Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expatriates and Their Rights on Bangladesh by Tayeb Husain

Expatriates and Their Rights on Bangladesh by Tayeb Husain

[Note from BEC: Mr. Husain's essay first appeared in the Financial Express on Dec 4, 2009 omitting the last portion of the article below where foreign connections/links of some leaders were alleged by the writer. Mr. Husain lives and wrote the piece from Sweden. The views expressed in the article are entirely his.
BEC's attention was drawn to the article below when it got posted in the News From Bangladesh. In this, Mr. Husain discusses a contentious subject which while being quite important to our expatriate community does not quite agree the views of the BEC and its many members. Still, we felt that our expatriates need to be exposed to dissenting opinions, ideas or thoughts that affect them. We appreciate Mr. Husain for giving us the permission to posting the NFB article. Responses on this article can be directed at the author, which appears at the bottom of the article, and/or at us.]

I vividly remember an announcement made by the then military backed caretaker government’s Chief Adviser Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed sometime in Feb or March 2008 during a visit in London in which he said that "from now on, British passport-holder Bangladeshis would automatically retain their Bangladeshi citizenships." I protested this unilateral declaration by someone who had no power base or support from the population and was holding a unique position only as a usurper. My protest note was published in Bangladesh media but I do not know if there was a slight dent in public mind or in government’s attitude regarding these rights and privileges for Non-Residential Bangladeshis (NRBs).

The term is, I believe, utterly wrong. These are Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens holding foreign passports and occasionally holders of dual citizenships and not non-residential Bangladeshi. Actually Bangladeshi NRBs are mostly those who work in Arab Countries and earn foreign currency for Bangladesh where they have no social or legal rights but only give their bloods for building Arab’s infrastructures and doing slaves’ jobs. They carry Bangladesh passport and they do not have any other home to go but poor Bangladesh only where they come from and will return there after the end of their job period. Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens, on the other side, are those people well settled in Europe, North America or Australia where again, technically, they are offered equal rights and privileges like any other citizens in their host countries.

Bangladesh offers NRBs’ many rights including no-visa entry in Bangladesh, equal social and political rights including land and business ownership, running elections, holding government offices and even special quota to participate plot allotment lottery to get a plot in Dhaka’s Uttara or Purbachal Model Town projects.

Personally, I am against all such privileges mentioned above to Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens, whether one is a British or a Nepalese passport holder. I strongly believe that poor Bangladesh belongs to Bangladeshi citizens and those who are settled in Europe, North America or Australia should not look back and expect some privileges from the country they left behind.

I strongly oppose dual citizenship, voting right, and other privileges to Bangladesh origin foreign citizens. I oppose expatriates' voting rights vehemently on principle and practical reasons, even though it is against my personal interest. I sincerely believe that no one should have divided allegiance, and one should be fully loyal to the country one lives in, earns a living and, finally, becomes a citizen of. This is the basic principles I am talking about.

I am fully aware of the fact that Bangladesh and many other countries allow dual citizenship to their former citizens, with full rights and responsibilities of a normal resident. Rich western countries do it for certain reasons. For example, many US citizens have Israeli citizenship, where they work and help the Israeli nation. They are mostly American Jews. The British and the French also allow dual citizenship, traditionally, it has been so due to colonial interests of the colonialist powers, but the practice still continues.

Bangladesh is a poor country, and it is very generous of her to offer a Bangladesh origin foreign citizen double citizenship, and even a Bangladeshi passport, knowing well that the person is a foreign citizen and has a passport from his/her adopted country.

This generosity of Bangladesh has offered good and bad opportunities to many people. To a good person it gives a sense of nostalgia, and he/she always fondly remembers his country of origin with deep gratitude and love. Such a decent person returns this generosity of his/her motherland doing good things in return when an opportunity comes. However, these types of people are rare and very few. An individual always looks after his/her personal interest, and there are many who would go to any extent to gain a little extra profit whenever he/she gets an opportunity to do so.

There are also certain criminals who use this opportunity to maximise the benefits of their many horrendous crimes. Often, the generous rules and regulations of the criminals' adopted countries offer them safe haven, and the countries of origin of the criminals cannot take any action against them for their crimes committed in the country of origin.

Many criminals from Arab countries moved to the UK on the pretext of political persecution in their home countries, and the same pretext were used by many people from former communist countries to get a safe sanctuary in Western Europe.

Some expatriates/immigrants from underdeveloped countries can be classified as political touts and ordinary criminals. Sometimes they are politically connected with political touts at home, and very often they co-operate and work with corrupt politicians of their home countries to share their ill- earned money or social or political advantages.

Some well-established expatriates also go back to their countries of origin to take part in direct politics, and hold ministerial posts by offering money to political organisations or directly to party bosses. These people are basically corrupt and live a luxurious life, mostly by corruption at the cost of poor Bangladesh.

