The interim government has not yet decided whether to withdraw emergency before the December elections, an adviser to the interim government said.
‘How can you be certain that the state of emergency is going to be withdrawn before the polls?… I cannot say at this moment whether the emergency will be withdrawn,’ the home affairs adviser, MA Matin, said on Sunday in reply to queries after a meeting with the heads of the law enforcement agencies on security issues for the ninth parliamentary elections and the third upazila polls.
He, however, hoped law and order would not deteriorate even if the state of emergency was withdrawn. ‘The government will decide when to withdraw the emergency.’
Matin made the statement at a time when major political parties are demanding a complete withdrawal of the state of emergency before the December 29 national polls. The government of Fakhruddin Ahmed assumed office a day after the state of emergency had been declared on January 11, 2007 on the heels of political unrest.
He said troops, besides paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles, Raid Action Battalion, policemen and Ansars personnel, would be deployed to keep order for a few days during the elections by the order of the Election Commission.
There will be a striking force along with policemen and Ansars personnel at each polling station to ensure security, he said.
‘The government is not solely responsible for keeping law and order. The responsibility also lies with political parties and people in general.’
In reply to a query, Matin said the main challenge the government was facing was to conduct the December elections in a free and fair manner.
He said the meeting discussed the issues of security for the VVIPs and VIPs, including former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.
Briefing newsmen after the meeting, the home secretary, Abdul Karim, said there would be 35,500 polling centres across the country and a three-tier security system would be arranged at each centre.
In addition to Bangladesh Rifles personnel, coast guards, Rapid Action Battalion members and about 13–15 members of the police and Ansars would deployed at each polling centre.
As for control of the striking force, the home secretary said a statutory order was being prepared with specific instructions as to how the forces would operate during the polls. ‘We have drafted the order today with the consent of the Election Commission.’
He said the home ministry would set up a control room four days before the elections to monitor law and order.
He said the police had been directed to ensure that culprits were arrested and the illegal arms recovered so that the national elections could be held in an atmosphere free of terrorism. ‘The police have been asked to make quality, not quantity, arrests.’