Ashraf’s Column

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Then who was corrupt in Bangladesh?

During the period of the Caretaker Government(CTG) of Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) filed corruption cases against a large number of politicians belonging to both AL and BNP, government servants and businessmen. Many of the accused were proved guilty in the lower courts and, on being convicted, were sent to the jail. Some of these convicted persons were tried in absentia as they fled the country. People in general, including the mid level leaders and workers of AL and BNP, hoped that at least some of their senior leaders, and businessmen who financed these politicians, and the government servants who were genuinely corrupt would get punished; the country and the political parties would get rid of the corrupt leaders; and the state bureaucracy would to a great extent be free from corruption.
Now let us take a look at what all has been happening in combating corruption since the present mohajote (grand alliance) government under Sheikh Hasina came to power. Almost all of those convicts who were sent to jails, or were absconding, have come out on bail granted by the High Court after they filed appeal to it against their convictions. Naturally, as per the law of the land, one can no more treat these people as corrupt till the High court finds them guilty. Even if they are found guilty by the High Court they, being fabulously rich with black money and powerful with political backing, will certainly appeal to the Supreme Court against the verdict of the High Court. It is known from our experience that it will take years, if it is left like that, for the higher judiciary to decide upon the cases. Cases against all those who belong to the ruling party and who have not yet been charge sheeted are being withdrawn by branding the cases as “politically motivated.” It is being rumored that the government may arrange for presidential clemency for all those politicians, naturally belonging to the ruling party, who are already charge sheeted. If BNP wins the next parliamentary election scheduled to be held in 1914, it is most likely that all cases against BNP leaders will be disposed of in the same way without any fair trial. They will have to suffer 5 years more than their AL colleagues for loosing the 2008 election !
Lt Gen Hassan Mashhud Choudhury resigned as the Chairman of ACC for no plausible reason. A new Chairman has recently joined the ACC. Soon after taking over the charge, this retired police officer, on being asked by the journalists about the fate of the corruption cases against some topmost politicians, said, like a typical police officer of our country, that their cases had already been decided by janotar adalat (people’s court), indicating his intention not to follow a strong line while dealing with the cases of corruption against the political VVIPs. With due respect can one ask him if the constitution of Bangladesh, or the Cr.PC, allow such privilege to any citizen of our country.
Some of the politicians who were earlier convicted by lower courts for corruption and tax evasion, on being nominated by their respective parties, got themselves elected as members of the parliament. These politicians and some others who are out of the parliament are now found busy, in and outside the parliament, bashing the last CTG and the the former Chairman of the ACC for causing harassment to them unjustifiably, as they claim, for political reasons. The CTG and the ACC were run in those days by human beings who were not above mistakes and mischief. The mistakes and mischief committed the by them could be investigated into and the wrongdoers can be punished now with due transparency. But is it reasonable to say, as those who were charge sheeted and convicted for corruption are saying now, that all of those were simply victimized? Certainly not. The public perception at that time was, and still is, that few might have been innocent, but most of them were corrupt. Otherwise, how could the Transparency International (T I) could grade Bangladesh as one of the most corrupt countries in the world for many years successively.
The loud mouthed corrupt politicians are now trying to prove that, though the T I branded Bangladesh as one of the most corrupt countries, its polticians, bureaucrats and businessmen are all ganga jolay dhoa tulshi pata (innocent). If the present government of Sheikh Hasina also believes in the same myth it should file defamation suit with the International Court of Justice against the T I for calling Bangladesh a corrupt country.
If the present mohajote government believes that there are at least some politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen, due to whose corrupt activities the country suffered immensely and earned a bad name, it must, as it promised in its election manifesto, take the following actions to punish the corrupt and bring good name to itself and the country:
Revitalize the ACC which has not been seen doing anything to combat corruption in the last six months since the present government came to power. To restore faith and confidence in the ACC it must take all necessary actions to expedite hearing of its cases pending with the lower courts and the High Court.
No one, however big or small s/he might be, that includes the honorable Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, should be exonerated from a corruption charge without a fair trial. S/he must face the trial in a court of law. If not found guilty by the court s/he should be welcome back to the society/politics with full dignity and honor. If found guilty s/he must be condemned by all and find no place in politics. In this case the honorable Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should come forward willingly to set personal example to the nation.
Empower the ACC to deal with its own cases independently without going through the office of the Attorney General. Being run entirely by political appointees Attorney General’s office may be politically biased. To make the ACC really independent bring in necessary changes in the relevant laws.
The government certainly has the right to appoint its own political nominees to certain government posts. In the last six months, for reasons best known to the appointing authority, some of these posts were filled in by persons with questionable reputation and integrity. Such appointments have already brought bad name to the party in power. There are many followers and sympathizers of AL, including university teachers, retired bureaucrats and technocrats, who are well known for their personal integrity and loyalty to AL. Appointment of such persons, will surely enhance the clean image of the party in power.
Justice delayed is justice denied. In greater national interest the government should take up a case with the honorable Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to constitute some special benches of the High Court to expeditiously deal with corruption cases.
If the mohajote government fails to take the above mentioned actions the country will plunge deeper in corruption. The whole world will continue to call us a corrupt country. The people of Bangladesh will turn away their faces from AL in the next general election. The whole world will find us as the only corrupt country in the world with no corrupt persons individually within the country. The question will naturally arise, “Then who was corrupt in Bangladesh ?”

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