Bangladesh Poll Chief Sounds Alarm on Spread of Arms

May 1, 2001 - 0:0
DHAKA Bangladesh's election commission said on Monday it was concerned about rising crime and the spread of illegal weapons ahead of parliamentary elections due in October.

An official said chief election commissioner Mohammad Abu Syed had called a meeting with his colleagues this week to discuss ways of preventing firearms and ammunition from getting into the hands of people bent on disrupting the poll.

"We are worried about the spread of illegal weapons in the country, especially ahead of general elections," he said.

Inspector General of Police Nurul Huda told Reuters that the situation was not alarming and a drive was on to recover unauthorized weapons.

"However there are some fringe elements in the country who may create law and order problems during the polls," he said.

Earlier this month, nine people were killed by a bomb explosion during Bengali New Year celebrations in the heart of the capital, Dhaka.

Huda said the police would take steps to prevent violence during the voting, which opposition parties say may be disrupted by backers of the ruling Awami League.

Ballot box violence forced the election commission to order revotes in 27 of 300 parliamentary constituencies during the 1996 elections, which were won by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League.

Former prime minister and chief of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Begum Khaleda Zia has accused the government of allowing law and order to collapse in the country of 129 million people.