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HOUSE of CARDS
DOCUMENTING SYLHET CITY ELECTION 2018

A detailed report by
Professor A K M Wahiduzzaman with the assistance of Bangladesh
based journalist Alif Serajduddin
City Corporation Election 2018 Series
September 06, 2018.

1
Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................. 3

CAT AND DOG................................................................................................ 4

ACTION DAY ................................................................................................. 14

GAGGED ....................................................................................................... 21

OUTCRY ........................................................................................................ 23

CONCLUSION............................................................................................... 25

2
CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION
AN UNPOPULAR REGIME

Election in Sylhet City Corporation was a much-anticipated one and a different ball
game because in the first place, the incumbent mayor, from Bangladesh Nationalist
Party-BNP, was obstructed to work uninterruptedly and was even indicted in a murder
case by the government, and beside that Sylhet city was never considered as a bastion
of BNP like other divisional cities e.g. Rajshahi, Khulna or Barisal.

Moreover, the Awami League government managed to fuel feuds between the local
BNP men and allies as a result, from 20-party-alliance, three candidates submitted
their nomination for mayor.

These three factors became a source of inspiration for the Awami League. With an
utterly subservient administration loyal to the ruling party, and a submissive election
commission who are unable to oversee a credible election, ruling party built a house
of cards hoping that their mayoral candidate will win anyways.

The loss at the Sylhet city poll has surprised many observers, including BNP top
leaders and journalists who covered the election, as it was the Sylhet City Corporation
election where the most number of violence was recorded, and even journalists were
attacked while covering the violent behaviour and attempts to rig the poll by AL-men.

Nevertheless, losing a city poll, where supposedly 50 thousand bogus votes were cast
in favour of the AL-backed candidate, to a candidate who remained almost half of his
tenure behind bars fighting criminal cases clearly shows the growing unpopularity of
Awami League even at an apparently neutral area.

This paper has tried to give a brief overview of the election at Sylhet that include: the
situation before the election, the incidents during the election, responses from different
quarters and an analysis of why Awami League lost.

3
CHAPTER II

CAT AND DOG


INTIMIDATING VOTERS & OPPOSITION GROUPS

The government, law enforcers in Sylhet and local Awami League (AL) leaders,
harassed and obstructed BNP-men in three ways during the campaign phase.

Primarily by arresting BNP leaders and activists who took part in BNP candidate’s
campaign after activating previously filed cases, secondly by filing new cases against
BNP-men on entirely baseless charges, and finally by using government facilities in
favour of AL-backed mayor candidate Badruddin Ahmed Kamran.

2.1 The arrest spree


Police started a campaign of arrest during the campaign phase of Sylhet city poll that
continued till the election day at Sylhet. Victims included student activists from civic
leaders of Sylhet.

• On July 12 police detained a BNP activist for hanging posters and denied the
incident.

Later, the BNP mayoral candidate staged a sit-in in front of Bandar Bazar police
outpost police admitted the arrest and freed the activist. 1

• BNP activists — Russel Ahmed (25) and Sumon Ahmed (28) -- were picked up
from their homes on July 20. However, the police did not admit their arrests
initially.

Demanding their whereabouts, BNP mayoral candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury


along with leaders and activists of the party staged a sit-in in front of Sylhet
Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner’s office, on July 21. 2

1
Police harassment stepped up as polling day nears,
https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/180329/Police-harassment-stepped-up-as-polling-day-nears
2
Arrest fear grips BNP ranks, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/arrest-fear-grips-bnp-ranks-1609219

4
They staged the sit-in for more than an hour from 2:45 pm, and only left the spot
when police admitted arresting BNP-men.

• On July 26, police arrested BNP activist Niyamat Elahi and JCD activist Momtaj
Hossain Munna at their houses, said Mosarraf Hossain, officer-in-charge of
Kotwali Police Station. 3

The duo was among the seven student activists of BNP arrested by Police in less
than one week.

BNP’s Sylhet mayor candidate Ariful Huq Chowdhury asks an explanation for arresting
his activists to a police official

• Police in a drive arrested a civil society leader, close to Ariful Haque


Chowdhury, opposition BNP nominated mayoral candidate in Sylhet civic polls,
from Hawapara area in the Sylhet city on July 26.

