Bangladesh deploys Armed forces ahead of general election

“Members of the Armed forces will be stationed at nodal points and other places in every district, sub-district, and metropolitan area,” a statement said.

January 03, 2024 03:56 pm | Updated 05:05 pm IST - Dhaka

Members of Bangladesh Army arrive at a temporary camp, after the Army was deployed across the country, in order to help civil administration during general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 3, 2024.

Members of Bangladesh Army arrive at a temporary camp, after the Army was deployed across the country, in order to help civil administration during general election in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 3, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Authorities in Bangladesh on January 3 deployed Armed forces to assist the administration in holding the January 7 national election in a free, fair, and peaceful manner as tensions spiked in the country ahead of the polls being boycotted by the main Opposition BNP.

“Members of the Armed forces will be stationed at nodal points and other places in every district, sub-district, and metropolitan area,” said a statement of the Inter-Service Public Relations, the media wing of the military.

The Army was deployed in several districts on January 2, but they began work in Dhaka at 8 a.m. on Wednesday at the Zia Colony and Sainik Club neighbourhoods in the Dhaka Cantonment.

They will assist the Election Commission and the local administration to ensure peace and discipline from January 3 to 10. Apart from the armed forces, members of the Coast Guard, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) will also be on election duty.

The Bangladesh Navy will operate in 19 districts, including Bhola and Barguna, while the Border Guard Bangladesh will take on the sole responsibility in 45 bordering upazilas. “The BGB and Army will work in 47 bordering upazilas and coordinate with the Coast Guard in four coastal upazilas,” the ISPR said.

The Bangladesh Air Force will provide helicopter support to the polling centres in the Hill Tracts. They have already prepared enough of them to meet the needs of the election.

The Armed Forces Division has formed a combined cell, including law enforcers and representatives from different Ministries, which will be active until January 10.

The January 7 polls are being boycotted by the main Opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former Prime Minister Khalida Zia, as its demand for an interim non-party neutral government to organise the voting was rejected by the government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Ms. Hasina is also the President of the ruling Awami League.

The BNP boycotted the 2014 election but took part in the 2018 polls, which party leaders later said was a mistake, alleging that the voting was marred with widespread rigging and intimidation.

Meanwhile, the BNP and its allies were criticised by ruling Awami League's General Secretary Obaidul Quader on Tuesday, who said that the January 7 polls will be participatory, the Dhaka Tribune newspaper reported.

Calling the BNP's leaflet distribution mysterious, Mr. Quader, also the Road Transport and Bridges Minister, said that the activists of the main Opposition party might carry out an attack anytime.

"But they will not be able to thwart the election no matter how hard they try," he was quoted as saying in the report. On Monday, Prime Minister Hasina said the BNP is boycotting Sunday's general election because they found no scope to rig the polls.

Claiming that the BNP had tried to foil the 2014 Parliamentary election through violence but failed, Ms. Hasina said, "Now they are out to thwart the 12th Parliamentary election slated for January 7 for which they are once again burning people to death through arson violence and subversive acts."

The BNP has called for civil disobedience against the Hasina-led dispensation, urging people not to pay taxes and utility bills to press its demand for a non-party interim government for election oversight by amending the country's Constitution.

It is also carrying out an anti-election street campaign, calling for intermittent strikes and transport blockades, saying no election under the incumbent government led by Ms. Hasina would be fair or neutral.

According to a media tally, 11 people died, 386 vehicles were torched, and four trains were derailed from tracks in the past two months in political violence.

The U.S. and other major Western countries called for dialogue between the ruling Awami League and particularly with the BNP to ensure an inclusive and credible election, which, however, saw no headway due to reluctance from both sides.

With the BNP boycotting the election and no other credible Opposition party against it, Ms. Hasina's Awami League is likely to gain the upper hand and will likely form the government for the fourth consecutive term.

Inspector General of Police Chowdhury Abdullah Al Mamun is visiting the divisional headquarters of the police and holding meetings with local police high-ups. He has already visited Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Khulna divisions and will visit Mymensingh, Chattogram, and Barishal within a day or two.

Following a meeting with local police in Jessore, the police chief affirmed that law enforcement will be on standby to maintain a conducive atmosphere for smooth voting and is ready to handle any situation for fair and festive elections.

During the electoral campaign from December 18 to December 30, a total of 213 cases related to pre-poll violence were filed, leading to the arrest of 235 individuals across the country, as per police statistics.

According to law enforcers, at least 100 pre-poll violence incidents have taken place in the last 13 days.

Besides, the law-and-order coordination cell of the public security division under the Home Ministry has received around 501 election-related complaints in 14 days. Among the complaints, approximately 30 were serious incidents such as attacks on polling booths, tearing posters, or clashes.

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