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Transfer of UNOs and OCs before least contested BD polls

Editorials 2023-12-08, 12:53pm


Vote casting. Photo collected.

The news media is being fed for little more than a week with information about relocation of some Upazila Nirbahi (Executive) Officers (UNOs) and Officers in-Charge (OCs) of police stations. The stated purpose is ‘safeguarding the integrity of the upcoming 12th national elections’.

These transfers are proposed by the Ministry of Public Administration in case of the UNOs and by the Police Headquarters in case of the OCs and posted, as stated, with the approval of the Election Commission.

On Nov 30, the EC directed the Ministry of Public Administration and the Ministry of Home Affairs to transfer the Upazila executive officers (UNOs) and the chiefs of police stations to ensure the smooth completion of the upcoming parliamentary polls.

The Election Commission sought proposals from the two authorities and subsequently approved the proposals that were submitted with no news of the commission modifying or changing the transfer of relocation proposals.

The transfers are being made at the lowest tier of the civil and the police administration of the highly centralized system of governance. The same authorities that gave them the postings earlier are doing their relocations. The Election Commission does not have a setup to order transfers on the basis of its own evaluation of performances of the officers concerned.

When administrative reshuffle was made by caretaker administrations in the past, action was taken mainly at the top tier that’s at the level of secretaries to the government who are the ultimate possessors of power exercised through the Deputy Commissioners and the Superintendents of Police in the districts. These two powerful tiers remain untouched. The UNOs or OCs do not represent autonomous administrations and are subject to directives of the upper tiers mentioned above.

Then again there remains a crucial question about the need for the transfers and postings when there is no contentious vying for election by rivals in the literal meaning of the term. The election remains boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and 59 other parties big or small that are either allied with BNP or are waging simultaneous agitation for election under a non-party government. For all practical purposes the election is being contested by candidates from the Awami League, dummies and independents from the same party plus AL’s old and new allies who, according to reports published in the news media, have sought share of seats in Parliament. 

The Election Commission is also spelling out plans to deploy security forces in addition to the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) that have remained deployed across Bangladesh since the October 28 grand rallies of the opposition BNP and its allies abruptly ended amid violence and deaths.      

As per news circulated on Friday, the Police Headquarters has replaced the OCs, or chiefs of police stations, at 338 police stations throughout the country ahead of the 12th parliamentary elections with the approval of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Election Commission.

“In most cases, these OCs were transferred outside their current constituencies. In some cases they have been transferred to other parts of the district and some outside their district,” EC Secretary Md Jahangir Alam told the media at a briefing on Thursday afternoon.

The Election Commission has ordered the replacement of 110 Upazila executive officers (UNOs) throughout Bangladesh, marking the second phase of an administrative shake-up aimed at safeguarding the integrity of the upcoming 12th national elections.

On Thursday, the EC approved a transfer list submitted by the Ministry of Public Administration, according to EC Secretary Md Jahangir.

The EC has endorsed the relocation of 205 UNOs ahead of the Jan 7 polls. The first phase saw the replacement of 47 UNOs, followed by 110 in the second phase. Another 48 officials are set to be transferred in the third phase.