The Election Commission (EC) has finally acted on the demand for ensuring a conducive environment for voters during the upcoming city corporation elections and decided to deploy army during polls. Putting an end to all speculations on the matter, the poll panel yesterday decided in principle to use the army as a striking and reserve force during the upcoming three-city polls. The army will be deployed for four days starting April 26, the EC said.
“The law enforcers at a meeting on last Sunday informed the commission that the election environment is better and there is no problem with the law and order situation. Yet, the commission has decided to deploy army from April 26 to April 29 to hold a fair and credible election,” Election Commissioner Md Shah Nawaz said while speaking to reporters at his office at the Election Commission Secretariat in the capital.
“The commission has decided in principle to deploy the army as a striking and reserve force, so that there is no fear among the people and they can cast votes without freely,” he added.
The army will respond to the call of the returning officer, wherever needed, and will not be allowed to enter polling centres. “The army has never been allowed to enter any polling centre in any election. They will work as the striking and reserve force,” the commissioner said.
“We will hold a meeting in this regard. Number is not a matter. We will be able to provide army as per necessity,” the commissioner said in response to a query on the number of army personnel to be deployed. “We have already held two meetings with them. If there is no necessity, we will not hold any further meeting,” he added.
According to EC and the Armed Forces Division sources, three battalions of army are ready to be deployed for election duty as striking force in three city corporations in Dhaka and Chittagong.
Of the three battalions, two battalions of troops will be deployed in Dhaka south and north while the other battalion will be deployed in Chittagong.
The election commissioner further said that magistrates will also be present, along with the army, to take adequate action whenever needed.
In this regard, UNB adds: Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad yesterday hinted that despite deployment, magistracy power will not be provided to the army during the three city corporation polls.
“Providing the magistracy power is a matter of law. The law will be followed here. Everything will have to come as per law. Nothing should be done defying the law. But sufficient magistrates will be deployed from two days before the balloting,” he said while briefing reporters at EC media centre in the evening.
Meanwhile, reacting to allegations by the BNP over the absence of a level-playing field, Election Commissioner Md Shah Nawaz said, “We have taken whatever steps are necessary for creating a level-playing field. Voters will be able to cast votes without fear.”
Various quarters including candidates from BNP, Susasoner Jonno Nagorik (SUJAN) and Jatiya Party had repeatedly voiced their demand for deployment of the army during elections. On March 25, Shato Nagorik Committee, a group of pro-BNP intellectuals led by Prof Dr Emajuddin Ahmad, had called on the CEC and placed a set of demands including deployment of the army. The call for army deployment resurfaced in separate views exchange meetings with the candidates of all the city coorporations on April 11, 12 and 13, respectively.