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Only 10 parties seek army deployment with magistracy power
Though most political parties in their dialogues with the Election Commission have proposed army deployment in the next general election, only 10 parties, including BNP, directly sought magistracy power for them during the polls.
Even though 11 other parties proposed army deployment, they did not specify whether the force should be deployed as a striking force or given magistracy power during the polls.
Four other parties placed their proposals saying that the Election Commission can deploy the army if it deems necessary, while two parties specifically suggested the army deployment as a striking force.
Six parties directly or indirectly opposed the army deployment during the parliamentary elections, while six parties were silent over the issue.
During the EC’s talks, three major parties – ruling Awami League, opposition Jatiya Party and BNP- raised three different types of opinion over army deployment.
Joining the talks on October 18, Awami League apparently opposed the army deployment in the parliamentary polls saying that “in what situation the members of the military force can be deployed is clearly mentioned in the clause No 129-131 of the Code of Criminal Procedures 1898 and in ‘In aid to civil power’ chapter of the Army Rules”.
At its dialogue with the EC on October 15 last, BNP proposed that army be deployed with magistracy power and the armed forces be defined as law enforcement agencies in the Representation of the People Order, 1972.
But Jatiya Party at its meeting with Commission on October 9 suggested that the armed forces be deployed throughout the country during the 11th national election.
After the meeting, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad said, “We’ve told them (EC) that public perception is that the election will be fair if the army is deployed.”
The 10 parties that directly suggested army deployment with magistracy power are BNP, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal-JSD, Bangladesh Jatiya Party-BJP, Bangladesh Muslim League, Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Bangladesh Jatiya Party (Matin), Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (Jagpa), Khelafat Majlish and Bangladesh Muslim League-BML.
Besides, Gano Forum proposed army’s inclusion in the definition of law enforcement agencies in the Representation of the Peoples Order 1972 paving the way to empower the force (with magistracy power) to arrest anyone without warrant within a 400-yard radius of a polling station for the violation of electoral laws on any polling day.
The 11 parties that recommended the army deployment but did not specify whether the force should be given magistracy power or deployed as striking force are HM Ershad’s Jatiya Party, Bikalpadhara Bangladesh, Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan, Jamiyate Ulamaye Islam Bangladesh, Gano Front, Bangladesh National Awami Party-Bangladesh (NAP), Bangladesh Kalyan Party, Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish, Islamic Andolan Bangladesh, Bangladesh Islamic Front and Biplobi Workers Party.
Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) said the EC needs to have the absolute authority to deploy army, while National People Party (NPP) sought army deployment on limited scale and Islami Oikya Jote for only in vulnerable polling stations.
Two parties --Bangladesh National Awami Party and Bangladesh Tarikat Federation -- proposed army deployment as a striking force, while Workers Party suggested that the army be deployed as a striking force if the EC deems it necessary.
On August 24, the Commission started its dialogue with 40 registered political parties to seek their opinions over its preparation for arranging the next national election likely to be held in December 2018.
The nearly two-month talks concluded on Thursday last with the participation of all the parties.
The RPO was amended before the 2001 national election bringing the armed forces under the definition of law enforcement agency.
In 2009, the RPO was amended dropping the words armed forces from the definition of law enforcement agencies. So, the armed forces lost the authority to arrest without warrant during their election duty.