POST TIME: 20 October, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 October, 2019 01:01:37 AM
Political involvement is a must for drive against corruption
This drive should have been backed by the political arms of the government

Political involvement is a must for drive against corruption

Sheikh Hasina's strong drive against corruption especially the crackdown against Casino clubs in Dhaka has been welcomed by the people of Bangladesh. This crackdown against even her own party men has increased the government's popularity. Mostly Juba League and Chatra League were affected by the government’s move and it is proved that peoples' various accusations against these two organisations for a long time was true. My hope is that Sheikh Hasina will very soon start an all-out campaign against all the social evils to free the country from the mountain high corruption and abuse of power.  But I have one fear in my mind that without a political drive behind this crackdown it may not have a permanent success like the past drives during the past governments. I would like to draw the Prime Minister's attention to this deficiency of the present drive also.

During the Pakistan period when General Ayub came to power, he first declared a war against corruption. He accused all the political leaders and parties that they were corrupt and had abused the state power. He banned political parties and put the leaders in jail. He used police and military in his drive against corruption. First it was almost like a miracle that the corrupt people were afraid and started to clear their overdue income tax and other government duties quickly and the prices of the daily essentials fell drastically. People were happy and started to say that Ayub should have captured power much earlier. But this rainbow did not last long. Very soon the bureaucracy and corrupt businessmen became active. Ayub had to absorb them in his administration because without their help he failed to run the country. He again had to collect some corrupt politicians like Fazlul Qadir Chaudhry from Chittagong and Sabur Khan from Khulna, Monem Khan from Mymensingh and appointed them as his ministers. Within a year the food price sky rocketed along with other essentials and bribery became rampant, more than before. At the end of the Ayub regime, The New York Times published a cartoon which showed Ayub's corrupt son, Gohar Ayub being chased by people and running to save his life.

After Ayub, General Yahya came to power. He also declared a crackdown against corruption. He removed three hundred three Civil Service Officers from the service with the accusation of corruption. Among them three civil service Bengali officers were my friend. They were condemned by the society as three nought three. Very soon this was proved a big failure. Yahya himself was accused of corruption, drunkenness, and womanising. Later on he became the leader of the mass murder in the-then East Pakistan.

After the Independence a genuine anti-corruption drive was started by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib's government. At that early period of independence the ration card corruption was rampant in the capital city. At that time people were getting rice, sugar and other essentials through ration card. A large number of people and dishonest ration dealers through fake ration cards were holding the food for selling in black Market and the real ration card holders were deprived of their daily essentials. One day government suddenly declared curfew throughout the capital Dhaka and employed police and military to search every house to seize and arrest the fake ration card holders.

At this time Abdul Mannan of Tangail was the Home Minister. On the day of the crackdown I was with him in Tangail at the home of Barrister Shawkat Ali. When we were having breakfast the Home Minister proudly said, 'Our army and police are doing house to house search in Dhaka. We will punish the fake ration card holders and stop the corruption'. Barrister Shawkat Ali, a Left leader before and now an Awami League leader told Abdul Mannan, 'Minister, we have taken a wrong step. Without political participation the drive against corruption cannot be successful as we have seen in the past. We have a strong and popular political party like Awami League with us. Also Juba League and Chatra League are our two strong arms. With police and army they should join this campaign. They should first go to public to make them aware of this corruption. Then they should back the police and army. Without political participation only employing police and army which were the trademark of past anti-people dictators, should not be followed by a democratic government. Political participation should be associated with police and army action. Otherwise people might think only the police and army are free from corruption and they are the saviour of the country. A police action without political backing may turn the country into a police state'.

After coming back to Dhaka I suddenly met Sheikh Fazlul Haque Mani, the founder president of Juba League at Purbani hotel. Juba League was then a strong and popular organization of younger generation, not corrupted like the present one. I discussed with him about the recent anti-corruption drive of the government and asked why there was no participation of Juba League and Chatra League and even Awami League in this crack down. In the past Awami League did not start any movement without public participation. Sheikh Mani said it was again a bureaucratic conspiracy. Government was influenced by their advice. Our present administration are also full of bureaucrats from Ayub and Monem's period. They now want to run Bangabandhu's administration with those old policies and practices. We freed the country but unfortunately could not free the administration from these machinery of Ayub and Monem. After this discussion Sheikh Mani wrote his historic writing in his column in daily Banglar Bani— Bangabandhu's administration cannot be run by Ayub's people and machinery.

In the present drive against corruption also, the political involvement is absent. This drive should have been backed by the political arms of the government— Awami League, Juba League and Chatra League. Some people may argue that when the party in power and their two strong associates are accused of corruption how can they be involved in this anti-corruption drive? The answer is that not all among the vast number of grassroots workers and the old dedicated leaders of these three organizations are corrupt. There are honest workers and dedicated leaders who are majority in number. But because of the misdeeds of some of the hybrids of the upper strata of the parties these three organisations are now blamed.

If Sheikh Hasina as the leader of these parties called upon them to come out in the field and drive out all the miscreants among them and simultaneously police and army are mobilised it could produce a wonderful and lasting success, which we witnessed in the undivided Bengal. All the social correction movement in Bengal were started by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Ram Mohan Roy who made people conscious about the movement and the British Governor helped them by turning their proposal into law. To stop the Satidhaha (burning of a young wife with her dead old husband) was a religious system of the Hindu society then. Vidyasagar started movement and drew attention to the public to this barbaric system. The-then British governor of Bengal stopped this system by making it into a law. To fight out corruption, violence and abuse of power a strong public movement in association with police and army is very much necessary. Otherwise, even a democratic country by its sole dependence on police action may gradually become a police state. Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina should not make itself a police state. Our police should be reorganised as public servants not as the master of the people.

London, Thursday 17 October, 2019