WITH the drive against illegal casinos and bars having run since September 18, the prime minister Sheikh Hasina coming to say in the parliament on Wednesday that the drive against all sorts of corruption, including bribery, would continue until all tiers of the state and society are free of such crimes is welcome. The drive — which began a little late though, especially in view of the Awami League having already completed two consecutive tenures in the government and almost completed a year of the third consecutive tenure — could so far round up 277 people — 224 in the capital city and 54 in outlying areas — in connection with corruption and illegal money-making. Alongside, the Anti-Corruption Commission on September 30 also set out to inquire about the illegal wealth of people involved in illegal casino and other business. It has already prosecuted 10 people on charge of accumulating illegal wealth by opening casinos and through other illegal means. Whilst most of the people arrested as part of the drive have come out to be leaders and activists of the Awami League and its front organisations, the commission has also ordered an overseas travel ban on 34 people — 23 politicians including three Awami League members of parliament, 11 government officials and 10 Public Works Department engineers.
The prime minister, who also heads the Awami League, saying that the laws are stringently enforced without considering political identities, views and positions also appears to hold true, at least partially, as is evident in the arrest and prosecution of the suspects. But all the people arrested and prosecuted so far, mostly in the position of city councillors, city-level leaders of the ruling party, appear to be the middle rungs of the crime ladder who may not have been let loose overnight. There are people involved in the illegal means down the ladder who work on the ground and there are people of higher positions upwards who patronise the illegal business. This all may also not have happened without the blessings of more powerful people above and around them, political or otherwise. The government should get hold of the people, especially, sitting on the upper rungs of the ladder if it means to decisively end not only the illegal business of casino but also bribery and financial corruption that have been all pervasive in society. If the people in the middle and lower rungs are taken care of, the vacant places downwards could well be filled in in no time as the people sitting on the higher rungs would need to carry out their illegal trade, pushing everything back to square one soon.
The government must, under the circumstances, get to where the political patronisation for corruption comes from, rise above petty partisan interest and take legal action against the big names yet to be named. Corruption and illegal means may well involve the abuse of powers, illicit capital flight and other such crimes. The government, in view of all such aspects, must involve other agencies such as the National Board of Revenue and the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit in the process so that every aspect of high-profile corruption and illegal business is brought to justice.
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