Now, what can be done, or what rights and privileges should be offered to a Bangladeshi immigrant/expatriate? Sometime ago one even proposed that two seats of the national parliament should be reserved for the expatriates. I consider such proposal unfair, and dangerous for Bangladesh. I shall suggest that except "No visa requirement" seal, at a reasonable fee, on the foreign passport of an expatriate no other right or privilege should be offered to anybody as long as he/she carries a foreign passport.

The double citizenship business should be cancelled, and every expatriate/immigrant should declare his/her assets in Bangladesh if he/she stays in the country more than three months at any given time. No foreign citizen should be allowed to own agricultural land in Bangladesh if he/she does not use it for agriculture or farming purposes as a permanent resident.

Long time ago I read in the newspaper about an expatriate living in USA asking the government to intervene because another criminal in Bangladesh had grabbed his land. While I do not support any land-grabbing by anybody, I strongly oppose any foreign citizen owning any land in Bangladesh under any circumstances.

Bangladesh is a very small country, land per capita in Bangladesh is lowest in the world, and under such circumstances no expatriate should be allowed to own agricultural or commercial land in Bangladesh if he/she does not return home and live in Bangladesh permanently.

Regarding jobs in Bangladesh, anybody with foreign passport/citizenship should not be allowed to seek any job in Bangladesh, except those foreign experts whom Bangladesh may need for certain specific jobs. Again, anybody who is a Bangladeshi citizen with a Bangladeshi passport but did not live in Bangladesh continuously over a year or so (except those who are abroad on government duty or studying in a foreign country) should not be allowed to vote or to take part in any election, or seek any government office.

Anyone with foreign citizenship and in service with the Bangladesh government should be found out and dismissed. And in case anyone who has hidden his/her foreign connection while serving the government, he/she should be sent out of the country after checking properly his/her assets and foreign links.

Adopting such a strong and draconian measure against the expatriates Bangladesh may seem very unkind or even hostile towards her "lost" children, but these measures are very necessary to safeguard the interests of poor Bangladeshi people and to curb the ill activities of a great number of criminals who are Bangladeshi expatriates/immigrants and foreign citizens.

I take this opportunity to express my utter disgust again against some particular groups of Bangladesh origin foreign citizens who live and earn their living in foreign countries but deeply involved in Bangladesh politics. They are Awami Leaguers, BNPs or even Jamattis. That is why we see whenever the PM of Bangladesh visits any European country, her most important and must to-do-list always is to meet and to attend a reception given by the “Expatriates” (rumour goes that cost is covered by the public fund from Bangladesh) and that is invariable by the people belonging to PM’s own political party.

I have a feeling that Fakhruddin Ahmed is a foreign citizen. He has a million dollar worth house in USA. Gen Moeen has his son and brother living in USA. Former President Ijajuddin has his son living in Canada. Present PM Hasina has her son in USA with a US passport, her daughter is in Canada and her sister lives in UK with security protection from poor Bangladesh. She has again, I am told, employed some Bangladesh origin foreign citizens in top government jobs. One of such a minister sometime ago resigned and went back to USA. Another HT Imam, I am told, a retired civil servant, is reappointed as PM Hasina’s adviser with the rank of a cabinet minister or something of that kind. Who is that Imam and why Bangladesh government needs to recruit him again ignoring someone serving in the administration and looking for this post? Imam stands in someone life-long cherished job, deprived somebody of his career goal and made a long list of people unhappy by snatching from them their rightful job promotions.

I wonder what exceptional service he is capable of offering to Bangladesh government and why he is so much indispensable for Sheikh Hasina and if not for the Bangladesh government. This question I ask and all that I write now are not out of any prejudice to anybody but I consider these sorts of appointments and favour are sinful cronyism, awfully wrong and totally unfair action by the PM. These are no doubt selfish people and they not only deprive poor Bangladeshi citizens of their right to jobs but they are opportunists by nature with their dual citizenships and foreign passports and connections to ignorant and uncanny corrupt politicians. I do not know how civil society, the press and the intellectuals in Bangladesh tolerate these sorts of nonsense and keep quite. It also makes the picture clear to me why and how Fakhruddin Ahmed could so boldly and shameless tell to “his type of people” in London "from now on, British passport-holder Bangladeshis would automatically retain their Bangladeshi citizenships". He was legalizing his own standing as a usurper ruler of Bangladesh by offering little bones to his fellow greedy compatriots.


Tayeb Husain
E Mail:

How Committed is Bangladesh Government about boosting CPI?

