The Election Commission has deployed army and navy in 407 of the 491 upazilas ‘in aid to the civil power’ for 10 days for the December 30 general election.
The troops started taking positions in their respective postings on Sunday and would be working from today in aid to the Election Commission or the civil administration, the Inter Services Public Relation said in a release.
The release said that army would discharge duties in 397 upazila, navy would work in 18 costal upazilas and the Border Guard Bangladesh troops would engage in election duties in the 87 bordering upazilas.
The Bangladesh Air Force would keep its necessary number of aircraft ready for emergency requirements, said the release.
Main opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front chief Dr Kamal Hossain and main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir welcomed the deployment of armed forces in election duties and expressed hope that the troops would work neutrally.
The ISPR did not mention how many platoons would be deployed.
Election Commission secretary Helaluddin Ahmed said that the home ministry already issued a circular on how the members of the armed forced would be working on the ground.
The home ministry issued the circular on December 19 stating that the armed forces would be in operation between December 24 and January 2, 2019 except the days of their travel to the destinations from barracks.
The ministry stated that the members of armed forces would be working inside the polling stations or would guard vote counting room to maintain the law and order if asked by the returning officer or the presiding officer.
Members of the armed forces would take position at nodal points and convenient places and would patrol and conduct operations in coordination with the returning officers, said the ISPR release.
Earlier, 1,016 platoons of border guards were deployed across the country on December 18 amid continued attack on the opposition candidates and their electioneering.
The Bangladesh Coast Guard said on Saturday that they deployed 40 platoons of coast guards in the coastal belt.
Despite deployment and patrol of troops, BNP alleged that their candidates and campaigners continued to be attacked at places on Sunday.
On December 13, the Election Commission announced that they would deploy troops from December 24 as a ‘striking force’ across the country.
Commission officials said over 7 lakh security personnel alongside the armed forces would be there in the field on the polling day.
According to the officials, the commission already gave Tk 63.22 crore to the police, Tk 10.20 crore to the Rapid Action Battalion, Tk 1.56 crore to the Bangladesh Coast Guard, Tk 33.2 crore to the Border Guard Bangladesh and Tk 163.81 crore to Ansar and VDP in advance as it had about Tk 400 crore for law and order.
In separate statements on Sunday, Jatiya Oikya Front chief Kamal Hossain and BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir expected that the armed forces would not act for any individual or certain quarter, rather would play a positive role in election duties.
‘We welcome the deployment of the armed forces. We hope that this deployment will create environment congenial to a free and fair election which did not exist before,’ said Kamal.
‘However, we hope that the armed forces will not stand against the interest of the people or seek to implement the agenda of an individual or a group of people,’ read the statement.
Armed forces must create a level playing field and play a positive role, he added.
Fakhrul said that BNP expected that the army would stand for the interests of the people and would not act for any individual or a certain quarter.
‘The Bangladesh Army always serves the country and the nation and their image should not be maligned by realising interests of any individual,’ he said.
‘I call on Bangladesh Army to ensure equal scope for every candidates and all political parties in the general election,’ read the statement signed by BNP assistant office secretary Muhammad Munir Hossain.