Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led 20-party alliance's planned anti-government movement has been entrapped as the two War Crime Tribunals (ICTs) and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court are delivering verdicts in war crime trials against top leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, a key ally of BNP, one after another.
In the latest verdict on Wednesday, the ICT awarded death sentence to the Ameer of Jamaat, Motiur Rahman Nizami, for committing crimes against humanity during Bangladesh's Independence War against Pakistan in 1971.
Jamaat protested the verdict by calling a countrywide strike on Thursday and proposed more strikes on Sunday and Monday. The first day hartal (strike), however, failed to draw significant public support.
BNP, already criticized by ruling Awami League and freedom fighters for aligning with Jamaat (which they brand as a party of killers) - did not back up the Jamaati hartal fearing public wrath.
Also, the BNP kept an unusual silence over the death of Jamaat's former Ameer Ghulam Azam who died on Wednesday while serving life imprisonment for war crimes.
BNP insiders and political analysts said the ICT verdicts and spreading public indignation had caused embarrassment to the BNP, especially its Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia who, during her premiership between 2001-2006, appointed Nizami a minister.
While delivering the judgement on Nizami, the ICT termed the appointment as a "slap" on the faces of the martyrs of 1971 War of Independence.
Khaleda is unlikely to roll out her long-planned anti-government movement until the dusts over the verdicts (on Nizami and others) had settled, BNP insiders told The Daily Observer.
The BNP high command can neither support nor oppose the ICT ruling because of lingering political uncertainty in the country.
Khaleda threatened to launch a "rigorous" movement to oust Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the backdrop of her boycott of January 5 parliamentary polls over demand for the vote to be held under a non-party caretaker administration. Hasina and her party have rejected the demand.
Meanwhile, Khaleda has advised leaders and activists of her party not to make any noise over the ICT verdicts.
Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, however, told The Daily Observer, "The government is trying to divert people's attention from its failure to rule the country cunningly but the BNP will not budge from its demand for an inclusive election."
Maj (retd) Hafiz Uddin Ahmed, Vice Chairman of the party, said "Defiantly BNP will go for its planned anti-government movement to force the government to hold election under a non-partisan administration."
At the ICT, trial of Jamaat Assistant Secretary General ATM Azharul Islam ended long ago but has been kept the date of the verdict on CAV (curia advisary vult, a Latin legal term meaning court awaits verdict).
On the other hand, the judgment on appeal filed by Jamaat leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, convicted for his crimes against humanity during the War of Independence, is still pending for pronouncement by the Appellate Division.