Bloggers, the general, and the media

Posted in politics by jrahman on October 22, 2007

Earlier this year, Bangladesh experienced an extra-constitutional change in government.  The Economist called it a coup that dares not speak its name.  Initially, this de facto coup brought respite from a months-old stalemate between the country’s rival political parties.  But soon, the technocratic regime that was installed by the army started arresting top politicians on corruption charges.  The regime declared cleaning up corruption as its main priority.  I discussed the impact of this anti-corruption drive on the economy in the last post.  This post is not about economics.  No, this is about raising questions, questions that should be raised by people far more qualified than the bloggers who have been raising them this week.  

This comment was posted last week by a reader.  Similar comments and questions were raised across the Bangladeshi and related cyberspace — see here and here for example.  The issues are:

· Gen Moeen U Ahmed, the chief of Bangladesh army, and his brother Iqbal U Ahmed are both on the board of directors of Trust Bank, violating Bangladesh Bank regulations that state “not more than one member of a family will become director of a bank. For this purpose family members shall include spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters of the director and other persons dependent on him/her.”

· In November 2006, while Gen Moeen was Chairman, his brother was reappointed Managing Director of Trust Bank.  This appears to violate the Bangladesh Bank regulations which state that the above “restriction shall apply to appointment/reappointment of the directors”.

· Gen Moeen had an outstanding loan amount from Trust Bank well in excess of the Taka 500 it appears he is allowed to borrow as a member of the board of directors according to Bangladesh Bank regulations.  The regulations state: “the total amount of the loan facilities extendable to a Director or to his relatives should not exceed 50% of the paid-up value of the shares of that bank held in Director’s own name.”  General Moeen owns 10 shares of Trust Bank worth Taka 1000 before the IPO, as specified on page 23 of Trust Bank’s prospectus.

These violations of the banking regulations were completely avoided by the mainstream media in Bangladesh.  While the bloggers were discussing this, what did the daily newspapers in Dhaka report?  They reported on the General’s visit to Britain and America (here are some footages of what the General has said — judge for yourself who’s running Bangladesh).  On Friday 19 October, well after the ‘bankgate scandal’ broke on the net, here is what the country’s major vernacular dailies printed as their lead.  And in the country’s premiere English language daily, a sorry excuse of an op-ed piece had this:

When we see Moeen speak on issues in seminars and public forums we see a “think tank;” when we see Moeen distribute relief materials to flood victims, we see a man with “charitable disposition;” when we see Moeen in army uniform, we see a smart soldier and a “true patriot.”  

Journalism without fear or favour?  I hope the late SM Ali is not too disturbed in his grave.

And still, there are reasons to be hopeful.  After it broke in the internet, the General was asked about the issue by reporters from ATN Bangla, a TV channel.  Then major newspapers reported the General’s explanations.  Here is how the Daily Star chose to report it.  Out-of-context? You be the judge. 

Is this the end of the creeping dictatorship?  Far from it.  To paraphrase Churchill, it’s not even the beginning of the end, but it surely is the end of the beginning.  Bloggers, the citizen journalists, cannot be stopped from asking awkward questions. 

And the General seems to be making an effort in answering concerns, and that’s commendable.  Now, let’s get a few things straight. 

First, I am not calling the General corrupt.  For all I know, his explanations are genuine and there is no shenanigan whatsoever.  Everyone’s innocent until proven otherwise.  Of course, the General has a different standard of justice for those under arrest for corruption.  ‘They are known to be corrupt.  Show me an honest person under arrest, and remember, you have to prove that they are honest’ — that’s what the General says in one of the footages I’ve linked above.  There is no denying that the General is running the show in Bangladesh — to pretend otherwise is nonsense.  Will the General rethink his view on justice?

Second, will the media rethink its responsibility?  I asked the editor of a major Bangla daily earlier this month about press freedom in today’s Bangladesh.  He said a lot of things without answering the question.  My brother mentioned something LK Advani said about the Indian media during their Emergency — the media was asked to bend, they chose to crawl.  Ours seem to have taken supplication to a new low.  How long before this changes?

