Jamaat, Shibir try to show strength
"> Stick-wielding Jamaat-Shibir men show up for an opposition rally in Jhenidah town yesterday morning. Jamaat-Shibir dominated opposition demonstrations at many places across the country. Photo: Banglar ChokhJamaat-e-Islami, a key ally in the 18-party alliance, and its associate student body Islami Chhatra Shibir yesterday staged huge showdowns in the capital and elsewhere, apparently sidelining the main opposition BNP.
Shibir looked well organised and it captured the focus by occupying the front areas of the podium at Suhrawardy Udyan, the historic venue where the Pakistani occupation forces had surrendered in 1971, pushing the BNP and pro-BNP youth and student bodies aside.
The Jamaat-Shibir activists kept coming in with banners, placards, festoons and food, occupying the streets from Matsya Bhaban to Shahbagh and a large portion of the rally venue since the morning.
Their banners and festoons were portraying the images of their top leaders, who are now in death row or under trial in connection with war crimes committed during the Liberation War in 1971.
Witnesses said the Jamaat-Shibir activists, who were the first to reach the rally venue since 10:00am, had captured the vast areas of the podium and kept chanting slogans demanding release of notorious war criminals Ghulam Azam, Sayedee, Mojaheed, Quader Mollah, Kamaruzzaman and others.
They hung huge banners with photographs of the top Jamaat leaders from the footbridge in front of The Institute of Engineers, Bangladesh. Almost each and every Jamaat-Shibir activist was carrying placards in and around the venue.
Six large banners hung around the fence of “Swadhinata Stambha” were inscribed with the allegation: “The grand rally is to protest against the conspiracy to kill the national leaders through politicisation of the judiciary.”
Around 1:15pm, the activists of Jamaat-Shibir locked into a clash with BNP activists. Central leaders of both the sides soon calmed the situation down.
The opposition rally finally began at 2:20pm with the speech of Shibir Secretary General Abdul Jabbar.
Jamaat-Shibir activists were seen chanting slogans at the top of their lungs only when their leaders were invited to deliver speech. They were not seen echoing the slogans enthusiastically when leaders of BNP and other alliance parties were addressing the rally.
All their slogans were mainly about the release of the top Jamaat leaders.
During his speech, Jamaat's acting ameer Makbul Ahmed termed the International Crimes Tribunal "unlawful" and "politically motivated". He called upon the government to stop the trials and release all the Jamaat leaders accused or convicted of war crimes committed in 1971.
He also said Jamaat would continue its demonstrations. "The nation will not tolerate the repression," he added.
Talking to The Daily Star, many Shibir activists said the party high command had ordered them to rush to the venue and take control of the rally after Fazr prayers to avoid police obstruction.
They said hundreds of Shibir men had come from different parts of the country, especially from nearby districts, to join the rally.
Our Correspondents from different districts reported that in most places Jamaat-Shibir men took control of the rallies and demonstrations.
Around 10,000 people belonging to 18-party alliance brought out a procession in Pabna after the Juma prayers, reports our correspondent there.
Witnesses said more than 60 percent of the processionists belonged to Jamaat-Shibir and most of them had been armed with bamboo sticks.
Our Dinajpur correspondent reports: BNP activists locked into an internal clash over allowing Jamaat leaders to address a rally yesterday.
A section of BNP activists raised strong objection immediately after the name of Mozibar Rahman, nayeb-e-ameer of Dinajpur Jamaat, was announced around 5:00pm.
A clash ensued, but party leaders and police brought the situation under control. The BNP instantly wrapped up the rally to avoid further trouble.
A report from Chittagong says the 18-party alliance held a rally at Kazir Dewri intersection and it was too dominated by Jamaat-Shibir men.
Witnesses said Jamaat men carrying placards and festoons had occupied the entire front portion of the podium and chanted slogans in favour of their top leaders.
In Khulna, at least five Shibir activists were injured when they clashed with activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, pro-BNP student wing, over taking control of the front rows of a rally at Ferry Ghat Chattar.
Several hundred Jamaat-Shibir activists joined the programme wearing yellow ribbons around their heads. They carried placards inscribing their demand for immediate release of their party leaders.
Most of the participants joining an 18-party rally held at Rajshahi Government College premises belonged to Jamaat-Shibir, reports our Rajshahi correspondent.