Monday, 23 May, 2022

When People Are Owners of the Country

A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

When People Are Owners of the Country
A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

On 20 December 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto became the President and Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan. Considering the overall situation, he decided to release Bangabandhu from Pakistan’s jail. On 7 January 1972, President Bhutto invited Bangabandhu to a dinner at the President’s guest house. While Bhutto informed Bangabandhu of his release, Bhutto also proposed the formation of a confederation of Bangladesh and Pakistan. Bangabandhu straightly replied that he would meet his people first, discuss with them, and then he would be able to inform Mr. Bhutto. Bangabandhu’s soul was fully occupied by his people. From that feeling, he said so on that day and it was clear how much importance Bangabandhu had given to his people.

Returning to the country on 10 January, on the one hand, he engaged himself in building the war-torn country; on the other hand, he asked his people to write the Constitution of the country. The rights, dignity, justice and protection of the people have been given utmost importance in that Constitution. Therefore, to ensure the rights of the people, Article 7. (1) of the Constitution states that all powers of the Republic belong to the people; and their exercise on behalf of the people shall be affected only under, and by the authority of, this Constitution. Article 21 (2) of the Constitution further states that every person in the service of the Republic has a duty to strive at all times to serve the people. The responsibilities and duties of the people towards the country are also clearly mentioned in our Constitution. With the exception of the years of anti-liberation, especially military, governments, efforts were there to implement those articles. Anyway, every person employed in the service of the Republic should be more careful and honest while delivering their services to the people. It’s true, everything depends on the sincerity and commitment of the government and its administration.

On 7 January, I had to go to Aziz Super Market in Shahbag to see the final proof of one of my books. I was returning home around noon. Once we took the Hatirjheel road, we were barred to cross by a microbus that was in front of my car. That microbus (possibly engaged in security) was following a car of a very senior army officer (three-star on the number plate), which was also escorted by a police van. In other words, behind the fleet of three cars were the cars of ordinary people like us who wanted to go to Gulshan area. But we had no way to advance; the vehicles were not allowing us to pass. The driver of my car (like others in the back) could not move even after a few attempts. Security persons in the microbus were barring us from crossing with their special sticks. Since I was in a hurry, after advancing some distance, my driver was able to take the road towards Badda on the right and thus I could return to my house at Gulshan-2. I was thinking while coming – do we, the general people, own this country? Alas! We do not have, sometimes, the right even to travel on a road for few persons. Otherwise, how a public servant could stop the movement of the people for the sake of his security? We, the public, do not understand who is the owner and who is the employee.

In the big cities of Bangladesh, especially in Dhaka, we see the supremacy of some cars running on the roads, including the cars of some ministers, foreign ambassadors, the heads of international organizations and some business persons. We clearly understand that being the daughter of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the security of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is completely a different issue. Her safety must be ensured at any cost. In this case, there is no room for compromise. But for others, who do not have any such security threat, they should not obstruct the movements of ordinary people’s vehicles on the road; it cannot at all be appreciated. There is no harm or disrespect if they move with limited security. However, the people, who are at risk of security, should get it.

In my diplomatic life, I had never seen ambassadors moving under police guard. It is true that the question of safety of the ambassadors posted in Bangladesh was raised a few years ago in the wake of an isolated incident in Sylhet. Undoubtedly, the present government has been taking sincere and strict measures to ensure the security of the country. I believe that the security situation in our country has not become so fragile that diplomats working in this country can think of any such security threats. Then, on what pretext are we providing this kind of police security to them? Do they provide such facilities to our ambassadors posted in their countries?

People of Bangladesh are living and moving around in the country with full safety. If everyone thinks the country is safe, is there really any reason for a few people to feel insecure? We have to keep in mind that the image of the country should be protected in the international arena. We have to tell the international community that Bangladesh does not suffer from any security threat. In fact, it is beyond the imagination of the common people why these people suffer from such insecurity.

Doesn't it look impolite if the movements of a minister, a senior government employee or a businessman are followed by police vehicles? Does this increase their respect? Are not the common people getting annoyed? If there is so much fear in their movements, then how will they provide the expected services to their people? Is it possible to move or survive with so much fear of life? Either wash out the spirit of public service from the life and live a safe life, or walk in the same line with the people. It is better not to involve in such activities that might put them under threats. Be safe and let the general people move on the roads undisturbed. The people of Bangladesh believe in the philosophy of 'peace' of the Father of the Nation. In this context, I would also like to urge to take necessary steps, at least to relieve us, the people of the country, from the enormous contribution of emitting sound of the horns of some cars that pollute the environment.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina became the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the first time on 23 June 1996. In his cabinet, Mr. Abdus Samad Azad was given the portfolio of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in December 1971, he became the Foreign Minister for the first time). I was then the Director of the Foreign Minister’s office. Although his private secretary, assistant private secretary or public relations officer used to accompany him in the political or social programmes, but sometimes I had to accompany. At that time there was no police escort in front or behind our car. Even we did not have the tendency to stop or cross any car running on the road using horns with harsh or loud sound. A gunman, in charge of security, used to sit next to the driver. Perhaps all ministers were satisfied with that arrangement. At that time, we did not notice any secretary of the government, or any official of that level, with a gunman or a convoy of police vehicles in front and behind.

Although our country is small in size, it is bigger than many large countries in the world in population size. It is true that we have very limited natural resources. But we are moving forward with the strength based on our confidence and the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Our development has already earned global recognition as a 'role model'. We know that security is one of the basic infrastructures required for the development of a country. According to our Constitution, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure security of life and property of the people. In that case, the government is doing its best. Needless to say, the present day Bangladesh is one of the safest countries in the world. Bangladesh does not seem to have any such security threat from any corner, either international or local. However, our relevant authorities are keeping their eyes open on this issue. Therefore, the best way to protect the people from the unwanted misery they face in their movements on the roads of Bangladesh, especially on the roads of Dhaka city, by restricting such ongoing facilities to a group of road users. We do not want that Bangladesh’s security is questioned by the world community.


The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary