A total of 1016 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) were deployed in different parts of the country, including the capital, 12 days ahead of the national election slated for December 30. BGB Pilkhana headquarters Public Relations Officer (PRO) Mohsin Reza confirmed the matter.
The decision was taken on the day itself (December 18) with a directive to be put into effect immediately, after a spate of attacks upon opposition activists during electioneering. Talking to reporters, Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam said the paramilitary force has been deployed ahead of time to remove the fear afflicting all political parties. The border guards were being deployed in lieu of the army. “Different media reported that the law and order situation has deteriorated in the country and many political parties are demanding army deployment,” he said. “But the army deployment is a time-consuming issue, so the BGB has been deployed."
Earlier it was thought the BGB deployment would coincide with that of the army, who are scheduled to start work as a ‘striking force’, without magistracy powers, from December 24. That is later than the Election Commission had originally planned (December 15), after the EC received an unexpectedly large bill for the 18-day deployment. The new schedule settles for half that long.
Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda once again claimed that there is a “level-playing field” for the forthcoming 11th parliamentary elections billed for December 30, directly contradicting one of the other commissioners who a day earlier had written off the term as “meaningless” in the current atmosphere. “A congenial election atmosphere prevails in the country. Although a few stray incidents took place, now everything has been fixed. All are conducting electioneering as there’s a level-playing field. A record number of candidates are contesting the election this time,” Huda said. “He (EC Mahbub) said that a level playing field is non-existent, which is absolutely not true.”
Despite his withering diagnosis, Mahbub Kamal did however add that he remained hopeful regarding the election: “There is still time to carry out the promise of a free, fair and neutral election. Executive magistrates, judicial magistrates and the judges on the electoral inquiry committee have to play a more effective role. I believe if the army is on the field the situation will change positively.”
Before the BGB could quite hit the ground running, BNP candidate for Dhaka-9 constituency Afroza Abbas and her supporters came under attack allegedly by Awami League men while conducting electioneering in the city’s Khilgaon area, leaving an unspecified number of people injured. At a press conference at her Shahjahanpur residence in the evening, Afroza Abbas alleged that leaders and activists of Awami League and its front organisations swooped on them while they were carrying out campaign at Nawabi intersection in front of Shantipur School around 11am.
She also claimed that the attack left over 80 of her supporters injured while police arrested two others -- Jalal Uddin Zaman, organising secretary of Khilgaon thana unit BNP, and Abul Hasnat Anu, president of Khilgaon thana unit Jubo Dal -–from the spot. Afroza and Mirza Abbas, the BNP’s power couple, have come under attack almost on a daily basis in a hitherto unprecedented spell of 1-sided campaign violence, with attacks on motorcades the favoured mode of aggression. On December 12, the campaign convoy of Afroza Abbas reportedly came under attack twice on the same day, at Kamalapur and Madartek in the capital. The BNP claims the government is trying to force it to withdraw from the election or provoke a violent flare up.
The High Court asked the Election Commission to resolve an appeal challenging legality of 22 Jamaat-e-Islami leaders contesting the polls with BNP’s electoral symbol. Justice Md Ashfakul Islam and Justice Mohammad Ali’s bench gave the EC three days to resolve the matter (by December 21). The court also disposed of the writ petition filed with it regarding the same matter. Four people, including Bangladesh Tarikat Federation Secretary General Syed Rezaul Haque Chandpuri, filed an appeal with the EC and moved the HC on the same day.
The High Court cancelled Jamaat’s registration with the EC on August 1, 2013 following a writ petition filed by 25 people, including Chandpuri. The EC finally issued a gazette notification on October 29 this year cancelling the party’s registration. Jamaat had openly opposed Bangladesh’s independence and sided with Pakistani occupation forces to thwart the struggle for freedom.