Dhaka, Nov 17 (Just News): The police in different districts are collecting personal information including political connection of the election officials such as presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers, according to polls officials.
The officials said such moves taken by police without any direction from the election commission or returning officers have embarrassed them.
According to the law, employees of government, non-government and autonomous organisations get recruitment as presiding officers, assistant presiding officers and polling officers.
The district administrations seek the names from different organisations prior to announcement of the schedule. Returning officers finalise the list of officials from the names provided by those organisations.
According to the rules, the person with any political affiliation cannot be enlisted as polls official. Returning officers have the authority to take decision regarding it.
“Returning officers take decisions in recruiting polling officials. Police have no role. The election commission also doesn’t interfere in the process,” election commissioner Rafiqul Islam told Prothom Alo.
He also said there is no question of issuing directives from the commission to police.
Still, as of Friday afternoon, Prothom Alo has found that police are collecting information of polls officials in at least four districts.
This report is prepared from information sent by staff and district correspondents.
At least 10 persons of Gazipur’s Kapasia upazila said that police in last weeks called them and asked for their personal information. They wanted to know if they or any member of their family are involved with any politics. Most of them are teachers of different educational institutions.
An election official seeking anonymity said that he has lost the interest to discharge the polls duty for such activities of police.
A teacher of Ghagotia Chala High School said that the teachers feel apprehension after receiving police’s calls.
Another teacher of Bhuleshwar Hafiz Uddin High School said they received calls from the police and were asked if they have any political connection.
One official of upazila health complex said, “They called and asked me repeatedly that which political party I belong to. I didn’t give any reply and hang up the call.”
Gazipur district election officer Md Tarifuzzaman said, “We sent letters to different educational institutions as per the direction of the election commission. We formed a panel which recruited the officials from the list provided by the institutions.”
He also said that police has not been given the responsibility of collecting any information of the polls officials.
“We don’t know anything about who will be presiding officers. District administration has not given us any direction about it,” Gazipur’s superintendent of police Shamsunnahar told Prothom Alo.
Gazipur’s returning officer and also deputy commissioner Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir said the state can take intelligence report about anyone it deems necessary.
He, however, said that the election commission has not given any written directives regarding collecting anyone’s information.
The police are gathering information of polls officials of 115 polling centers of Mymensingh-9 constituency. Some of them said that they never experienced such moves by police in previous elections.
Nandail police station officer-in-charge Kamrul Islam said, “The election office has sent us a list. We are collecting full information where the address is incomplete.”
Nandail Samurta Jahan Mahila Degree College’s principal Mahmudul Haque said he lives in Mymensingh city. In previous election, he provided the address of his city residence. But this time, the police are also asking for the address of his village home and other information which was not required earlier.
Some teachers of six high schools seeking anonymity said the police asked for information of their political connections. But, those information were not required in the past, they said.
Asked, Nandail model police station’s sub inspector Abdus Sattar said they are collecting information including the locations, transportation facilities, electricity, water and toilet facilities of the polling centers.
In Noakhali, the police is collecting polls officials’ personal information, and they are worried.
Superintendent of police Md Ilias Sharif said that there is nothing to be worried as such information about presiding officers are being collected around the country.
Sonaimuri upazila’s Khalilur Rahman Degree College’s teacher Abul Hossain said that special branch of police called him some days ago and asked for his address, political connection and other information.
He said he had done electoral duties many times in the past but was never asked for such information.
Principal of a private college of sadar upazila expressed frustration over about such grilling of police. Seeking anonymity, he said, he was called twice by police and asked for his political affiliation.
Police in Moulvibazar district has started gathering information of polls officials of Moulvibazar 1 (Barlekha and Juri) and Moulvibazar-2 (Kulaura) constituencies.
Police maintained that such information is being collected about officials to ensure neutrality of the officials so that no one can influence the election.
At least 14 polls officials of the constituencies shared their concerns about such moves of police as they said, being asked for such information, is a new experience for them.
Three police officers of Kulaura, Juri and Barlekha police stations said that they are collecting information at the behest of higher officials.
Those who are involved with politics are being identified, they added.
Assistant superintendent of Kulaura circle police Abu Yousuf claimed that such investigations are nothing new.
However, assistant inspector general at police headquarters, Md Sohel Rana contradicted this and said, “We will make it clear who are doing that prior investigation.”
Civil society platform Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said police are conducting such investigations to make sure that no supporter of opposition party get recruited as polls official.
The police are being used in malpractices like any time in past, he added.