How Committed is Bangladesh Government about boosting Corruption Perception Index (CPI)? by Habib Siddiqui

[Published also as: Question mark over govt.’s anti-corruption stance, New Age, Op/Ed, November 21, 2009,]

Nothing could be more gratifying for a government which finds itself being perceived positively in matters of fighting corruption. An improved perception can attract foreign investment. Bangladesh is one of those countries which has been able to drastically improve her corruption perception index. This year she improved her ranking to 139 out of 180 countries. She was 147th last year. Bangladesh scored 2.4 on a 0-10 scale rating (with lower numbers signifying more corruption perception), a number still below the 3.0 - cutoff value for the top 100 and bottom 80 countries, meaning corruption is still rampant. But compared to how Bangladesh began with a score of 0.3 points nearly a decade ago, it is definitely a good achievement. Nor should we forget that the country was placed at the bottom of the list for the fifth successive years from 2001 to 2005 (during the BNP rule).

In recent months, after the Mahajote came to power, the government has taken some positive measures that are bound to improve country's perception index. These include: election commitment of the current government against corruption, continuation of institutional reforms, formation of parliamentary standing committees and information commission. The government has not, thus far, interfered with the activities of the Anti-Corruption Commission giving it freedom to do its tasks independently. These are all positive signs and are sure ways to boost country's perception rating. Unfortunately, there are still areas which may put a dent to Bangladesh's image.

It was not too long ago that the ACC Chairman, Mr. Golam Rahman, had vehemently complained about the impotency of the agency. Sure enough, many of the verdicts by the High Court Bench granting bail to individuals, convicted of corruption, are making a mockery of the agency’s efforts to wipe out corruption from the country. News media accounts suggest that most of those convicts were probably freed on grounds of technicality and not on the weaknesses of the charges brought against them. If such public perceptions are true, unless the ACC is strengthened by bills passed by the parliament or presidential decree, its activities are going to result in zero-sum activities at a tremendous cost to the country’s economy.

In a widely covered interview, Mr. Rahman was bold enough to correctly call the ACC a 'toothless tiger', which finds itself in a no-win, difficult and precarious position to be state’s corruption fighting agency without the right mechanisms set in place to make it more effective. (During my meeting with his predecessor back in February, I heard similar complaints from Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury.) And in spite of such candid and correct assessment from its current Chairman and the constraints it has to work under, it is highly gratifying to see the ACC's unwavering battle to put a stopper to corruption by charging many corrupt individuals, including politicians. In recent months, the agency has been more scrupulous than anytime before in its filings of corruption cases against politically connected bigwigs that have siphoned off country’s money through shoddy deals. It is also showing great discrimination and clarity in dropping cases against some individuals who were wrongly charged by the immediate-past interim government.

But like every other things that seem to go wrong with Bangladesh when we least expect them, the recent presidential pardon of sentences against Shahadab Akbar, son of deputy leader of parliament Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, is sure to put a questionable mark on the government’s sincerity to fight corruption. Chowdhury was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment and fined Taka 1.6 crore in absentia in four cases filed by the Anti-Corruption Commission and National Board of Revenue during the tenure of the last caretaker government. News reports suggest that Chowdhury had failed to appear before the court and did not even file any appeal against his convictions and yet the President had no qualms about pardoning him. This act of clemency can’t simply be overlooked. Yes, like the presidential pardon of bigwigs under Clinton and Bush before they vacated the White House, Bangladesh’s President Zillur Rahman has all the constitutional rights to pardon anyone, even a serial killer. But when the only criterion appears to be partisanship such an act of presidential clemency gives a bad name to the government, and is neither easily forgotten nor forgiven by the public. They perceive such as an abuse of justice and presidential power. There are even charges that in pardoning Chowdhury, the President had failed to follow usual legal procedures. The ACC lawyers are also calling foul on the matter. If any of these accusations are true, the current government’s high pitched election promise to weed out corruption seems too hollow and insincere. The clemency of Chowdhury also opens the door for other convicts who had not surrendered to the court to follow this backdoor of presidential clemency under political consideration.

The High Court on July 13 this year in a verdict scrapped the 13-year jail sentence against another politician – Awami League lawmaker Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir -- in a case that was filed by the ACC, adjudging the conviction against him illegal. On Nov. 16 the ACC filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against the High Court verdict that scrapped the sentence against him in a corruption case. While no one likes to see an innocent human being falsely charged and convicted in a kangaroo court, the judiciary branch of the government must carry out its civic duty diligently, transparently and justly so that no one can question its verdicts.

No one should belittle people’s perception since such actually helps to mold our realities (even when perceptions are not always correct). And that is what corruption perception index of Transparency International is all about. All the recent gains in the CPI rating may evaporate unless the government is sincere in its declared commitment to fight corruption. I can only hope that the Hasina government will have the wisdom to take the CPI rating seriously and thus, not to take Bangladesh on a wrong track. People have long memories; it is the politicians who don’t and they are fools.