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Dhaka Tribune

BNP-Jamaat men in Hefazat coax Dhaka rally

Update : 20 Dec 2013, 08:25 PM

Hefazat-e-Islam’s fresh announcement of holding another rally at Shapla Chattar in the capital on December 24 had come in the face of persuasion from its leaders with an inclination to the 18-party alliance.

A Hefazat activist, who closely works with the central leaders of the Qawmi madrasa-based organisation in Chittagong, said the persuasion had aimed at involving Hefazat in the street movement to eventually help escalate the opposition’s anti-government campaign.

Last month, Hefazat’s top leaders in Chittagong announced the rally for December 24 in view of the 10th parliament elections, which was later scheduled for January 5, he said.

Hefazat Literary Secretary Ashraf Ali Nizampuri last night told the Dhaka Tribune over phone: “We have applied for holding the rally but are yet to get the permission. But we will hold it at any cost, even if we are not given the permission.”

The gathering and the programmes to be announced from the rally would help thwart the election without the BNP-led alliance, some Hefazat men said.

The Islamist organisation headquartered at Hathazari Madrasa in Chittagong has so far held two rallies at Shapala Chattar, courting a storm of controversy with its demands and alleged atrocities.

At its April rally, Hefazat announced 13-point demands, which included introduction of an anti-blasphemy law, execution of “atheist” bloggers and an end to “free mingling” of men and women.

The rally in May spilled out of the capital, leaving a trail of destruction causing 40 deaths in just two days.

Since the May mayhem Hefazat has refrained from holding any public rally and postponed one in Dhaka on November 15 because of Ashura.

The plan to hold a rally in Dhaka wants to press home its controversial demands and protest a poster with the caricature of its chief Shah Ahmed Shafi reportedly put up by unknown people.

Explaining the reason for Hefazat’s absence from the anti-government campaign, a close associate of its central leaders told the Dhaka Tribune that Shafi and its Secretary General Junaid Babunagari were indisposed.

“Moreover, many Qawmi madrasa teachers, students and their parents blamed them and other central leaders for involving madrasa students in destructive and violent activities in Dhaka and elsewhere.”

After the terror unleashed by Hefazat men in May, many followers conveyed their anger to the top leaders and blamed them for being used as a tool of the BNP-Jamaat alliance, insiders said.

They also blamed pro-opposition leaders inside Hefazat for making the “non-political” Islamist organisation controversial, said the sources.

In view of such negative reactions within the party and among guardians of the madrasa students besides the government moves, Shafi refrained from announcing any programmes.

“But there are many leaders in Hefazat who are either directly or indirectly involved in the politics of the BNP-Jamaat alliance and work as their active sympathisers,” said another close associate of Hefazat’s top brass.

He said these central committee leaders, including Mainuddin Ruhi, Azizul Haque Islamabadi and Mufti Faizullah, had been busy over the past few months persistently pursuing Shafi, Babunagari and other top leaders to announce mass agitation.

Other central leaders – Nayeb-e-Ameer (vice president of the executive committee) Muhibullah Babunagari, Qateb Elias Osmany, BNP leader and former minister Mir Nasir’s cousin Moulana Mir Idris and others – also played significant roles in motivating majority Hefazat leaders to declare vigorous programmes before the polls.

Some of these bigwigs either belong to different Islamist political parties or have leaning towards the BNP-Jamaat politics.

These leaders told the Hafazat top brass that if they helped BNP-Jamaat to regain state power, they would also enjoy authority, even some might get berths in the cabinet, which would eventually help them implement their 13-point demand.

During a chat with his close associates, Ruhi once expressed his hope that he might be appointed at least a deputy minister if the BNP-led alliance came to power.

Faizullah has a plan to contest future national elections from Chittagong 6 (Rangunia) as BNP leader Salauddin Qader Chowdhury will not be able to take part because of his conviction in a war crimes case.

The sources said expectations and hopes were running high among many Hefazat leaders that they would be awarded in many ways if they could help BNP-Jamaat go to power again.

The close associate of Hefazat central leaders said Muhibullah sometimes tried to convince others to join Jamaat to resist the Awami League.

Hefazat had, meanwhile, conducted some motivational programmes in different districts as a prelude to the December 24 rally, said officials of the Islamist outfit.

They said the group was planning to hold some “religious” programmes such as Shaan-e-Risalat in divisional headquarters and some districts aiming to “boost the morale” of their leaders and activists so that they join future programmes.

Many Hefazat leaders are mainly leaders of the banned Islamist militant outfit Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami (Huji), which is blamed for attempts to kill Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and other terrorist acts.

Hefazat Literary Secretary Ashraf Ali Nizampuri, however, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The Hefazat high command does not belong to any political party and so it cannot plan programmes according to the will of a few leaders in the organisation.”

He said they came up with the idea of holding a rally as they had recently observed that “bloggers are still writing much worse stuff about Islam and the Prophet.” A poster with caricatures of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and Hefazat chief Shafi were put up in Sylhet recently.

“Of course, the rally will be held to press for our 13-point demands, too,” said Ashraf, who has not seen the poster yet but claimed a few leaders had. 

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