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L’Affaire Latif

October 16, 2014

In a rare move, and I think for the first time in country’s history, a cabinet minister has been sacked by PM for making controversial remarks about religion.

ICT minister Latif Siddiqui’s remarks about religion and PM’s son caused an embarrassment to the govt. The minister had made the comments at a meeting in New York, organized by like-minded people of his district.

To many, his comments are derogatory enough to whip up the dormant marauders. Surprisingly, they fell silent after quickly reacting to his controversial comments. They demanded his immediate removal from the cabinet and disappeared from the scene of ensuing debate.

ICT minister has rather been deluged with criticisms from political commentators, weak BNP and some section of the ruling quarters.

In that NY meeting, he said, “Muslims’ annual congregation in Mecca is nothing but a waste of time and money. The idle men who have no contribution to society and country only observe this type of ritual. The holy prophet introduced this to provide a steady stream of income to his tribesmen who live in the arid land.”

He also criticized the tablic jamaat, a religious group who encourages people to practice Islam and to motivate others to carry out  basic Islamic duties.

Furthermore, he called the participants of TV talk shows ‘talkers’. He said PM’s son is not part of the cabinet despite the fact that he is the ICT advisor to PM.

Veteran politician like him is certainly aware of cultural sensitivity and political fallout of such comments. Then why did he make such comments?

He is outspoken but certainly not a fool to let the opposition alliance, which accommodates Islamist parties, make an issue of it and stir trouble in the street.

As a minister, Latif is not clean. The textile ministry, the portfolio he held in AL’s previous term, was imbued with gross irregularities, as reported by a leading daily.

Without following proper procedure, he privatized many state-owned textile units at negligible prices. In addition, he sold govt land at prices much below the market. Even the rampant corruption led the PM office to start an official probe. So, he created this drama to bury his past corruption and to make him a victim.

Another speculation goes like this: since media have recently been critical to corrupt politicians’ and bureaucrats’ dual citizenship under second home programs— offered by Malaysia, Canada and other western countries—-he staged this scene to unhook him from a sinking govt and make his case similar to that one of a political asylum seeker from a less-tolerant society.

Another less acceptable version goes like this: he deliberately did this in exchange of money to give the religious quarter an issue to stage violent agitation against the govt. In recent past, they are the only formidable force that tried to unsettle the govt. The govt has so far also been successful in keeping them at bay from starting joint movement with BNP.

When I am writing this post an arrest warrant has been issued against the sacked minister, now in Indian city Kolkata, in a defamation case.

It will be premature to call him an apostate or a Satan or a saint or a political thug right now. Only time can unravel his intention behind making such comments.

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