Third, the General has been telling an ‘honest man vs corrupt politician’ story for a while now.  And at least among the expatriate bhodrolokes this narrative has resonated so far.  Even if the General is telling the truth, this incidence should make it obvious that unless things change, he is likely to end up not different from the other military rulers that came before him.   

25 Responses

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  1. tacit said, on October 23, 2007 at 1:44 am

    “Take five years of my life and add it to yours.”

    I believe it was Shah Moazzem Hossain who offered to sweep the streets of Dhaka, if his master, Lt. Gen. Ershad asked him to do so.

    I believe we now have the twenty-first century, American version, of the same offer.

    I really find it striking that people counsel others not to pledge “absolute loyalty” to leaders, and then turn around, and do the same to our current governing generals.

    And as for praying for maximum incarceration for any person, the writer would be better off praying for justice. Does he know what Islam proscribes to those who malign others in thought and action?

  2. selim said, on October 23, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    1.General Moinuddin forced the government to declare his brother Minhazuddin’s medical centre to be the only government approved one for BOESL(Bangladesh overseas employment services limited).They have no previous experience in this specilised sector.
    So,shouldn’t both the brothers be sent to jail?Where is ACC now?

    2. General Moinuddins eldest Brother Tipu now controls all the businesses in Bangladesh.He is the new Mamun.Mr 10%.

    3.Tipu has many unauthorised deer,birds,monkey and other wild animals in a zoo in his ‘baganbari’ in savar.Relief tins has been used to build sheds in the zoo.It was also published in Amar Desh .
    Who dares to direct the joint forces there?

    4.Moin brothers syndicate has increased the price of essentials in Bangladesh.

    5.Moin has gone to USA to keep his ill gotton money and keep his son as caretaker.

    6.Moin’s wife is known as dimond lady. She takes bribe by dropping charges against corrupt, no name of businesman in new list.

  3. kalam said, on October 23, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    For corrupt practices and telling lies to the nation General Moin has disgraced himself and the Army.

    General Moin must be called back to the country immediately,stripped of his rank ,dismissed and should be sent to jail with his brother Iqbal.


  4. hiron said, on October 23, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    The Supreme commander cannot sit idle when the army chief has been found involved in corupt practices.
    An officer cannot tell a lie.By telling lie General Moin has broken his military oath and code of conduct.
    Moin must be given the discharge letter as soon as he lands.In the meantime arrest warrant should be issued and he should be arrested straight from the airport.
    I hope Mr president will show some guts now and save the nation from total disaster.

  5. AsifY said, on October 24, 2007 at 3:10 am


    How about we simply ask for an investigation and not condemn anyone (general, politician, slum dwellers, hawkers and journalists) without one?

  6. […] Taka 1000 worth of shares.  I am not sure if the regulation says that. The regulation (as reported here at Mukti) says that “the total amount of the loan facilities extendable to a Director or to his relatives […]

  7. […] Rahman at Mukti has some background: Earlier this year, Bangladesh experienced an extra-constitutional change in government. The […]

  8. jrahman said, on October 24, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Tacit, the street cleaner minister you refer to is Anwar Zahid, not Shah Moazzem. Shah Moazzem used to make suggestive remarks about nothing being created when two women were united.

    All, Let’s not assume that Gen Moeen is corrupt. For all we know, there are perfectly valid explanations. Legal details are discussed over at Adda:

  9. AsifY said, on October 24, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    I somehow missed tacit’s first comment. I first heard of Anwar Zahid through the discussions on my blog. Very educating discussion to say the least, and very pertinent for the op-ed.

  10. tacit said, on October 25, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Aha, now that you remind me, that’s true. Is he still in BNP? I know he was expelled once, during the infamous “tail wags dog” scandal.

  11. jrahman said, on October 26, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    I don’t think he ever joined BNP. Tail wagging the dog is Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury.

  12. baari amin said, on October 27, 2007 at 5:34 am

    General Moin you dwarf, better destroy yourself, dont destroy Bangladesh.

  13. tacit said, on October 28, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Really? I somehow had the impression that not only did he join the BNP, he was also Khaleda Zia’s press advisor. Then he, along with SaQa, were kicked out together in the aforementioned incident.

  14. tacit said, on October 28, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    “The two expelled hard-liners are Mr Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, BNP legislator, and Mr Anwar Zahid, who was media adviser to BNP chairperson Ms Khaleda Zia till last month. Mr Zahid was unceremoniously removed and replaced by the editor of an English daily.”

  15. Rumi said, on October 28, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Indeed Anwar Zahid was the famous street sweeper of Ershad. Yes he made a failed attempt to be part of ruling party again when BNP won landslide in 2001. However, he didn’t get much traction or attention and eventually went into oblivion.
    Ershad however didn’t forget his street sweeper. Recently when Anwar Zahid was very sick, only one person other than family who visited him was HM Ershad.

    BTW, SQ Chy has proven to be correct in the long term in his wagging the dogs tail remark. His remark was clearly aimed at Sadeq Hossain Khoka, Mannan Bhuiyan group of BNP. He was very upset at appernt influence of Khoka and Mannan in 2001 BNP government when Khoka got both ministry and mayorship and Mannan was the God under the God. He was frustrated at the ability of dogs tail ( Khoka) in influencing/moving the dog ( Khaleda). SQ Chy went on saying that when he was a MP in 1979, Khoka used to catch fish with Gamchha in Dholai Khal.

  16. jrahman said, on October 28, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    Thanks for the info on Zahid. BNP was better off without him methinks.

  17. tacit said, on October 28, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Interesting, that Saqa was right. However, Rumi bhai, this whole incident happent before the 2001 elections. I remember because in AL, there was a big fight between Mohammed Selim, and his brother, Mohammed Nasim. The end result was that Selim contested against Nasim in three of the Sirajgonj seats; and Nasim lost two of them. In regard to this, some AL leader sadly remarked that Khaleda Zia was so desperate for getting as many MPs as possible that she even forgave Saqa, who had commented personally against her, and let him contest from BNP, while AL was unable to even stop two brothers fom feuding amngst themselves.

    Khoka was one of the bravest leaders during 1996-2001. There was one hartal when police shot him in the head, and there was a picture of him being rushed to the hospital, blood all over his face. I wonder what Saqa knew that he made such an eerily accurate prediction.

  18. Rumi said, on October 28, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Yes tacit, it was throughout last days of AL and early days of BNP rule. Khoka was a star by then. His presence in the streets in AL regime was very bright. He won the only seat BNP managed to win in Dhaka in 2001 election. And in 1996 he defeated Sheikh Hasina in a seat which was traditionally Bangabandhu’s seat. That cornered the SQ led opposing group in BNP as Khoka always maitained mannan grouping. Khaleda however always trusted Mannan/Khoka group and even until few days before her house arrest the leaders she wanted to trust is Khoka/Mannan. Being a freedom fighters wife, she had instinctual distrust of rajakars and illogial trust on ex freedom fighters.

  19. tacit said, on October 29, 2007 at 3:38 am

    Even now, Rumi bhai, look at the people who are out of jail: M K Anwar, Shamsul Islam, these are all people who were thought to belong to the Manna Bhuiyan group.

  20. ai said, on October 29, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    After MUA’s “Bankgate” revelation and this new phenomenon (
    ), it shows how power corrupts. This is my objection about a long term unelected gov’t like present one. All their objectives sound good, but none of them have proven their own honesty at power. Power corrupts people and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is true for everyone. Unfortunately present gov’t has more power than any of the two Netri’s had. Can anyone find any corruption charge against any of the leaders when they were not in position of power? We all are “Shujoger Ovabe Choritroban”. When you get power, your test of character starts there.

    We can all remember how Ershad started, he also started with eradication of corruption and ’sontrash’. He also put politicians in jail for corruption. We all know the rest. Corruption is the most popular justification for military all over the world to take power from civilian leadership. But please don’t misunderstand me that I am trying to defend any corruption by politicians. What I am trying to say is: what made our civilian leadership corrupt (absolute power), is more obvious in present gov’t. None of them are tested leaders or proven anything that shows they are immune to the vice of power.

    Now we are in a situation where we feel intimidated to ask any question! The silence or one-sided report of all news outlet about the controversy of Mr MUA proves it so vividly.

    I prefer the one where I can vote them out if I don’t like them, than the one I am afraid to discuss their activities even in private.

  21. baari amin said, on October 30, 2007 at 3:58 am

    Tonight two DGFI officers Brigadier Bari and Brigadier Amin rounded up 6 out of 14 standing committee members of BNP in the house of Mr Saifur Rahman.The two Brigadiers are reportedly forcing Mr Saifur Rahman to take over the post of acting chairperson and make Mr M.K Anwar the secretary general and strip Mr Khondokar Delwar from his present post.They are also proposing to take Mr Mannan Bhuiyan back in the party and keep him in the standing committee.

    So far, Mr Saifur Rahman has refused to accept this proposal. So, has Dr. R.A.Gani, Mr Samsul Islam and Tanvir Ahmed Siddique.Mr. Saifur has also questioned the very presence of Mannan Bhuiyan the expelled Secretary general.

    The DGFI men are holding them at gun point and want it to be done by tonight.

    This has happened after General Moyeen’s return from abroad, who reportedly was angry on Bari and Amin for delaying this event.

    In the meantime Khondokar Delwar has been threatned by DGFI with imprisionment for himself and his family if he did not resign.

    Bangladesh is watching an episode which has surpassed any previous army atrocities.

    The Neutral caretaker Government is helplessly watching this event as a spectator only.

  22. bitterboy said, on November 7, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    #1 tacit.

    you’re wrong it was not Shah Moazzem but it was Anwar Zahid, information minister of Ershad.


  23. bitterboy said, on November 9, 2007 at 12:33 am

    Khaleda can be appreciated for many reasons, she failed to curb corruption in her last term, in the way it was expected of her, though.

    Here is a good example. SAQA’s comment on KZ, the tail waggs the dog instead of the dog wagging the tail, sounded very smart but it was too humaliating for the leader like Khaleda. Yet Khaleda digested it, returned him to the party and gave him mp nomination for the better interest of party. Here, she set an example, party’s interest is greater than individual’s. Perhaps, Hasina couldn’t be so sublime if it were to her.

    I would like to send my two cents comment about Ershad, though it’s not appropriate context.

    Ershad now demands trial of war criminals. Whereforth, what he did to the heroes of the liberation war is far greater crime than the war-crimes. He eliminated the all our war-veterans from the army, some by killing through plotting coups, anti-coups, some by putting in jail, some sending abroad with diplomatic jobs.

    How I know it? Once I got a copy of Pakistani Daily news paper “Dawn”. There I saw an article penned by a Pakistani Brig. Gen who had just made a visit to Dhaka as a leader of a military team of Pakistan army. In the article he mentioned Ershad told him that he[Ershad] purged all the prominent Muktijoddhas from army. I was so outraged after going through the article.

    Now, the most shrewd vile lewd corrupt repatriated ex-autocrate is demanding trial of war criminals and banning anti-liberation force from politics.And the media prints that demand as a head-line new Moalana Abdul Mannan Justic Ehsan and Justic Nurul Isalm, known collaborators were minister, president and vice president respectively in his watch. What kind of hypocrisy we are living with. Awful!


  24. On Meherjaan « Tahrir said, on February 10, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    […] collaborating with Gen Moeen, questions about his bank account were asked by the bloggers (including yours truly).  The current controversy is just the latest event shaped by the netizens, and I suspect there […]

  25. On Meherjaan said, on March 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    […] collaborating with Gen Moeen, questions about his bank account were asked by the bloggers (including yours truly).  The current controversy is just the latest event shaped by the netizens, and I suspect there […]

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