LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
by F R Chowdhury 21 November 2018
When the Awami League (BAL) won the general election by 2/3 majority in the parliament in 2008, the party knew very well about their priority – change the constitution and remove the provision of election under non-political care-taker government so that they can never be removed from power. In this respect their second action was to get rid of civil servants who do not have their line of “chetona”. Hundreds of civil servants were retired or made OSDs. New recruitments were made checking carefully their Chatra-league background. Since then their success in training and promotion were dependent on their degree of loyalty to the party. Their understanding is confined to the idea that government is party and party is government. They virtually lost their power of thinking beyond that. They consider criticism of the government as anti-state activity. This is why we come across news item of people being jailed for making cartoon or mockery of prime minister whereas this should be considered as a normal expression of democratic feeling. Ten years later it is simply not possible to think that the same civil servants can play impartial role as returning officers in any poll. The civil servants are not only worried but rather terrorised as to what would happen if the party (BAL) loses election. They do not understand that civil servants are not part of government. The services of the civil servants are automatically placed at the disposal of the government, no matter whichever party is in power. Civil servants are also citizens of the country and they have the liberty to vote any party they like but what they cannot do is to express their support publicly in favour of any party, whether in power or in opposition. The nation expects them (civil servants) to work independent of any party-politics.
The present government has in a systematic way destroyed the structure of the civil service. It has created new post of senior secretaries to reward the ultra-loyal senior civil servants. The police have successfully kept the opposition under control. The prime minister recently announced their reward. In addition to IGP, five more senior police officers shall enjoy the rank and status of secretary to the government.
Any independent and sovereign country is supposed be proud of its armed forces. The president of the republic who is in no way associate with any political party is the supreme commander of the armed forces. The present prime minister takes every opportunity to appear in military ceremonies and functions. Sometimes she wears the uniform of a five star general/ admiral. Over 55 officers of our army were killed when the prime minister was busy negotiating with the rebel leaders. Following this incident, some more officers including the “sword of honour” winner were retired. Now their support is being re-gained through newer cantonments, DOHS and golf courses. It is not desirable to discuss about armed forces but the activities of the present government lead to such discussion.
From the days of British rule and thereafter Pakistan period we always found judiciary above politics. That is no more the case. Just because the verdict did not suit the government, we saw how the chief justice had to leave his job and then finally to save his life, he had to leave the country. The prime minister claims that she never interferes with judiciary. Then why Khaleda Zia is still in jail and Sheikh Hasina is the prime minister? Sheikh Hasina had more cases against her. Where have they gone? Mofazzal Hussain Maya’s court conviction disappeared and he is still a minister. The presidential pardon was granted to a criminal to allow him to leave the country. These are all careful manipulation. We are waiting to see many more.
Finally because of the general election, there has been general promotion in civil service. People are promoted to levels that do not exist. There has been increase in salary. Even the pensioners got extra benefit. The attitude is – give everything now and make sure the party (BAL) wins. This is the biggest example of bribe and the ACC is silent!
There has been one case of street violence in front of BNP office in Naya Paltan since the election schedule was announced. We heard on the TV the police bosses saying that those responsible would be arrested on the basis of video recording. However, nobody said anything about the action of the police. The officer in-charge has to explain why he could not resolve matter peacefully. He also got to explain why the police vehicles were left abandoned.
The prime minister uses the official residence “gono-bhavan” for political meetings but does not provide one for the opposition. The ministers use their office for giving political statements to press. The Returning Officers were called by the PM after they were duly briefed by the EC. At district level police are keen to establish prior contact with ROs. In order to disrupt BNP communication, people are often deprived of internet and skype facilities. These are clear evidence as to how the civil servants are not only eager but in fact competing with each other to help the party in power (BAL). Others are fearful of any reprisal after election and they are also trying to do their bit for BAL. Even the Government appointed so-called mentors in each of 64 districts. However, this appointment of mentors was later cancelled. There is no way that level playing field can be made available to all parties. Free and fair election is unthinkable.
I shall conclude my article by paying my tributes to BNP who decided to participate in the election as part of their struggle for restoring democracy. In the words of Dr. Kamal Hossain it is a last ditch effort to liberate democracy. It is an effort to give the country back to people. It is time to stand for democracy. We must not fail. As Dr. Kamal said if people are united, neither the police nor military can do anything. Let us respond to the call of unity and win the decisive battle. Let us get back our freedom so that we can laugh and cry as we want. Let us celebrate the New Year. Let not anybody dictate what we can or cannot do. They tried it in Romania but failed. They shall fail here as well.
London, 21-November-2018 <email@example.com