Awami League uneasy over Benazir, Aziz, Anwarul – who is to blame?

Former army chief Aziz Ahmed and former chief of police Benazir Ahmed have been accused of corruption while a member of parliament was recently murdered.

These incidents taking place one after the other have put the government and Awami League at unease. But the ruling party leaders are unwilling to take liability for these incidents. They are sidestepping the issues, saying these are personal matters.

These incidents have given rise to all sorts of discussions and debate around the country. The ruling party, however, has not held any official discussions on these matters. These incidents were not even raised at the 14-party alliance meeting chaired by party president Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday night.

Several leaders of Awami League at the policymaking level, have said that the party refused to take liability for these incidents. That is why they do not feel the need to discuss these at any forum.

However, when faced by journalists, the concerned ministers put forward the government stand. At a press briefing yesterday, Friday, Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader said an individual can commit crime and corruption. The question is whether the government is giving him protection. He said no one will get away with crime, whether he is a former IGP or a former army chief.

New reports on these incidents appeared at home and abroad. The United States slapped sanctions on former army chief General Aziz Ahmed (retd) on 20 May. And a Dhaka court has ordered that immovable property of the former inspector general of police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed, his wife and daughters, be seized. Both of them have been accused of corruption and abusing power. Both of them were the heads of two forces during the term of the present Awami League government. That is why many people are questioning whether the government can actually shirk the liability.

In the meantime, Jhenaidah-4 member of parliament Anwarul Azim was murdered in Kolkata, India. He went missing after going there, and then it was learnt that he had been murdered. The law enforcement agencies of both countries say that conflict over smuggling led to the murder.

This member of parliament, elected to the Jatiya Sangsad thrice consecutively, mentioned in his affidavit to the election commission that he faced 21 cases at various times on allegations of criminal offences. During the tenure of the Awami League government, he was acquitted and released in some of the cases. Now that he has been murdered in Kolkata, various charges are coming to light. Questions are being raised as to how he was repeatedly nominated by Awami League to become MP despite his tarnished image.

Govt cannot evade liability

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Awami League leader said, while the incidents are isolated, they have a common link. The power structure was involved in the activities of the two former chiefs of two forces. And the murdered MP also used the ruling party as a shield, giving rise to all sorts of allegations. The leader said that if the government avoids any liability in these matters, this will create an adverse opinion among the people. He said that it is high time to discuss whether syndicates of such people are being created and whether they are gaining clout.

Awami League leadership, however, is unwilling to attach much importance to these incidents. While there is unease in the party, the leaders are viewing the three incidents separately. A leader, willing to remain unnamed, told that their leadership feels that the matter of US sanctions being placed on the former army chief General Aziz Ahmed, is political. They contend that from before the 7 January election, the US had created a sort of psychological pressure on the government. It was in continuity of this that the sanctions came against Aziz Ahmed three years after he retired. That is why Awami League is unwilling to attach importance to this.

While there had been talk from beforehand about corruption allegations against the former IGP Benazir Ahmed, in recent times it made a big splash in the media. He too had been extremely powerful as police chief. Now the court has ordered his moveable property and that of his family to be seized. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) had filed an appeal in this regard. A minister said that the government’s nod was behind the ACC move. He said, the former police chief alone bears the responsibility regarding these allegations and the matter will proceed according to the law.

Attempts were made to contact Benazir Ahmed in this regard, but no comment of his could be availed.

The government will not give any concessions regarding allegations that have been brought about. Critics should take this stance of the government into cognizance

Abdur Razzak, presidium leader, Awami League

Awami League leaders say, these allegations came after they resigned. There were no allegations when they were in office. That is why Awami League has no liability, the leaders feel.

No one in the party dares to speak

Awami League maintains that it was his popularity that led Anwarul Azim, the MP murdered in Kolkata, to be repeatedly nominated in the Jatiya Sangsad election. This view was highlighted by Awami League general secretary Obaidul Quader while speaking to newspersons on Thursday. But certain leaders of Awami League feel that no matter what arguments may be offered, the fact remains that no action was taken against Anwarul Azim despite allegations of criminal offences against him. The excuse of popularity cannot be used to evade the situation. This is being discussed informally among many leaders of the party.

Two mid-level leaders of Awami League said that they have to face questions wherever they go about these incidents. They have no proper reply. They themselves are not satisfied with the explanations offered by the concerned ministers. But no one dares to speak up and raise these issues at any forum.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina held a meeting with the 14-party alliance top leaders on Thursday. Among the allies, some had called for stern measures against corruption. But the issue of the two former chiefs of the two forces and the killing  of the MP were not raised. Speaking That, leader of alliance party Jashod, Hasanul Haq Inu said, the matter involved a few individuals. He does not see any political involvement in this and that is why they did not raise the issue at the 14-party alliance meet. However, the leader of another party of the alliance said that the main leader of the alliance summoned the meeting, and she did not raise the issue. That is why they too did not bring up the matter.

However, Awami League presidium leader Abdur Razzaque told, these are matters related to certain individuals. The government will not give any concessions regarding allegations that have been brought about. Critics should take this stance of the government into cognizance.

Political analysts feel that news of the incidents for the two former chiefs of two forces and the incident of the MP murder, created a sensation. Unless importance is attached to the matter and action taken accordingly, this will have a negative impact on the government.

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