'Returning officers briefed at PMO'
Deputy commissioners, who have been made returning officers for the upcoming polls, were called in for a meeting at the PMO soon after they were briefed at the Election Commission on November 13, the BNP has alleged.
In a letter to the chief election commissioner (CEC) yesterday, the party also alleged that the ROs were briefed on "playing a role in favour of the ruling party in the upcoming election" at the Prime Minister's Office.
Such a meeting with the ROs at the PMO without the permission of the Election Commission (EC) is a "corrupt practice" as per a provision of the Representation of the People's Order (RPO) and a punishable offence, the letter said.
EC Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said they were not aware of the ROs having been briefed at the PMO. "We will investigate it. But since such an allegation has come up, the commission will send a directive to the cabinet division and other ministries concerned so that no one calls in anyone for a meeting," he said.
Around noon yesterday, a team of the BNP, led by its Joint Secretary General Syed Moazzem Hossain Alal, submitted a number of letters, signed by the party's Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, to the EC secretary.
After delivering the letters, Alal told the reporters, "The commission is failing to play its due role for creating a level-playing field."
According to one of the letters, as the ROs were heading back to their district headquarters after the EC had briefed them, they were phoned to come back urgently and be at the PMO.
"Getting the order, they [the ROs] rushed to the Prime Minister's Office. It was learnt that many Returning Officers had almost reached their workplaces, but they had to return to the PMO," read the letter.
"From reliable sources, it was also learnt that the Returning Officers were briefed on several issues for the purpose of them playing a role in favour of the ruling party in the upcoming 11th national election," it said.
The party questioned as to how the PMO could ask the ROs to come in for a meeting when the ROs were fully under the EC's control after the announcement of the election schedule on November 8.
It urged the EC to look into that day's telephone call records and CCTV footage of the PMO.
In another letter, the BNP placed a nine-point demand to the CEC. It demanded massive reshuffle in the administration for a free, fair and neutral election.
The party said seniority and merit must be respected in posting and transferring secretaries of the EC, pubic administration, home and other ministries concerned, and field-level police officials.
The party said all divisional commissioners, deputy inspectors general (range DIGs), and metropolitan police commissioners must be withdrawn and fresh postings be made as per “batch-wise seniority”.
In the letter, the BNP demanded withdrawal of deputy commissioners, police superintendents, and deputy police commissioners of metropolitan areas who had been on duty in one or several stations for more than two years.
All upazila nirbahi officers and officers-in-charge must be transferred to other districts, it said, adding that all contractual appointments have to be cancelled.
Responding to a query over the demands, the EC secretary said, "The EC will not accept such wholesale allegations. We will look into allegations if they are specific."
The BNP alleged that its potential nominees and their supporters were threatened to keep the BNP away from the polls, it said in a letter.
When the sale of party nomination forms was going on, a drone was intentionally flown near the BNP office at Nayapaltan to terrorise party activists, it said.
In another letter, the BNP sought punitive action against DMP Commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia and other police officials concerned for “instigating” a clash in front of its Nayapaltan office on November 14.
It also asked the same for the EC secretary and EC officials concerned. It said when the party nomination seekers had gathered at the office, confusion was intentionally created by an EC directive, EC secretary's comments as well as DMP commissioner's statement, regarding maintaining electoral code of conduct.
The EC, through its directive, disrupted the programme and instigated filing of false cases against innocent leaders and activists, the letter said.
When his attention was drawn to the matter, EC Secretary Helal Uddin said the secretary is the spokesperson of the commission and that he has no separate identity. "It is the commission that makes all the decision. The secretary implements those decisions and performs secretarial duties," he said.
In another letter, the BNP alleged that the government in an order on November 8 had appointed 45 secretaries and top officials of current and the immediate past government as mentors to influence the election and the ROs.
It demanded cancellation of the order.
The EC secretary said the appointment of mentors was a traditional system and routine. The commission was not aware of the order but it learnt that the order was suspended on November 13.
In a circular yesterday, the Election Commission directed the local administration not to permit any waaz mahfil (religious gathering) until the polls ended.
“The EC has asked for nominating an executive magistrate in each district to monitor the issue,” a deputy secretary of the EC told The Daily Star last night.
The decision was made following a meeting with upazila nirbahi officials last week.
During the meeting, the UNOs said a lot of political remarks are made in such gatherings and therefore, it would be better not to allow such programmes during the polls time, the EC official said.