Dhaka, Mar 3: Indian President Pranab Mukherjee received a red-carpet welcome on his arrival here but Khaleda Zia, leader of the main opposition party in Bangladesh, has surprisingly declined to meet him on Monday.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson was scheduled to hold talks with Mukherjee at the hotel where he is staying. However, Zia cancelled the meeting and therefore it has been omitted from the official programme of the Indian president's first foreign visit.
According to BNP sources, the decision was taken because the party's ally Jamaat-e-Islami has called for a 48-hour nationwide strike to protest the verdict that was delivered by the three-judge International Crimes Tribunal-1 against Delwar Hossain Sayedee on Feb 28.
The Jamaat vice-president was sentenced to death after being found guilty of "crimes against humanity" during the 1971 war with Pakistan. The tribunal chairman Justice ATM Fazle Kabir pronounced that Sayedee is to be "hanged by neck till he is dead".
Condemning the death penalty given to their 73-year-old leader, Jamaat activists went on a rampage in cities and towns across the country. Since they believe that the ruling party is trying to split the opposition alliance through the tribunal's verdict, Jamaat men attacked Bangladesh Awami League supporters.
Khaleda Zia also fanned the fires by alleging that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had influenced the war crimes trial. "No judge can now independently try the accused after her (the PM's) call asking them to be sympathetic to the demands for death sentences to the war criminals," Zia noted.
For the last four days, the country has witnessed violent clashes between police and Jamaat activists who were joined by members of the party's student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir.
The violence has already claimed over 65 lives. More than 100 people have sustained injuries. Border Guard Bangladesh personnel are patrolling the riot-ravaged areas. BGB chief major General Aziz Ahmed said that paramiltary forces were trying to restore calm in "15 troubled districts".