Army to be on polls duty in Dec 26-Jan 9Staff Correspondent
The armed forces would be on election duty from December 26 to January 9 to assist the regular law enforcing agencies to maintain law and order for the 10th parliamentary polls scheduled for January 5, 2014.
Making the announcement of the decision for deployment of troops on Friday, chief election commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad told reporters, ‘If the situation remains in good state, we may reduce the period of troops deployment.’
The chief election commissioner made the announcement after a meeting at the National Economic Council auditorium on the law and order for the January 5 polls.
All of the four other election commissioners, commission secretary, Armed Forces Division principle staff officer of Lieutenant General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, senior secretary of home ministry CQK Mustaq Ahmed, inspector general of police Hassan Mahmood Khandker, Border Guard Bangladesh director general Major General Aziz Ahmed, Rapid Action Battalion director general Mokhlesur Rahman and heads of Coast Guard, National Security Intelligence, Special Branch and Directorate General of Forces Intelligence attended the meeting.
Dhaka and Chittagong divisional commissioners, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner and deputy commissioners and superintendent of police of 59 districts, where the elections would be held, and assistant returning officers also attended the meeting.
The chief election commissioner said that the polls to all of the electoral constituencies usually were held at one go and the commission had always taken cooperation from the armed forces since 1973.
Asked why the commission opted for deployment of troops as the poll would be held only to 146 out of the 300 constituencies, the Rakibuddin said that it was not possible to pull all the law enforcers out of the places where the polls would not be held for regular work of maintaining law and order there.
In reply to another question, he said that the armed forces were already on the ground on their winter exercise. ‘But they are now not in the election duty.’
Asked if the armed forces would be given magistracy, Rakibuddin replied in the negative saying, ‘Magistrates will accompany both the armed forces and Border Guard Bangladesh.’
Asked how many troops and other law enforcers would be deployed in which place, he said that local administration would decide how many law enforcers would be required where.
He, however, said that the number of law enforcers would not be less than that in the past elections.
Asked whether the armed forces will remain on the field even after January 9, he said that the commission found no reasons of keeping the armed forces on-duty after January 9. ‘However, the decisions will be taken weighting situation of the local conditions.’
When his attention was drawn to the law and order across the country, Rakibuddin said that the deputy commissioners and police superintendents had apprised the meeting that the situation was improving. ‘The situation will improve further so that the voters can cast their vote without any obstacles and fear.’
Asked when the law enforcers would conduct drive to recover illegal arms, he said that the commission had already asked the authorities concerned and they started working on it.
In reply to a question what measures the commission took for those candidates who were not being able to conduct the electioneering for security reasons, Rakibuddin said that the commission already made arrangement for the protection of those candidates who sought such protections.
Replying to a query, he said that he was unable to say from beforehand what type of elections it would be.
He said, ‘Let us see what happens. I had expected all political parties to take part in the polls. As it is a legal process, we are going to hold the January 5 polls.’
About the European Union decision not to send observers to observe the January 5 polls, Rakibuddin said that the commission cannot mount pressure anyone those who are not willing to deploy poll observers. He, however, hoped all will come to observe the polls in the wake of continuous improvement of law and order situation.
Officials attended in the meeting said the principal staff officer said that the armed forces were already in the field and they were ready to cooperate with the commission.
They said that some of them had warned the commission against recruiting people belonging to the opposition political parties in Ansar force for election duty.
Representatives of the law enforcers also sought extra budget for them in the wake of evolved political situation, said sources present.
According to the decisions of the meeting, more or less one battalion of troops will be deployed in each of the district headquarters as striking force under ‘instructions to assist the civil administration.’
The meeting decided that the armed forces would be deployed at upazila and thana levels through coordination with the returning officers and they would assist the regular law enforcers if the returning officer sought cooperation.
The troops would be on-duty neither inside the polling stations nor in the vote counting rooms unless the returning officer seeks such cooperation.
Naval forces will be deployed in the coastal areas and armed forces’ helicopters will be used for sending electoral materials as well as the travelling of election officials, the4 sources said.
The Border Guard Bangladesh will be on-duty as the striking force in January 3-7.
The commission has planned to deploy 15 members of law enforcers, including two police and two Ansars with arms, in each of the police stations outside the metropolitan areas while the number of law enforcers will be 16 at important polling stations.
The commission has slapped a ban of exposition of arms from December 22 to January 7 and has asked the home ministry to issue a circular in this regard.
A ban on the movement of motorcycle would be imposed in January 3-7 and such a ban will be effective on all types of vehicular movement from January 4 midnight to January 5 midnight.
There would no election in five districts — Jaipurhat, Chandpur, Madaripur, Shariatpur and Rajbari — as all the constituencies in the districts have already got the members of parliament elected unopposed.
A record number of as much as 154 candidates of ruling Awami League and its allies, and its governing ally Jatiya Party were elected unopposed.
After the withdrawal and scrutiny of candidatures, a total of 386 candidates, mostly from the ruling AL and its allies, are now contesting in 146 constituencies.
All opposition political parties including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition alliance has boycotted the polls and the BNP-led alliance has been enforcing nationwide blockades demanding a halt to the polls and restoration of non-party caretaker administration to oversee the polls to ensure a level-playing field.
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