Assistant Sub-inspector Anwara of Kotwali Police Station, said police arrested


Abdullah Gulzar from his residence around 3:00 am, midnight. 4

3
'Case spree' against BNP-JCD men on, https://www.thedailystar.net/city/case-spree-against-bnp-jcd-men-
1612357
4
BNP mayoral candidate’s close aide detained, https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/180328/BNP-
mayoral-candidate’s-close-aide-detained

5
Abdullah Gulzar is the General Secretary of Terrorism Eradication Committee, a
civil society body in Sylhet. He collected nomination paper for Ariful Huq
Chowdhury.

• Former president of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD), Sayeed Ahmed, was


arrested on July 22.

He was earlier asked to quit electioneering.

• Ruman Razzak, the son of member secretary of BNP candidate’s election


committee, was also arrested on July 22. 5
• Police on July 28 night, in Sylhet, arrested BNP mayoral candidate Ariful Haque
Chowdhury’ election coordination committee convener Abdur Razzak in the
city. 6

Kotwali police station sub-inspector Kamal Hossain said that Abdur Razzak was
named in a case filed Friday night for the explosion of two crude bombs at an
election office of AL mayoral candidate Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran at
Chowkidekhi.

BNP's Sylhet City Corporation mayor candidate Ariful Haque Chowdhury along with leaders
and activists of the BNP-led 20-party alliance stages a sit-in in front of the office of Sylhet
Deputy Police Commissioner (south) protesting the arrest of two BNP men.

5
Sylhet BNP mayoral candidate brings harassment allegations, www.theindependentbd.com/post/159120
6
Ariful’s election coordination committee convener arrested,
www.newagebd.net/article/47111/electioneering-ends-amid-allegations-of-code-violations

6
2.2 Adding salt to injury
BNP in Sylhet has been in trouble due to a hefty amount of cases and charges made
against the leaders and supporters by police in last nine years. After the election date
was declared, Police initiated a “festival” of filing new cases on false charges to harass
them more. This was more like exploiting their misery.

121 BNP and Jatiyabadi Chhatra Dal, the student wing of BNP, leaders and activists
were sued in three cases filed by police and Awami League just one week before the
election. In these cases, another 120 unnamed persons were also made accused.

More to add, another 80 named-unnamed BNP-men were made accused in another


case filed on July 27, three days prior to the election.

More than 400 of BNP-men were named in false cases filed within 20 days.

• Police on July 26, 2018, filed a case against 48 BNP-JCD leaders and 20-25
unnamed persons over a crude bomb attack on the law enforcers on July 25
night in Sylhet city.

In the case, police accused Akther Hossain, president of the Ward-26 unit of Sylhet
city BNP, as prime accused along with several city unit BNP-JCD leaders and some
central Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) leaders. 7

• On July 22, a case was filed with Shahporan Police Station against 39 BNP
men for ‘unlawfully’ staging a sit-in in front of the office of a deputy
commissioner of police.

The accused include BNP chairperson's advisor Khandakar Muktadir Ahmed,


Sylhet district BNP President Abul Kaher Shamim Chowdhury, and Sylhet BNP
President Nasim Hossain.

Among others, BNP mayoral campaign Member Secretary Abdur Razzak, former
Sylhet BNP president Shahriar Chowdhury, Sylhet BNP Vice-President Saleh
Ahmed Khasru, Sylhet BNP Joint Secretary Ajmal Bakhth Sadek, Sylhet district

7
Campaigners face police harassment,Campaigners face police harassment
www.theindependentbd.com/printversion/details/158923

7
BNP General Secretary Ali Ahmed, BNP leader Emran Ahmed and 30 other BNP
men were charged. 8

• An AL leader filed another case against 34 BNP men for an arson attack on an
electoral camp of their candidate on July 22. 9
• Some 80 leaders of BNP and its front organisations were named in a case filed
on July 27 for the explosion of two crude bombs at an election office of AL
mayoral candidate Badar Uddin Ahmad Kamran at Chowkidekhi. 10

Biman Bandar police station officer-in-charge Gausul Hossain said that Faruk
Ahmad, a leader of the AL youth front Juba League, filed the case with the police
station.

2.3 Influential attempts to influence the election


Beneficiaries of the government's activities, officials or employees of the republic
cannot participate in any kind of campaign in polling areas ahead of elections,
according to sub-section 2 of section 22 of the City Corporation Election Code of
Conducts.

