DHAKA TRIBUNESaturday, January 4, 2014
EC fears poor
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respectively while BNP achieved 32% votes in the polls. Seeking anonymity, a deputy secre-tary of the EC told the Dhaka Tribune that this election season, the candi-dates did not provide voter slips to the voters in their respective zones which had been a usual scenario ahead of polls in the past years. The commission has expressed con-cern over the matter upon receiving the ﬁeld level reports, he said.Some ﬁeld level oﬃ cials said gener-ally the election candidates distribute the voter slips door to door in their re-spective areas that include the name of the voter, name of the polling centre and a voter number.But this time, the candidates showed no interest in doing so. As a result more time may be needed for searching the voter number during the polls, said the oﬃ cials.In tomorrow’s polls 389 candidates from 12 registered political parties will be contesting.As the main opposition BNP and some other parties are not taking part in the election, a total of 153 candidates have no competitors. Consequently out of 43,862,908 voters, 48,280,620 can-not exercise their franchises this time, shows the EC statistics.A total of 91,213 polling booths will be set up inside 18,209 polling centres across the country for holding polls in 147 constituencies.EC Secretary Muhammed Sadique said the commission would ensure maximum security for the voters.
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I am grateful to them. Power is not a big deal to me. I am ready to do any sort of sacriﬁce in this stage of my life to re-es-tablish people’s rights and their free-dom, not to return to power,” she said. “After my announcement of march for democracy programme, the scared government cordoned oﬀ my residence using law enforcers and detectives. I was barred from going out. The govern-ment has virtually put me under house arrest. My oﬃ ce and BNP central oﬃ ce are also cordoned oﬀ,” she said.Thousands of people converged to the capital to join the programme but they were barred from going there and it was proved that: “Our programme was peaceful and the government’s publicity was untrue.”Just after the day of the premier’s allegation that dialogue process was foiled due to the opposition party, the opposition chief counter-alleged that they repeatedly urged for dialogue to resolve the crisis but due to the ruling party’s stubbornness the dialogue pro-cess failed.About one of the ruling party lead-er’s instruction of vote rigging Khaleda said the ruling Awami League had al-ready instructed its leaders and activ-ists to rig vote.
Ruling allies ‘compromised’ to avoid massive violence
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Md Golam Rabbani who has been elect-ed uncontested came under attack re-cently.Awami League nominee Ragibul Ah-san Ripu ﬁled his nomination paper for Bogra 6 constituency, but later had to withdraw in line with the party’s deci-sion. His withdrawal paved the way for JaPa candidate Md Nurul Islam Omor.“The party leadership instructed me to withdraw my candidature because of the Jatiya Party candidate’s refusal to do so,” he said.AL Presidium member Matia Chow-dhury is more candid about the inter-nal arrangement for withdrawal of the candidature.“We played no hide and seek game. We reached a consensus with our allies on withdrawing candidates. At some places, we have withdrawn our candi-dates while the allies followed the suit in other places,” Matia told the Dhaka Tribune.Mujibul Haque Chunnu, a JaPa Pre-sidium member, told the Dhaka Tri- bune that the Awami League had asked its nominees to lift their candidature so that more Jatiya Party candidates could be elected unopposed. The JaPa did the same in many areas, he said.