Jamaat banks on aggression
With an aim to foil the much-awaited war crimes trial, the Jamaat-e-Islami plans to stage massive, violent demonstrations during its countrywide hartal today, demanding the release of top party leaders facing the trial.
Talking to The Daily Star over the last two days, several district-level leaders said their policymakers instructed them to put on â€œmega showdowns,â€ especially in major cities during the shutdown.
The main opposition BNP, which is Jamaat's ally, has backed the hartal.
To carry out the showdown plan, Jamaat's top brass has instructed over 5,000 dedicated activists and paid staff to be present in different strategic points in the capital and other major cities so that they can execute the hit-and-run tactic, as seen during the party's recent agitations.
â€œWe get handsome salaries and other benefits. And there has been no exception to this although the party faces the worst crisis in its history,â€ said a staff at Jamaat's central office at Moghbazar. He would speak only on condition of anonymity.
Jamaat and its student front Islami Chhatra Shibir, meanwhile, continued their violence for a third consecutive day yesterday, injuring policemen, sporadically blasting bombs at different places of the city and vandalising and torching a number of vehicles.
Today, Jamaat is enforcing a half-day hartal in Dhaka and Chittagong and dawn-to-dust shutdown elsewhere in the country protesting the "police refusal" to hold a rally before the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in the capital.
Police rejected the allegation and said it was just an excuse for creating further violence.
Monirul Islam, joint commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said they had received a letter seeking permission for the rally, but police could not reach the person whose name and phone number were mentioned in the letter, reports ATN Bangla.
The war crimes trial has been a longstanding national issue. Ahead of the 2008 general elections, the Awami League pledged to try the war criminals if voted to power. The party won a landslide victory in the December 29 polls that year, and later the Jatiya Sangsad unanimously passed a proposal for the trial.
Among those facing the trial are some top leaders of Jamaat, which actively tried to foil Bangladesh's birth through helping the Pakistani occupation forces in committing mass killing, genocide, rape and other crimes against humanity. The party now looks determined to stop the trial by any means.
â€œWe will now carry out our leaders' instructions even at the cost of our lives to save the party,â€ said the Jamaat activist at the party's central office.
He added the party had several thousand dedicated paid staff members who had been entrusted with the task of creating violence during the party's recent street programmes.
A top Jamaat leader of Chittagong (south) unit said the party high-ups had instructed them to display a "big showdown" employing their full strength in and outside the port city.
Instead of wearing traditional Pajama and Punjabi, many of them, particularly the field-level Shibir activists, were asked to wear T-shirts and jeans. â€œIt is easy to mingle with pedestrians when police move to chase them,â€ said the Jamaat leader, preferring not to be named.
On the other hand, a number of district-level leaders have said as the International Crimes Tribunal has started delivering verdict in war crimes cases, a feeling to axe its convicted leaders gets stronger in the party's mid-level leadership.
These leaders say they will not share the responsibility of the crimes committed by their top leaders in 1971.
A section of Jamaat leaders is also of the view that the party is facing the hardest time ever because of their top leaders.
â€œMany of us in both Jamaat and Shibir think that Jamaat can be reorganised leaving out the current top leadership,â€ said a top leader of Jamaat's Chittagong city (north) unit.
â€œWe have such a plan in our mind as we believe the top leaders of the party who are now behind bars will not be able to lead the party under the situation,â€ he added, wishing to remain unnamed.
According to him, some of the arrested leaders would not be able to lead the party for more than two years or so anyway. "Then why don't we go for new leadership?"
This Jamaat leader says he would not be surprised if he heard one morning that the party started recasting its top brass.
Party policymakers have been gripped by fear after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced to death former Jamaat member Abul Kalam Azad, also known as Bachchu Razakar, for genocide and murder during the Liberation War.
Seven top leaders of Jamaat, including its current and former ameers and secretary general, are behind bars on war crimes charges.
A Satkhira district Jamaat leader said there were many leaders in the party who thought the party should not suffer for the â€œalleged misdeedsâ€ some of their top leaders committed during the war.
â€œWe do not want to share the blame. And there are many district-level leaders who think like me,â€ he said, requesting anonymity.