– Syed Abul Moksud*
We have been lamenting for eighteen years for good governance and honest candidates in the Election. That is why there is no end of groaning on the demand for a free, fair and impartial Election. But an Election with rigging is not an Election at all; where is the certainty of guarantee that a government formed through a faultless or fair Election can provide a good governance? It does not mean that a government should be constituted in a supernatural way that would present the nation a good governance. A government governed by the representatives elected through a flawless Election does not per se ensure a good governance. Without a skilled and corruption-free bureaucracy or administrative officials who are not elected but appointed, no good governance can be established. Whatever fair Election may be held a strong democratic state can not be set up with the inefficient, incompetent and dishonest bureaucrats. People can not receive a good governance from such a state. In a country where there is rigging in Election and short of transparency, and corruption or nepotism takes place in the appointment of officials, a disaster on this state is unavoidable.
Now-a-days very often it is seen in news media, ‘agitation of the promotion-deprived in the administration.’ The issue is very serious. There may be application of efforts-endeavor at the time of recruitment, but promotion is never a fundamental right of anybody. On the consideration of whether the upper posts remain vacant and whether the incumbents have the competence, promotion takes place in the administration. Bureaucracy or administration is like a pyramid. As it moves up, the number of posts shrinks. Compared to the number of Assistant Secretaries that of Deputy Secretaries is lower, that of joint Secretaries is more less than that of Deputy Secretaries; the number of Additional Secretaries is still less than that of Joint Secretaries and the number of Secretaries is the lowest of all.
We have inherited a British bureaucratic administration system. British bureaucracy was of dominant nature but had highest excellence in efficiency. After the birth of Pakistan the continuity of it was followed but the standard came down in a greater degree. Following the independence of Bangladesh the system remained the same but the standard of it deteriorated. In spite of that so long the officers of Pakistan Superior Service served they had proper education and efficiency. After the establishment of Bangladesh out of the competent, efficient and bright officers who got appointed in various Cadre Services through BCS Examinations were either not able to perform their jobs independently due to political pressure or their competence was not evaluated. Without acknowledgement of efficiency disappointment in man creeps in and from frustration exhaustion develops.
There was time in British and Pakistan period when anyone who could have become a Joint Secretary, would be able to enjoy the pleasure and pride of grasping the Mughal Empire. During British rule in India the size of the bureaucracy was small but highest in efficiency. In the Administrative Cadre during British rule there was Indian Civil Service (ICS) and Indian Political Service (IPS). In British India from Afgan border to Myanmar (Burma) in 1947 the member of ICS-IPS officers was 1 thousand 157 in this vast empire. Out of them British were 608, Hindu-Shikh-Persi were 448 and Muslims were 101 in number. Among them Bengali Muslims were very few.
When the British transferred the power and Pakistan and India achieved independence, the ICS and IPS officers also got distributed. Option or choice was invited from them which of the two countries they desired to stay in. Out of 1 thousand 157 officers only 95 expressed their willingness to stay in Pakistan. 6 of these officers went into retirement immediately. The new state of Pakistan fell into a serious crisis of officers. The existing officers faced the situation somehow by working round the clock.
In 1947 when the state of Pakistan had made its voyage with the ICS-IPS bureaucrat strength, the total number of it was 157 only. Out of them Muslim ICS officers were 83, Indian origin Christian was one, British ICS officers were 36, Muslim IPS were 12 and British IPS were 14. Outside this figure, there were 11 specially appointed officers during the II World War. Of the Bengali IPS officers there was Kazi Anwarul Haque, AKM Hafizuddin, Mohiuddin became IG [see details; Combined Civil List for India, Pakistan and Burma, No. 161, January-March 1948, Lahore, 1948].
The position of a top ranking bureaucrat is a dream. There is money and power. Governments change but they remain as before. Those who are preparing for BCS Exam, it would appear to them to be amazing to think that before the birth of Pakistan throughout India there were only 3 Muslim Joint Secretaries in the Central Government. Of these 3 persons one was anti-Bengali ill-famed Governor General Iskander Mirza.
