The cases are so blatant and glaring. Syed Abul Hossain, Suranjit Sengupta, Dr Moshiur Rahman, Modasser Ali. The list goes on.
In dealing with each of these cases, the government’s actions seemed inexplicable. Hardly anybody, including the top AL leaders, could explain why certain actions were taken or not taken.
Take the latest case as revealed by the World Bank Independent Commission’s final report on Padma Bridge. It has categorically said there were no legal reasons to exclude the name of Syed Abul Hossain, the former communications minister, from the initial list of persons under investigation.
Yet from the beginning, we saw a deliberate attempt to save Abul from any scrutiny. The so-called independent Anti-corruption Commission in its report audaciously maintained that inclusion of Abul’s name would have caused political tumult!
Abul remained untouched as a minister and Sheikh Hasina created a completely new ministry – ICT Ministry — for him. Not only that, she praised Abul as a ‘patriot’.
But, as we know, because of this one man Padma has remained a distant dream and the World Bank has backed out from the project, leaving stigmata on the country. Hasina’s overwhelming affection for Abul remains a mystery.
In the cases of Suranjit, Moshiur or Modasser, we also see similar attempts either to exonerate them or to divert investigations. If they were probed at all, they all got clean chits.
Modasser’s link to Hall-Mark was so blatant that even a person with olfactory dysfunction could smell something fishy. Only the ACC could not.
In other cases, innocent people and people of eminence were pursued and harried until they were pushed to the wall.
Take the case of Dr Yunus or Grameen Bank. The government is hell-bent on demolishing them both, no matter what consequence that brings. There is no reason why a perfectly well-functioning Grameen should be split up and nationalized. What Yunus’ ‘crime’ was to invite the wrath of the prime minister is also inexplicable, except that he wished to float a party.
However, public perceptions are not changed by such actions. People have their own perception of who is innocent or who is not. And the actions looked so arbitrary and autocratic.
So why did the government time and again choose to indulge in such acts? A very curious answer comes out if one asks the AL top brass.
All they say is these are not ‘government’ decisions or actions because government means a collective body. These are the decisions and orders of one single person, who is none other than Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“With Abul in communication (ministry), we knew this was going to happen today or tomorrow,” an exasperated government adviser told us while narrating the whole episode. He had no answer why Hasina wanted to protect a person of such dubious repute.
A minister once told us in private he had no clue why Suranjit should still be a minister and wondered what damage it would have caused had Suranjit been dropped after the railwaygate scam.
Following the railwaygate scandal in April 2012, Suranjit resigned, but the premier kept him on as a minister without portfolio for more than a year.
None of the AL leaders can say why Modasser is so sacrosanct although he has caused more harm than good to the government in the Hall-Mark loan scam. He has now been nominated for the regional director’s post under WHO, though he has no remotely relevant experience for such a job.
We have talked to many AL leaders who are aghast at the role of the Chhatra League and yet they feel helpless because the prime minister takes a lenient view of the League’s misdeeds of crimes, violence and extortion.
And then they all say they feel helpless because it is the prime minister who makes all the decisions. Any dissension, if vented at all, is either harshly criticized or disregarded.
What we see now is the increasing intolerance, arrogance and despotism of Hasina. She is the high and mighty who decides everything even at fatal costs to her party and the nation. In other words, we see the rise of an autocrat in Bangladesh’s politics.
We have talked to many grassroots leaders who also expressed their sheer frustration at how their views were ignored about the ground reality. And the ground reality was once again proven through the city corporation elections.
A brief look back at Hasina’s return to power in 2008 can illustrate how she has gradually concentrated power in her singularity.
At the 2008 elections, she had promised to foster courtesy and tolerance for a change in political culture.
But then she punished her most senior leaders because of their roles during the army-backed caretaker government. She left them out of the cabinet and picked some surprise candidates who could only serve as ‘his master’s voice’. So the cabinet was turned into a rubber stamp for Hasina’s decisions.
She also dropped the senior leaders from party presidium, the highest policy making body. There was now no one to oppose her.
We may recall the arbitrary manner in which Hasina had proceeded towards canceling the caretaker government system. The parliamentary special committee on constitutional amendment in 2011 had recommended a continuation of the caretaker system in light of the Supreme Court verdict. But Hasina simply overturned the committee’s suggestion, leading to the current political crisis.
It is the arbitrary nature of how Sheikh Hasina governs that has now left the party weak and the government shaken. She is dubbed by party insiders and people outside as ‘arrogant’.
One has to pay for one’s arrogance. Sometimes, arrogance becomes too costly a posture.
Source: The Daily Star