At least 16 officers, including secretaries, have taken freedom fighter certificates though they hadn’t declared themselves to be freedom fighters when joining service. Prothom Alo investigations have revealed that these persons have been drawing benefits as freedom fighters or are in the process of availing such benefits. Nine of them hold important positions.
According to the rules, if one is a freedom fighter, this must be declared at the time of joining service. It will not be recognised if declared later on. The Public Service Commission (PSC) has a specific form for the purpose. But none of these 16 persons declared themselves to be freedom fighters when appointed. They are now trying to avail the benefits allocated for freedom fighters.
Earlier five secretaries created a controversy by taking certificates in a similar manner. The certificates of four of these officers were later cancelled.
Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumdar told Prothom Alo, “Those who are in service now are all of the post-independence generation. Why did they write that they were not freedom fighters at the time of joining service? Some of them claim that they did so because a pro-independence force was not in power at the time that they joined service. They feared that the freedom fighter identity would be harmful. This is not an acceptable explanation. They are just vying for freedom fighter certificates for the perks that go along with it.”
These 16 senior officers of the public administration are agriculture secretary SM Najmul Islam; expatriate and employment secretary Khandakar Shaukat Hossain; planning division secretary Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam; primary and mass education secretary Kazi Akhter Hossain; OSD secretary Nurul Huq; former secretary and BTRC chairman Sunil Kanti Bose; RAJUK Chairman GM Zainul Abedin Bhuiyan; ambassador to Vietnam Shahab Ullah; PSC member Main Uddin Khandakar; former principal secretary of the prime minister’s office Sheikh Mohammed Wahiduzzaman; recently retired secretary Phanibhusan Chowdhury; former public administration secretary ASM Ali Kabir; former liberation war secretary Firoz Kibria, former chairman of the tariff commission AKM Azizul Huq; former additional secretary of the information ministry Khalilur Rahman; and non-cadre former official Muhammed Abul Hossain. Though they hadn’t declared themselves as freedom fighters, some of these officers have taken freedom fighter certificates and have remained in service for an additional year. Some of them have availed this a year or two before retirement.
Liberation war affairs minister AKM Mozammel Huq said that those who hadn’t declared themselves as freedom fighter at the time of appointment but now are taking freedom fighter certificates and availing the benefits, are committing fraud. They either lied when joining service or are lying now. Both of these are criminal acts.
The minister said these certificates would be scrutinised. If these contained false information, the certificates would be cancelled and legal action taken.
Sources in the public administration ministry have said primary and mass education secretary Kazi Akhter Hossain took a freedom fighter certificate and applied for extension of service. However, he could not provide the public administration ministry with required papers and so was not given the extension.
Expatriate and employment secretary Shaukat Hossain said, “We were famous freedom fighters at the time and never felt the need to declare ourselves as freedom fighters or to have certificates to prove it.” Incidentally, the Anti-Corruption Commission did not find evidence to support the allegations that he falsely took the freedom fighter certificate. His certificate has not been cancelled.
Kazi Akhter Hossain told Prothom Alo on Sunday, “As I hadn’t declared myself a freedom fighter, I perhaps will not take the benefits.” He is due to retire on 14 March next year.
OSD secretary Nurul Huq had been chairman of the land reforms board till 29 September. His regular service tenure ended on 7 March this year. He now is on an extended year of service after availing a freedom fighter certificate. He says he hadn’t declared himself to be a freedom fighter at the time of joining service as the circumstances hadn’t been conducive.
Planning secretary Bhuiyan Shafiqul Islam said, “It is true that I didn’t declare myself to be a freedom fighter at the time. The people of my area forced me to take the certificate. I will not take any benefits.” Replying to a question as to why he applied for the certificate, he said, “I do not even remember whether I submitted an application or not. My service term ends in 2016. I’ll think about it after that.”
The service term of Rajuk chairman Zainul Abedin Bhuiyan ended in 2013. He took a freedom fighter certificate and remained in service till 5 April this year. He said that he didn’t feel the need to declare himself a freedom fighter at the time of joining service.
PSC member Main Uddin Khandakar completed an extra year of service on 12 January this year by taking a freedom fighter certificate. He was then appointed for five years as PSC member. He said, “We were members of NAP, communists or guerrillas. In the post-1975 circumstances it was not conducive to declare ourselves to be freedom fighters.”
Former principal secretary to the prime minister’s officer Mohammed Wahiduzzman said, “I was a member of the Mujib Bahini. After the killing of Bangabandhu, it would not be possible to be appointed if we said we were identified as Mujib Bahini members in the 1976 PSC exam.”
Phanibhusan Chowdhury had been jute and textiles secretary. After retirement, he took the advantage of an extra year’s service as a freedom fighter. He said he hadn’t declared himself a freedom fighter at the time as he didn’t know they would receive these benefits. When he found out, he then applied for the certificate.
On 22 January this year Prothom Alo published a report ‘Rush for freedom fighter certificates at the end of service tenure.’ The report revealed that five secretaries had taken certificates with false information to extend their service tenure and avail other benefits.
The Anti Corruption Commission probed into the matter and concluded that they had resorted to unscrupulous means to obtain these certificates. The freedom fighter certificates of the five secretaries were cancelled.