As many as 66 lawmakers, including Deputy Speaker Col (retd) Shawkat Ali, Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad, LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam and some other ministers, are illegally allowing their relatives or personal staff to live in apartments designated for members of parliament.
According to the flat allocation policy, only the legislators themselves or their spouses, parents, sons and daughters are eligible to reside in the 324 flats of six MP buildings on Manik Mia Avenue and four at Nakhalpara in the capital.
The Parliament Secretariat sources say the chief of the Sangsad Committee can give permission to an MP’s near ones to live in any of the flats under special consideration if the lawmaker applies in this regard. “But no MPs ever took that permission,” said a senior official of the Parliament Secretariat last week.
Last night, this correspondent visited MP building No 4 on Manik Mia Avenue and found Ershad’s flat No 603 locked.
The same building houses Syed Ashraf’s flat No 402. There was a nameplate, bearing his name and designation in Bangla. As the correspondent knocked on the door, a man came out and introduced himself as Faisal, the caretaker.
A friend of the minister lives in the apartment and he was out at that moment, Faisal said. Contacted, Syed Ashraf’s personal secretary also admitted that the minister does not live there.
Flat No 602 in the same building is allotted to ruling Awami League MP Fazle Noor Taposh. There, a woman said she was Taposh’s sister and resided in the apartment along with her family.
Also, at Col (retd) Shawkat Ali’s flat 203 in building No 2 of Nakhalpara, a woman claimed she was a relative and was staying here with her family members.
Right in the building, flat 504 of Hasan Mahmud, environment and forest minister, was found locked.
A number of MPs, even President Abdul Hamid while he was Speaker, several times blasted the treasury and the opposition bench lawmakers for allowing outsiders to live in the flats, saying it caused frequent thefts and embarrassment to other lawmakers living there with their family members.
Talking to The Daily Star, some MPs who live in the flats with family members said outsiders through anti-social activities cause a terrible nuisance and pollute the social environment in the residential areas.
“I am tired of raising this issue. It’s really hard for us to live here with our wives and children because of the outsiders who engage in illicit and anti-social activities inside the flats and building areas,” Hafizuddin Ahmed, a JP MP, said last week.
“The Parliament Secretariat several times has served notices on the MPs concerned since March 2010 asking them to leave their flats if they keep allowing outsiders to stay there.”
A BNP MP, requesting anonymity, said staying in flats at the MP buildings is very lucrative as a lawmaker does not need to pay even a single taka as rent, except for only Tk 600 service charge per month.
Some caretakers of the buildings said most of the outsiders who live illegally in MP flats are basically engaged in different “lobbying businesses.”
“We have to remain silent when we see some outsiders bring floating sex workers from Manik Mia Avenue inside their flats,” a caretaker said last week, seeking anonymity.
The Sangsad Committee, headed by Chief Whip Abdus Shahid, in late 2009 formed a sub-committee to address the issue.
The sub-committee, which Shahid himself leads, identified 66 MPs who were violating rules by allowing outsiders to stay in their flats.
Of them, 46 belong to the Awami League, 11 to the Jatiya Party, six to the BNP and three to the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, Jamaat-e-Islami and Bangladesh Jatiya Party (BJP).
The Daily Star has obtained the list, submitted by the sub-committee in June 2010.
Despite newspaper reports on this issue, the situation still remains the same even after three years, as those MPs neither handed over the flats to the Parliament Secretariat nor took any measures to evict outsiders from their flats.
Chief Whip Abdus Shahid told The Daily Star last week that he was not aware of any development after 2010 as it was the Parliament Secretariat which was supposed to keep him updated on this.
Two lawmakers, who were also members of the Sangsad Committee, said yesterday that the committee and the Parliament Secretariat finally had failed to take any steps against those illegally occupying their flats.
ABM Ashrafuddin Nizan, a member of the sub-committee said, as per their recommendations, the Parliament Secretariat also served notices on those illegally staying in 66 flats. “But none of them have left.”
According to the working paper of the May 6, 2010 meeting of the sub-committee, it was also proposed to assign a magistrate to drive out those illegal occupiers.
It also proposed that necessary be taken to cancel allocation of flats if the MPs concerned fail to drive out those who were living there within 15 days of getting notice.
Asked, Nizan said nothing could be implemented to drive the illegal residents out of those flats.
Talking to The Daily Star, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu yesterday said although he does not live in his flat, he sometimes visits there to interact with people of his party and constituency.