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BNP, Jamaat men allege harassment

Taib Ahmed

The Election Commission has apparently failed to create a level-playing field for all candidates in the ensuing upazila parishad elections with law enforcers and ruling party men allegedly obstructing the campaigns of candidates backed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led alliance.
New Age correspondents from different districts reported that law enforcers continued hunting the BNP-Jamaat men accused in different cases, most of whom were either candidates backed by BNP-Jamaat or their main campaigners.
Moreover, candidates backed by BNP-Jamaat and their campaigners were often coming under attack by Awami League men though allegations were denied by the AL.
Many BNP-Jamaat candidates alleged that law enforcers were harassing them in various ways, including arrests and torture. They also alleged that they stayed out at night in fear of arrest.
New Age Barisal correspondent said activists of Chhatra League on Friday had attacked and damaged the microbus of Abul Hossain Mia, the BNP-backed chairman candidate for Gournadi upazila, leaving two people injured.
A group of BCL activists led by its upazila unit secretary Jubayerul Islam Santu mounted the attack in Gournadi bus stand area when Abul Hossain went to there to welcome some BNP central leaders.
Gournadi upazila BCL president Syed Mahbub Alam denied involvement of their activists in the incident.
Our Jhenaidah correspondent reported that the BNP-backed chairman candidate in Sailkupa upazila parishad polls, Raqibul Hasan Khan, and some of his supporters had suffered injuries in an attack allegedly by AL activists on Wednesday.  
Two motorbikes of the BNP men were vandalised in the attack.
The correspondent said police had arrested nearly 100 BNP-Jamaat men in the districts in last one week.
New Age correspondent in Jessore said police on Thursday had arrested Chaugachha upazila BNP general secretary Younus Ali.
The BNP-backed chairman candidate in Abhaynagar upazila polls, Nurul Haque Mollah alleged that his men were being harassed by police and even arrested during campaigns.
Kushtia correspondent said the joint forces and police had arrested at least 80 activists of BNP and Jamaat in four upazilas of Chuadanga district in last four days.
Sylhet correspondent reported that BNP-backed candidates in Sylhet district were allegedly facing hindrances in carrying out campaigns as many of the grassroots leaders and activists were accused in cases filed earlier.
Bishwanath upazila unit BNP vice-chairman Sohel Ahmad Chowdhury, also the party-backed chairman candidate in the upazila elections, alleged that most of his party activists were not participating in his election campaign in fear of arrest.
‘More than 2,500 leaders and activists of the upazila unit BNP and its front organisations have been accused in a number of cases filed with the local police only to harass them,’ he alleged.
The ‘19-party’ alliance-backed candidate for the Jaintapur upazila chairman, Zaynal Abedin, also a leader of the upazila Jamaat, also brought similar allegation.
He alleged that he could not personally carry out campaigns in fear of arrest. 
‘My supporters are carrying out campaigns for me since most of my party leaders and activists are avoiding my campaigns in fear of arrest,’ Zaynal added.
New Age Rajshahi correspondent reported that the BN- backed chairman candidate for Mohanpur upazila, Abdus Samad, alleged that the ruling party men were threatening his campaigners as well as the voters.
Khulna correspondent reported that the AL-backed chairman candidate in Koira upazila polls, GM Mohsin Reza alleged that Jamaat-Shibir men had set his election office on fire on Wednesday night at Bamia village of Bagali union.
On the other hand, Jamaat-backed candidate Tamiz uddin alleged that supporters of the AL-backed candidate were tearing off his posters and banners and threatening his activists during election campaign. The AL-backed candidate is distributing money among voters, particularly in slum areas, he alleged.
New Age correspondent in Comilla said the BNP-backed chairman candidate for Manoharganj upazila, Elias Patwary had alleged that he could not stay at home at night time in fear of arrest.  ‘I am facing serious difficulties in carrying out campaigns due to police harassment.’ 
The police, however, denied the allegation.
Asked whether the EC had taken any measures to stop police harassment of candidates, election commissioner Shah Nawaz said the commission had nothing to do if police arrested someone in old cases.
‘We have, however, strictly instructed the authorities concerned not to implicate any candidates in any new cases only to harass them before the polls,’ he added.   
The EC has announced schedules for three phases of upazila elections in the staggered polls to about 490 upazila parishads expected to be completed by end-March.
The EC announced schedules for elections to nearly 400 upazila councils in four phases. Elections to 98 upazila councils would be held on February 19 in the first phase, 117 UZ councils on February 27 in the second phase, 83 UZ councils on March 15 in the third phase and 92 UZ councils on March 23.

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