Prominent citizens and experts have expressed fears that the National Identity (NID) card could be used as a political tool if it is handed over to the Home Ministry. It would also promote more corruption, irregularities and arbitrariness, according to them.
They made the observations at a webinar, entitled "Citizen's Dialogue on NID" and organized by Shushanar Janniya Nagorik (Shujan), on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office has already instructed the Cabinet Division to take necessary steps to shift NID card-related services to the Security Services Division under the Home Ministry.
Terming the NID card as a political tool, speakers at the webinar said such a decision was part of a plan to take control of the forthcoming national elections. They demanded keeping NID services under the Election Commission (EC) or forming a separate “independent institution” according to the constitution.
They also criticized the Election Commission’s (EC) failure to hold free and fair elections, saying the commission was largely responsible for today's situation. Every action of the commission should be brought under accountability, they stated.
Former Election Commissioner Brigadier General (Retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said: "The Home Ministry can build new independent cells or institutions on their own without taking up the responsibility of NID from the EC.”
He said that if NID services were handed over to politically regulated agencies, the situation would be worse than it was during the compilation of the Rohingya voters list.
Echoing the statement, Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumdar said that there had been no discussion with the EC on the issue, which was a blatant violation of the constitution.
He feared that if the NID card database passed into the control of the police, it would increase corruption and political harassment and would be used for political purposes as well as create a situation where anyone’s name could be added to or removed from the voters' list, which would in turn curtail civil rights.
He further said: “It is quite certain that the next election will be held entirely through Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) where the results can be manipulated as we have previously seen.”
"We have seen that the results of the city corporation elections in Chittagong were declared twice," he added.
Asif Nazrul, professor of law at the University of Dhaka, said the government had taken such a decision because the EC had been undermining the constitutional rights of citizens. However, people neither trust the commission nor the police.
If the Home Ministry takes over the NID card services it will ultimately be handed over to police, which will increase political harassment and the election would be manipulated, he added.
Election Commission at least did not harass people, he said.
The speakers also demanded that a National Registration Commission should be formed under another ministry as per the usual rules. Otherwise, security related citizens’ information would be threatened.
Among others, Shujan President M Hafiz Uddin Khan and former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumdar were present at the webinar.