary General Junaid Babunagari asked the crowd to remain seated at Shapla Chattar until Shafi reached the venue. But he could not confirm when that might happen.
Meanwhile, briefing newsmen last night, BNP leader Shamsuzzaman Dudu said party Chairperson Khaleda Zia had asked her party activists and people in general to support the Hefajat men.
At 2:45am this morning, several thousand police, Rab and BGB members began a joint operation to disperse the Hefajat men.