“People in areas without polls will get relief from violence as the BNPJa-maat has resorted to destruction and bloodshed in the pretext of movement against the election,” Mohammad Na-sim, an AL Presidium member and spokesperson of the 14-party alliance, told the Dhaka Tribune.Nasim has also been elected MP un-contested.Voting in BograOut of the seven seats in Bogra dis-trict, the Awami League candidates have ﬁelded only two candidates. They have been elected unopposed in Bogra 1 and Bogra 5 constituencies. The JaPa candidates have been elected unop-posed in three seats (Bogra 2, 3 and 6).Voting will take place in two seats. In Bogra 4, AKM Rezaul Karim Tanshen of the JSD and Md Nurul Amin Bachchu of JaPa are contesting the polls. The Bogra 7 election is an all-Jatiya Party show - ATM Aminul Islam (Man- ju) and Muhammad Altaf Ali (Ershad).In Joypurhat, AL candidates Sham-sul Alam Dudu (Joypurhat 1) and Abu Sayeed Al Mahmud Swapan (Joypurhat 2) have been elected unopposed as the JaPa and the Workers’ Party candidates withdrew their candidatures.The AL candidates have been elect-ed unopposed in ﬁve out of the six seats in Noakhali where the JaPa and the JSD candidates withdrew.Voting takes place only in Noakhali 6 constituency where the Awami League has nominated Ayesha Ferdous, whom its leaders consider as a week candi-date. Her contender is a JaPa candidate.The Awami League has nominated only one candidate for the three seats of Feni district, known as a stronghold of the BNP-led opposition. Nizam Ud-din Hazari has been elected unopposed from Feni 2.Shirin Akhter of the JSD has been elected uncontested from Feni 1 seat, which is currently held by opposition chief Khaleda Zia, as the Awami League withdrew its candidate. The AL left Feni 2 to JaPa nominee Anwarul Karim, popularly known as Rintu Anwar.Out of four constituencies in Laksh-mipur, the AL gave its ally Tariqat Fed-eration the Laxmipur 1 seat. JaPa’s Md Noman (Laxmipur 2) and AL’s AKM Shahjahan Kamal (Laxmipur 3) have been elected unopposed. Tariqat candidate MA Awal and Ja-Pa’s Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman Mahmud are vying for the Laxmipur 1 seat. Awal told the Dhaka Tribune that he had been facing security threats in his constituency. In Laxmipur 4, Awami League can-didate Md Abdullah faces JaPa’ Md Be-lal Hossain and two other independent candidates.Another BNP-dominated district Chandpur sees no election as all the ﬁve Awami League candidates have been elected unopposed.
Kolaroa turns ‘Jamaat den’ with police support
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an escape route on his own.The nearby police outpost is only two minutes’ walk.Police later said they could not leave for the spot to protect the outpost al-though at least 16 policemen were at the outpost that night.Joj had to give in, luring the attackers to three houses away by jumping over the adjacent rooftops and then climb-ing down a tree to surrender himself.The Jamaat-Shibir men paraded Joj on the main road of Sarashkati Bazar, hurling abuse at him all the way.“Mind your language. I am a man of honour,” Joj protested. But they did not stop.Joj was taken to a culvert on the main road, less than 500 metres from his house. His groans broke the silence of the night as he was slaughtered. All of Joj’s ﬁngers were cut oﬀ, apparently during his ﬁght with them.Joj’s niece Tania Sultana told Abdur Rahman about the place Joj was lying dead. Rahman and several relatives went out around 3am to bring the body.The police did not come until 10am next morning.The murder was not unexpected to anyone in the village. Many, in fact, said it was not even a matter to guess.Just an hour before the killers went to Joj’s house, former Awami League president of Kolaroa ward 6 Azizur Rahman had been chopped to death in his own house around midnight.“What are the police for if they do not protect a person in danger?” said an in-furiated Rita Sultana, Joj’s widow with two children. “Can you please make it sure that we get justice?” she told this correspondent on December 28.Joj’s 10-year-old son Abul Kalam Azad was the ﬁrst person to begin de-scribing how his father was slaugh-tered like “a cow or a goat.”Locals said at the morgue the su-perintendent of police told Sharashkati police outpost in-charge Liakot: “It is not Jamaat-Shibir, but you who killed Joj Miah.” Local Awami League leader Sarder Mujib echoed the SP.Liakot, however, came up with a dif-ferent version of the incident.