Also, the rule says, any competing candidate or anyone on his behalf cannot use any
government instrument, vehicles or any other government facilities for electioneering.

However, countless government officials including a vice-chancellor of a university,


chief of different institutions and government representatives campaigned for AL-
backed candidate Badruddin Ahmed Kamran.

Such campaign by public servants or those who hold the office of benefits are
repugnant to electoral code of conduct and of course professional ethics.

8
City Polls 2018: BNP men allege harassment, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/city-polls-2018-bnp-
men-allege-harassment-1610152
9
Arrest fear grips BNP ranks, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/arrest-fear-grips-bnp-ranks-1609219
10
Electioneering ends amid allegations of code violations, www.newagebd.net/article/47111/electioneering-
ends-amid-allegations-of-code-violations

8
A) University VC flouts the rule

The SUST vice chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed accompanied by the university's
registrar, accounts director and some other officials joined a meeting held at a
restaurant in Ambarkhana area of Sylhet on July 21.

SUST vice chancellor Farid Uddin Ahmed with AL leaders at a campaign meeting.

In the meeting with the banner inscribed “Electioneering meeting in support of


Badaruddin Ahmad Kamran”, the VC said, “It is necessary to coordinate the election
centrally. There is no scope to relax that we have Awami League in the government.”

“Despite having support from the government, losing the election will be a disgrace for
us,” Farid Uddin Ahmed added. 11

In accordance with the rules pertaining to the university as well, teachers and
employees of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology cannot take part in any
political activities nor can they officially get involved with any political parties.

VC Farid Uddin Ahmed went on to say that it would be a "disgrace" for them, should
AL candidate Badaruddin Ahmad Kamran lose despite having support from the
regime.

The VC, in his speech during the meeting, urged all to vote for the AL mayor.

11
VC, govt officials campaigning for AL candidate, https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/180269/VC-
govt-officials-campaigning-for-AL-candidate

9
B) Head of medical college campaigns for AL

More than 50 senior officials of different government organisations including the


principal and the civil surgeon of Sylhet Osmani Medical College took part in the
election campaign in favour of the AL candidate on July 18. 12

The principal with other officials distributed pamphlets and campaigned for the AL
candidate in Chouhatta and Osmani Medical College area after the 18 July meeting.

The principal of Osmani medical college, Murshed Ahmed Chowdhury, earlier, went
with the AL candidate while submitting nomination paper on 28 June.

While warned for his actions, Murshed Ahmed Chowdhury, changed his strategy and
instead of participating in the campaign directly, he was seeking votes for the AL
candidate holding meeting in the name of promoting the government’s success in the
health sector.

C) University official abuses power for Kamran

The registrar and the deputy registrar of Sylhet Agriculture University took part in the
election campaign in favour of the AL candidate.

Asked about it, Badrul Islam, the registrar of Sylhet Agriculture University, said:
“Kamran is a man of progressive ideology. I went there as a well-wisher. I did not
participate in any campaign.”

Election experts called such electioneering by government officials as a breach of


electoral rules and violation of service rules.

12
2 govt officials issued showcause notices for SCC electioneering, old.unb.com.bd/bangladesh-news/2-govt-
officials-issued-showcause-notices-for-SCC-electioneering/76179

10
Violating the electoral code of conduct, Jatiya Party lawmaker Yahya Chowdhury, second
from right, campaigns for Awami League mayor candidate Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran in
Sylhet city's Taltala area

D) Lawmaker attempted to influence voters defying the ban

Defying a ban on their stay in the city corporation areas before the election, outsiders
campaigned for the Awami League's mayoral candidates as if there is no rule for them.
According to an Election Commission circular, outsiders were supposed to leave the
city corporation areas by July 27 midnight. 13

However, in Sylhet, Jatiya Party leader and lawmaker from Sylhet-2 constituency
Yahya Chowdhury and SM Jakir Hossain, general secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra
League, campaigned for Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran on July 28.

Lawmaker Yahya Chowdhury even announced JP's support for Kamran at a press
conference held by the party at a city hotel.

