Freedom Fighters

Cabinet's no to retirement age extension

The Cabinet turns down a proposal of the Liberation War Affairs Ministry to raise the retirement age limit of freedom fighter public servants to 65 years from the existing 60 years. Star file photo

The cabinet yesterday rejected a proposal to raise the retirement age of freedom fighters in public service to 65 years from 60.

The decision came at the weekly cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

A senior minister told The Daily Star that the proposal was turned down because many government officials, including some secretaries, resorted to cheating to obtain freedom fighter certificates to get job extension.

Such misuse of the certificates would have gone high, if the retirement age was extended, said the minister, asking not to be named.

Under the current rules, freedom fighters, their children and grandchildren enjoy 30 percent quota in government jobs. In addition, war heroes' children and grandchildren get special quotas in public schools, colleges and universities.

Contacted, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque declined to make any comment about the cabinet decision.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam said the Liberation War Affairs Ministry in July 2006 sent a proposal to the Prime Minister's Office to raise the retirement age of freedom fighter public servants to 65 from 57 at the time.  

But the then BNP government and later the caretaker government did not do so.

Later in 2013, freedom fighter Jamal Uddin Shikdar moved the High Court, which issued a rule on the government, asking why freedom fighters' retirement age should not be made 65. It also ordered the government to place the proposal before the cabinet within 60 days of the order for cabinet decision. Later, 680 freedom fighters became parties to Sikhdar's petition.

In response, the government moved the Appellate Division against the High Court order. On November 16 last year, the apex court ordered the government to comply with the HC directives.

In line with the order, the issue was placed before the cabinet yesterday.

Though the government did not approve the 2006 proposal, it extended the service age of the freedom fighter public servants twice since 2010.

In April 2010, it was raised by two years from 57. Then in November 2012, freedom fighters' retirement age was made 60.

Following the 2012 extension, many public servants collected freedom fighter certificates through forgery only to have their service tenure extended.

In the last five years, around 11,150 people obtained the freedom fighter certificates. 

But fake freedom fighters soon came under scanner amid widespread allegations.

In 2014, the Liberation War Affairs Ministry found that many obtained the certificates through forgery and without following the proper procedures.

Since then the ministry has revoked at least 1,300 such certificates, around 250 of them obtained by government officials, Sufi Abdullhil Maruf, public relations officer of the ministry, told The Daily Star yesterday.

Four of the government officials were secretaries. They are the then health secretary Niaz Uddin Mia, the then Public Service Commission secretary AKM Amir Hossain, former Liberation War Affairs secretary KH Masud Siddiqui (then an OSD), and former joint secretary to the Liberation War Affairs Ministry Abul Kashem Talukder (then an OSD). All of them collected the certificates in 2013.

The certificate of former PMO secretary Molla Waheeduzzaman, now chairman of the Privatisation Commission, was withheld because he obtained it without following rules. Waheeduzzaman now enjoys the status of a state minister.

Besides, the ministry revoked certificates of 2,367 members of a special guerrilla force formed by the NAP-Communist Party-Chhatra Union combine in 1971.

After the 2012 extension, the number of freedom fighters in government service stood at around 11,000. Of them, those in the final years of their jobs now were at best 15 or 16 years old during the Liberation War in 1971.