Corrupt politics must be treated as a disease, not a symptom

Badiul Alam Majumdar | Update:

Prothom Alo illustrationUpon orders of the prime minister Sheikh Hasina, Chhatra League president Reazul Huq Chowdhury and general secretary Golam Rabbani were removed from their posts on 14 September on charges of corruption and unethical activities. Then, again at the behest of the prime minister, from 18 September till date, casinos, bars, offices and homes where illegal gambling and other criminal activities were taking place have been raided and persons from the ruling Awami League, its youth front Jubo League and other affiliated bodies have been arrested in this connection. These leaders include GK Shamim, Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, Rafiqul Alam Firoz, Lokman Hussain Bhuiyan, Selim Prodhan and many others.

And finally, after much speculation, Jubo League Dhaka City South president Ismail Hossain Chowdhury alias Samrat has been arrested. The arrested persons were nabbed in possession of millions of taka, foreign currency, fake currency notes, firearms and gold ornaments.

There are allegations that many members of the law enforcement and other big fishes were also involved in these nefarious activities, in exchange of large shares of the booty. The bank accounts of certain important persons have been frozen.

The prime minister’s stringent action in this regard deserves praise. However, apprehensions still remain as to whether this on-going drive against crime and corruption, particularly among those associated with the ruling camp, will actually resolve the problem. Many feel this operation is too little and too late.

Corruption has seeped into the very pores of society and has grasped the entire nation. It seems as if this operation aimed at the symptoms of the problem, not at the disease itself. It has so far simply concentrated on casinos and gambling, and the endemic political corruption has been overlooked.

Awami League surged to power in 2008 with the commitment of change. It pledged to uproot corruption, extortion and other unscrupulous practices. It also declared that it would bring an end to all sorts of politicisation and that the ministers and members of parliament would have to annually submit their wealth statements.

Back in 2011, the highly respected chief justice Habibur Rahman had issued a cautionary note that the country had been gripped by gamblers. He was castigated, rather than heeded, for this criticism. Had his words been heeded, perhaps things may have been different today.

The steps taken so far have addressed the symptoms, but it is obvious that the malady goes much deeper. The criminal activities of the arrested persons are just a naked reflection of the criminal contagion that had afflicted the nation. Our corrupt politics has created these villains, has nurtured and patronised them. So it is the corrupt politics that has to be uprooted if the problem is to be resolved.

Corrupt politics leads to fragile governance and misrule. Law, rules and regulations and institutions are the mainstay of governance. Politics in our country often prompts the enactment, use and misuse of the law and the law is often blatantly disregarded. This had led to our society being ensnared with injustice and lawlessness. All systems have broken down and our constitutional institutions are crumbling. The administration has lost the clout to take action against the criminals who have powerful political protection. The law enforcement has also been corrupted as they are being used as political tools.

Our political parties pay no heed to the Representation of the People Order (RPO) 1972. They are not supposed to have affiliated bodies and wing or overseas units. The political parties do not give two hoots to such orders. That is why Chhatra League and Chhatra Dal have become vital affiliates of Awami League and BNP. In their name of student politics they use the students in their own interests. This has dealt a serious blow to the quality of our education. If the political parties do not follow the rules, why will their student fronts do so?

Meting out favours is another dangerous aspect of our corrupt politics. Our politics is bereft of principles and ideals. People join politics for personal gain. People have rushed to Awami League and its front organisations, milking what they can from lucrative development projects. They have looted the banks and share market to amass massive amounts of wealth. Unless all this is halted, good governance has no chance.

BNP’s Operation Clean Heart is an example of how dealing with the symptoms rather than the disease is not the answer to the problem. RAB was created at the time and there was a crackdown on criminals. There was temporary respite, not a permanent solution.

Refined and developed politics must be used to destroy the factory that churns out corrupt political practice. This calls for courage and farsightedness.

Corrupt politics is a national problem. Such corruption is present in all parties, particularly those that have tasted power. A national consensus is required to bring an end to corruption in politics. Far-reaching reforms are also essential. We can only hope our politicians display such far-sightedness, wisdom and courage and take the initiative to set things straight.

* Badiul Alam Majumdar is the secretary of SHUJAN (Citizens for Good Governance). This piece appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir

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