13
Last Day's Campaign: Outsiders flout rules in 3 cities, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/last-days-
campaign-outsiders-flout-rules-3-cities-1612738

11
Chhatra League General Secretary SM Jakir Hossain distributes leaflets of Kamran in the
area, flouting an Election Commission order that bars outsiders from staying in the city
corporation area ahead of the election

E) Central AL leaders campaign amid EC ban

BCL General Secretary Jakir, School Affairs Secretary Joynal Abedin, Religious
Affairs Secretary Khaer Uddin Chowdhury, and other central and several Upazila-level
leaders of the organisation were seen in campaigns for Kamran. 14

Central AL Organising Secretary Ahmed Hossain was present at the programme on


July 28 amid election commission’s notice to leave the city corporation areas by July
27 midnight.

F) Processions defying election rules

In a clear violation of rules, Chhatra League brought out processions and chanted
slogans in favour of AL candidate Badar Uddin Ahmed Kamran.

Most councillor candidates were also seen bringing out processions. Supporters of
many candidates roamed on motorbikes. 15

14
Last Day's Campaign: Outsiders flout rules in 3 cities, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/last-days-
campaign-outsiders-flout-rules-3-cities-1612738
15
EC warnings fall on deaf ears, https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/ec-warnings-fall-deaf-ears-1612360

12
According to Section 11 of the City Corporation (Electoral Behaviour) Rules 2016, no
procession or showdown can be brought out before the election.

G) Govt. vehicles used for AL’s campaign

On July 26, eight chairmen of different Upazilas in Sylhet division joined an electoral
meeting at Hotel Gulshan in favour of Kamran.

While leaving the hotel after the meeting, they all carried posters and other electoral
materials in their government vehicles.

13
CHAPTER III

ACTION DAY
AN OVERALL SCENARIO OF THE ELECTION DAY

Reports of election violence, ballot snatching and vote rigging came in from Sylhet
during the city corporation elections

Several polling centres have witnessed clashes among supporters of different


councillor candidates for the Sylhet city polls. The clashes left four people, including a
magistrate, injured.

A brief centre-by-centre overview of the irregularities has been provided here in this
paper.

Clash breaks out at Sylhet polling centre 16

Shahjalal Jamia Islamia Kamil Madrasah polling station

A clash broke out between police and suspected BCL men when the later were
allegedly stuffing ballot boxes at a polling centre in Shahjalal Jamia Islamia Kamil
Madrasah polling station in Sylhet.

The law enforcers picked up one Abdur Rahman, 30, during the incident, reports our
correspondent stationed at the polling centre.

Ballot snatched in the presence of AL mayor candidate Kamran 17

Khasdobir Government Primary School polling centre

Witnesses said a group of people allegedly led by AL mayor candidate Kamran came
to Khasdobir Government Primary School polling centre in Sylhet city around 10:00
am.

16
Clash breaks out at Sylhet polling centre, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-election-2018/clash-
breaks-out-sylhet-polling-centre-1613344
17
Ballot snatched in presence of AL mayor candidate Kamran, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-
election-2018/scc-sylhet-city-corporation-polls-ballot-papers-snatched-presence-al-mayor-candidate-kamran-
1613368

14
Kamran entered at a booth of the polling station while his supporters stormed into two
other booths of the polling station, said the witnesses.

The supporters allegedly drove all the agents, voters and presiding officers from the
booths and rigged votes, Rasel Miah, an agent of BNP candidate Ariful Haque
Chowdhury, told reporters.

Presiding office Saiful at the polling centre confessed that AL candidate Kamran

visited the centre. He, however, did not comment on the vote rigging.

A sealed ballot lying in front of the presiding officer at a Sylhet centre

BNP agents were thrown out 18


Syed Hatem Ali High School centre

Voter turnout at Sadipur’s Syed Hatem Ali High School centre was thin. No agents of
BNP were seen in the five rooms of the polling station.

All the opposition polling agents were thrown out of the centre.

18
Voting in Sylhet marred by stray incidents,
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/election/2018/07/30/voting-in-sylhet-marred-by-stray-incidents

15
Journalist assaulted in Sylhet 19

Jamia Modinatul Ulum Darussalam Madrasa polling centre

The Daily Star district correspondent Masuk Hridoy was attacked by AL men around
11:20 am in front of Jamia Modinatul Ulum Darussalam Madrasa.

The ruling party men brought out the attacked when Masuk Hridoy was trying to
capture in his camera the chaos created by around 20 men wearing AL badges in front
of the polling centre after a vehicle bearing the flag of Islami Andolan Bangladesh
arrived at the spot.

“A man named Mahfuz, a supporter of Kamran, attacked me and tried to snatch my


camera as soon as I started clicking pictures,” Masuk Hridoy said.

