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Mar 20

The Islami Bank and the National Anthem Chorus Saga: A sneak-peek into the truth

In an Orwellian move that expounded toxic levels of mean-mindedness on part of the incumbent administration in Bangladesh, Information minister Hasanul Haq Inu and cultural affairs minister Asaduzzaman Noor on different occasions on Tuesday made contradictorystatements on a donation from Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited to the Independence Day event ‘Lakho  Kanthe Sonar Bangla’ to be organised by the government. At a press briefing at the secretariat, Asaduzzaman Noor absolutely denied that his ministry had received any donation from Islami Bank for the event. ‘It is cent per cent certain that no cheque has been received from Islami Bank for funding the event Lakho Kanthe Sonar Bangla. You may verify it yourself,’ he told reporters.  
When contacted, IBBL executive vice-president Ataur Rahman said that the bank’s vice-chairman Mustafa Anwar had handed over a cheque for Tk three crore to the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, on March 14 in response to a request from the Bangladesh Association of Banks for the event. ‘But it depends on the prime minister for which purpose the money will be spent,’ the IBBL official added. 
The remarks of the IBBL official tallied in with newspaper reports and pictures which clearly showed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina receiving a check from Islami Bank officials
Information minister Hasanul Haq, however, said at a function in the city that the national anthem event could not be funded by an organisation run by ‘war criminals’. He said the money received from the Islami Bank for the event should be returned.
In an attempt to set a world record, three lakh people will gather at the National Parade Square on March 26 and sing the national anthem in chorus on the occasion of the Independence Day.

Let us get you surprised,
The above discourse gives the impression that this is perhaps the first time that the IBBL is donating to an event of this calibre. Let us disappoint those chetona-charged feelers of the overtly progressive Shahbagised supporter base who have been baying for blood by now.
Prior to this, the Bank also sponsored the ‘National School Football Tournament-2011′ with a view to popularizing the football game among the school students. In addition to this, the Bank donated Tk 2 crore to Bangladesh Olympic Association to organized the 8th Bangladesh Games recently. In 2011, IBBL was given responsibility to furnish and decorate Dhaka city, venue of Cricket World Cup-2011, during the game. The Bank portrayed the heritage and culture of Bangladesh through its decoration which deserved praises and thanks from all corners at that time. Besides, the Bank regularly sponsors various festivals and occasions to patronise the Bangladesh’s sports, culture, literature and heritage.
So it should not be any matter of bewilderment that the IBBL is donating towards such an event of national importance.
What you should really be surprised about,
The examples above are from the times the Awami League has been ruling Bangladesh, and especially pertain to its last term. When a ruling party such as the Awami League claims itself to be a champion of ultra nationalist ideologies to the point of such fascist absurdity that it identifies a corporation such as the Islamic Bank of Bangladesh as being aligned with anti-liberation forces, any denizen of this country with a minimum amount of common sense would ask as to why the government, headed by the Awami League, took those ‘donations’ from Islami Bank Bangladesh back then and why is it now acting weirdly at a seemingly 180 degree angle?
Moreover, the above drama being concocted should not be your real concern. The actual concern that should be on your mind is the fact that the government is facilitating extortion through this drama. Yes, it is facilitating extortion, that too through public announcement via the finance Minister himself.  Its mentionable that Finance minister AMA Muhith’s bid to collect Tk 100 crore from private businesses for funding the ICC T20 World Cup and the recording of the national anthem by  over three lakh people at a time on March 26 has flanked widespread criticism. The question arises if the minister is engaged in raising funds by using government power as oppressive pressure on private sector businesses when this sector itself is in serious trouble. The finance minister however said the money is urgently needed to support national level activities including hosting a Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) concert at Bangabandhu National Stadium in the city ahead of the T-20 tournament scheduled to begin on March 16. But public reaction has not been helpful for the Finance Minister.The finance minister’s move received headlines in almost all dailies on Monday wondering whether or not it is an instance of ‘extortion by the state.’ News reports said the finance minister has already sent letters to banks asking them to donate Tk 1.0 crore each which also included foreign banks. Corporate business houses have also been asked to make contributions. Some business leaders held the view that they always make donations to such events but never before the finance minister was directly involved with the collection of such a huge figure. Muhith has attempted to justify his move saying toll collection of this type is a common practice and even he does a lot of toll collection for the government.  
What the Islami Bank really is,
A pride of this nation. The IBBL is the largest private bank of Bangladesh and placed among the Top 1000 world banks 2012 list. The Banker’s Top 1000 World Banks ranking, by UK based century old financial magazine ‘The Banker’  has been setting the industry benchmark since 1970, providing comprehensive intelligence about the health and wealth of the banking sector. Alongside strong global banks of the developed and emerging countries, the Islami Bank was positioned in the list as the lone financial institution from Bangladesh. It may be mentionable that the inclusion of the Islami Bank in the prestigious club of the best 1000 is tantamount of global recognition of overall development of the Bangladesh Banking Sector. 
Contrary to popular myth, it has a 63.09% foreign and 36.91% local shareholder (about 60,000) status, which means that it is not a Jamaat owned product like the government, itself a major local shareholder of the Islami Bank, told you all year long.

Shocked? You should be. Truth is that the state was the extortionist all along. And all you were thinking about was why it was receiving donations from the perceived “bad guy”, the Islami Bank!!! Om Chetona…….

1 comment

  1. Ali Ahmad Mabrur

    Nice writing. Such a writing was needed badly. I think the government high ups are not that much clear conceptually in regards to deal with IBBL or such organisations. Hasina is taking the donation, the Cultural minister denied and the information minister viewed on giving it back. If it was not taken how the question of giving back comes? They are ready to take anything for the sake of their interest

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