No matter who is in power, the governments of this country have always tried to fill up the administration and law enforcement under their rule with servile people who would toe the line of their parties and even give special favours to them when they need it. The ruling Awami League has done so, too, and with the next general election looming, the party is taking extreme measures to ensure that the administration and the police would be filled with such people so they can secure an easy victory. The government is already taking measures to snip out people who, they believe, have relations with the opposition or may somehow favour the opposition in the times of election.
This is not mere speculation. Five secretaries were recently sent to compulsory retirement by the government. The total number of those suspected of participating in some sort of "anti-government" conspiracy stands at 12, and the government plans on keeping them under tight monitoring even if it does not sack all of them. According to a report published by the daily Ittefaq, the detective agencies monitored the day-to-day activities of these officials and wiretapped their phones, and gave a detailed report on them. The government is reportedly also considering lodging sedition charges against them.
Needless to say, this is an unfair practice. It is unethical to send government employees to compulsory retirement just based on suspicions that they may be involved with the opposition party, and it is unethical to surveil government employees wholesale. The government service should be a meritocratic sphere where those with seniority and merit are promoted. Instead, we can see that the government is shaping the administration into an extension of the ruling party. Even the recently ousted information secretary cited his involvement with the ruling party student wing to save face. What does this indicate? It shows that, in order to remain and prosper in the administration, one has to bow to the wishes of the government and flash their involvement with the ruling party in some way so that they can stay in their jobs and get promotions.
This purge of the so-called "opposition-leaning" government employees is not only limited to the administration. Police have been investigating their own officers over the past six months to find who might be leaking information about the government's secrets to the opposition, according to Desh Rupantor newspaper. Three superintendents of police have already been sent to compulsory retirement and 200 others are being monitored. The officers who have been sent to retirement deny that they have been in touch with the opposition; one said he would not be able to work in the police for so long if he had been involved with the opposition.
These actions – monitoring officials and sending them to compulsory retirement in some cases – are actually being taken to send a message to all government officials. The message is that they all have to comply with the ruling party's wish to continue their stronghold on power indefinitely – through unfair means, if necessary. Anyone who wishes to object to such an arrangement will have to face harsh consequences. The government is looking at the past records of the officials to find if any officials were ever participants in BNP politics, and even the records of their family members are being dug up. This is shameful. No one should be punished because of their past politics or the political activities of their relatives.
It is true that the rules of public service, stipulated in Article 25 of the Government Servants (Conduct) Rules, 1979, bar the members of the civil service from engaging in any kind of politics. But selectively pushing out people because of their alleged sympathy or support of the opposition sends a clear message: bow down and carry on.
Through these actions, the ruling party is attempting to ensure a core of servile police and administration members who will serve its purpose in the upcoming election, which will possibly feature widespread irregularities. The party needs its servants to collude with its unethical practices or at least stay silent in the face of irregularities.
The Awami League's attempt at maintaining its power by purging the administration and police of anyone even deemed to have a slight leaning towards the opposition is a nefarious strategy, which sends the message that the party has no intention of running a free and fair election in the coming year.
Anupam Debashis Roy is an independent writer and researcher.