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Dhaka Tribune

Army asked to contain polls violence

Update : 22 Mar 2014, 09:30 PM

The Election Commission has requested the armed forces to play its role in maintaining law and order during the fourth phase of the upazila polls scheduled for today, following escalated violence in the third phase.

In a letter sent yesterday, the EC reminded the armed forces about their power to act to curb violence in absence of an executive magistrate.

According to article 131 of the penal code, the army was already empowered to act on its own to check violence. However, in recent times, the armed forces personnel on election duty were directed to act following executive orders.

The army and the law enforcement agencies have been asked to take all necessary steps for ensuring security of voters, polling centres and election officials during the elections.

A total of 91 upazila parishads from around the country are going into elections today in the fourth phase.

In Sonagazi upazila of Feni yesterday, an Awami League activist was killed and two others were critically injured in a bomb explosion. Allegedly, they were making crude bombs. A few days ago, law enforcers recovered 500 crude bombs from the area.

On March 15, another person was killed in Badarganj upazila of Netrakona centring polls violence. There have also been stray cases of violence reported from a number of upazilas during the first two phases as well.

A couple of days ago, an intelligence report apprehended that there might be fresh attacks on minorities surrounding today’s fourth phase of the upazila polls.

In Harinakundu upazila of Jhenaidah, a 70-year old man was allegedly beaten up by a gang of miscreants yesterday. He was reportedly electioneering for a BNP-backed candidate in the locality.

From a press conference in Agoiljhara upazila of Barisal, Awami League rebel chairman candidate Jatindra Nath Mistri yesterday alleged that law enforcers had been harassing him and the Awami League-backed candidate had been pressuring the voters from the local minority communities.

In Kathalia upazila of Pirojpur, an Awami League leader was detained by law enforcers yesterday on charges of unduly influencing voters in favour of a JP (Monju)-backed chairman candidate.

In another last minute move on the election eve, the district police chiefs (SPs) of Jessore, Khulna, Noakhali, Lalmonirhat, Barisal and Dhaka were reshuffled and 21 presiding officers were withdrawn from Kolaroa upazila of Satkhira.

At a presser on the same day, BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi alleged that the “transfers” were made with a “special motive.”

“Everyone understands why they [the SPs] have been transferred,” Rizvi told reporters.

Meanwhile, the letter that the Election Commission sent to the authorities concerned followed an e-mail sent by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, who had been in the USA on leave for nearly three weeks.

According to the CEC e-mail, the polls have so far been held in free and fair manner with reports of some stray untoward incidents. He said the officials would have to put in all-out efforts to hold in the next phases peacefully.

Meanwhile, acting CEC Abdul Mobarak said the upazila polls had seen violence because the political parties had been trying to influence the non-partisan elections.

“These are not partisan polls. But the political parties are openly playing roles in the polls leading to violence. This is not acceptable,” he said.

“If anyone tries to snatch ballot boxes in the fourth phase, law enforcers will use bullets,” he warned.

In the first three phases, a total of 294 upazilas went into polls. The fifth phase, covering 74 local bodies, will be held on March 31 and the remaining upazilas out of a total of 487 will vote in May.

So far, Awami League and BNP have been neck-and-neck in terms of winning the chairman posts.

The Awami League, which remained behind BNP in the first two phases, regained grounds in the third phase.

Allegedly, the third phase has also seen the highest number of violence and vote rigging reports.

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