Vol. 5 Num 378 Mon. June 20, 2005  
Front Page

Mosharraf's fate fixed two months ago
His stance for gas export pushed him away from PMO

AKM Mosharraf Hossain, ousted state minister for energy, had fallen from grace within the government about two months ago for a number of reasons, including persistently holding a stand for gas export that went against the prime minister's stance, sources at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

Taking benefit from Canadian company Niko Resources in the form of a highly expensive Toyota Land Cruiser Cygnus was a pretext for his ouster, the sources believe.

The reasons behind Mosharraf's 'resignation' on Saturday under orders from the prime minister include his resistance to assurance of 20 years of gas supply for Indian giant Tata's investment in Bangladesh, while advocating export of gas to India through a new deal. This had angered the Board of Investment and a powerful lobby in the ruling BNP, they pointed out.

Mosharraf had always sided with foreign companies on issues of state interests like Magurchhara gas blowout compensation claims, financial disputes or even the deal with Niko Resources. In some cases, he made certain quarters in the government happy but in others he had embarrassed the government, the PMO sources mentioned.

Mosharraf's interference in all the nine affiliates of Petrobangla, where he appointed several dozens of corrupt officials, was another reason. These appointments went against government policy, obstructed restoring order in the affiliates and drained out hundreds of crores of taka in bribes.

And finally, Mosharraf's past conflict with Khandker Shahidul Islam when he was energy secretary two years ago also acted as a factor.

Shahidul, now secretary to the prime minister, was transferred to the education ministry from energy ministry when he tried to take actions against some corrupt officials in Titas Gas, against Mosharraf's will.

The prime minister had asked Shahidul to investigate Mosharraf's activities. His findings led the PM to ask the state minister to stand down in the context of the car scam.

Sources said there were indications of his ouster for the last one or two months.

The PMO stripped him of powers to take policy decisions about two months ago. He was asked to take decisions only after consulting the prime minister.

The probe by Shahidul meanwhile led the government to make some administrative changes in the Petrobangla affiliates. In the last one month, the government transferred or demoted 17 officials and experts in the affiliates.

Earlier this month, Mosharraf went to Canada and US on a trip along with some Petrobangla officials at the expense of Niko. The cost is however recoverable from gas sales from Niko's concern in Bangladesh and this means the trip is unwittingly paid for by Bangladesh, Petrobangla sources said.

During Mosharraf's absence, the government transferred three officials including a joint secretary in the energy ministry.

"The PMO received complaints that Mosharraf is tarnishing the image of the prime minister by persistently telling foreign companies and diplomats that he wants gas export but the prime minister is resisting the move," a PMO official said.

Despite his graft infested past records, Mosharraf was picked by the prime minister for the position he held till his ouster. Sources said Mosharraf, who spearheaded the Kafco deal by going against the interest of Bangladesh, was also patronised by some foreign oil companies before he was made state minister. His recent actions had however harmed financial interests of some powerful lobbies at the 'alternative centre of power' in the government, which set the ball rolling against him.

Mosharraf yesterday reiterated his position on the car scam to the press, saying there is nothing wrong in using such cars since all other ministers also use project cars. He has been the victim of a conspiracy at the PMO.

Meanwhile, Mosharraf has returned the controversial Niko vehicle to Petrobangla, says a UNB report.

An aide to the former state minister, who worked as his assistant private secretary , brought the car to Petrobangla office yesterday morning and handed it over to officials there.

A senior Petrobangla official received the vehicle, its key, blue book and other documents from the aide.

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Mixed reactions swept the rank and file of the ruling BNP over the removal of state minister for energy and mineral resources AKM Mosharraf Hossain.