Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda yesterday directed the law enforcement agencies to prepare a security plan and a strategy for the coming election keeping in mind the violence centring the 2014 national election.
“From now on, we have to keep watch with caution so that mayhem like that of 2014 cannot be caused. We cannot fully ignore the worries,” he said at a meeting on election security strategy at the Nirbachan Bhaban.
Top representatives of the police, Rapid Action Battalion, Border Guard Bangladesh, Ansar & VDP, intelligences agencies, Armed Forces Division as well as 66 returning officers and the superintendents of police (SPs) of all districts joined the meeting.
The CEC asked the intelligence agencies to find out whether there was any conspiracy from a third party behind the electoral violence on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Murders and attacks cannot be considered as stray incidents at a time when there is spontaneous enthusiasm among the people for the election. Those influential people who do not want a normal political situation might be active,” he said.
Huda asked the election authorities, intelligence and law enforcement agencies and political parties to be careful about the matter.
Referring to the recent violence, the CEC said, “Two lives have been lost following the allocation of polls symbols. There were incidents of vandalism and obstruction... Is there any political reason for those incidents? Or, a conspiracy is being hatched to create a dangerous situation like that of 2014?”
He said the intelligences agencies should keep a careful watch on this issue.
Boycotted by the BNP-led alliance and many other opposition political parties, the 2014 parliamentary election was the bloodiest one in Bangladesh which saw at least 18 people being killed on the voting day (January 5).
Yesterday, the CEC instructed the law enforcers to exercise highest professionalism and neutrality and decide work strategies for all the agencies after coordinating with the local administrations.
He asked the law enforcement agencies and the field level administrations to recover illegal arms ahead of the December 30 election and get the BGB involved in drives against illegal arms as it has experience in this regard.
Huda also asked them to step up surveillance to ensure security of minority communities and female voters.
About electronic voting machines, the CEC said the commission has a target to use EVMs in all elections. “If the EVMs can be used properly, 80 percent of polls irregularities will be removed.”
At the closed-door session of the meeting, Election Commissioner Kabita Khanam expressed resentment at the returning officer of Dhaka over the arrest of a candidate, meeting sources said.
“What have you done all the year round?” she was quoted by a meeting source as saying.
The RO, however, didn't give any reply.
At least 10 SPs proposed increasing restriction on the media and not allowing media personnel to capture footage inside polling centres or to carry mobile phones.
They argued that journalists make various comments during live telecast of polling which provokes a reaction from the people, said the sources.
The police officials suggested carefully examining the professional backgrounds of journalists and political links of election observers before issuing cards to them.
In reply, Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said there was a policy for journalists and they would follow it while discharging their duties.
Three cops suggested shutting down mobile banking service three days before the voting day, said the sources.
Two police officials from Chittagong division cautioned about Rohingya refugees, saying that they might be used in the election.
They also issued a note of caution to all about banned militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team and other militant groups.
Another police official proposed making only 2G mobile network available on the polling day.
Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder said the biggest challenge for the commission was to keep the officials of the public administration and law enforcement agencies under its control.
He said it would be possible to create a level playing field for all candidates if the government acted neutrally with everyone.
The field level officials would have to play their role in this regard, Mahbub added.
DEPLOYMENT OF ARMY DEC 24
Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed yesterday said armed forces would be deployed in the country from December 24 as a “striking force”.
“The armed forces will carry out their duties till January 2,” he told The Daily Star last night.
Helal said the commission has a plan to deploy BGB from December 22 to January 2.
However, some EC officials had opined about deploying BGB on December 15 while some others suggested December 20.
The EC secretary said the decision on the deployment of BGB would be taken tomorrow.