Dhaka, Mar 2: Even as police and paramilitary forces struggle to restore a semblance of calm in riot-ravaged Bangladesh, opposition parties in the country are busy fanning the fires.
Khaleda Zia, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has openly backed the Jamaat-e-Islami whose activists turned violent on Feb 28 after their leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death for "crimes against humanity".
The International Crimes Tribunal-1 convicted him for the atrocities that were committed during the liberation war against Pakistan in 1971. Justice ATM Fazle Kabir who chaired the three-judge tribunal ordered Sayedee to be "hanged by neck till he is dead".
However, defence counsel Abdur Razzaq told newspersons later that "utmost injustice" had been done to the 73-year-old vice-president of the Jamaat. The party took up his cue described his conviction as an example of political vendetta by the ruling Bangladesh Awami League.
Jamaat called for a two-day nationwide strike to register their strong protest over the verdict. Members of Jamaat's student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir and the party's supporters targeted Awami League men at several places across the country.
When the police tried to protect those under attack, the Jamaat activists clashed with the cops and set on fire police outposts. The violence has claimed over 55 lives in the past three days.
Border Guard Bangladesh personnel have been "deployed in 15 troubled districts" to aid the "civil administration", BGB chief major General Aziz Ahmed said on Mar 1.
Amidst the turmoil, Khaleda Zia hit out at Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and demanded her resignation. The opposition leader alleged that the PM had influenced the ongoing war crimes trial.
"No judge (of the war crimes tribunal) can now independently try the accused after her (Hasina's) call asking them to be sympathetic to the demands for death sentences to the war criminals," she said.
Zia has also given the call for a 48-hour shutdown in Bangladesh. It remains to be seen whether the Awami League government will be able to withstand the combined opposition onslaught.