Thursday, September 11, 2008

The release of Tarique Rahman

The release of Tarique Rahman
Shamsuddin Ahmed
Source: The New Nation
September 10, 2008

The release of Tarique Rahman on Wednesday has certainly amused the BNP cadres and bemused the nation. He was accused in 13 corruption and extortion cases and set free on bail when undergoing trial by the special court. Son of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, senior joint secretary general of BNP Tarique was supremo of the Hawa Bhaban and earned bad name for running parallel government during the BNP regime. The way BNP former state minister Ehsanul Haque Milon, former Adviser Barkatullah Bulu and former woman MP Bilquis Islam were subjected to mob beating on Wednesday has amply manifested the character of the JCD and Jubo Dal built up by the leader of the Young Turks Tarique Rahman. Their fault, they favoured reforms in the party.

Former minister Anwar Hossain Manju has been convicted, in absentia, and sentenced to jail for five years for keeping few cans of bear and bottles of wine. His closed friends felt wounded by the conviction of Manju, a non-alcoholist, chief of his faction of Jatiya Party, one of the owners of mass circulated daily and also owner of a couple industries. It is natural that he required to host foreign friends at his home and serve them with drinks they take as normal.

Barrister Maudud Ahmed, another former minister, has been accused in a number of cases, including one for having forbidden hard drinks in his house. He could have the similar fate of Manju had not the proceedings of his alcohol case been stayed by the higher court.

Manju and Maudud are among the scores of high profile politicians and business leaders who have been brought to book during anti-corruption drive launched soon after the caretaker government of Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed was installed in the January 11, 2007 change over. They were undergoing trial by special courts on charges of corruption, extortion and abuse of power. In the midst of trial former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Awami League, facing about a dozen corruption and extortion cases, was released on parol and allowed to leave the country, understandably with the change of winds in the national politics. That opened the floodgate. Many more politicians and business tycoons have been enlarged on bail and proceedings of the cases against them halted by the order of the High Court. Tarique Rahman is the latest corruption suspect released on bail. Prime Minister Khaleda Zia undergoing trial in a number of cases is also expected to be released soon.

Conviction of Manju and setting free Hasina, Tarique and others remind the keen observers of a satirical cartoon. The cartoon depicted a minister-in-waiting brought before the king three men, with handcuff and rope round the waist. The first man, the minister told the king, was caught cursing you. "Off his head," came the order. The second man was caught stealing bread. "Feed him to the lions." The third was caught falsifying documents, money laundering and pilfering 700 million in corporate loans. "Hire him," roared the king.

Release of political leaders detained on corruption charges has indeed caused ACC Chairman Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury to lament. "The image of ACC is affected," he admitted referring to the recent bails granted to the accused in corruption cases and stay orders on the cases against them. People want punishment of the corrupt elements and they will certainly not like it, said the chairman.

The government wants the nation to understand that the detained politicians are released to bring all the political parties to the election planned for December. For, the caretaker government is under severe pressure from within and without the country for holding the election with the participation of all parties. But the major parties, especially the Awami League and the BNP, would not take part in the election without release of their detained leaders. So, they are set free.

Now Hasina, Tarique and their associates are free for taking part in the election. We have before us examples of recent democratic elections in Thailand and Pakistan. Followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand, overthrown and discredited for corruption, won the election. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, a protégé of Thaksin, last week declared emergency in the face of mass upsurge but the military declined to salvage him. Some two lakh people laid siege on the government administrative building and vowed they would not withdraw until Samak steps down.

In Pakistan, PPP won the election held in February. It entered into alliance with Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and forced President Parvez Musharraf to step down. PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari is now poised to become the President of Pakistan through election by the parliament on September 6. Zardari, known as 'Mr 20 percent' (taking commission during PPP rule) was debarred from the parliamentary election because of corruption case against him. Only recently attorney general of Pakistan got the money laundering case against Zardari withdrawn in Switzerland. Investigation found he had funneled 60 million dollars ill-gotten money.

Reputed columnist Mr Cowasjee wrote in daily Dawn on August 31, "I have been inundated with e-mails calling upon me to come to the aid of the country and save it from Zardari." He wondered how the armed forces feel at Zardari's becoming the President for he will also be the Commander in Chief and have his finger on the country's nuclear button. This has frightened the people of the world and the people of Pakistan, he added.

We believe that none would like the situation of Pakistan in Bangladesh. We have been assured by US Ambassador Moriarty who told the Amcham luncheon meet on May 21, "US does not want to see a repeat of Pakistan President Gen Parvez Musharraf government's nemesis in Bangladesh."

Chief of our Army Staff General Moeen U Ahmed who was wholly behind the January 11 change over had pledged to free the nation from corruption and dynastic politics. In his statement on April 2 last year he said, "…..we have to read the resolute character of Bangladeshi people that enabled us to overcome the perpetuation of dynastic rule for a transparent and accountable Bangladesh."

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