After the foundation of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah formed Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS). To remove the shortage of officers special recruitment step was taken in the Administration, Police and Foreign Service. The door of life to the Bengalis got open. In 1950 during the time of Governor General Sir Khawja Nazimuddin and Prime Minister Liakat Ali Khan changing name of Pakistan Administrative Service different positions were renamed like Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP), Pakistan Foreign Service (PFS), Pakistan Audit & Account Service (PA&AS), Police Service of Pakistan (PSP) etc. A Bengali Hindu of chittagong Mr. Pravat Mukul Chowdhury, alias P.M. Chowdhury, a close person to Jinnah was taken into Foreign Service on special consideration. In the sixties he was ambassador of Pakistan to Burma.
From 1951 to 1970 those who got appointed in Administration, Foreign Service, Police Service, Audit & Accounts Service etc. being passed in the Central Superior Service had ample educational qualifications and efficiency of other kinds. Public Service Commission recommended their appointment through a hard examination. Their training was also very tough. There was no push factor behind their appointment, not even in their promotion. Things took shape following stern rules. There was no effective democracy in the country but an efficient administration was there.
In the bifurcated Pakistan the central government used to make disparity. We had also dissatisfaction due to the disparity in appointment of the Bengalis in the important posts. For running the state in a proper way there is no alternative to efficient administrative officers. Litterateur Annada Sanker Roy was a highly efficient ICS officer. While talking with me more than once during the eighties and also afterwards he said that going back from Kagmari Conference in 1957 Tarasanker Bandapadya told him and Prime Minister Jawaherlal Nehru that Mowlana Bhasani told him that East Bengal won’t remain with Pakistan for long days; it would surely be independent. Annada Sanker said, ‘I told Tarasanker that it won’t be wise to come out abruptly; it is necessary to wait for sometime so long a good number of Bengali officers does not become joint Secretary in the centre. For an independent East Bengal efficient officers would be required to run the state. He said I also told Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, please create efficient administrative officers to consolidate democracy in the country.
After independence in the government of Bangabandhu there was a very small number of senior officers in administration. Of the officers almost everybody was young in age; they had sufficient educational qualifications and efficiency. Else he couldn’t run the country in such a critical situation. He had special affection for those officers in whom he noticed people-oriented spirit. As for example the former CSP officer Dr. M.A. Sattar. Noticing his zeal in the socio-economic reforms of a newly independent country Bangabandhu at first made him Secretary to the Ministry of Planning and then that of the Ministry of Health and Family Planning. All of the Members-Chairman were senior to him. Although he did not interfere in their functions they felt discomfort. Having such an idea Bangabandhu transferred him from there and made Economic Secretary to the Prime Minster. ie, in his own office. There was almost no work for him. In a country like Bangladesh the government can not perform all works. Non-government initiative is necessary. Dr. Satter created Bangladesh Association for Community Education (BACE). Himself Dr. Sattar and his British wife Allen Sattar did ample works. Among the lady leaders who were involved with those activities included Salma Sobhan, Hamida Hossain, Salma Khan and others. Two school-life friends of Dr. Sattar were very close to me. One of them was Syed Kamrul Islam Mohammad Salauddin. Dr. Sattar gave me a book – Pedagogy by Paulo Freire for reading. Some of the the officers remain memorable by their public service. Akhtar Hamid Khan, Niaz Mohammad Khan, DIT Chairman Madani and others earned the respect of the people by their deeds even outside their responsibility. Establishment of a school after the name of Niaz Mohammad Khan in Brahmanbaria and naming of a road at Baridhara after Madani is an expression of the people for gratitude to them.
An undemocratic government is bureaucracy-dependent. Martial or semi-martial government who are strong by strength of arm but weak from the view point of popular support provides different benefits-advantages to the officers for keeping them at their side. It is one of easy techniques to keep them under control through extending frequent promotion. Today the number of top ranking officers is very high in Bangladesh. There is no post but still here is promotion. The matter is injurious to democracy also. Without impartial bureaucracy and independent judiciary, a modern democratic state, whatever development it may make, can not do welfare to its people. The rate at which the officers are made partisan and extended unnecessary promotion in Bangladesh may lead to the breakdown of the administration which is highly harmful to the democratic system.E
* Syed Abul Moksud, a Writer and Journalist.
** Translated into English by ‘The Economy’ Analyst.