Between 2001 and 2006, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) made Bangladesh synonymous with graft as the nation became the champion in Transparency International (TI)’s corruption perception index (CPI) in 2005 for the fifth consecutive year, a report in the country’s leading daily reads.
That was when the BNP ruled the country under the leadership of Begum Khaleda Zia with her sons —Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman (now deceased) — reportedly “made fat cuts from business deals” that undercut substantial progress for many years.
Since both mother and son Tarique, still at the helm of the BNP, are facing a slew of corruption charges and stand convicted in many of those, they possibly will not be able to contest elections. Perhaps, this is why they are not interested in preparing the party for elections and would rather adopt the path of violent street protests to oust the elected government first, according to the country’s political observers.
The game plan emerges loud and clear — bring down the government by force, then manipulate or coerce the judiciary to overturn the judicial verdicts and get cases dropped, so that they can retain leadership, said Ajoy Das Gupta, an eminent researcher.
Tarique and Begum Khaleda continuing to helm the BNP “is a glaring breach in morality”, says the country’s anti-graft watchdog Transparency International Bangladesh’s (TIB) executive director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
In early January, a Dhaka court directed the government to confiscate all moveable and immovable assets of BNP’s acting vice chairman Tarique Rahman and his wife Zubaida Rahman in a graft case filed by the anti-corruption commission (ACC).
Since Tarique runs the BNP from London and his mother Begum Khaleda already stands convicted of misappropriation of funds meant for orphans, the party is in deep soup at a time when it is trying to launch an all-out movement to overthrow the Sheikh Hasina-led government.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman has said that keeping Begum Khaleda and Tarique – who have been sentenced by the court – in BNP’s top leadership “contradicts” the party’s 27-point outline for state reform, which includes stance against corruption, and is a sign of “moral decay”, according to a report by country’s top newswire service UNB.
“There is also a law on whether those convicted of corruption can participate in the election,” he added. “It is a matter of court and justice. In terms of moral position, I would say it is contradictory. They (BNP) are speaking against corruption but running the party with those (Begum Khaleda and Tarique ) convicted,” he pointed out.
And the recent order of the court is one among a long list of substantive evidence that lays bare the rampant corruption of the BNP leaders back during their reign.
According to the Transparency International index, Bangladesh held an inglorious record of being top of the charts in the Global Corruption Index for five consecutive years when the BNP ruled this country under General Zia’s leadership. “A disgrace for Bangladesh; and Bangladesh retain the championship, a shameful episode” were some headlines featured in national and international media outlets back then.
BNP’s new 27-point manifesto a wish list, self-contradictory: TIB
The party has a new 27-point outline for state reform, including fight against graft. “What they (BNP) have is actually a wish list,” reports UNB quoting Dr Iftekharuzzaman.
“Considering BNP’s history and its experience with the people of the country, it can be said that political parties make manifestos. When they come to power, the picture is different, however. In that sense, this is a wish list. Although, many of the issues mentioned are important for Bangladesh,” he added.
Indian conglomerate Tata cancelled $3 billion deal in Bangladesh over a bribery issue during BNP’s regime. In 2005, Tata reportedly pulled out after BNP leader Tarique Rahman offered a bribery deal to the Indian company. In a post from his verified account on Facebook, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ICT Advisor Sajeeb Wazed Joy earlier said that the unchecked greed of BNP acting vice chairman Tarique Rahman and his friend Giasuddin Mamun took a toll on the investment sector of Bangladesh, causing many foreign investors to turn their back, reported The Daily Star. “Why did Tata pull out of a thousand-crore dollar investment plan at the last moment? How were the youths of Bangladesh deprived of their employment opportunities?” questioned Sajeeb.
FBI testimony against Tarique and his partner
An FBI agent testified in the Tk-20.41-crore money-laundering case filed against BNP chief Begum Khaleda’s son Tarique Rahman and his business partner Giasuddin Al Mamun.
This is the first time a US FBI agent has testified before a court in Bangladesh. The testimony is expected to be a turning point in the case since the agent has said Tarique laundered money using Mamun’s account in a Singapore bank.
Debra Laprevotte, a supervisory special agent of the FBI, told before a Dhaka court how she had tracked down the money allegedly laundered by BNP’s Tarique Rahman and Mamun to a bank account in Singapore.
She said the documents recovered from the Singapore bank include detailed records of money transfers and payments made from the account. It also had photocopies of Tarique and Mamun’s passports, which were submitted when the two applied for credit cards from the bank.
“The first credit card on the account was a Visa credit card in the name of Mamun,” she told the court, adding, “there is another credit card in the name of Tarique Rahman”.
The bribery, embezzlement, and culture of corruption that Tarique Rahman helped create and maintain in Bangladesh have directly and irreparably undermined US businesses, resulting in many lost opportunities, wrote James F Moriarty, during his stay in Bangladesh as US ambassador.
“His theft of millions of dollars in public money has undermined political stability in this moderate, Muslim-majority nation and subverted US attempts to foster a stable democratic government, a key objective in this strategically important region,” reads Moriarty’s cable leaked by Wikileaks.
Tarique’s flagrant corruption has also seriously threatened specific US Mission goals, it said.
With such categorical observations in the past about Tarique, will the US now look the other way and back him to promote their possible regime change agenda in Bangladesh? A question worth a huge ponder, reads a social media post.