“Mahfuz hit me several times, the lens of my camera was damaged,” Masuk added.

The Daily Star’s Sylhet Correspondent Dwoha Chowdhury was also assaulted during
the incident when he was trying to take pictures of the attack on his colleague Hridoy,
he said.

In the photo, the man who allegedly attacked a journalist of The Daily Star in Sylhet during
SCC polls on Monday, July 30, 2018, is seen

19
City polls: 3 journos assaulted in Sylhet, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-election-2018/3-
journalists-assaulted-in-sylhet-city-corporation-scc-election-1613374

16
Ballot ran out within 2 hours 20

Nabin Chandra Government Primary School centre

The ballot papers ran out at around 10 am at the Nabin Chandra Government Primary
School centre in Ward No. 20.

Police attack journalist21

Shahjalal Jamia Islamia Qamil Madrasa polling centre

Abdullah Al Bappi, the photojournalist of the Daily Naya Diganta, was assaulted by
police at a centre in Sylhet when he tried to take pictures of vote casting.

Bappi was taking pictures of vote giving when a team of police snatched his camera
and beat him up at Shahjalal Jamia Islamia Qamil Madrasa polling centre around 1:45
pm, our correspondent reports from the spot.

The police also deleted all the pictures in his camera.

Returning officer of the centre Jamil Ahmed was unwilling to comment on the incident
when he was reached for reaction.

Outsiders force into the polling booth 22

Railway Colony Government Primary School centre

Around 10:30 am, four outsiders entered the Railway Colony Government Primary
School centre and tried to snatch a ballot box.

The presiding officer handed them over to the on-duty policemen.

20
Voting in Sylhet marred by stray incidents,
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/election/2018/07/30/voting-in-sylhet-marred-by-stray-incidents
21
Voting in Sylhet marred by stray incidents,
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/election/2018/07/30/voting-in-sylhet-marred-by-stray-incidents
22
EC halts voting in two Sylhet centres, magistrate injured in clashes,
https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2018/07/30/ec-halts-voting-in-two-sylhet-centres-magistrate-injured-in-
clashes

17
Crude bomb exploded in front of police23

Upashahar High School centre

A crude bomb exploded near the Upashahar High School centre around 1:30 pm, said
the Presiding Officer Giasuddin. However, no one was injured or detained in the
incident.

Clash in front of Sylhet centre 24

Pathhantula Razamia Islamia centre

Police arrested a person after the supporters of two councillor candidates — Jagadish
Chandra Das and Eliasur Rahman — engaged in a clash in the Pathhantula Razamia
Islamia centre.

Police detained a group of youths when they were stamping on the ruling party`s election
symbol `boat` at the Sylhet Railway Government Primary School polling station during civic
polls in Sylhet on 30 July.

23
Voting in Sylhet marred by stray incidents,
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/election/2018/07/30/voting-in-sylhet-marred-by-stray-incidents
24
Voting in Sylhet marred by stray incidents,
https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/election/2018/07/30/voting-in-sylhet-marred-by-stray-incidents

18
Magistrate attacked by AL-men 25

Kazi Jalal Uddin Girls' High School

A magistrate was hurt while he was passing through a fight between two groups in
Kumarpara around 1:30 pm.

Proloy Kumar Saha, assistant returning officer, confirmed the injury of Executive
Magistrate Motiur Rahman – hurt when his car was passing through a fight of two
councillor groups.

AL-men shows the gun to poll officials26

Bakhtiar Bibi Government Primary School centre

Supporters of two councillors candidates—SM Shawkat Amin Touhid and Dinar Khan
Hasu—clashed around 1 pm near the Bakhtiar Bibi Government Primary School
centre in Ward No. 19.

They were trying to snatch the ballot boxes. Police opened fire to bring the clashes
under control, leaving three people injured, said Executive Magistrate Ataul Gani
Osmani who was on duty at the polling centre.

He, however, could not immediately identify the names of the injured.

“They came in groups and stormed three rooms. When the police resisted them, they
pointed firearms at the police. Later the police opened fire.”

BCL, police beat up Prothom Alo journalist in Sylhet 27

Jalalia Primary School polling station

Activists of the ruling party's student wing BCL and also the police severely beat up
Prothom Alo correspondent Misbah Uddin for filming vote rigging in Sylhet City
Corporation on Monday.

