The political aspirations of Dr Yunus


Published on July 16, 2018
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Sufi Faruq:

The other day I was going through an article by Mohiuddin Ahmed on 1/11 in the Prothom Alo Eid Special, and I found it quite intriguing. In the article, Ahmed claimed that Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus had turned down the army’s offer to become the chief of the caretaker government. He claimed then army chief General Moeen Uddin presented the offer through DGFI officer Brig General Chowdhury Fazlul Bari and that Yunus’s was not opposed to the idea, but did not accept because the tenure of the caretaker government would span only two years.

Professor Yunus left no stone unturned to refute the writer’s claim. In his statement, he provided a detailed description of the proposal of the army chief and his reaction to it, claiming that he never asked the army chief about the tenure of the government. Rather, he claimed to have refused to become the chief of the caretaker government, despite requests from a number of army officers, including the then army chief. However, Mohiuddin Ahmed stands by his article based on the interview with the then army chief Gen Mooen Uddin Ahmed. But Dr Yunus keeps denying it. It seems that ‘something is rotten in the State of Denmark’.

In reality, Prof Yunus did make a few moves that corroborate his strong political ambition. Let me refresh your memory by referring to an open letter issued by Prof Yunus on February 11, 2007. Through this letter, he sought the support of the countrymen to launch a political party to reform the politics of Bangladesh, which, in his view, had been gobbled up violence and corruption. The solution he proposed was a political party he was set to form that would focus on good governance. Doesn’t it substantiate his political ambitions?

Even the information leaked by Wikileaks confirms his burning desire to set foot on the political landscape. On Feb 13, 2007 Wikileaks published an article titled “Nobel Prize Winner Dr Muhammad Yunus Considers Entering Bangladesh Politics”. They clearly mentioned that Dr Yunus had detailed discussion with Indian officials on Feb 12, 2007, during a two-day visit to Kolkata on his plan to make a debut in Bangladesh politics. Expressing his political interest, Dr Yunus stated that he was reviewing his options. He also advocated in favour of the then caretaker government and their decision to declare a “State of Emergency” on the grounds that it had rescued the country from a possible civil war.

That Dr Yunus was keen to join politics was also reflected in a write-up that appeared in Kolkata’s ‘Telegraph’. In reference to a Pranab Mukerjee’s book, the author illustrated Hillary Clinton’s urge to India to back the plan to undo Hasina and settle Yunus in power in Bangladesh. Hillary Clinton and her successor as US secretary of state, John Kerry, reportedly opined that social entrepreneur and micro-credit pioneer Muhammad Yunus could improve Bangladesh’s political arena by ridding Bangladesh’s politics of corrupt politicians. That is why they extended their support to Yunus, who had been aspiring to join politics since 2006. The writer also mentioned that many world leaders, including Mary Robinson, the former Irish president and later UN high commissioner for human rights, openly swore their allegiance to Yunus as the man capable to “rescue” Bangladesh from the likes of Hasina and her political rival, Khaleda Zia.

A news report published by CBS News also claimed that Dr Yunus met Clinton thrice and talk to her over the phone. It was during that period Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to step down from the bank’s board. Throughout the process, he pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him. Previously he had ordered the American affiliates of his nonprofit Grameen Bank that had been working with the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative programs as early as 2005, to donate between $100,000 and $ 250,000 to the foundation.

Another Grameen wing chaired by Dr Yunus, Grameen Research, donated between $25,000 and $50,000 to Clinton’s foundation. These donations might be well linked with Hilary’s support to empower him as a political leader in Bangladesh. We all know that Dr Yunus is a family friend of President Clinton and Dr Yunus’ inclination towards joining the country’s political process had raised questions. His support to the then army-backed caretaker government which was poised to depoliticise the country’s power is utterly unacceptable. It is his hidden political ambition and its pursuit through controversial means that called his image into question. Bangladesh’s phenomenal economic development in the last one decade belies the much-hyped Western thesis that only the likes of Yunus can be our saviour and that others cannot.

Writer: Politician and Entrepreneur