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Politicization of Administration in Bangladesh

Edit Date:12/30/2010 12:00:00 AM


Fact finding report

 Indiscriminate Transfer and OSD

Since the Awami League led government has come into power in December 2008, repeated transfers of persons in the service of the republic who belong to opposition ideology and making them OSD have become very frequent. OSD stands for Officer on Special Duty in Bangladesh civil service. Such officials are assigned to no official duty or power, but they receive full salary and allowance like a normal civil servant of the state. The practice of OSD is being used to punish ‘allegedly’ politically pro-opposition officers in the service of the republic by excluding them from participating in the administration. At present 466 high officials of the administration are designated as OSD.[1] Among them are 10 Secretaries, 26 Additional Secretaries, 38 Joint Secretaries, 38 Deputy Secretaries and 129 Senior Deputy Secretaries.[2] 466 OSD in 20 months is an unprecedented record in the history of Bangladesh.[3] The state has to expend 368,800,000 Tk. ($ 5,270,000) annually for the salary and allowance of OSD officials though they have no particular duty in the service.[4] Such a large amount of money is being wasted from public fund merely due to political hatred of the Government by segregating skilled officers from the service of the republic for months. According to the rules promulgated in November 1986, an officer can be made OSD for five grounds only such as for misconduct, during leave for more than 2 months, officers awaiting training, OSD pending posting after returning from foreign training and unavoidable administrative necessity. But during the present Awami League regime officers are being made OSD on the basis of their alleged political identity.

In the last 9 months, at least 1100 physicians, 741 Revenue officials and 487 administrative officers  have been transferred. Most of them have been  transferred for their ‘alleged’ of  belonging to the opposition party’s ideology.[5] On the other hand, 503 secretariat officers have been promoted violating seniority. In order to  give priority to the pro-ruling party officers, 553 competent and senior officers were deprived from promotion. For example, in the ’84 Batch of Bangladesh Civil Service, the 1st position holder in merit was not promoted while the 264th person got promotion.[6]

Statement of Prime Minister’s Advisor

On 25th November, Prime minister's advisor for administration and establishment affairs H T Imam has said that no followers of Jamaat[7] ideology will be promoted to higher posts in the administration. “Promotion is not a matter of right. It is given according to the government's own thoughts,” added Imam, who advises Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on establishment affairs.[8] Imam was talking to reporters after attending a workshop entitled 'Citizen Charter in Developing Quality of Service', arranged by the district administration in Rangpur. On Nov 21, the government promoted 158 deputy secretaries to joint secretaries. The mass promotion in the civil service drew widespread criticism for its perceived bias of partisanship, though Imam refuted such allegations.

The statement of H T Imam was published in all the major news media in Bangladesh.

Daily Financial Express: He [H T Imam] said that no believers in Pakistani ideology would be promoted to higher posts in the administration. "If someone wants to get promotion he should be a follower of the spirit of liberation war", he added. On November 21, in a major civil service shake-up, the government promoted 158 deputy secretaries to joint secretaries. The mass promotion drew widespread criticism for its perceived bias of partisanship. Mr. Imam, however, refuted the allegations.[9]


Daily Amar Desh: Prime minister's advisor on administration and establishment affairs H T Imam has said that those who supports Jamaat and want to follow Pakistani ideology would not get promotion to higher posts in the administration. “We do not believe in the principle of promotion on the basis of seniority in service”.[10]

Daily Naya Diganta: Prime minister's advisor H T Imam has said; “in no case will the supporters of Jamaat and Pakistan ideology be promoted to higher posts in the administration. Apart from these two classes, other officers, even BNP supporters, will get promotion if they are efficient and skilled”.[11]

Daily Samakal: He [H T Imam] said, “to get promotion, officers must believe in the spirit of the liberation war. Those do not believe in the spirit of the liberation war and supports Jamaat will not get promotion”.[12]

On 20 September 2010 Prime Ministers advisor on health affairs Dr. Modasser Ali declared in a public meeting held in Gopalganj that no one except the members of the ruling party would be recruited in the 13350 posts in community clinics. “Any officer who will not follow this decision will be punished”.[13] On 22 May, Sate Minister of Water Resource made a similar statement in Thakurgaon.[14]

Attack on the Administration by the Ruling Party


Text Box: Humiliated DC of Pabna, at a Press conferenceOn September 17, 2010, leaders and activists of the ruling party and its associate bodies forced Pabna district administration to halt recruitment examinations for the Deputy Commissioner's (DC). The recruitment exams was halted as the administration was in favor of exam for recruitment instead of recruiting the candidates  recommended by Golam Faruq Prince, Member of Parliament from the local constituency. On that  Jubo League and Chhatra League men swopped on two examination centres during a recruitment test of class-III government employees. The unruly ruling party men insulted the Deputy Commissioner, vandalized at least five vehicles, including of Rajshahi divisional commissioner office, additional district magistrate of Pabna, additional deputy commissioner and sadar thana nirbahi officer (TNO). They also assaulted a number of staffs of the local administration during the attacks, correspondents of different media reported. The leaders and activists of Awami League, Bangladesh Chhara League and Jubo League entered the examination halls soon after the exams started, said Imam Uddin Kabir, additional deputy commissioner (ADC, Revenue) of Pabna.[15] Then the government withdrew the deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and the upazila nirbahi officer of Pabna and made them OSD.[16]

