Political patronization: Key to corruption in Bangladesh

Published : Tuesday, 14 July, 2020 at 12:00 AM

Corruption has become one of the greatest problems of Bangladesh. But during the last two decades it has spread its black claws into every sector. Mostly, corruption is embedded and originated at public sector. Recently, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started an anti-corruption drive, many scams are rising above the water. In most of the cases though only few end level actors are being pulled out but the roots of corruptions are still untouched. We all know that, the names we find in different corruption cases cannot commit such crimes without political support. Hence, eliminating political patronization is going to be the greatest challenge in fighting corruption against Bangladesh.

Politics, according to its description, is a noble profession. The politicians are people’s representatives and are supposed to work for the sake of people’s welfare only. But in most of the cases, that remains a dream in Bangladesh. Someone should enter politics leaving all his personal interests behind. Wealth and power should never be his focus.  But, political leaders’ personal interests are nurturing and supporting the corruption in Bangladesh.

Recently, we are listening a lot about the corruption in our health sector. We cannot believe that, someone can make false reports of COVID-19 detection.

During the Ershad or Jatiyo Party reign Kazi Zafar Ahmed conducted a great scam by hijacking of a multimillion-dollar aid shipment of sugar. He was even the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and received the nickname of ‘Sugar Zafar’ after this act. During Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) reigns, corruption cases revealed many big names like; Harris Chowdhury, former foreign minister Morshed Khan, former civil aviation minister Mir Nasir and even the former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman. Associates of these politicians like; Giasuddin Al Mamun was on the media on several occasions, who directly executed the corruptions in support of these politicians. There corruption even cleared the path for terrorism to set foot in Bangladesh.

In the Awami League regime also, we have seen large politically-backed scams which involved names like; former communication minister Syed Abul Hossain, former advisor of the PM Syed Modasser Ali, Member of Parliament Abdur Rahman Bodi and many others who hailed from strong political identities. Hence, in each government’s regime, corruption was strongly backed and nurtured by political leaders and this needs to change as it is not only the economy but also the national security is at grave risk.

We are listening a lot about health sector. But almost all the sectors have some forms of corruption in Bangladesh. The anti-corruption drive started from casino scams which brought names like; Samrat, G K Shamim in front of media. Human trafficking has come out as another great source of corruption recently. A member of parliament Md Shahid Islam Papul was arrested in Kuwait for illegal human trafficking from Bangladesh.

The issue of human trafficking to Vietnam, Libya, Malaysia and different EU countries are coming into light. For personal gain, the traffickers even completely ignore the risks on the lives of these illegally trafficked people. Though on several occasions, the law enforcers arrested few travel agents or individuals but that cannot suffice as this syndicate has strong political support. If Papul was not arrested by the Kuwait authority, his illicit activities might never revealed in Bangladesh.

The government should take immediate steps to stop human trafficking. It should establish connections with different countries those hires workers from Bangladesh and should train the workforce according to their needs. Without a certification from the government’s human resource development authority, none should be allowed to go overseas for work. A nationwide awareness campaign should be run in the regards so that people know that, the government will make the necessary arrangements. In this way, we will be able to track our people overseas and human trafficking will reduce. But this whole process will require serious political commitment.

Opportunity to launder money provides a space for corruption. Almost all the black money gets laundered to other safe countries like; Singapore, Switzerland and even India from Bangladesh. Last month, the financial and tax reports of US President Donald Trump was investigated and called upon by their highest court. We have seen such efforts in many other countries. But almost no political leaders and their relatives has to worry about their tax files while they are on the ruling side.

If the National Board of Revenue (NBR) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) monitor and investigate the financial records of the political leaders and their relatives regularly, it will be very difficult for them to launder money earned through corruption. Similar measure should be taken for government employees as the large portion of them are involved in corruption.

Nepotism is another driving factor of corruption in Bangladesh. The corruption is mostly initiated and executed by the relatives, friends and close followers of political leaders. Having a strong relation with a political leader works as a license for illegal works in Bangladesh. Today’s Shahed or Dr Sabrina must have taken the benefits of nepotism from some political leaders. It is not at all possible that they were not favored, backed or supported by someone influential and all influence sources from ruling party politics in Bangladesh. Keeping an eye on the favorites of the political leaders should be a prime focus of the law enforcers and other investigating agency.

We cannot deny the use of women, drugs and money (in the form of bribe) behind the strong presence of corruption in our country. The evil ones use these to receive political support, business opportunities and other illegal benefits from not only political leaders but also government officials including law enforcers and even from judiciary. If our top officials and top leaders cannot keep themselves out of greed, they might even compromise national security.

Bangladesh, being a fast-developing country, requires all the right practices now to progress. Corruption is holding us back to a great extent. If we cannot eliminate or at least control corruption, then at some stage, we will fail.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman started fight against alcohol and gambling. But due to his brutal killing in 1975 he could not attain full success against corruption. Now his daughter Sheikh Hasina started a war against corruption and not sparing even her own party people. The government must continue this drive and should not be de-motivated due to criticism of corruption inside the government. Rather everyone should praise her initiatives. The leaders from top to bottom should be free from corruption regardless of their position and importance. If we can attain this, then we will be able to achieve the SDGs or other set goals even before the set time.

Corruption was there during all the regimes in Bangladesh. Several BNP leaders criticized Awami League government for corruption. But during their time, they did almost nothing against corruption. So, we should not criticize the government, rather praise and support their good efforts. The opposition like; BNP should also express their commitment to continue such drive if they ever comes in power.

We just hope that, the fight against corruption has reaches its ultimate goal – disclosing political patronization. Until we can control political shelter of corrupt people, we cannot win this war. PM Hasina has shown her intent to offset political support for corruption on several occasions. But this is a mammoth task and it requires undaunted political commitment. We believe, we will be able to achieve that goal someday soon.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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