A section of leaders of the Awami League and its associate and front organisations are in fear of actions as the party as well as the government appears to have suddenly taken a hard line against irregularities inside the AL and the pro-AL organisations, particularly against those involved in illegal activities for making money.
After removing from the pro-AL Bangladesh Chhatra League its two top leaders over their alleged demand for ‘commission’ from a high-value Jahangirnagar University project in the past week, two leaders of the AL’s youth front Awami Juba League were arrested by the elite Rapid Action Battalion for their alleged involvement in illegal businesses.
On Thursday night, prime minister and AL chief Sheikh Hasina declared that the party as well as the government became hard on the Juba League after the BCL.
‘Social anomalies have to be removed and we’ll not tolerate clashes and killing over casinos,’ she told a BCL delegation that called on the PM at her official Ganabhaban residence.
The prime minister said that she was developing the country through hard work. ‘But I’ll not allow this development process to be tainted. I’ll spare no wrongdoer,’ she asserted.
Hasina said that the government would investigate how the foreigners got into the casinos and how they got visas. ‘If anybody tries to obstruct this work, he or she will be dealt with iron hands,’ she warned.
On Friday, addressing a press conference at the AL president’s office in Dhanmondi, party general secretary Obaidul Quader said that the drive against corruption and irregularities will be conducted across the country.
‘The drive is not only in the Juba League and Chhatra League, those who will be found involved in corruption in the Awami League, too, will face the same fate,’ he said.
Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister, replying to a question about the remark of a Bangladesh Nationalist Party leader that the Awami League had turned the city of mosques [Dhaka] into a city of casinos, the AL leader said, ‘It’s the BNP who made Dhaka a city of casinos.’
He also said that action will be taken if it was found that the casino business was being operated with support from any political leader or anyone from the administration, adding that no godfather would be spared.
Asked whether the AL was embarrassed over the allegations raised against its associate bodies, he said that they were happy as prime minister Sheikh Hasina became more popular for the action she took.
‘It [the action] has brightened the image of the party and the government,’ he said.
The same day, addressing a rally at Uttara in the capital, Juba League chairman Omar Faruk Chowdhury said that there was no scope to deny the allegation against Juba League men running illegal casino businesses.
‘I am thanking the law enforcement agencies for arresting the JL leaders involved in the casino business. I am requesting you [law enforcers] to arrest them all, even me if you find my involvement,’ he said.
His remarks came in a sharp reversal of his earlier position.
The JL chairman at a Wednesday night press conference had raised questions about the sudden raids on ‘so-called’ casinos and wondered whether those were a part of ‘de-politicisation’.
He had insisted that the government should also arrest police and RAB officials serving in those areas where so-called casinos had been in operation for years.
At Friday’s Uttara rally he also said that those JL members who would be arrested by law enforcers would be expelled from the organisation.
In a step that went with the AL and government hard line, the Juba League on Friday suspended its Dhaka city south unit’s organising secretary Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, now in police custody for interrogation after he was arrested on Wednesday night over his alleged illegal ‘casino’ business and other offences, said Juba League education affairs secretary Mizanur Rahman.
A day after Khaled’s arrest, the RAB on Friday detained Juba League central committee leader SM Golam Kibria Shamim and recovered a huge amount of money from his office in capital’s Niketan area.
Several AL central leaders on Friday told New Age that there was a possibility of dissolving the Juba League Dhaka city south unit as there was an allegation that the president of the unit, Ismail Hossain Samrat, was also involved in operating illegal ‘casinos’ and other offences including extortion.
The AL leaders went on to say that some more ‘serious actions’ will be visible after the prime minister would come back home from New York.
The PM on Friday left for New York on an eight-day official visit to attend the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. She is scheduled to leave New York for Dhaka on September 29.
Earlier on September 14, Sheikh Hasina removed BCL’s president Rezwanul Haque Chowdhury and general secretary Golam Rabbani following a complaint that they demanded a ‘4-6 per cent commission’ from a Tk 1,445-crore project of Jahangirnagar University. A 6 per cent commission on the project fund stands at Tk 86 crore.
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