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  • Prof. Yunus and Bangladesh Print
    Mar 07 2011

    By Muhammad Zafar Iqbal

    I like Prof. Yunus a lot, and more than that I respect him. I also know that there are many like me. I remember, on hearing the news of Prof. Yunus' Nobel Prize I jumped about and screamed like a person gone mad with happiness. There have not been too many such occasions in my life. My happiness was not because someone I knew got the Nobel Prize but because the prestige of Bangladesh went sky high. Only those who have lived abroad can truly gauge how cruelly, indifferently and disrespectfully Bangladesh is sometimes talked about, and it is Prof. Yunus and his work that have helped us enormously to counter that. The Wall Street Journal in a recent piece, pointing out the difference between Pakistan and Bangladesh, wrote, "Pakistan's hero is a rogue nuclear scientist who unlawfully smuggled nuclear technology, while Bangladesh's hero is Prof. Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for helping the poor with small loans".

    Prof. Yunus is now the victim of a cold and calculated harassment campaign of the government. I think it must be a very important agenda of the Awami League, and this campaign would have started now or later. The perfect opportunity came when the Norwegian Television released a documentary regarding a dispute between Norad and Grameen Bank that was settled in the nineties. Following that, our Prime Minister launched a most vicious attack on Prof. Yunus that left sensible people in the country stupefied and hurt. Our finance minister spoke sensibly in the initial stage but followed the same tune when pressure was brought to bear on him.
    The worst attack came from the Students League whose language of criticism is too shameful to reproduce here. Soon we started to see another form of harassment with cases being lodged against the Grameen Bank chief in various places of the country and we saw the regrettable sight of him taking bail from various courts in the country.

    That the man who is now one of the most respected individuals in the world should be so harassed by his own government is something I find difficult to believe even though I am seeing it with my own eyes. A few days ago Prof. Yunus was dismissed from the post of Managing Director of the bank that he conceived, founded and nurtured. Of course the government will find many excuses for its action. But I will bet that the people of the country will not believe anything that is being alleged against him and that all this is being done only to harass him.

    The news of his dismissal has spread throughout the world with unbelievable speed and has been taken with immense seriousness. People across the world will be forced to conclude that our government is both ungrateful and vindictive. The man who has done so much to raise the profile, honour and respect of Bangladesh on the global stage is now facing a vilification campaign where the full force of the state is being used.

    There exists a lot of debate about the micro credit programme launched by Prof. Yunus. There are many who oppose and many who support it. We all want that more serious and in-depth studies be conducted on this subject so that the real situation becomes clearer. But should such a debate become a vilification campaign against the founder of the micro credit movement, and that also in such a crude fashion?

    In the decades of the seventies and eighties Bangladesh was known on the global stage through the name of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Whether this government believes it or not, in the present decade Bangladesh is known by Prof. Mohammed Yunus. So when Prof. Yunus is denigrated in front of the world, inevitably Bangladesh is also denigrated in front of the world. Does nobody inside this government recognise this simple truth?

    It is discourteous to spit in public. If one has to, it is customary to do so facing the ground. Never should anyone spit upwards. Because inevitably it falls on the face of one who spits. Does this government know that they spitting upwards?

    (This is an abridged translation of the writer's article published in Prothom Alo on 5 March, 2011.)

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