On Wednesday (3 January), Bangladesh's authorities enlisted the help of the Armed forces to ensure the national election on 7 January is conducted peacefully, fairly, and freely. This move comes as tensions rise in the country ahead of the polls, which are being boycotted by the primary opposition party, BNP.
According to The Hindu, the Inter-Service Public Relations, the military's media branch, announced that Armed forces members will be positioned at key locations and various other sites across all districts, sub-districts, and metropolitan areas.
On 2 January, the Army was dispatched to multiple districts, however, their operations in Dhaka started at 8 am on Wednesday. The areas they began work in were the Zia Colony and Sainik Club localities within the Dhaka Cantonment.
From 3 to 10 January, the Election Commission and local administration will receive assistance in maintaining peace and order. This support will not only come from the armed forces, but also from members of the Coast Guard, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), who will all be on election duty.
Hasina declares the election manifesto of Awami League, promising to construct a 'Smart Bangladesh'.
The Bangladesh Navy is set to operate in 19 districts, Bhola and Barguna included, whereas the Border Guard Bangladesh is assigned with exclusive duties in 45 bordering upazilas. The ISPR stated that the BGB and Army would collaborate in 47 bordering upazilas and coordinate with the Coast Guard in four coastal upazilas.
The Bangladesh Air Force is set to supply helicopter assistance to the polling stations in the Hill Tracts. They have adequately readied a sufficient number of helicopters to cater to the requirements of the election.
The Armed Forces Division has established a unified unit consisting of law enforcement officials and delegates from various Ministries. This unit will remain operational until 10 January.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by ex-Prime Minister Khalida Zia, is boycotting the polls. This is due to their request for a neutral, interim, non-party government to oversee the voting being denied by the current government, which is led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Hasina also serves as the President of the incumbent Awami League.
The BNP abstained from participating in the 2014 election, however, they did participate in the 2018 elections. Subsequently, party leaders expressed regret over their decision to participate, citing allegations of extensive manipulation and coercion during the voting process.
Obaidul Quader, the General Secretary of the ruling Awami League, criticised the BNP and its allies on Tuesday, asserting that the upcoming 7 January elections will be participatory, as reported by the Dhaka Tribune newspaper.
Referring to the distribution of leaflets by the BNP as enigmatic, Quader, who also serves as the Minister for Road Transport and Bridges, expressed concerns that the primary opposition party's activists could potentially launch an attack at any moment.
"No matter how strenuous their efforts, they won't succeed in sabotaging the election," he reportedly stated. Prime Minister Hasina, on Monday, expressed that the BNP is abstaining from the upcoming Sunday's general election as they couldn't find opportunities to manipulate the results.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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