The chief election commissioner yesterday said the role of police is most important in holding a free, fair, and acceptable election and the law enforcers must remain alert so that no questions arise over the December 30 polls.
“In the past, you discharged duties risking your lives. There is an expectation for an exciting election. Let our [people responsible for holding the polls] roles not make it questionable,” CEC KM Nurul Huda told police high-ups at a special meeting at the Nirbachan Bhaban.
Hinting at media reports that said police were gathering personal information of probable polling officials, including their political leanings, the CEC said, “We did not instruct you to do this. Don't do this. This is embarrassing. We did not want this.
“If you need any important information, then collect it in your own way secretly,” the CEC said, asking police not to go to the homes of officials.
Huda asked police to make a strategic plan on how and where members of different forces would be on duty.
After December 15, small teams of the armed forces will visit district towns to recce where they will stay and how they will travel to remote areas, said the CEC.
At the meeting attended by the inspector general of police, metropolitan commissioners, deputy inspectors general, and superintendents of police of districts, Huda asked police to ensure coordination with the armed forces.
The CEC issued 12 directives to the law enforcers, including providing other forces accurate information about political and social situation in the districts.
Huda said the EC alone cannot hold a fair election. “The safety of the people, polling agents, polling centres, and all other kinds of safety depend on you. You've lots of responsibilities."
He asked them not to arrest anyone without warrant or file any case to harass anyone.
At a closed-door session of the meeting, Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukder in a statement said they cannot allow the election to be made questionable by anyone. “If we became questionable, the responsibility will lie with the law enforcers,” a meeting source quoted Mahbub as saying.
The DMP commissioner directed police not to file “ghost cases” but it continued, Mahbub was quoted as saying.
“How will police become neutral overnight when they had been filing ghost cases before the polls schedule was announced?” he asked.
As the meeting was going on yesterday, a delegation of the BNP submitted to the CEC's office a list of 70 top police officials it deemed “partisan” and demanded they be withdrawn.
Huda said the EC has been receiving complaints about police officials. “We have faith in you. That doesn't mean you won't be monitored. But don't be scared of that," said the CEC.
“No innocent person will be punished. If any complaint is lodged against any member of law enforcement agencies, the commission will investigate it first,” he added.
At the close-door session, several SPs drew the ECs attention to political parties' demand for “wholesale transfers” of police officials.
The EC assured them that no such measure would be taken without investigation, meeting sources said.
They quoted an SP as saying, “The way the BNP and the Oikyafront are getting organised, they would be more powerful and we need to be watchful.”
None of the election commissioners commented on the SPs observation.
Several other SPs said they had intelligence information that in some districts, Oikyafront candidates and their supporters would create chaos at targeted centres. In response, the EC asked them to be alert.
“A list of those probable troublemakers might be made,” said an SP wishing anonymity.
The CEC directed police to keep an eye on “listed goons” irrespective of their political affiliation and provide necessary assistance to magistrates in running mobile courts.
He also asked police to ensure safety of minority communities so that they could cast their votes safely.
EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed at the meeting asked top police officials to expedite drive against illegal arms. He proposed banning brandishing of legal arms.
“You should keep in mind that all candidates get equal opportunities during the campaign and you should ensure a level playing field for them,” he said.
BNP'S CASE LIST
The CEC said the BNP did not provide a list of the cases filed against their activists after the election schedule was announced.
“That's why we haven't been able to take steps regarding those,” he said.
The list the BNP gave mostly contained cases filed before the polls schedule announcement, some of which are from 2012, 2013, and 2014, the CEC said.
IGP MEETS SPS
After the meeting with the EC, IGP Mohammad Javed Patwary held a meeting with top police officials and SPs at the Police Headquarters.
“We mainly discussed logistic support, transportation issues, radio management, and force management in the upcoming election,” said Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general (operation) of the Police Headquarters.
He said an election is a big event for them and they hold such meetings to ensure it is held peacefully.
Asked about conducting special drives against illegal arms, Anwar said such drives are a continuous process and they will intensify it, if necessary.
Meeting sources said the SPs were instructed to ensure coordination among units. A six-member coordination committee was formed with the IGP as its chief and DIG Anwar as member-secretary.