Case Gone Sour
NGO Affair Bureau on Sunday, May 2, 2004, filed a case against
12 Proshika staff including its President Qazi Faruque Ahmed,
accusing them of financial irregularities. And if one tallies
the number of time the present government has accused the
organisation of financial irregularities, one runs the risk
of losing count. When the newly appointed Director General
of NGO Affair Bureau Mizanur Rahman grounds a fresh accusation
on "misused funds of an approved project" the
actions and abuses of the Government and the Bangladesh
National Party cadres unfold a different scenario. For the
staffs of Proshika, it has been a long haul keeping a tenuous
hold on their existence since the coalition came to power,
who, it seems, is out to shake the very foundation of Proshika.
"You can say, since the day the Jubo
Dal, the youth wing of BNP, led by SA Khaleq, lay siege
to the Prishika head office in Mirpur, all the regular programmes
came to a halt," says a Proshika official. On April
18, 2004, the dreadful day of the siege, Jubo Dal gave an
ultimatum to the government to cancel the registration of
Proshika and to arrest the chief Kazi Faruque. From that
day on, the number of attending stuff has seen a nosedive.
"Attendance was 30 per cent on the first few days after
the siege; it was not until last Thursday that it raised
to 60 per cent," recounts an official.
The recent filing of cases against 12 staffs
including its president Kazi Faruque Ahmed and the arrest
of a contingent of staff of one of the biggest NGO of the
country seem to put a big question mark on democratic governance.
Apparently it is the alleged antigovernment activities that
made Proshika a target. But, when the DG of NGO Affairs
Bureau says that he does not know about the allegation of
Proshika playing an antigovernment role, and the home ministry
sources confirm to the journalists that the government will
continue operation to unearth the NGOs antigovernment activities
and sedition charges may be pressed against it, the case
cuts a different groove.
One must remember that the same government
earlier filed sedition charges against two Proshika officials
and the High Court acquitted them. A newspaper report on
May 6, says that the government is out to remove Kazi Faruque
from his office and cancel Proshika's registration. The
report confirms that more than 10,000 staff and 1.25 crore
beneficiaries will be affected in the event of cancellation
of the registration. The Proshika officials believe that
it is the organisation's pro-liberation and anti-fundamentalist
stance that brought on the wrath of the present government.
The BNP and its allies, since the day they
rode power, have launched a Proshika-bashing programme.
The BNP with its hordes of young adherents in the Jubo Dal
tried all sorts of things including ransacking, looting
and battery to upset the organisation's activities. They
succeeded in effecting the closure of many Proshika offices
across the country. Proshika has 200 Area Development Centres
(ACDs) strewn over 60 districts around Bangladesh. In a
recent incident of looting and ransacking allegedly by the
ruling party cadres left two of the ACDs in Barisal to lose
valuables worth about Tk 20 lakh. The looters took away
11 motorcycle, TV, furniture, cash and other valuables while
the staff of both the offices went into hiding. The witnesses
let a Daily Star journalist know that at the ACD in Mehdiganj,
Barisal, the attack was carried out by Md Mukhter and Md
Sujan, respectively the convener of Jubo Dal and the general
secretary of Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal, the stdent wing of
Meanwhile the employees of the NGO are going
through a tuff hurdle. "We were trying to continue
with our regular programmes, but the arrest of the deputy
director Abdur Rab and many others have brought everything
to a stand still," says an employee. Rab and others
were arrested on May 2, the day the people's cultural wing
of Proshika was shut down.
Police raided the Proshika headquarter twice,
once on April 20 and again on May 2. The government, in
their bid to gather evidence, will continue raiding the
central and regional offices of the NGO. But, the question
remains -- did they find anything to implicate Proshika
with anti-government activities? The answer to this day
The Oficer-in-Charge (OC) of Pallabi Police
Station Nurul Amin revealed to a Daily Star journalist that
they have seized some official documents but the 'antigovernment
discussion papers' are yet to be found. The police suspect
this is the two-page paper that Proshika has distributed.
When police stormed into the Proshika Pallabi
Thana ACD, they were reported to have been swearing at the
officials, asking for a piece of paper they said have originated
from Proshika. Later, police claimed to have found it in
the computer. The last item in the seizure list was this
so called 'two-page antigovernment discussion paper'. The
officials at the Pallabi ADC confirmed that the police themselves
brought the paper, and they also forced five Proshika officials
to sign a declaration "that officials were being forced
to donate to Oikybaddha Nagarik Andolon", where Qazi
Faruque serves as the member secretary. The statement also
included a commitment on the part of the officials to testify
against the NGO. However, police have denied any knowledge
of such incident taking place during the raid.
The arrests, the attacks and the accusations
have succeeded in putting a moratorium on all Proshika activities.
All in all, 72 staff were arrested within the month of April.
It was all a package of vengeance fed by a conspiracy theory.
The theory that this NGO is engaged in anti-government activities
brewed a lot of ill-devised actions. Both the henchmen of
the coalition government and the police kept hounding Proshika
Manobik Unnoyon Kendra for, what the coalition government
believes, aiding the main opposition Awami League.
Meanwhile, police actions too has been inconsistent
with democratic norms. The forceful extrication of 'confession'
from Rab, the Deputy Director of the cultural wing, is a
case in point. Police allegedly forced Rab to give confessional
statement before a magistrate, which Rab later retracted.
Police also arrested the President of ONA Harunur Rashid
and forced him to give testimony of Proshika's anti-government
role on camera. After it was televised, Rashid sent a statement
from a hideout stating that police coerced him to say things
that he did not mean or want to.
The chain of events has more twists to it.
An Inquilab report on April 30 said, "an amla
(bureaucrat) mutiny was in the offing. And Proshika would
have initiated it by bringing in lakhs of staff to lay siege
to the secretariat had they were given the chance".
It seems that the government bases its actions against a
major NGO on similar baseless premise.
The Proshika case got soured from the beggining.
Last year the High Court issued a 'rule nishi' against freezing
of Tk 135 crore allocated for a particular project of Proshika.
The highest court in the country declared it illegal. Even
the donors were concerned over freezing of a total of Tk
350 crore allocated for a number of organisations by the
NGO bureau of the government. The standard procedure to
clear such doubt about transfer of fund for a certain project
is to conduct audit by internationally renowned companies.
A famous international audit firm Price Water House Coopers
have carried out audits in 2003 and cleared Proshika's name
along withe other organisations. Yet, the government is
unwilling to let go of the matter. It has orient itself
to bring down Kazi Faruque and his organisation. But so
far has failed to come up with any incriminating evidence.
The hounding was launched after BNP and Jamaat came to power,
and has been intensified since last year. The accounts of
the organisation have also been freezed. