Criminalised politics breeds corruption

The relationship between clean politics and good governance is umbilical and the same is the relationship between criminalised politics and poor governance. Bangladesh suffers from the extremes of corruption and bad governance and the same must be traced to its unclean politics that breed such corruption and poor governance.
Police, customs officials, bureaucrats, etc.– whom the people confront at field level everyday— are usually scorned and identified as the most corrupt ones. People look at the hillocks and not the mountains. They should be more pointing their accusing fingers at the big nabobs of corruption, the individuals who hold sway over the political process in many cases and who are at the root in spawning corruption and bad governance.
Persons with crime records elected as people’s representatives at any level cannot be expected to work for the good of the people. But from their vantage position of power and authority in running the country, they can do damage to society, polity and the economy. Bangladesh’s greatest tragedy is that it has been going through the routine motions of holding elections at different levels without flushing clean the election system to ensure that not gangsters but persons of desirable background are elected as people’s representatives from whom a better role at governance can be expected.
Everyone concerned about the future of the country or all having a stake in its better future should come round to expressing their opinion forcefully or to have the same felt on the leaderships of the political parties for them to work to achieve political reforms. The main reforms to be initiated in the political parties need to be for their democratisation. Famous family names or family cults should cease to be the supreme qualities for supreme powers within the political parties. Rather the highest level leadership of the parties should go to ones with years of dedicated service to the parties, real leadership abilities, expertise in various fields and sound academic backgrounds. The present mode of leadership of the parties passing automatically to the offsprings of great names or personalities must give way to leadership passing to truly talented persons devoted not to their selves but to the well being and progress of the country.
All parliaments of Bangladesh in varying degrees had an eyebrow raising numbers of members of parliament (MPs) with a distinct background of criminality. People at large have been hoping that the worsening criminalisation of politics– that has a long history– would be sought to be reversed by those at the helm of the political parties. But nothing to that end has happened to suggest that the leaders of the political parties or, for that matter, even the Election Commission (EC), are conscious about their responsibilities in this matter of grave importance.
The country’s leading vernacular daily reported last year that 200 candidates were contesting the ensuing UP (union councils) polls for the position of chairman of the UPs. Most of them identified with the ruling BNP or the Awami League. But they have records in police stations for extortion and other serious crimes. The report stated that identified criminals in the police’s list were contesting the UP polls for chairmanship.
All governments in varying degrees had vowed to take drastic steps against corruption at the start of their tenures. But these bangs were usually seen ending with whimpers. From the first Awami League government in 1972 to the governments of President Ziaur Rahman, President Sattar, President H M Ershad, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, all had promised a crusade of sorts against corruption. But in reality, the moves against corruption were found limited to actions against the ministers of a former government and a few crony businessmen associated with them and not against the extensive corruption that one comes across in different strata of Bangladesh society in the government offices, police administration, in the judiciary, etc.
In other words, corruption was not identified as a general social malaise requiring a befitting response in the form of more empowered and able institutional mechanism to fight the same regardless of source. Thus, there was noted more of political witch hunting against political rivals in the name of taking action against corruption and not the all-out struggle to rid corruption from all spheres of public life in line with people’s expectation.
What can be a most useful and immediate response to the corruption issue ? The opinion seems to be uniform among concerned circles that it can be no other than the establishment of a “truly” independent anticorruption commission. But the establishment of such a commission is still in contemplation stages. It must be made a reality at the fastest through sincere and enthusiastic moves. . The full independent functioning of this commission– sans political or governmental controls– is seen as the main criterion for its success. The present anticorruption department remains handicapped by alleged controls and considerations. The new anti corruptioninstitution will have to be so empowered that it can investigate corruption charges against incumbent ministers and other potentates without the prior endorsement of such actions from the highest authority of the government.
The position of the ombudsman remains unfilled and the parliamentary committees are hardly working with full flair. Therefore, an ombudsman should be appointed early and the parliamentary committees must be made truly effective to work successfully as watchdogs against corruption. Members of the civil society in Bangladesh ought to raise their voices louder in support of these two demands and should also press for the earliest establishment of the independent anticorruption commission. All round pressure needs to put on the government to move with clear proofs of sincerity against corruption.
Many foreign investors usually have no appetite for business in a country where corruption is noted as pervasive. Donors similarly are inclined not to be generous in response to the needs of countries that have an existence high in the corruption list. The corruption issue is now beginning to hurt the highest economic interests of the country and this creates the compulsion for addressing it promptly and most effectively.