Transfer all UNOs, OCs in phases
In a rare move, the Election Commission has asked for the transfer of all upazila nirbahi officers and officers-in-charge of police stations across the country.
The EC on Thursday instructed the senior secretary of the public administration ministry to transfer all UNOs.
In the first phase, the commission asked the government for a proposal for the transfer of the UNOs serving at their stations for over a year.
On the same day, the EC instructed the senior secretary of the home ministry's Public Security Division to transfer the OCs of all police stations.
The government has been asked to send the EC a proposal to transfer in the first phase those OCs who have been serving at their stations for over six months.
The EC has instructed the ministries concerned to send the proposals before December 5.
Copies of the letters were also sent to the cabinet secretary and the inspector general of police (IGP).
The letter issued to the senior secretary of the Public Security Division said the transfers are intended to ensure a free and fair national election.
The UNOs are performing duties as the assistant returning officers (AROs) for the January 7 polls. The OCs play a key role in maintaining law and order.
"Bringing such a change in the field-level administration is meaningless if the elections are uncontested."
The returning officers (ROs) with the help of the AROs do all the necessary works to conduct an election. They have the legal powers, under the electoral laws, to ensure free and fair elections.
Sources at the public administration ministry said at least 290 out of the total 495 UNOs are working at their stations for more than a year.
More than half of the OCs of 50 police stations in the capital will have to be transferred in the first phase as they have already served at their stations for over six months, according to sources in Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
Asked about the EC's move, former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumder told The Daily Star that bringing such a change in the field-level administration is meaningless if the elections are uncontested.
He said the transfers would cause sufferings to the field-level officers.
"Everybody is witnessing the election process. It is now quite clear to all which party will win the election and form the next government. It seems to me this time the election outcome will be the same like those of the last two parliamentary polls," he said.
Many people raised questions about the roles played by the police and administration officials during and after the 2018 general election.
The then EC did not have any effective control over those officials, political analysts say.
Top administration and police officials said the ECs did not take any initiative for a massive reshuffle in the field-level administration ahead of the general elections in 2008, 2014, and 2018.
"There had been a massive reshuffle of the police officials, including the OCs, ahead of the 2001 general election," former IGP Nurul Huda told The Daily Star.
Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general (operations) at the Police Headquarters, said they received the EC's instructions.
"We have to follow the instructions as the polls schedule has already been announced," he told this newspaper last night.
Anwar said there are 636 police stations across the country. He, however, could not give the number of OCs serving at their stations for over six months.
He said the Police Headquarters will first collect information about those OCs serving more than six months at their stations.
According to the Representation of the People Order-1972, officials like divisional commissioners, commissioners of metropolitan police units and all their subordinate officials cannot be transferred without the EC's permission after the announcement of the polls schedule.
The EC in its working plan for the 12th national polls pointed out several challenges for holding the election in a free and fair manner. One of those challenges is ensuring the neutral role of the field-level administration and police officials.
A couple of weeks ago, two election commissioners said that they would transfer field-level administration and police officials only if specific allegations brought against the officials concerned were found to be true.
Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Shushaoner Janno Nagarik, said a few days back the EC had said it would not bring any changes to the field-level administration and police offices.
"So, will the OCs be transferred at all or would it remain merely as the Election Commission's instructions?" he questioned.
Asked about the transfer of government officials, Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal on Sunday said, "Which Election Commission transferred officials? In 2001, Latifur Rahman transferred the officials. But he was the chief adviser of then caretaker government, not the head of the Election Commission."