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Dhaka Tribune

Army comes out for ‘exercise’

Update : 19 Dec 2013, 08:25 PM

Members of Bangladesh Army have started winter exercise in different districts amid possibilities that they are likely to be deployed after the practice for the January 5 polls.

The troops were found “patrolling” on Dhaka-Chittagong highway at Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong yesterday afternoon. They were also seen in Satkhira, Barisal and Jessore.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission is likely to decide on the army deployment issue at a meeting with returning officers in Dhaka today.

Abdul Mannan, deputy commissioner of Chittagong, told the Dhaka Tribune that the army men were patrolling on the highway to resist subversive activities including felling of roadside trees, and torching and vandalising vehicles by blockade supporters.

He, however, could not confirm as to how many of them were on patrol.

Dr Anwar Hossain, DC of Satkhira, told the Dhaka Tribune that some army men had reached the district. “It is an advanced team of the force,” he said, according to our correspondent.

When the Dhaka Tribune approached an army personnel on-duty at Satkhira stadium yesterday afternoon to know about the nature of deployment, he said the officer-in-charge of the team would not talk to the press.

Bakahid Hossain, Babugabj upazila nirbahi officer, said a team of the army camped at the Agriculture Research Institute for “winter exercise.” The institute is located at Rahamatpur on Barisal-Dhaka highway of the upazila.

Report received from Jhalakathi said one contingent of the army tented at Raipura School near Kalijira Bridge on Barisal-Jhalakathi road.

Inter-Services Public Relations said yesterday evening that the army had been in winter exercise in different regions including Jessore and Satkhira, according to a press release issued by its Assistant Director Muhammad Reza-ul Karim.

The EC claimed that it was not aware of the army deployment in Satkhira and Chittagong.

The commission did not deploy the army, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said yesterday. “Army came out for their winter exercise in different areas.”

He, however, said even a deputy commissioner could call army, if needed, in line with different laws.

“The army was not deployed for the election purpose...We will take decision about army deployment for the elections tomorrow [today],” he told reporters.

The CEC said: “We take assistance from the army as we arrange election in a single day. We only call them [army] for the election purposes as we bear their expenses.”

Asked, EC Secretary Muhammed Sadique yesterday told the Dhaka Tribune: “I do not know whether army deployed in Satkhira or not. But if the government wants, it can deploy army as an aid to the civil authorities.”

The commission must have been informed about the army deployment in election purpose, Sadique added.

According to the commission’s working papers, the EC proposed stationing one battalion of army in the district headquarters and two to four platoons of army at the upazila towns as striking force.

The EC proposed deployment of army as an “aid to the civil power,” which means the army should not play any role inside the polling centres or vote counting rooms.

For the January 5 polls, there is no need to hold elections to 154 parliamentary constituencies.

The commission will sit with the heads of law enforcement agencies and the returning officers at 3pm today for taking the decision about army deployment.

On Wednesday, Principle Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division Lt Gen Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq held closed-door meeting with the CEC.

On December 10, the division sent a letter to the commission seeking around Tk27 crore for maintaining law and order during the polls.

During the ninth parliamentary elections, army was deployed for 12 days.  

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