“I knew Joj only by his name and never met him. He did not call me that night,” he said. But Sharashkati police outpost’s second-in-command Asad, who was present at the outpost on the night Joj was killed, admitted that Joj had called Liakot.Liakot’s relation with Joj is well known to the locals: Joj was fond of ﬁshing and Liakot would take a good share of his catch.Asad claimed that they had been be-sieged by a large number of Jamaat-Shi- bir activists at the outpost that night and that their high-ups had prioritised protecting the outpost ﬁrst. Asked if they had sought reinforcement on that night, Asad could not ﬁnd an answer.The only action taken against Liakot so far was closing him to the Satkhira police lines. He said he was currently performing election duty.This is how things always were with the Sharashkati police outpost throughout 2013. In August, a local Ja-maat leader was freed within two hours of arrest allegedly after Jamaat-Shibir men had held the police hostages.Liakot claimed that he had bailed the Jamaat leader as he had fallen ill.In an apparent publicity stunt, po-lice arrested a Jamaat activist and sus-pected murderer Mukul Hossain on December 27 in connection with Joj’s killing.The Dhaka Tribune investigation found evidence still left at the crime scene as of December 28 – even after two weeks of the murder – such as the nasal drop that fell from Joj’s pocket and the newspaper has a photograph of it. Joj had bought it for her daughter’s cold.The ﬁndings of the Dhaka Tribune investigation are substantiated by lo-cals’ suspicion of police’s having a link with inﬂuential Jamaat politicians. They accuse Kolaroa police station’s Oﬃ cer-in-Charge Shah Dara Khan of having relations with Jamaat men.They told this correspondent that the local Jamaat activists had often claimed in public that the OC and the SP were their men and so they could do anything.The OC is still posted at Kolaroa al-though a new SP took over on Decem- ber 15.Even after all this the law and order has not improved in Satkhira. The local journalists cannot yet visit most plac-es outside the district town and those who come from Dhaka to help their lo-cal colleagues have to work in disguise.Statistics of about a dozen murders that took place in the past two months show that half of those had taken place in areas under Kolaroa police station.Kolaroa can be considered a micro-cosm of police performance in main-taining law and order in Satkhira dis-trict where over three dozen people, including 16 ruling party activists, had been killed since war criminal Dela-war Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death on February 28 last year.OC Shah Dara claimed to have done everything in his capacity to ensure se-curity in the area.“Please evaluate if I am right or wrong. We are dealing with a situation resulting from a political crisis,” he said, adding that Jamaat’s violence had been widespread on the night Joj was killed and it had taken them a while to move a kilometre removing hundreds of trees felled on the roads.When told that the evidence was still there at the crime scene, the oﬃ cer only said he would look into the matter.The lax security arrangement has strengthened the Jamaat-Shibir men to an extent that they dare even wash the blood oﬀ their body and clothes openly at a local market following a murder.On November 26 just after killing Deyara Union’s Jubo League General Secretary Mahbudur Rahman Babu, 32, in Mirzapur area, they went to a sweet shop at Kolaroa’s Deyara Bazar and washed the blood oﬀ their clothes as if it was dirt.Hours later, they killed local Swech-chhasebak League General Secretary Rabiul Islam in Deyara village.These are not the only stories of a weak police performance in Satkhira. In 2012, the police sat idle as Jamaat men burnt houses of Hindus in Fatepur and Chakdah areas.The charge sheets submitted by the police in two cases ﬁled over the incident prompted the district judge court’s public prosecutor to plead “no conﬁdence” against the investigation. The masterminds were let go oﬀ in-tentionally in the charge sheet as men-tioned by the prosecutor at the court.Top Satkhira politicians said evi-dence was aplenty now to substantiate a warm “institutionally established” relationship between the police and Jamaat-Shibir men. They said only money could ensure such a sustained relationship for years.“Police oﬃ cers and others in the administration in Satkhira are paid the same amount of their salary by Jamaat every month,” said an anonymous se-nior politician, summing up a discus-sion with a magistrate.When contacted, the new Satkhira SP, Chowdhury Manzurul Kabir, angri-ly refused to make any comment.
