Dhaka, Apr 22 (bdnews24.com)—Muhammad Yunus did not mind the danger of the possible hostile response that his political ambition could provoke from Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, says a leaked US diplomatic cable.
The cable was sent on Feb 13, 2007 from the U.S. Consulate in Kolkata during Yunus’ visit there, two days after the Nobel prize winner had revealed his plans in the Bangladesh media to step into the political maelstrom.
The cable documented in detail the conversation between the US Consul General in Kolkata Henry Jardine and Yunus over lunch when the latter visited Kolkata.
Chennai-based The Hindu newspaper accessed the US diplomatic cables via Wikileaks. The Calcutta Chamber of Commerce (CCC) hosted the luncheon where Jardine enquired about Yunus’s political plans.
The 2006 Nobel laureate recognised that he would face a “potentially bruising response” from the ‘two ladies’ [Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia] and other established political figures.”
But he felt that the situation in Bangladesh had reached a critical juncture as “civil war” had only just been averted.
On Feb 11, Yunus had issued an open letter saying that he was seeking support from the pe0ple to launch a political party styled Nagorik Shakti (Citizens’ Power).
The announcement came just as the military began a crackdown on political parties, arresting dozens of top leaders on charges of corruption.
In the letter, Yunus asked people to send him their opinions on forming a political party focusing on good governance.
He came in for severe criticism from political parties and rapid aborted his move into politics citing that those who had initially encouraged him lost their enthusiasm.
“Yunus confirmed (consul general Jardine) that he was interested, having supposedly been asked by many people to step-in and overcome the political impasse between the two strongest political leaders, Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia,” reads the cable.
“CCC President Manoj Mohanka questioned the advisability of Yunus joining the messy world of Bangladesh politics and noted the likelihood of Yunus’ reputation being tarnished.
“Yunus quickly responded that he understood the dangers of entering politics but felt that responsible people had to step into the political field to make a real change in Bangladesh, which was wracked by corruption and poor governance.
The ’sacked’ Grameen Bank chief was supportive of the imposition of the state of emergency, saying that it had averted a possible civil war.
CRITICAL OF AL’S DEAL
Yunus told the US diplomat he felt that the dominant parties had developed ties with Muslim fundamentalists for political gain even though most Bangladeshis did not favour the extremism.
He was scathing in his remarks on the deal that Awami League had reportedly reached with fundamentalist group Bangladesh Khelafat Majlish (BKM) in Dec 2006.
“Yunus [said] that the agreement was a reflection of the AL’s moral bankruptcy and was based on pure political calculus to garner a few additional votes and another example of the need for a new political party (his own party).”
OPENING UP PORTS
Yunus said during the conversation that he was in favour of opening the Chittagong port to regional trade with India, Burma, Bhutan and China.
He added Grameen Bank was considering the possibility of financing a new “mega-port” project in Chittagong to meet the regional demand.
After documenting Yunus’s views, the cable concluded that he was “a person of great moral stature and strong organizational skills” and that his candidacy “could offer a possible out from the present Hasina-Zia zero-sum game that cripples Bangladesh’s democratic process”.