Is this environment conducive to fair elections?

Implicating leaders and activists of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in false cases, which started ahead of the national election in 2018, continues. Law enforcers use these cases against BNP leaders and activists whenever the political party carries out any political event.

BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul alleged in a recent press conference that the government, intimidated by the overwhelming crowds in BNP rallies, has charged the leaders and activists in false cases and arrested many. He also said, the cases include only few names while most of the accused remains unnamed.

Local police of Jhikargachha have filed false cases against 34 leaders and activists of various opposition parties including BNP ahead of the pourashava election. According to the case statement, several BNP men blasted crude bombs near Jhikargachha Payradanga Government Primary School to cause destruction and carry out anti-government activities. Police made 34 people accused in the case with around 70 unidentified persons. Is this atmosphere conducive to a credible election?

Surprisingly the people who were made witnesses of the cases said, they were not aware of any such incident and they did not hear any bomb blast. A case filed over an incident that never took place is called ‘fictitious case’. The real picture was revealed in the report sent by the Prothom Alo Jashore office. Jhikargachha pourashava election is scheduled to be held on 16 January after 22 long years.

The previous election was held in 2000. The current mayor elected in the election has got nomination this time as well from ruling Awami League. There are allegations that he played a key role in delaying the election following a border dispute. This is unprecedented to remain in the post of mayor for 22 years being elected for five years.

The aim of implicating three councillor candidates and BNP leaders and activists in false cases is to clear the way for the AL candidate to win. The case filed by the police is non-bailable. The accused have filed a writ petition in the High Court. Of them, 10 accused including three councillor candidates were released on bail. But the damage done to them is not compensable.

Such false cases have been filed in many districts apart from Jhikargachha. Law enforcers file such false cases and make arrests whenever BNP calls for any programme. People do not want the repetition of 2018 national election. They want an acceptable, participatory election.

The use of forced disappearances by law enforcement agencies to thwart the opposition's political programme and to help the ruling party's candidates win is not only unacceptable but also a vicious act. The cases filed against the leaders and activists of the opposition in various places including Jhikargachha should be withdrawn immediately.