April 09, 2007

The case against former PM Sheikh Hasina Wazed

You just cannot keep Bangladesh out of the headlines. After a few dull days we have another breaking news.

The Awami League chief and former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed was sued by Mr. Kazi Tajul Islam Faruque, Chairman of Westmont Power Company. The Daily Star has details:
"Tajul brought allegations against Hasina of extortion and abuse of power in 1998 when she was the prime minister. The case was filed under sections 385, 386, 387 and 109 of the penal code. In accordance with the sections, a person can be sentenced to five years to life in jail if the court finds him or her guilty.

According to the constitution a person is not eligible for contesting in elections, if s/he is convicted of a crime and sentenced to at least two years in prison on charges of moral turpitude, unless five years have passed since his or her release from jail."
According to AP News:
Farooq complained to police he paid Hasina 30 million takas ( US$441,000; €383,000) to get his project approved by the government. Farooq claimed he handed the money in cash directly to Hasina — who served as Bangladesh's prime minister from 1996-2001 — at her office in the capital Dhaka.
Hasina, who is now on a visit to the US, where his son lives, was speculated to leave the country to avoid an arrest after the state of Emergency. Now the timing of this lawsuit is particularly interesting as she commented to BBC that the election commission is delaying the election on purpose and termed it “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. However he also said that:
“This government has done some good work and we supported them. But while we know reforms are necessary, it shouldn't be an excuse.”
Hasina terms it conspiracy and her party members question why the allegation has been brought up after so many years.

She is supposed to return to the country in last week of April. But after the non-bailable suit her returning home seems uncertain.

The caretaker government has used the emergency act to detain more than 160 politicians and businessmen and later brought corruption and other charges. Most of those detained belong to Awami League and BNP. Khaleda Zia's son and the next groomed chief-to-be of BNP Tarek Zia is also detained on a similar extortion case.

While the general people are happy that at last some measures against the high power corruptions are being taken, but they are also concerned if these measures become a tool for retaliation or political revenge. Corruption is in every sector of Bangladesh. People would also like to see nailing of corrupt businessmen, army person, professionals so that they can be sure that the interim Government's steps are unbiased and truly done on national interest. Hope that these lawsuits do not become a mockery of the justice system and the sinner are punished for real.

One thing is becoming obvious that the future political scene of Bangladesh will not be dominated by Awami League and BNP, the two major parties as many of their top leaders are either sued or are in the process of being sued. The political situation will remain fluid for a uncertain period.

Sadakalo coins in more predictions as rumors are floating everywhere:
Prothom Alo is reporting that there are rebel factions in both parties that are maneuvering to assume party leadership. It is also reporting that Mrs. Zia is negotiating to leave the country after Tarique's case ends, or even before. Apparently, the powers-that-be initially tried to cut a deal: no prosecution against Tarique if she left the country with both sons.
The Telegraph, Calcutta (does not use Kolkata) termed it Benazir syndrome.

Update II: The Daily Shomokal reveals quoting an Awami League leader that 30 million Taka weighs bewteen 57-89 kilograms depending on the size of the 500 Taka notes. It is impossible for one person to carry that weight. Moreover the plaintiff claimed that he carried 600 bundles of notes in a suitcase. According to experts only 300 bundles may fit a large suitcase.

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