Their words left Bangladesh reeling


Published on July 29, 2021
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Tonmoy Ahmed:

I was extremely dumfounded by the extremely derogatory remarks used by a good number of self-claimed civil society members, in collusion with most of the anti-graft watchdogs, against some of the key government officials including the Prime Minister when the fabricated allegation of Padma Bridge graft brought into fore by the World Bank back in 2011. Until the revelation of a Canadian Court verdict that threw out wiretap evidence key to the case, saying the wiretap applications were based on gossip and rumour, some of such so-called eminent citizens, let alone key rank and file holders of anti-graft organizations including the likes of Transparency International's Bangladesh chapter hurled a raft of slanders against the then Communication Minister Syed Abul Hossain and even went far to have called into question the intent of the Bangladesh Premier. This is utterly in bad taste.

In other words the prominent citizens who have smeared the image of the PM, and the country only in the wake of a scandal based on a flimsy evidence, are looked upon as a symbol of nobility in our tradition-based society. This is the height of their perception on the government, which is thoroughly reprehensible.

And the case of BNP is more blatant and glaring. In the name of waging movement centring the alleged-turned-false corruption story, all the kingpins of BNP attempted to seize that scope to name Prime Minister Sheikh as one of the accused.

Here is a look at how civil platform members and BNP viewed the resignation of Abul Hossain.

Abul, Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of civil society platform Shujan, quoted by media as saying, "This is another example that corruption is pulling us behind and retarding the pace of national progress. It will also impact on getting foreign aid because donors will remain more alert about corruption in Bangladesh."

Echoing a similar tone, former adviser to caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan said, "The incident has tarnished the country's image and there might be a problem in getting foreign aid in future if the government did not look into it seriously."

Another former adviser to caretaker government Dr Akbar Ali Khan said the WB decision will indirectly affect Bangladesh in getting foreign aid in future. Whenever any lending agency will intend to finance a new project, it might take a suspicious look about corruption in Bangladesh, he said.

Urging World Bank to reconsider its decision Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said it might be too little and too late. "This should have happened several months ago when the WB brought corruption allegation."

Shockingly, even after the government announced to build the bridge with own fund, TIB, in a statement said, "The government's initiative to secure funds for the Padma bridge from alternative sources may be perceived as a way to divert the attention from the allegation of corruption, but even if it succeeds, it would not help the credibility crisis that the government faces".

Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convenor of a newly formed civil society platform Nagorik Oikko, questioned as to why the premier had to brand a person as patriot and why this certificate had to be given in London? "If the former communications minister had guts, as claimed by Hasina, he would have resigned when allegation of corruption was made against him", he said.

Economist Hossain Zillur Rahman, another former caretaker government adviser, said the minister's resignation proves that the government has started to take into cognizance the WB allegation of corruption in Padma bridge financing. Though the resignation has come too late, it proves that the government is taking action.

Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of Policy Research Institute, a private think-tank, termed the development an "unfortunate event". "Now the country's biggest ever project has become uncertain over governance crisis," said Ahsan, who served the International Monetary Fund for over 27 years.

More foul-mouthing was unfolded by BNP too.

On July 10, 2012, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir claimed the WB has brought the graft charges against three specific persons --, the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and former Communications Minister Abul Hossain. He was addressing a discussion titled 'Corruption before Padma Bridge Construction, Fund Cancellation by World Bank; Bangladesh in Economic Crisis and Violation of Human Rights' at the National Press Club.

It (the resignation of Information and Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain) proves corruption in the Padma bridge project. The loan agreement would not have been cancelled had he (Syed Abul Hossain) quit as soon as the allegation of corruptions were raised, BNP's Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir told journalists in his instant reaction.

Former Dhaka University (DU) vice-chancellor Prof Emajuddin Ahmed questioned, if Abul Hossain is a patriot, then who is not? The premier's support for him will give a message to people that "the plunderer of public money" has legitimate right to be in a political party, added the former VC.

"This is the first time since independence that the World Bank has suspended funding for a development project for corruption allegations," Khaleda Zia said at the inauguration of a political training programme at her Gulshan office.

"Abul Hossain is not a patriot. Rather, he is a shameless person as he quit 10 months after the World Bank made the allegation of corruption against him," BNP standing committee member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain.

Another BNP standing committee member Brig Gen (retd) ASM Hannan Shah said "Sheikh Hasina is a corrupt prime minister and she also should set an example by quitting her post."r

Writer: Coordinator at Centre for Research and Information (CRI) and Former General Secretary of Bangladesh Students League, BUET