Tension, fear mark build up to the polls
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have been elected uncontested.Except for these ﬁve districts, the government has announced public hol-idays in the remaining 59.A total of 389 candidates are con-testing in the 147 constituencies where 43,93,8931 voters will get the chance to exercise their voting rights. The num- ber of polling centres in these constit-uencies are 18,209 and polling booths 91,213.Only more than half of a total of 9.2 million voters in the country will not be able to exercise their voting rights in tomorrow’s elections because of the unopposed elections.Twelve out of the 40 parties regis-tered with the Election Commission are contesting in tomorrow’s polls.Even many voters in those constit-uencies, where voting will take place from 8am to 5pm tomorrow, are won-dering whether or not to go to the poll-ing centres sensing violence.Yesterday, opposition activists have set ﬁre to more than a dozen poll cen-tres in a number of constituencies in various districts including Feni, the home district of opposition leader Khaleda Zia. The arson attacks were part of the nationwide violence that has been go-ing on for the last few months centring the mode of the polls-time government and the trial of war criminals.More than a hundred people have been killed since the opposition stated enforcing the countrywide blockade protesting tomorrow’s polls more than a month ago. Some of those have been killed in violence centring the execu-tion of war criminal Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Quader Molla. To ensure peaceful voting, apart from a huge number of police, Rab and BGB personnel, the Election Commis-sion has also deployed the army for 15 days. The government’s health depart-ment has asked all public medical col-leges, specialised, district and Upazila hospitals around the country to remain alert and take all-out preparations to ensure emergency healthcare services in case there are casualties and inju-ries resulting from violence. All these establishment are also advised to keep their emergency departments ready with special reinforcements.However, while talking to the Dhaka Tribune, voters from a number of con-stituencies in and outside the capital, have expressed concerns about the sit-uation on the Election Day.Many female voters in particular, from a sense of insecurity, have ex-pressed their unwillingness to go to the polling centres tomorrow.In addition to the fear factor, many voters are in a big dilemma in their lo-calities as the ruling Awami League is urging them to go to the polls without fear and the main opposition BNP is telling them to do the opposite. Many have said they are scared that they may be labelled Awami League supporters if they go to cast their votes; while others said they would not want to be labelled as supporters of BNP by not going to the polling centres.Despite the opposition boycott, in many constituencies, local BNP leaders are reportedly working for the candi-dates, who are contesting against Awa-mi League runners.There has been one instance of a similar kind of a polls on February 15, 1996, where the then ruling BNP held “one-sided” polls amid boycotts from the then main opposition Awami League and the other opposition par-ties including HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party and Jamaat. In that election, 49 candi-dates were elected uncontested.
Unusual pre-polls inactivity hits rural economies
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inﬂow during the elections will have no positive impact. “A vibrant rural economy is key to the country’s development. As block-ades and strikes have aﬀected it, ru-ral-urban wealth distribution will suﬀer a severe jolt and Bangladesh’s inclusive growth target will not be at-tained,” he said.According to existing rules, candi-dates are allowed to spend a maximum of Tk25 lakh each for pre-election activ-ities such as printing publicity posters, banners, festoons, hiring vehicles and other campaign related works. The lim-it was Tk15 lakh in the 2008 elections.In most cases, however, candidates exceeded those limits by spending ﬁve to ten times more. The common prac-tice before elections has been to donate money for various local development activities like repairing and construction of mosques and temples, schools and col-leges; even cash incentives for the voters. Although all these expenditures are illegal, they give the rural economies the much-needed boost every time before elections by creating additional employment opportunities in the areas and enhancing the purchasing power of the rural populace.Subodh Chandra Mandal is a ﬁsh-ermen from the Ashtagram upazila in Kishorganj district. He told the Dhaka Tribune: “We are not concerned about the elections because President Abdul Hamid’s son has already been elected [unopposed] a member of parliament because there is no other candidate.“Our only concern now is that our livelihoods are now at stake because of the opposition’s prolonged blockades.”Not only has the elections brought no good news for the struggling rural economies, fears of escalating violence after the elections has also gripped many villages.Abdur Rahim, a paddy grower from the same area, said: “We are worried not about the elections; but about what will happen after the elections. Be-cause of the political turmoil, we have not been able to sell our paddy. The ﬁshermen have not been able to sell their catch either.”Rashed Al Mahmud Titumuir, chair-man of economic think tank Unnayan Onneshan, told the Dhaka Tribune that pre-election boost for the rural economies was much needed this year, especially the blows that these economies suﬀered be-cause of the prolonged political turmoil.“Huge amount of funds will not go to the public this year as there will be no elections in a total of 154 constitu-encies,” Titumir said.Zahir Alam, an oﬃ cial of the ﬁnance ministry, said the people in the rural ar-eas are not concerned about elections because of the hardships that they had been going through in recent times.The fact that there had not been any usual economic activity ahead of the elections, would only add more misery, Zahir said.“Rural people have poor savings. If political violence continues, many peo-ple will slide below the poverty line. Construction work, supply chain and channeling of public funds to the rural areas through development projects will be aﬀected severely. These will have long term adverse impact on the rural economies,” he explained.