On 19 September 2010, Awami League activists vandalized the civil surgeon office in Panchagar as the candidates recommended by the ruling party did not pass the recruitment test.[17] Recruitment exams have been halted in Pabna, Jessore, Patuakhali, Pancagar and Shariatpur due to attck by ruling party activists.[18]


Denial of Fundamental Rights

The statements made by the Advisors and ministers of the government reveal its discriminatory policy in public employment. Specifically denying a class of citizens who belong to opposition political ideology from their due right is a clear violation of the constitution of Bangladesh. Article 29 of the Constitution prohibits all sorts of discrimination in public employment:

29. Equality of opportunity in public employment: (1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in respect of employment or office in the service of the Republic. (2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office in the service of the Republic.

Article 27 further declares that all citizens irrespective of political or other identity must be treated equally.[19] Article 39 guarantees complete freedom of thought and conscience. But punishing the civil officials for their ‘alleged’ inclination towards opposition is severe  violation of the guarantee provided by the constitution of the country.[20]


Violation of Rule of Law

The policy of the government to exclude ‘alleged’ Jamaat ‘supporters’ from promotion is service is a clear violation of article 19 which states that, the State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens.[21]

According to the preamble of the Constitution, the fundamental aim of the State is to realise through the democratic process a society in which the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens.[22] Harassing supporters of opposition parties and depriving them from participating in the administration undermines the very spirit of the  constitution of Bangladesh. Giving preference to ruling party activists instead of merit amounts to racism and human rights violation which is prohibited by the constitution.[23]

It is an established principle in democratic society that all state affairs must the conducted following the due process of law. But the pressing demands of the Awami League MP’s and activists that recruitment must be according to their list severely undermine the due process of law.


Negative Impact on Governance

Keeping competent officers OSD without any duty creates frustration among the civil servants which has a bad impact on public administration. On the other hand frequent transfer affects the stability in the administration. The panic of transfer and OSD is making the administration stagnant.

Attack on public officials by Awami League activists on one hand and pressure from higher level of administration have restrained the officers from serving the best interest of the country. Conflict between administration and the governments affects the smooth running of the state.




The government should stop the arbitrary transfer and making OSD of the persons in the service of the republic on political consideration to prevent waste of human resource and public fund. Also the discriminatory practice of recruiting only from the ruling political party must be discontinued in order to ensure that the state is served by the most competent and deserving citizens. The policy makers should not make any statement which may encourage the ruling party activists engage in any illegal activity. The law enforcing agencies must not tolerate any criminal attack on the administrative officers so that they can serve the country without any fear.

The civil society should closely monitor whether the government’s policy in public employment is being used to deprive any citizen from his legal right or whether the standards of good governance are being followed in transfer, promotion and posting in the service of the republic. Civil society must make the people aware about the waste of public fund and human resources in the administration.

International community must consider the issues of governance and justice in the sector of public employment while making any decision about their relation with Bangladesh. Donor agencies should ensure that  benefit of the development does not reach only among the supporters of the ruling party, and that all people get equal privilege from the state.

[1] http://www.shaptahik-2000.com/2010/10/07/ওএসডি-সংস্কৃতি-ভারহীন-বি/

[2] Daily Jugantor, 14 June 2010

[3] http://www.shaptahik-2000.com/2010/10/07/ওএসডি-সংস্কৃতি-ভারহীন-বি/

[4] http://www.prothom-alo.com/print/news/110466

[5] http://www.amardeshonline.com/pages/details/2009/10/07/3972

[6] ibid.

[7] Jamaat: Bangladesh Jamaat-i-Islami (BJI) is one of the major political parties in Bangladesh established back in 1941. The ideology of this party is based on democracy and Islamic values. Jamaat was a part of the Government during the period of 2001-2006.

[8] bdnews24.com, 25 November 2010.

[9] http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=118499&date=2010-11-27

[10] Daily Amar Desh, 26 November 2010.

[11] http://www.dailynayadiganta.com/2010/11/26/fullnews.asp?News_ID=246669&sec=1

[12] Daily Samakal, 26 November 2010.

[13] http://budhbar.com/?p=3005&print=1

[14] Ibid.

[15] http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/latest_news.php?nid=25923

[16] http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/print_news.php?nid=156391

[17] http://budhbar.com/?p=3005

[18] ibid.

[19] 27. All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.

[20] 39. (1) Freedom of thought and conscience is guaranteed.

[21] Article 19(1), Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh: The State shall endeavour to ensure equality of opportunity to all citizens.

[22] Preamble, 3rd para, Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.

[23] 28. (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

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