JS polls on Jan 5

BNP rejects schedule, hits back with 48-hour ‘blockade’ from 6:00am today; Hannan Shah held


The general election will be held on January 5, the Election Commission said yesterday amid fear of escalation of violence and uncertainty over the BNP-led opposition alliance’s participation in the polls.
Announcing the polls fixture, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad in a televised address to the nation urged all political parties to join the 10th parliamentary election. He also assured them of taking all necessary measures, including deployment of the armed forces, to ensure a free and fair election.
The BNP-led 18-party alliance rejected the schedule and announced a 48-hour countrywide blocked of road, rail and waterways beginning 6:00am today.
dec 5 polls“We demanded that the announcement of the polls schedule be held back until the crisis over the election-time government is resolved,” BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told a press briefing, announcing the agitation programme.
The fresh spell of agitation will add to the sufferings of people, who are already gripped by panic following the opposition’s threat to cripple the country to foil the election.
More than 29 lakh class V students who are taking the primary terminal examinations and those appearing for the final examination in schools will pay very dearly.
Many guardians called to The Daily Star office to know if the exams scheduled for tomorrow will be held. The director general of the Directorate of Primary Education said the decision would come today.
Meanwhile, annoyed by the schedule, opposition grassroots leaders and workers took to the streets and clashed with law enforcers in different districts.
To prevent any subversive activities, border force was deployed in the capital, Bogra and Sylhet alongside regular law enforcers.
“The government is determined to ensure a peaceful atmosphere anyhow. We will show zero tolerance to any move aimed at foiling the election,” Shamsul Haq Tuku, state minister for home, told The Daily Star.
A number of BNP policymakers said they did not see any hope for a resolution to the political crisis as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was hell-bent on remaining in office during the election, which the opposition opposes.
“So, we have no alternative but to wage agitation to resist the election,” a senior BNP leader told this newspaper, adding that a series of such programmes, including hartal and blockade, would follow.
The ruling Awami League, however, welcomed the schedule and directed its grassroots leaders to bring out processions in support of the announcement.
Party insiders said the government might go tough on the opposition if it created any obstacle to the election.
“We welcome the election schedule. We expect the Election Commission will take all measures for a free and fair election,” AL Presidium Member Mohammad Nasim said.
This is the first time in about two decades that the EC would conduct the parliamentary election with a partisan government in office. The three previous elections in 1996, 2001 and 2008 were held under non-party caretaker governments.
Interestingly, the AL that led the vigorous street agitation against the then BNP-led government in 1994-96 to introduce the caretaker government system is now in power to oversee the polls. The AL-led government abolished the election-time caretaker government system in June 2011.
jan 5 pollsThe BNP-led opposition has refused to join the election under Hasina administration and threatened to resist any such polls. It wants a non-party government to oversee the election.
Given the prevailing situation, political analysts are skeptical about holding of the election on January 5 with participation of major political parties.
They cited the December 29, 2008, election. At the time, the Fakhruddin Ahmed-led army-backed caretaker government was in office. The then EC revised the polls fixture four times to ensure the BNP-led four-party alliance’s participation in the polls, and the then EC and the government advisers made frantic efforts to this end.
No such efforts are visible this time.
Ignoring the opposition’s demand and threats to foil the election, Sheikh Hasina on November 21 formed an election-time government through reshuffling her cabinet.
On November 19, the EC, led by the CEC, met President Abdul Hamid and requested him to take steps to ensure participation of all political parties in the election.
Hours after the EC left the Bangabhaban, BNP chief Khaleda Zia met the president and requested him to take steps for forging a consensus among the ruling and the opposition parties for holding a free, fair and participatory election under a nonparty government.
In his address to the nation, the CEC yesterday again called for a consensus between the rivals camps for the sake of advancing the country’s democracy.
Law enforcers last night detained Brig (retd) ASM Hannan, a standing committee member of the BNP.
The detention came just an hour after the announcement of the election schedule.
He was detained near the Japan Embassy in Badda around 8:30pm, said Abu Yusuf, assistant commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Media and Public Relations Division.
The reason for the arrest was not disclosed.

Source: The Daily Star

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