25
Violence reported from Sylhet, magistrate hurt, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-election-
2018/shots-fired-curb-ballot-stuffing-sylhet-1613365
26
EC halts voting in two Sylhet centres, magistrate injured in clashes,
https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2018/07/30/ec-halts-voting-in-two-sylhet-centres-magistrate-injured-in-
clashes
27
BCL, police beat up Prothom Alo journalist in Sylhet,
https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/180704/BCL-police-beat-up-Prothom-Alo-journalist-in

19
Around 2:45 pm, the daily’s Shahjalal University correspondent Misbah was recording
the ballot stuffing by the BCL men in Jalalia Primary School polling station in Dargah
area. The BCL cadres also snatched his mobile phone.

A group of policemen led by sub-inspector Nur Muhammad also joined the attack and
beat him severely, injuring his back and right
hand.

The BCL activists gave back Misbah’s


mobile phone only after deleting all the video
contents relating to rigging.

AL-men try to implicate BNP in


irregularities28

Kazi Jalaluddin Bohumukhi High School

At Kazi Jalaluddin Bohumukhi High School,


Ward 18, police fired blank shots to cub
BCL and police men beats up Prothom
Awami League activists stamping ballots for Alo’s Shahjalal University correspont
paddy and sheaf to implicate BNP with Misbah Uddin for filming vote rigging in
Sylhet city corporation elections
irregularities.

Voting was halted for about an hour since 11:00 am.

28
Violence reported from Sylhet, magistrate hurt, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-election-
2018/shots-fired-curb-ballot-stuffing-sylhet-1613365

20
CHAPTER IV

GAGGED
ATTACKS ON JOURNALISTS DURING POLL

Activists of Awami League assaulted three journalists and its student wing Bangladesh
Chhatra League (BCL) and another one was allegedly beaten up by police, while they
were covering the city corporation polls in Sylhet.

This was a part of the series of attempts to rig the poll in favour of Awami League. By
preventing journalist from covering the poll, either by assaulting or by barring them
from entering the centres, the ruling party wanted to ensure their victory in the poll of
the Sylhet.

The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned violence against journalists


covering local elections in the Bangladesh city of Sylhet, and called on authorities to
identify and hold the attackers to account.

This chapter of the paper provides the list of journalist, their details and the incident of
attack on them. Readers can find that here:

i) Masuk Hridoy29
District correspondent, The Daily Star

Several ruling party men attacked Masuk around 11:20 am when he was trying
to photograph a vehicle bearing the flag of Islami Andolan Bangladesh as it
arrived at the polling centre.

Around 80 ruling party activists had gathered there, and many among them
were seen entering the polling centre.

As Masuk began taking photos, several men wearing AL badges confronted


him and snatched his camera, damaging its lenses. Among them, one Mahfuz
hit him several times.

29
AL, BCL men, cops attack journalists, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-election-2018/3-journalists-
assaulted-in-sylhet-city-corporation-scc-election-1613374

21
Hridoy received some blows to his face, and his equipment was damaged.

ii) Dwoha Choudhury 30


Sylhet correspondent, The Daily Star

The Daily Star’s Sylhet correspondent, Dwoha Choudhury, was hit and shoved
around when he tried to take pictures of the attack on Masuk, his colleague
from The Daily Star.

iii) Misbah Uddin31


Shahjalal University correspondent, Daily Prothom Alo

Activists of the ruling party's student wing BCL and also the police severely beat
up Prothom Alo correspondent Misbah Uddin for filming vote rigging in Sylhet
City Corporation on July 30.

Around 2:45 pm, the daily’s Shahjalal University correspondent Misbah was
recording the ballot stuffing by the BCL men in Jalalia Primary School polling
station in Dargah area. The BCL cadres also snatched his mobile phone.

A group of policemen led by sub-inspector Nur Muhammad also joined the


attack and beat him severely, injuring his back and right hand.

Misbah was rushed to Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College where he is


undergoing treatment.

iv) Abdullah Al Bappi 32


Photojournalist, Daily Naya Diganta

Police beat up Abdullah Al Bappi, a photojournalist of Daily Naya Diganta, when


he tried to take pictures of people casting their votes at Shahjalal Jamia Islamia
Qamil Madrasa polling centre.

