The nation still remembers and applauds the tireless, albeit futile efforts of General (rtd.) Hassan Mashhood Chowdhury (HMC) along with his three comrades, namely Dr. Ali Akbar Ali Khan, Advocate Sultana Kamal and C. M Shafi Sami for holding a free and fair election as advisors during the chaotic era of the caretaker government headed by Prof. Iazuddin Ahmed and their subsequent resignations in protest of partisan role of the professor as CG head. After the installation of the army backed interim government HMC took the captaincy of ACC and since then he had been working hard to covert ACC an empowered, effective and efficient organisation from the state of weak and fragile one until his recent resignation from the position. Yes, he has succeeded much with his honest, sincere and dynamic leadership. In this country, once the powerful people of the highest echelon of the society, who were at or near the power centre, strongly believed that they were securely insulated and so whatever crimes they do law would not touch them. ACC, under the prudent leadership of HMC has successfully dismantled this wrongly perceived attitude. Due to ACC’s bold step, powerful political stalwarts, high profile bureaucrats and business magnets of the country have come under the law for their severe misdeeds and misappropriation of public funds. However, due to time and resource constraints ACC could not finish its massive task during the interim government. Now the question arises, especially in the context of recent developments centring ACC, what will be the future course of this constitutional organisation under the regime of the political government? Honourable Prime Minister’s statements on ACC in the parliament, the resignation of the ACC chief and subsequent summoning of ACC commissioners by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public undertakings have generated a smokescreen indeed.
Apparently the govt. did not ask the ACC chief to quit but if we analyse the circumstances of his unfortunate resignation then it will be ascertained that due to tremendous pressure exerted from the power-centre and perhaps, speculating the bleak future of the organisation under the political government he decided to quit.
“ACC was initially engaged in useful anti-corruption drive but later its actions came under scrutiny when it started its activities towards controlling politics and splitting political parties… ACC will be reorganised to make it effective and transparent”, the Prime Minister’s this assertion in the parliament has coined the debate. Prior to the Prime Minister’s statement, AL leaders Abdul Jalil, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and former BNP law minister Moudud Ahmed alleged that they were victims of harassment and torture during their detention. It was true that during the army backed government, drive against corruption sometime lost its objective and it became instrument for harassing some political leaders in line of the government’s abortive efforts of ‘minus-two theory.’ For this, the government violating constitution, laws and also basic human right committed many misdeeds with the safeguard of emergency rule. Sarcastic arrests of the apex leaders of two major parties in humiliating manners, torturing the political leaders inhumanly in the name of interrogation, acquisition of ‘confessional statements’ forcibly from some political leaders, arresting the family members (including children!) of the corrupt suspects tainted the interim government much.
However, these issues should be investigated objectively and for these one should not blame ACC straightway. In fact, ACC’s role during the anti-corruption drive has not crossed its jurisdiction so far. The clarification of the DG of ACC in this context, “… those who were accusing ACC of torture and repression were perhaps confusing with the Joint Task Force (JTF) formed by a government order under the control of National Coordination Committee (NCC) headed by an adviser of the Caretaker Government”, should be taken into account to unmask the real perpetrators. Rather than blaming ACC, a proper investigation should unveil the roles of DGFI, Joint Task Force (JTF) at the behest of NCC during the era of the interim government.
However, the recent summoning of ACC commissioners along with its just resigned chief by the Parliamentary Standing Committee can be perceived as showing off the supremacy of this committee over the ACC. This is quite unfortunate. Already the concerned members of ACC including its former chief have refused to appear before the committee questioning the legal basis of such summoning. However, this is a legal issue, and perhaps it will be resolved in the court. However, the common people perceive the move of the parliamentary committee against ACC as a vindictive one as many of the sitting MPs, even the head of this committee have come under the scrutiny of ACC during its drive against corruption. We, as ordinary citizens of the country, feel that for a corrupt-prone country like ours needs an independent and empowered ACC so that it can act as a vanguard against all sort of corruption. Past experience suggests that constitutional institutes like Judiciary, EC, and ACC etc. fail to serve efficiently and effectively if they fall under the grip of the government. So, like the parliament, such crucial institutes too should maintain sovereignty for establishing good governance in the country.
The present impasse of ACC can only be resolved if the Honourable PM intervene the issue with a positive notion. The electoral pledge of the government has emphasised to make Bangladesh a corruption free country. So, we want to believe that the leader of the country will not let the standing committee demean ACC. Rather, in light of the people’s aspiration, she will empower and strengthen ACC further with a view to curbing all pervasive corruption in the country. In the new chapter of her politics, following her call for a change, hopefully she will elate herself to the position of statesmanship by diminishing rotten political culture around.