Govt reshuffling administration with ‘preferred people’ before JS polls

28 districts get new deputy commissioners in the last five days while 13 districts get new superintendents of police and 45 upazilas get new UNOs

Ministry of Public AdministrationProthom Alo illustration

In the past five days, the government has made new appointments of deputy commissioners in 28 districts. These appointments generate increased curiosity within the political landscape before the Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) elections as the DCs generally act as returning officers in the polls.

The government also transferred 13 superintendents of police (SPs) and appointed 45 new Upazila Nirbahi Officers’ (UNOs) that time. The SPs and UNOs also play an important role before and during the polling.

The political arena is abuzz with discussions regarding the government's reshuffling of field-level administration, particularly the appointment of preferred officials in key positions, ahead of the upcoming 12th parliamentary election. The DCs has taken centre stage in discussions. Of the newly appointed 28 DCs, seven worked as personal secretaries to different ministers and secretaries and 11 officials worked at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), cabinet division, public administration ministry and home ministry.

DCs have been appointed from 24th, 25th and 27th BCS cadres. It also has been decided to withdraw all the DCs who are from 22nd batch of BCS admin cadre. The government has already issued transfer order to around 20 officials of that batch who have been carrying out responsibilities as DCs. The officials of 22nd batch of BCS admin cadre will be promoted to the post of joint secretary soon, said sources from the public administration ministry.

The sources also said the government collects information about the officials through different intelligence agencies to understand their allegiance to the government before appointing them as DCs. Wishing not to be named, a senior official from the public administration ministry stated that political considerations typically carry weight in these appointments before elections. However, a few individuals are selected based on professionalism, merit, and qualifications, although their number is negligible.

Deputy minister’s PS appointed as DC in his constituency

Arifuzzaman, personal secretary to deputy minister for the Ministry of Water Resources Enamul Haque Shamim, is one of the 10 officials appointed as DCs on 6 July. He has been made the DC of Shariatpur, the electoral area of the deputy minister.

Speaking about this to Prothom Alo, former cabinet division secretary Ali Imam Majumder said Arifuzzaman could have been made DC of another disctrict. There will be conflict of interest as he has been made the DC in the electoral area of the deputy minister. Such a decision cannot be supported ethically. This official has worked under the deputy minister. How would he go against the order of the deputy minister?

Seven are PS of ministers, secretaries

It is generally implied that individuals appointed as personal secretaries to cabinet members and secretaries are expected to demonstrate allegiance to the ruling party. Seven such officials have been made DCs this time. home minister’s personal secretary M Asaduzzaman made DC of Pabna, law minister’s PS Nur Kutubul Alam made DC of Patuakhali, water resources deputy minister’s PS Arifuzzaman made DC of Shariatpur, personal secretary to state minister for disaster management and relief affairs Khandaker M Mushfiqur Rahim made DC of Cumilla, Dhaka North City Corporation mayor mayor’s PS Shah Mojahid Uddin made DC of Bandarban, personal secretary to the prime minister’s principal secretary, Kaisarul Islam made DC of Tangail and personal secretary to state minister for shipping Mohammad Abraul Hasan made DC of Jashore.

Officials serving in key positions such as the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), public administration ministry, cabinet division, and home ministry are commonly perceived to be close to the government. Eleven officials from those places have been appointed as DCs. Of them, public administration ministry’s deputy secretary Rehena Akter appointed as deputy commissioner of Manikganj. She was involved with the politics of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), student wing of Awami League, when she was a student at Dhaka University, confirmed several of her batchmates at work to Prothom Alo.

Getting appointment even after controversial works

Debi Chanda, who previously held the position of Deputy Secretary at the Economic Relations Department (ERD), has been appointed as the DC of Habiganj. The government faced embarrassment due to certain controversial activities involving this official from the 24th batch of BCS in the past.

She reportedly behaved badly with people when she was the UNO at Ramu upazila in Cox’s Bazar in 2013. There was an incident where she confined a cow belonging to a poor family for two days when it entered the premises of the upazila parishad. When the cow's owner, along with her two daughters, went to retrieve the cow, they were subjected to harassment by the UNO. Although the woman eventually got back her cow after two days, she died of heart attack. Consequently, local residents staged protests seiged the office and residence of the UNO. Similar demands for the removal of Debi Chanda were also made by people during her tenure as the UNO in Agailjhara, Barishal the following year.

She is one of the 10 officials who have been appointed as DCs on 9 July.

Official who came into discussion over Biman’s question paper leak

Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ general manager (admin) Muhammad Nizam Uddin has been made DC of Bhola. Question papers of the exams for appointment in different posts of Biman were leaked last year. According to the report of the Biman’s investigation committee Nizam Uddin was the member secretary of that appointment committee. He was also involved with composing the question paper.

Speaking to Prothom Alo about the recent appointments, public administration ministry’s senior secretary Mesbah Uddin Chowdhury on Tuesday said it is not that the DCs are being appointed ahead of the parliamentary election. This is a routine task. A part of the DCs extensive activities is to carry out the works related to voting.

He further said that some of the officials have been serving as DCs for two years. As per the rules, they are being recalled to the ministry and new DCs are getting appointments.

When questioned about certain officials who served for less than a year, the senior secretary to the public administration ministry clarified that the cabinet division consistently assesses their performance, and decisions regarding their tenure are made accordingly.

New SPs to 13 districts

The home ministry on 13 June issued a gazette notification over transfer of 13 SPs to 13 distircts. Nilphamari’s SP Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman transferred to Narsingdi, DMP deputy commissioner Md Golam Sabur transferred to Nilphamari, Sherpur SP Md Kamruzzaman transferred to Naogaon, special branch’s (SB) Monalisa Begum made SP of Sherpur, Bhola’s Mohammad Saiful Islam transferred to Chandpur and DMP deputy commissioner Al-Beli Afifa made SP of Gopalganj.

Besides, Anti-Terrorism Unit’s (ATU) Mohammad Aslam Khan made SP of Munshiganj, Chapainawabganj’s SP AHM Abdur Rakib transferred to Kushtia, police headquarters’ M Saidul Hasan transferred to Chapainawabganj, Pirojpur SP Mohammad Saidu Rahman transferred to Khulna, Special Security and Protection Battalion-1 (SPBN’s) Mohammad Shafiur Rahman made SP of Pirojpur, ATU’s Md Mahiduzzaman made SP of Bhola and highway police’s (Madaripur region) Md Mahabubul Alam made SP of Shariatpur.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan disagreed with labeling these transfers as "election-oriented transfers" and instead referred to them as regular transfers.

‘Must get out of this trend’

Speaking about the transfers, Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN) secretary Badiul Alam Majumder told Prothom Alo, “The ruling party always reshuffles everything before the election. The same pattern is being observed this time. Such actions pose significant obstacles to ensuring a free and fair election."

He further emphasized, "Currently, the administration and law enforcement agencies hold significant control over the electoral process. We must break free from this trend. To achieve this, we need a government where officials can play a neutral role."

* The report was originally published in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in english by Shameem Reza