Army personnel start election duties today to help ensure a peaceful atmosphere and maintain law and order across the country for the December 30 polls.
The troops, who will perform the duties till January 2 alongside law enforcers, will "extend all-out support" to the Election Commission for the holding of a free and fair election.
Members of the army will be deployed in 389 upazilas and navy personnel in 18 coastal upazilas, said an Inter Services Public Relations statement yesterday.
Border Guard Bangladesh personnel, who have been deployed since December 18, will carry out duties in 87 bordering upazilas, it mentioned.
Our correspondents from Natore, Pabna, Pirojpur and Barishal report that army men already started setting up camps in the four districts.
Members of the armed forces will be stationed at different “nodal points” and convenient places in every district, upazila and metropolitan area, according to a home ministry circular issued on December 19.
Besides, members of the Rapid Action Battalion and the Armed Police Battalion will be deployed as mobile and striking forces from December 26 to January 2.
"The government is committed to holding the upcoming polls in a free, peaceful and impartial manner. The holding of a fair and peaceful election largely depends on the proper role of law enforcement agencies," said the circular on security arrangement.
The deployment of the armed forces comes around two weeks after the formal start of electioneering marked by violence and attacks on several candidates in different constituencies.
Welcoming the deployment, Jatiya Oikyafront convener Dr Kamal Hossain yesterday expressed hope that the deployment would create a congenial electoral environment.
In a statement, he said, “We hope that this deployment will create a congenial working environment which did not exist before.
“However, we hope that the armed forces will not stand against the interest of the people or seek to implement the agenda of an individual or a group of people.”
Oikyafront, a recently formed opposition alliance, further said the armed forces serve the people and the country, and their image “cannot be tarnished for a handful of individuals”.
“The armed forces must create a level playing field for all parties and play a positive role,” it mentioned.
The members of the armed forces, deployed to assist the civil administration, will act in line with the sections 127 to 132 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.
According to the sections, they will go into action on the request of executive magistrates.
A magistrate can ask a military officer to disperse an unlawful assembly. The officer is the sole judge of the action necessary.
If no magistrate is available in an emergency situation where public security is endangered by an unlawful assembly, any commissioned officer may himself disperse it by force and may arrest anyone involved in it, according to the sections.
The home ministry circular said the members of the armed forces will carry out patrols and drives in coordination with the returning officers (ROs).
"The armed forces will perform duties to help maintain law and order inside the polling centre or vote counting room upon request of the returning officer or the presiding officer concerned," it said.
They will also assist other law enforcement agencies in maintaining law and order if ROs seek their assistance.
If required, they will also ensure security on important roads and highways.
An adequate number of army personnel will be deployed “at every level” as a reserve force.
The navy will discharge duties in the coastal areas and the air force will facilitate operations involving helicopters and freighters as per the requirement of the home ministry and EC secretariat.
DUTIES AT EVM CENTRES
Members of the armed forces will not carry any arms or ammunitions while giving technical support to election officials at the centres where electronic voting machines (EVMs) will be used.
They will perform duties in uniforms, said the home ministry circular.
EVMs will be used in six constituencies -- Dhaka-6 and 13, Chattogram-9, Rangpur-3, Khulna-2 and Satkhira-2.
Rab will work to maintain law and order in every constituency, and also help other law enforcement agencies if the ROs seek its assistance.
If needed, the elite force can use helicopters.
Like the armed forces, it will perform duties to maintain law and order inside the polling centres or vote counting room as desired by ROs or presiding officers.
Police's main duty will be to maintain law and order inside the polling centres.
They will do the task of carrying all election-related materials and documents to and from the polling centres.
The force will ensure security of election officials and staffers, the circular said.
"They will work to create an environment of trust for the voters."
They will also ensure security in important areas and polling stations, and also remain alert to prevent any unlawful activities.
All mobile teams of the law enforcement agencies will carry out patrols so that voters can come to the polling centres without any trouble.