Polling booths torched as Bangladesh go for polls Sunday

Dhaka, Jan 4: Around 70 polling centres were burnt across Bangladesh Saturday as the country braces itself to hold the 10th parliamentary polls Sunday.

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad said a few polling centres, which have been burnt, might be shifted at the last moment, but they would not be set up very far from their earlier locations, bdnews24.com reported.

“Voting will begin tomorrow (Sunday). One or two polling centres may be shifted at the last moment. Shifting process is on,” Ahmad said.

Voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in 147 seats out of 300 as candidates have already been elected in the remaining seats which remained uncontested, he added.

More than 43.9 million voters are expected to cast their vote at 18,208 centres.

Expressing concern over the burning of school buildings, which were to be used as polling centres, the commissioner said all the preparations have been completed.

“Election will be very transparent this year,” he said.

Security has been strengthened for all the centres in the capital Dhaka, following attempts to sabotage elections in various districts.

Dhaka Police Joint Commissioner Monirul Islam said security has been stepped up in 1,021 centres for the eight constituencies in the capital.

Besides that, “strike forces” from all law enforcement agencies will be deployed near the centres so that they can quickly respond if anything happens, he added.

Police also have banned the movement of 12 types of vehicles in the capital on the polling day.

The ban will be effective from Saturday midnight to Sunday midnight.

The vehicles that have been banned are baby-taxi, CNG-run auto-rickshaw, bike, jeep, bus, taxi cab, pickup vans, truck, microbus, private car, tempo, and motorcycle.

Meanwhile, an activist of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was killed in a clash between the ruling Awami League and the BNP supporters.

Mobarak Hossain, 35, was killed in a clash at Patgram upazila’s Baura area, police said.

The BNP-led 18-party opposition alliance Saturday urged people to boycott the elections and warned that the government will be responsible for any untoward incident Sunday.

“We urge people from all walks of life not to go to polling centres and boycott it,” Osman Faruq, an adviser to BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, said at a press briefing.

The BNP Friday announced another shutdown for 48 hours starting from Saturday. The shutdown, aimed at protesting the confinement of Zia and to seek cancellation of the polls, will end at 6 a.m. Monday.

Since Nov 26, the opposition alliance has enforced nationwide blockade for 22 days in phases, demanding the cancellation of the elections. It wanted the polls to be held under an independent caretaker government, a demand the ruling Awami League has declined.

IANS