Police even took his camera, and deleted his photos of voters

30
AL, BCL men, cops attack journalists, https://www.thedailystar.net/sylhet-city-election-2018/3-journalists-
assaulted-in-sylhet-city-corporation-scc-election-1613374
31
BCL, police beat up Prothom Alo journalist in Sylhet,
https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/180704/BCL-police-beat-up-Prothom-Alo-journalist-in
32
Journalists in Bangladesh attacked and beaten covering local election, https://cpj.org/2018/08/journalists-
in-bangladesh-attacked-and-beaten-cove.php

22
CHAPTER V

OUTCRY
REFLECTIONS ON THE POLL

Experts of democracy, election and the participating parties have expressed their
dissatisfaction regarding the election of Sylhet City Corporation.

Their opinion can help us to have an idea on how the election was held and can help
us to decide the next steps.

The opinion shared by experts and people from the different quarter is detailed here.

“Attacking journalists for reporting on local elections is unacceptable,


especially as the country prepares for national elections in coming
months.” 33

Steven Butler
Asia program coordinator, The Committee to Protect Journalists

“Recently held three city corporation elections to Barisal, Sylhet and


Rajshahi were government-controlled.” 34

Badiul Alam Majumder


Secretary, Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan)

“Not just on the election day, the EC turned a blind eye to numerous
election rule violations—mainly by the ruling party and the police—in the
run-up to the polls.” 35

Mahfuz Anam
Editor, The Daily Star

33
Journalists in Bangladesh attacked and beaten covering local election, https://cpj.org/2018/08/journalists-
in-bangladesh-attacked-and-beaten-cove.php
34
City polls in Barisal, Sylhet, Khulna 'govt-controlled': Sujan,
https://www.thedailystar.net/news/city/bangladesh-recent-city-corporation-elections-were-government-
controlled-says-shujan-1629502
35
Three city polls replicate the previous two, https://www.thedailystar.net/editorial/three-city-polls-
replicate-the-previous-two-1613977

23
“The most recent elections were not free. If the elections are held in the
same manner, fair election cannot be possible under a party
government.”36

Dr Kamal Hossain
President, Gono Forum

“Awami League activists are doing ballot-rigging in most of the centres.


The Election Commission and law enforcing forces are not playing any
role to stop this.”37

Ariful Haque Chowdhury


Mayoral Candidate, Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP

Besides, Left Democratic Alliance (LDA), a platform of eight left-leaning organisations,


demanded re-elections to the three city corporations in Rajshahi, Barisal and Sylhet.
It termed the polls “farce”.

Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) also demanded re-elections, saying the EC


“failed to hold fair polls”.

36
We want polls under a credible govt: Kamal, https://en.prothomalo.com/bangladesh/news/182333/We-
want-polls-under-a-credible-govt-Kamal
37
SCC polls: Cancel election, says Ariful, en.banglatribune.com/country/news/8841/SCC-polls-Cancel-election-
says-Ariful

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CHAPTER VI

CONCLUSION
UNDERSTANDING THE FACTS

The most dominant factors we have experienced in Sylhet during the city election are
intimidation of opposition party stalwarts by police and administration, abuse of power
by government officials in favour of Awami League candidate, ballot stuffing, violence,
and throwing out of opposition party’s polling agents with the centre. One unique case
of Sylhet was the frequent attack on journalists when they tried to cover the
irregularities by ruling party-men both by AL and even by Police.

The election has proven that the administration of Bangladesh is entirely subservient
to Awami League and they cannot function properly with Sheikh Hasina as the Prime
Minister. Most of the government high-positions are captured by AL-loyalists who are
one of the biggest obstacles to holding a fair poll.

Once again, it has been proven that the election commission with KM Nurul Huda as
its chief cannot stand strong against the excesses by ruling party men. They do not
even have control over the police.

The attack on journalists is a reflection of the fact that the AL-men can go beyond the
limits to do what they wish to do and they are not afraid of the authority.

Yet, AL lost the election to BNP. This proves that how unpopular they are with Sheikh
Hasina as the Prime Minister, and the only solution to end the misrule of Hasina they
can see is in BNP.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party-BNP believes in a democracy where elections would be


free, fair and credible and only a neutral government under a credible person can
oversee such poll.

As a signatory of UN Resolution 52/129 that states “Strengthening the role of the


United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine
elections and the promotion of democratisation”, Bangladesh is bound to conduct fair
polls periodically, a fact that needs to be reminded.

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