POST TIME: 2 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 1 March, 2018 11:40:16 PM
EC likely to reply to BNP charge against PM on Sunday
Staff Reporter

EC likely to reply to BNP charge against PM on Sunday

The Election Commission (EC) will reply to allegations of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) against the Prime Minister’s seeking of votes for the next general election by using public facilities, thus marring the level playing field.

“Under the existing electoral law, the commission has nothing to do here as no schedule has been announced for the next parliamentary polls. But we'll look into what the law says about creating a level playing field for all political parties. After that, we'll answer the BNP’s allegations,” EC secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said.

The secretary said this to journalists in reply to a query after holding a law enforcers’ meeting ahead of two parliamentary by-elections in Gaibandha-1 and Brahmanbaria-1, scheduled to be held on March 13.

The BNP sent a letter to the EC, requesting them to stop the election campaign of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as, in its view, a level playing field for all political parties was essential to ensure fair, participatory and inclusive elections. “We received a letter last evening. We have discussed it. We’ll settle the matter as per the law. The law says the EC will oversee election-related matters only after the election schedule is announced,” said Helal Uddin.

“We have just got the letter. We’ll examine the matter in a detailed discussion. The BNP, in the letter, has raised the issue of a level playing field. We’ll be able to say more about it on Sunday or Monday,” he added.

Awami League president and Prime minister Sheikh Hasina started her party’s election campaign from Sylhet on January 30 for the parliamentary polls by seeking votes for the Awami League.

Later, on February 8, she campaigned in Barisal and Rajshahi on February 22.

About the law enforcers’ meeting, Helal Uddin Ahmed said: “We have discussed with heads of forces and intelligence agencies maintenance of law and order during the two parliamentary by-elections on March 13 and local government polls on March 29, so that voters can cast their votes without fear.”

“All have assured the EC that the elections would be held in a free, fair and peaceful environment. All are committed to this. We have emphasised law and order in the local government polls to ensure there is no crisis of trust,” he added. He said the present EC has held elections at different levels in a free and fair way in the past and will continue to do so in future.

In reply to another query, Helal Uddin said the meeting did not discuss anything concerning the next polls but deliberated only on the two parliamentary by-elections, so that they did not create any negative impression before the next parliamentary polls.

The inspector general of police, Mohammad Javed Patwary, told journalists after the meeting: “It is the duty of the EC to hold polls. The duty of the police is to ensure people’s safety and maintain law and order during polls. We’ll follow the EC’s directives. If anybody violates the law, action will be taken as per the law. Such action has been taken in the past and it’ll be taken in future in accordance with the law.”

Asked about the challenges faced by law enforcers, Helal Uddin said: “The police face challenges every day. Each day is a challenge. Whatever the challenge, we will face it legally, professionally and with dedication.”

To another query regarding allegations that the police played the role of silent spectators during elections conducted by the previous Rakibuddin-led Commission, the EC secretary said: “It would be better if the EC were to comment on it.”

Sources said the EC and law enforcers emphasised the law and order situation during both the upcoming by-elections, especially the one in Gaibandha-1.

The two parliamentary seats fell vacant following the deaths of fisheries and livestock minister and Brahmanbaria-1 MP, Sayedul Hoque, who died on December 16, and Gaibandha-1 MP Golam Mostafa, who died on December 19.