Army withdrawn, asked to return to barracks
President Iajuddin Ahmed Monday evening ordered withdrawal of armed forces from emergency duties across the country a day after election schedules were announced. The president and supreme commander of the armed forces ‘approved government proposal for withdrawal of the members of armed forces deployed across the country in aid to civil administration,’ a report of news agency UNB said, quoting Sirajul Islam, secretary of the President’s Office at Bangabhaban.
The presidential order followed home adviser MA Matin’s announcement earlier on the day that armed forces would be withdrawn with immediate effect to facilitate electioneering. The military-controlled interim government on Monday repealed two rules of the Emergency Powers Rules 2007 and conditionally relaxed another one.
Two gazette notifications were issued accordingly with immediate effect. The government conditionally relaxed Rule 3 of the emergency rules that curbed meeting, gathering, procession, rally and demonstration since January 11, 2007.
According to the relaxed provision, any rally, meeting or procession can be held for the election campaign in constituencies for the parliamentary elections and upazila polls, subject to the provisions stipulated in the Representation of the People Order 1972 and the Local Government (Upazila Parishad) Ordinance 2008. By another gazette notification, the government repealed Rules 5 and 6 of the emergency rules, respectively curbing the media and anti-government activities and criticism.
Rule 5(1) had empowered the government to ban or control, imposing restrictions, broadcasting or publication of any news or information about meeting, rally, procession, seize, demonstration, speech, statement, and provocative activities, and any news, editorial, post-editorial, article, feature, cartoon, talk-show and discussion tent amounts to provocation against the government.
Rule 5(2) had banned any graffiti across the country during the enforcement of the state of emergency.
Rule 6 had banned making any provocative statement against any activities of the government, obstructing any government activities, drawing, printing, publication and exhibiting any cartoon on the government or any of its activities or men, and making or burning any effigy.
The home adviser Monday morning told reporters that he did not see any reason to believe that the relaxation in the emergency rules would cause law and order downslide.
‘Lifting of the restrictions on political activities will not cause any deterioration in law and order.’ Asked whether the government would completely withdraw the state of emergency as demanded by major political parties, Matin said the matter would be made clear in proper time through gazette notification.
The steps followed the military-backed interim government’s series of efforts to persuade political parties into polls. The Election Commission Sunday announced schedules for national elections and upazila polls scheduled for December 18 and 28 respectively.
Though Awami League and its left allies readily welcomed the schedules, complete lifting of emergency and deferment of upazila elections remained their key demands.
BNP and its allies were still weighing the schedules amid grievances that most of their demands, including complete withdrawal of emergency, went unheeded.
The emergency was imposed on January 11, 2007, postponing elections scheduled for January 22, 2007 amid political turmoil. Under the state of emergency, army-led joint forces conducted a massive anti-corruption drive that landed many political leaders, bureaucrats and businessmen in jail on graft charges. The two former prime ministers along with a number of their former cabinet colleagues were detained. BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia is now free on bail, while Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina is now abroad after being released by an executive order for medical treatment.
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