People indiﬀerent, scared to talk about polls
Syeda Samira Sadeque
Syed Samiul Basher Anik
In Dakhin Khan, a tinge of indiﬀerence, yet a strange sense of fear, lingers in the air regarding the upcoming elec-tions. While many locals expressed an-ger over continuous blockades causing businesses to deteriorate, others were afraid to talk about the elections. The rest were indiﬀerent. Dakkhin Khan falls under Dhaka 18 constituencies, where the candidates are former minister Shahara Khatun for Awami League, contesting M Ati-kur Rahman of Bangladesh Nationalist Front (BNF). However, the area was rather naked of the usual electoral campaign post-ers, and also lacked the processions or the sound of loudspeakers lauding and promoting the candidates. Only a few black-and-white paper posters strung above some shops were the only sign of Shahara’s campaigning in the area. Any sign of Atikur’s cam-paigning, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. Robin Mahmud, 28, who owns a clothing store in the area, said he has only seen two processions campaign-ing for Shahara Khatun, but none for any other candidate. Robin did not know who Shahara’s contender was. Another local, a fruit vendor Mo-hammad Siddique Mia, who has been selling in the area for a few months, said he had seen no campaigning either. Sneha Alamgir, another local, said: “There is of course no excitement or campaigning. Especially now that the country is in a very bad situation, fear lingers in the air and everyone is scared.” Sneha said she was not aware of any of the candidates in her constit-uency. Fearing the consequences, many locals refused to speak to the media about the election. Similar fears were also seen among the voters from Dhaka 5 constituency, where a gloomy scene was observed across all the four unions under the constituency.Although Dhaka 5 had the highest numbers of candidates compared to other Dhaka constituencies, people from all four unions - Demra, Donia, Matuail and Sarulia – expressed reluc-tance to comment on the polls or about their favorite candidate.Locals said the constituency lacked any festive election mood, as there was no campaigning and the main opposi-tion BNP was absent. Only Awami League leader Habibur Rahman Molla had campaigned properly, while the other three candidates were hardly seen seeking votes from over four lakh voters in the constituency.The constituency could have witnessed tough competition between two former labour leaders - Habibur Rahman Molla and Arju Shah Sayedabadi, as a good number of labourers and garments workers live in the area.Mohammad Shiraj, 45, a tea-stall vendor, said never before had he seen an election like this. “There’s supposed to be some excitement, some noise, some chaos before any election, but I have not seen anything like it this year,” he said, adding that he did not even know who was running.
BNP men support AL dissident candidate in Mirpur
Muktasree Chakma Sathi
A section of BNP men are campaigning for Awami League dissident candidate Sardar Mohammad Mannan who is contesting independently from Dhaka 16 constituency in Mirpur.The BNP activists campaigning for Mannan are mostly followers of local BNP leader Ismail Hossain Benu, Ward 2 commissioner of Mirpur. Ilius Uddin Mollah is the Awami League candidate in the constituency.BNP, the main opposition party, is not taking part in tomorrow's polls.Locals of Mirpur 10, 12 and Pallabi told the Dhaka Tribune that activists of BNP were conducting strong campaign for Mannan.A number of locals in the constitu-ency said Benu has had a strong hold in Dhaka 16 as he has been a grassroots BNP leader and ward commissioner for the past 25 years.“He went into hiding after the gov-ernment started crackdown on opposi-tion leaders and activists. Even though he is not present in the area, he has strong clout that matters a lot,” Mu- jibur, a local of Mirpur 10, said.When contacted, Mannan told the Dhaka Tribune that he was not quite sure if BNP activists campaigned for him or not. “Locals are with me; there could be some BNP activists among them.” Mannan said he knew nothing about BNP leader Benu.Moments later, however, he said: “Benu is not in the country.”When asked about voting, Raju said: “If I vote for boat, Awami League is go-ing to win and even If I vote for pineap-ple, still the Awami league is winning.”Independent candidate Mannan was allotted the symbol pineapple.
Similar fears were also seen among the voters from Dhaka 5 constituency, where a gloomy scene was observed across all the four unions under the constituency