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Sheikh Hasina sneers at Nobel winner Yunus's bid to enter politics
Dhaka | February 18, 2007 12:15:01 PM IST
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Bangladesh's Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus has come under fire for his bid to enter the political arena from the leader of Awami League (AL), the country's largest political party. AL chief and former prime minister Sheikh Hasina did not name Yunus, but said that she did not "see any difference between usurers and those who accept bribes," a direct reference to Yunus's success story of rural banking network, Grameen Bank.

Hasina touched upon an aspect of Yunus's Grameen experiment that has been largely glossed over amidst celebrations at home: high rate of interest that the bank demands from those seeking credit. Economists have said it is as much as 30 percent and it is mainly the middle class farmers who have used the bank to grow rich.

The movement, however, has been hailed and emulated in 80 countries across the world.

"Those who lend money at a high rate of interest can never fight against poverty; rather, they nurture poverty," Hasina told an audience of cultural activists here on Saturday.

Hasina's ire at Yunus, like other Bangladeshi politicians, is because of the latter's public criticism of politicians as a class of corrupt and inefficient people who have wasted the country's resources bickering among themselves.

Yunus has said that the political system was hindering progress. He addressed an "open letter" recently to the countrymen offering an alternative agenda and has announced that he would launch a political party, "if people want."

"It is amusing that those who despise politicians are now trying to be politicians themselves," New Age newspaper quoted Hasina as saying. "Why are you so interested in politics after criticising politicians indiscriminately", she asked.

"There are also honest politicians in the country," Hasina observed, objecting to sweeping generalizations and value judgments being made by Yunus.

Political analysts noted the timing of Hasina's criticism, just ahead of a likely floating of a political party by Yunus. AL had joined the national celebrations when Yunus won the Nobel. But they were quick to react to his criticism of politicians as a class.

Yunus's political plans need time and the indefinite delay in holding general elections cancelled last month by the interim government could provide it.

Hasina claimed that the interim administration was a result of her movement against the "corrupt and greedy BNP-Jamaat government" of her rival, Begum Khaleda Zia.

Under a national emergency, Bangladesh is witnessing a massive drive against crime and corruption. A few former lawmakers and politicians belonging to Hasina's party have been nabbed, but a large majority of those being held and prosecuted by the interim government belong to Zia-led alliance of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami.

(IANS)

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