Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has termed the charges of international crimes and corruption such as human trafficking and money laundering against a lawmaker as a disrespectful example of criminalisation in Bangladesh's politics and public representation.
In a statement today, the non-profit organisation called on the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the parliament to take steps for immediate and effective investigations and legal action in the interest of the dignity of parliament.
On June 7, the authorities in Kuwait arrested Md Shahid Islam alias Kazi Papul, a parliament member from the Lakshmipur-2 constituency, on charges of human trafficking and money laundering.
Citing various reports published in the media in Kuwait and in Bangladesh since the beginning of this year, TIB said there was no evidence that from the very beginning, the government, the parliament, the ACC, the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, the revenue authorities and the law enforcement agencies concerned have given serious consideration to the allegations. Rather there were signs of attempt to avoid responsibility.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, said, "Following the publication of a report in the Kuwaiti media on serious allegations of human trafficking, the Bangladesh ambassador to Kuwait, after a so-called investigation, placed a written report, stating that the allegations were baseless. And the government of our country and the authorities concerned including the Anti-Corruption Commission have felt comfortable with that."
No initiative was reported from the parliament. Even after the recent news of the arrest of the lawmaker on specific charges and the confiscation of his assets, the responsible minister of the government has said more than once that they have nothing to do unless the Kuwaiti government officially informs them, he added.
"Where the country's reputation and the future of the employment of thousands of migrant workers are at stake, such indifference on the part of the government is both a shame and a fear."
Stating that it was possible to investigate the allegations on its own initiative without waiting for the official communication of the Kuwaiti government, Dr Zaman said, "Thousands of workers who have been trafficked in the name of employment and have been held hostage for money are all citizens of this country."
The traffickers certainly created a human trafficking ring inside the country, so that the involvement of one or more people, both public and private, was inevitable, he said.
"All the alleged violations of the law are serious crimes in Bangladesh as well. Why should we still look to Kuwait for investigation? It is clear from the course of events that the government has not always had the political will to effectively investigate the allegations, and that there was a visible collusion between various influential quarters. "
Referring to the news published in various media, the statement said this heinous incident is a tragic example of criminalisation of the politics of the country.
The TIB executive director said, "Without being involved in any political activities in the past, the accused MP was elected as an independent candidate with the direct support of the ruling party."
Then, in an unprecedented way, his wife was also elected a Member of Parliament in the reserved women's seat, he added.
"We hope that those responsible will find out in what process or in return the couple received party support or nomination. And we have to ask the question whether the couple's debut in politics is for the benefit of the people of the country or for the use of parliament as a shield for personal gain."
Especially after the formal investigation in Kuwait, the way in which the wife of a Member of Parliament has made a statement on behalf of her husband on the pad of the parliament is ridiculous and certainly insulting to the parliament, he further said.
"We do not know whether the Speaker has considered the matter at all and whether the parliament members have been embarrassed," said the executive director of the civil society organisation dedicated to fighting corruption.