Awami League to axe controversial leaders from grassroots too

Staff Correspondent . Dhaka | Update:

AL, Awami LeagueAfter the crackdown on leaders of associate organisations, ruling Awami League has sent directives to its grassroots units to get rid of controversial figures as part of the ongoing ‘correction’ drives. The party has started to send letters to presidents and general secretaries of organisational units from Friday.

Sources said, prime minister and AL president Sheikh Hasina before leaving for Azerbaijan asked general secretary Obaidul Quader to take measures in this end. Later, the party started to send letters signed by Quader to district and city units by courier service. They will receive the letters in a day or two.

The drive against casinos, gambling and illegally amassed wealth that started on 18 September was restricted to Awami League’s associate bodies so far. The ambit of the drive is now being expended into mother organisation Awami League and elected representatives. Ministers, lawmakers and local body representatives would be brought under the scanner now.

The authorities have already slapped travel bans on 23 persons including whip Shamsul Haque Chowdhury and lawmaker Nurunnobi Chowdhury Shawon. Bank account details of Narayanganj lawmaker Nazrul Islam Babu and his family members have been sought.

Sheikh Hasina has hinted that controversial leaders would be axed from the central committee too in the party’s council scheduled to be held on 20-21 December. The councils of associate organisations such as Jubo League, Swecchasebak League and Krishak League will be held on November. A purge has started in these organisations before their council. This drive would be extended up to district, upazila and union parishad level.

Government and Awami League’s sources said Sheikh Hasina is sending her message to the grassroots through both organisational and administrative channels. She is also sending directives verbally or by letters. Also, intelligence agencies and law enforcers have been given direct instructions to take measures accordingly. They were asked to identify the corrupt persons first, then collect information on their wrongdoings and finally arrest them. Authorities were also asked to ensure that no such identified person can flee the country.

Intelligence agencies and law enforcers are mainly working to sift the persons who are involved with casinos and gambling, newbies in Awami League who wield power and those who amassed illegal wealth and are involved in corruption.

Awami League sent letters to district and metropolitan units two weeks ago to hold councils in their respective units immediately. The latest letter sent on Thursday calld on the grassroots units to ensure that no corrupt persons or outsiders are included in the committees. The letters also asked to ensure that controversial figures are kept away from the committees formed to hold councils. The letter suggested they form new committees at every level of district and metropolitan units through councils within 10 December.

AL joint secretary general Mahbubul Alam Hanif told Prothom Alo that Awami League has been in power for 11 years at a streatch and the party is being embarrassed by the controversial activities of some of its leaders and activists. Sheikh Hasina has taken a strong stance against the controversial leaders and no corrupt person would be able to reamin at any level of the party.

About outsiders’ inclusion in Awami League, Hanif said that the party had already taken a decision that those accused in cases related to war crimes, terrorism or subversive activities could not enter Awami League. Still, he said, some such persons sneaked into Awami League’s committees in some places and they would be removed now.

District level leaders are somewhat confused as to how the controversial figures would be identified and if they have the jurisdiction needed to remove them. Some central AL leaders, however, said that Sheikh Hasina herself would send the names unofficially before the councils were held.

A central leader of the party, seeking anonymity, told Prothom Alo that corruption and irregularities have pervaded different levels of party to such an extent that it has lost power to withstand any future crises. Awami League leaders are now biggest enemies of Awami League.

He thinks that only a correction drive at every level of the party can reinvigorate it.

Correction drive in AL’s associate bodies started in last month with removal of Bangladesh Chhatra League president Rezwanul Haque Chowdhry and general secretary Golam Rabbani over allegations of demanding ‘toll’ from development projects of Jahangirnagar University.

Later, Jubo League organising secretary Khaled Mahmud Bhuiyan, Dhaka south city unit president Ismail Chowdhury Samrat, contractor GK Shamim were arrested over involvement with illegal casino business, gambling and other corruption.

Jubo League president Omar Faruk Chowdhury was removed on allegations of aiding and abetting these arrested leaders. Swecchasebak League president Molla Abu Kausar and secretary Pankaj Devnath were also relieved of their posts.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has imposed a travel ban on 23 people including of three ruling Awami League lawmakers. Special Branch (SB) of police and the immigration department were asked to ensure foreign travel ban of these persons. The National Board of Revenue (NBR) has frozen bank accounts of many of them.

Awami League presidium member and spokesperson of 14-party alliance Mohammad Nasim told that many powerful cliques have been formed in the party as it remains in power for a long time at a stretch. Many tested and proven leaders have been left behind and the party has gone through an image crisis.
The party has started a drive to get rid of such bad elements from the party, he added.

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