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No arrest or harassment till Dhaka city election, CEC assures BNP

  • Published at 11:54 pm January 6th, 2020
CEC KM Nurul Huda
File photo: CEC KM Nurul Huda speaks to reporters after casting his ballot at a polling centre in Uttara area on February 28, 2019 Mehedi Hasan Opu/Dhaka Tribune

AL to visit EC Tuesday to place demands

Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda on Monday assured main opposition BNP that no activists or party leaders will be arrested till January 30, when election is scheduled for Dhaka's both city corporations.

The CEC came up with the assurance after a delegation from the party, led by its Standing Committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury reiterated the demand at a meeting on Monday with Election Commission officials, led by the CEC at Election Commission Secretariat in Dhaka’s Agargaon.

BNP's DNCC candidate Tabith Awal and DSCC candidate Ishraque Ahmed also accompanied the delegation.

Assurances have been made to BNP that no intimidation, arrests, or raids will take place at the residences of opposition leaders and activists ahead of Dhaka city polls, Nurul Huda told reporters after the meeting.

Stopping intimidation was one of the main demands of BNP to the Election Commission.

“We told the BNP delegates we will hold a meeting with police and tell them strictly to not harass any candidates or supporters unnecessarily,” said Huda.

But it does not mean that no actions would be taken due to election if anyone commits criminal offences, he added.

KM Nurul Huda said, all preparations have been made to conduct voting using EVMs and there is no chance to come back from that decision.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury talked about the assurance made by the CEC.

Also, if there is no visible conflict, no arrest will be made till January 30, he said quoting the CEC.

On the other hand, BNP also urged the Election Commission not to use EVMs in the upcoming elections of Dhaka city polls.

Khosru said election is the carrier of democracy and if election is not held properly, “all activities remain unfulfilled.”

“There is no atmosphere of election in the country. In 2014, the election was held without participation of contestants and voters while the 2018 election was conducted by staffing ballots at midnight,” he said.

“For the third time, they [Awami League] want to rig votes using EVMs,” he alleged.

AL lash out at EC over campaign controversy

Top Awami League leader Tofail Ahmed lashed out at the Election Commission as it served Atiqul Islam, the ruling party’s candidate for the office of Dhaka North mayor, with a notice to explain allegations of a breach of the electoral code of conduct.

"If the BNP leaders could campaign for their party-backed candidates, then why could not Awami League leaders do the same in the upcoming Dhaka city polls," he demanded of the Election Commission.

Ruling party political veteran Tofail Ahmed made the observation on Monday, while participating in a campaign event at Atiqul Islam’s election office.

Tofail said: "We will go to EC [Election Commission] tomorrow [today] to raise the matter.” 

Tofail, also the Awami League’s Chief Co-coordinator for DNCC polls,  added: "If Barrister Moudud Ahmed and other top BNP leaders could participate on the campaign trail of their party’s mayoral candidates, why then Awami League leaders, also MPs, could not carry out campaigns? It cannot be this way.”

"Barrister Moudud is not an MP; he is eligible to attend the electoral meetings and has the rights to deliver speeches asking for votes. Whereas, we are MPs; we were not able to attend the same types of meeting. They talk about level playing field! What kind of level playing field is it?” Tofail Ahmed stressed.

The meeting also involved discussions about campaign strategies and work plans for the DNCC election. Atiqul Islam hosted the event.   

On Sunday, Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam ordered the returning officer to investigate the allegation over the Awami League candidate’s camp. In the notice, the returning officer asked the candidate why the inauguration of the camp should not be deemed a breach of the election’s code of conduct.

No candidate is allowed to take part in the election campaign until he/she has received the election symbol. Ministers, including MPs, are not allowed to campaign for any candidate in the local government elections.

According to the electoral code of conduct, persons who enjoy government facilities or hold a government job are not able to participate in the election campaign.

Hasina instructs AL leaders to go to EC

According to Awami League insiders, the party President, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has instructed her colleagues in the party to raise their voices against the Election Commission to encourage it to revise the current provisions of the Representation of the People Order (RPO), which make MPs, ministers and government employees unable to take part in the election campaign.

On Saturday evening Dr Abdur Razzak, the Agriculture Minister and a Presidium member, raised the matter in the joint meeting of the Awami League Central Working Committee and Advisory Committee in Ganabhaban, presided over by Sheikh Hasina. 

A top leader of the AL central committee, seeking anonymity, told Dhaka Tribune on Monday that, when Dr Abdur Razzak brought up the issue in the meeting, party President Sheikh Hasina asked, why are you not discussing