With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to open the country’s largest infrastructure project—Padma Multipurpose Bridge— for traffic on June 25, the much-coveted credibility and integrity that a major portion of self-appointed civil society members brags about sustained a major blow for their ceaseless yet unapologetic campaign against the Bangladesh premier over a flimsy allegation on corruption raised by the World Bank to pull out funding from the project back in 2011.
The dream for this bridge was first presented before the nation by the Awami League party chief Sheikh Hasina with the manifesto to the ninth parliamentary election in 2008, a pledge for a Digital Bangladesh. As the party was voted back to power with an overwhelming majority, a number of donor organisations including the World Bank showed interest to arrange for funds for the bridge. Yet the same organization went gaga over a possible charge of corruption, later thrashed away by a Canadian Court, centring the funding when in reality it did not even release a single penny.
And ironically soon after this rumour was rolled out by WB, a good number of so-called “anti-corruption campaigners” and “independent observers” unleashed a heap of smears against Sheikh Hasina clearly to lend credence to WB’s false allegation. Instead of seeking a shred of evidence into the allegation, this very group went hell-bent on bolstering the narrative peddled by WB, leaving the public in much chaos. Just like an echo chamber of WB, they even went on to call into question the integrity of Sheikh Hasina who was making frantic attempts to find out an effective way out to accomplish this audacious task. With countless press conferences, columns and talk show appearances, an evil design to misguide the general public about the PM was put into play, let alone two controversial outlets joined the fray.
Encouraged by this concerted attempt, the Islamist opposition party—Bangladesh Nationalist Party—, led by the corrupt leader Begum Zia, joined the bandwagon in no time aiming to stop Sheikh Hasina from moving forward with the project without any foreign lender. Unlike patriotic citizenry, this rich group, led by Transparency International Bangladesh, always shied away from providing any alternative at least for the sake of national interest to implement the project that is expected to add up to almost 2% to the national GDP. Amid such smears started doing the rounds, the responsible minister tendered his resignation while inquiries started against the secretary and others associated with the project only to ally those smears.
As such generous efforts failed to yield any positive outcome, Sheikh Hasina announced the construction of the bridge on self-funding putting aside all the odds but this move, at an initial stage, also got ridiculed and criticized by the same quarter. But banking on the public support, the ever determined Sheikh Hasina went ahead with the construction work awarded to a foreign company.
Now that the bridge, a symbol of national pride, is just a month away from public usage, that particular group decided to shy away from offering an apology for all the lies they had peddled so far, even after the allegation was turned down by a Canadian Court.
So let’s get a glimpse into those rants through a timeline
17 October 2011
This is the first time since independence that the World Bank has suspended funding for a development project for corruption allegations.
1 July 2012
Akbar Ali Khan:
- 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 at corruption in Bangladesh. If the government initiates construction of the Padma bridge through alternative funding, it would increase costs and there might be a question about quality.
Badiul Alam Majumdar:
- “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.”
- “We should wake up against corruption to ensure national development,”
Ali Ahsan Mansur, ED, Policy Research Institute:
- Terming the WB decision to cancel funding an ‘unfortunate event’, Ali Ahsan said, “Now the country’s biggest ever project has become uncertain over governance crisis,”
TIB Chief Iftekharuzzaman
- 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
10 July 2012
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir
- WB has brought the graft charges against three specific persons –, the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and former Communications Minister Abul Hossain.
Zainul Abdin Farroque
- urged the Prime Minister to seek an apology to people for bruising the country’s image through corruption in the Padma Bridge project.
- The country is not in a position to implement big projects like Padma Bridge with its internal resources.
23 July 2012
- The resignation of Information and Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain as a minister, 10 months after allegations of corruption in the Padma bridge project surfaced, proves corruption in the project.
24 July 2012
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir:
- Abul Hossain’s resignation proved that the corruption allegation was correct… loan agreement would not have been cancelled had he (Syed Abul Hossain) quit as soon as the allegation of corruption was raised.
A Q M Badruddoza Chowdhury:
- The minister’s (Syed Abul Hossain) resignation proved that the WB had rightly made the graft allegation.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, ED, TIB:
- It might be too little and too late. “This should have happened several months ago when the WB brought corruption allegation.”
Akbar Ali Khan:
- The resignation has come too late. It would have been better if it had happened much earlier.
28 July 2012
Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Member, BNP Standing Committee:
- 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. The Prime minister has been batting for a corrupt person
Brig Gen (retd) ASM Hannan Shah, Member, BNP Standing Committee:
- Sheikh Hasina is a corrupt prime minister and she also should set an example by quitting her post,
Prof Emajuddin Ahmed, Former VC of Dhaka University (DU):
- 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 a legitimate right to be in a political party.
Mahmudur Rahman Manna:
- Why does the premier have to brand a person as a patriot and why does this certificate have to be given in London? If the former communications minister had guts, as claimed by Hasina, he would have resigned when the allegation of corruption was made against him
06 December 2012
- The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was trying to save former Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain even though he was reportedly involved in the Padma bridge project ‘corruptions’
11 February 2014
Ali Imam Majumder
- Our Anti-Corruption Commission failed to play its due role in investigating into the allegations that surfaced centring on corruption in the fund for Padma Multipurpose Bridge. Had ACC played its due role over the corruption case, the WB, would not have pulled out the funding. The nation, alongside the development partners, expected a fair and impartial investigation from ACC.
The discussion above proves that the so-called civil society in Bangladesh works actually for their western masters, not for the betterment of the general mass. People would have given them more respect than they are getting now. Padma Bridge is more demand of the people than a political agenda; it’s a key factor for upgrading Bangladesh’s economic strength.