Dhaka, Dec. 9 (Agencies): Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed deployed the army to maintain order across the country after the interim government failed to end a lingering political standoff over electoral reforms, the home ministry said.
Ahmed “has ordered deployment of army in aid of the civil administration to protect public life and property”, the ministry said in a statement.
The order came after days of often violent street protests by an alliance of 14 political parties demanding electoral reforms ahead of next month’s general elections.
The Dhaka metropolitan police banned all gatherings around Bangabhaban, Ahmed’s official residence.
Government sources said the deployment would be effective “immediately”.
“The government already deployed the law enforcement agencies to face any untoward incident ahead of the upcoming general elections,” a statement said.
“Yet, the President and the chief adviser ordered deployment of the armed forces as its necessity was felt to protect the life and property of the people, keep alive the economic activities, seize illegal weapons and control terrorists,” it added.
The statement added that the armed forces were also asked to help law enforcement agencies in order to maintain law and order.
The home ministry issued the order for deployment of the army under sections 129, 130 and 131 of the Criminal Procedure Code and sections 7 and 10 of the instructions regarding aid to civil power.
“The President unilaterally decided to deploy the army by defying his advisers in the caretaker government,” adviser Sultana Kamal was quoted as saying by the private www.bdnews24.com website.
“We all opposed but he said he would use his powers as President to deploy the army,” she said.
Adviser Yasmin Murshid said the President had decided to use the army to deal with the law and order situation. “He told us: ‘I have decided to deploy the army. I’m just informing you of the matter’,” Murshid told the website.
The home ministry ordered district administrations to keep the necessary number of magistrates ready to “discharge responsibilities in required cases”.
In urban areas, the home ministry said the chief metropolitan magistrates were issued similar directives.
Earlier this month, the military was asked to stay alert for possible deployment, according to sources.
The alliance led by former President Sheikh Hasina Wajed wants the removal of two election commissioners who it accuses of bias toward former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, Hasina’s arch-rival.
Under Bangladesh’s constitution, election officials cannot be sacked, but must resign or go on leave.
The alliance also has demanded a revised voter list, which it says currently contains duplicate and fake names, and favours Zia. The election commission has started revising the disputed voter list and has postponed next month’s general elections by two days until January 23. But the alliance says that’s not enough.
Violent street protests have erupted over the alliance’s demands, leaving more than 30 dead and scores injured.