Less than two weeks before the 11th parliamentary elections, the candidates allied with the BNP are struggling with fresh legal barriers and old cases that the opposition called ‘fictitious’. At least 7 candidates contesting with ‘Sheaf of paddy’ - the BNP’s election symbol - are still in jail.
There is no precedent of arrest of candidates during campaign in our history,” said ASM Abdur Rab, president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal which is a component of the BNP s new coalition Jatiya Oikya Front. At a press conference on Sunday, he said, “How will the election campaign be carried out if the candidates are detained?” The opposition candidates of at least seven other constituencies are still facing the court s bar to joining the polls on various grounds. The election commission, the BNP alleges, has failed to protect the opposition leaders and activists even after announcement of the polls schedule on 11 November. At least 2,241 leaders and activists have been arrested since allocation of symbol on 10 December, Oikya Front leader Kamal Hossain complained with the election commission at a meeting on Monday. Kamal further alleged that more than 12,000 leaders and activists of the opposition were implicated in 95 cases filed in the past one week. More than 6,000 opposition leaders and activists were arrested since the announcement of the polls schedule, the Front leader added. Candidates in jail The police arrested Fazlul Haque Milon, the BNP candidate for Gazipur-5 constituency and the party s organising secretary, from Gazipur s Kaliganj Upazila on 13 December. According to the police, the BNP leader was wanted in seven cases. His wife, however, claimed that Milon was on bail in 33 cases. On 16 December, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Gazi Nazrul Islam, who is contesting the polls from Satkhira-4 with sheaf of paddy, was arrested from Satkhira s Shyampur. He was implicated in 20 cases filed in connection with various charges, officer-in-charge of Shyampur police station Abul Kalam Azad said. Other BNP candidates who are in jail, include Khairul Kabir Khokon of Narshingdi-1, Sultan Salahuddin Tuku of Tangail-2, Shahadat Hossain of Chattogram-9, Monirul Haque Chowdhury of Cumilla-10, and Abu Sayeed Chan of Rajshahi-6. Family members along with the party leaders and workers are now campaigning for those candidates, some leaders of the party said. BNP vice chairman and former state minister Selima Rahman said on Sunday, “The police personnel are acting the way our rivals do. They don t allow us to carry out polls campaign. They don t even follow election commission directives.” Legal tangles Fresh court order barring the BNP candidates from contesting the polls has created uncertainty for the party at the last moment after it had fielded a number of candidates in each of 300 constituencies. On Monday, four BNP-nominated nominees, who were upazila chairmen, were stopped from entering the polls race by separate court orders. They are Khandakar Abu Ashfaq of Dhaka-1, Tamiz Uddin of Dhaka-20 candidate, Abdul Mohit Talukder of Bogura-3 and Sarkar Badal of Bogura-7. Also on Monday, the BNP s Manikganj-3 candidate Afroza Khan Rita was also barred from contesting the polls as a seven-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by chief justice Syed Mahmud Hossain passed an order against her candidature on loan default charge. On 13 December, the High Court issued a bar on M Rashiduzzaman Millat of Jamalpur-1 and Tahsina Rushdir Luna of Sylhet-2 from running in the polls. Awami League candidate of the constituency Abul Kalam Azad challenged Millat s candidature, and Jatiya Party contestant Yahya Chowdhury challenged Luna s candidature at the High Court.