Certain comments recently made by foreign minister AK Abdul Momen has created discomfort within the government as well as within the ruling Awami League. Most leaders of the party are annoyed with the foreign minister. At a policy making level of Awami League, most of the leaders feel that Momen’s words have been diplomatically damaging for the country. It has also given rise to criticism against the government within the country. Pressure is reportedly mounting from within the party for serious measures to be taken against Momen.

Like the party’s central leaders, many of the cabinet members too feel that action should be taken regarding foreign minister Abdul Momen. Sources say that on Friday the party chief and prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, was apprised of these views of the leaders.

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Several sources within the party and the government have said AK Abdul Momen may be admonished and cautioned. However, there is little chance of him being dropped from the cabinet. There have been no indications from a top level so far that any major action will be taken against him.

Certain sections within the party and cabinet feel that Abdul Momen’s family has long-standing ties with the family of the prime minister. They feel that she is not likely to discard someone of her liking so easily. Also, dismissing him from the cabinet would be an admission to his fault. Many within the government do not foresee any changes in the cabinet prior to the next parliamentary polls.

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While attending a Janmashtami event on Thursday in Chattogram, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said that during his recent visit to India, he had requested them to do everything that was needed to keep the present government in power in Bangladesh. The foreign minister’s comments have been met with a continuous tirade of criticism.

It is the prime minister Sheikh Hasina who takes policy decisions of the party and the government. The foreign minister’s words were not that of the party or the government
Abdur Razzaque, AL presidium member and agriculture minister

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Awami League presidium member and agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque said it is the prime minister Sheikh Hasina who takes policy decisions of the party and the government. The foreign minister’s words were not that of the party or the government. Even so, the prime minister is looking into the matter.

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Awami League sources say that the foreign minister’s comments had created strong reaction among several Awami League central leaders and members of the cabinet. Addressing a Janmashtami event on Friday, Awami League’s general secretary Obaidul Quader said that the statement of the foreign minister was not that of the party or the government.

Several ministers and senior leaders met informally on Friday evening at the party president’s office in Dhanmondi. Most of the leaders and ministers there expressed their annoyance. AL general secretary Obaidul Quader was present there at the time.

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According to sources, the leaders present at the meeting felt that such a comment of the foreign minister just before prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s Delhi trip was disconcerting for the friend state. The prime minister and the party leaders have continuously maintained that the people had voted Awami League to power for three consecutive terms. The foreign minister’s comment that indicated dependence of India, threw this narrative off balance.

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Awami League presidium member Pijush Kanti Bhattacharya told Prothom Alo that the foreign minister was wrong in making such a statement. Awami League does not rely on India or any other country to remain in power.

AL presidium member Abdur Rahman on Saturday said, Momen is no one of the party. A cabinet member, speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, said that all over the world, the post of foreign minister is the second or third most important post. You cannot evade responsibility by simply saying he is not anyone of the party.

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AL and cabinet sources said that while outwardly saying that Momen’s statement was not that of the party, the matter has caused dissatisfaction among many of AL’s central leaders and members of the cabinet. Many leaders and ministers have requested party general secretary to broach the matter with the party president, prime minister Sheikh Hasina. On a personal level too, many have informed the top level of government about the negative situation that has arisen from Momen’s comments.

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Another member of cabinet, remaining anonymous, said prime minister Sheikh Hasina does not distance anyone in difficult times. Latif Siddiqui lost his position in the cabinet as he had hurt religious sentiment. Murad Hasan was dropped for infuriating women. While Momen’s statement may be damaging for the government, it is not likely that the prime minister will take stern action.

AL’s organising secretary Abu Sayeed Al Mahmud, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that Sheikh Hasina is well aware of everything. She will issue directives to the party and the members of the cabinet in this regard.

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AL sources said that party president Sheikh Hasina may call a central committee meeting after the programmes of the month of mourning concludes. The matter will be discussed then. In the meantime, several leaders have called up the foreign minister and advised him to be more prudent in his statements.

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* The report was originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for English edition by Ayesha Kabir