Violence, malicious campaign in run up to Bangladesh poll


Dhaka : Incidents of violence, some of them among poll allies, mark the run-up to the Dec 29 parliamentary poll in Bangladesh that has also witnessed what a media report termed “malicious campaign” against former prime minister Sheikh Hasina.

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Activists of the four party alliance led by political rival Khaleda Zia allegedly sold booklets, one of them containing a forged photograph of Hasina, a Muslim, sporting ‘sindoor’ (vermilion), that is used by married Hindu women, The Daily Star said in a report from Chittagong port town.

The supporters, mostly activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir, students wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), the country’s largest Islamist party, were seen selling two booklets titled “Disgraceful picture of Awami misrule” published by Touhid Publications, Chittagong, and “Violent politics of Sheikh Hasina to foil 2007 election” written by former JeI chief Golam Azam.

The four party alliance candidate in the Chittagong-10 constituency Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said he was not aware of such activities.

“I do not believe in such dirty politics of tarnishing someone’s character,” he said.

In Moulvibazar-2, workers of poll allies Awami League and Jatiya Party clashed, injuring three people.

In another incident in Faridpur district, a gang of unidentified criminals hacked and seriously injured Selim Ahmed, 39, allegedly for keeping portraits of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and seven war heroes of the 1971 liberation war at his house.

“They (the goons) asked me why I keep their portraits at my residence,” Ahmed told the media from his hospital bed.

Graft cases loom over the heads of many candidates in the fray.

Thirty-six candidates have corruption cases against them with chargesheets submitted against many, according to a survey by an NGO, Shushashoner Jannoy Nagorik (Shujan), conducted in 102 of the 300 constituencies.

The High Court stayed the cases against many of the candidates, Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar told media in Dhaka, the national capital.

He said their findings are based on affidavits and tax returns of candidates in the constituencies where they conducted a poll-related survey.

Referring to reports in different newspapers, he said 16 contestants in the polls are alleged war criminals – all from the four party alliance of Islamists.

Many of the candidates also have allegations against them about loan default, killings and involvement in other crimes.

About 35 percent of the candidates are not under the tax net, Majundar said, referring to National Board of Revenue (NBR) statistics.

A total of 53 women candidates are in the polls race in 58 constituencies. Of them, 19 are from the Awami League-led grand alliance, 13 from the BNP-led four-party combine and the remaining 21 are from other political parties or independent candidates.

Shujan plans to complete its electoral survey in all the 300 constituencies during the week.

The NGO criticised the Supreme Court order of this week allowing 21 candidates, earlier barred by the Election Commission, to contest the poll, saying this had caused “confusion” among the voters.

The Election Commission, unhappy about the apex court order passed just 10 days before the poll, will be burning 2.4 million ballot papers in 29 constituencies. This is required under the law to prevent their misuse.

Both the major alliances are facing trouble from rebel candidates who have refused to withdraw, negating efforts to avoid division of votes.

While the Zia led alliance has 29 such candidates, the larger alliance led by Hasina has 41 rebels.

The Jatiya Party of former military ruler H.M. Ershad, a Hasina ally, has its own candidates in three rebel constituencies.

Talking to The Daily Star Friday, Ershad blamed the AL for the situation. “Our opponents might get its benefit,” he said.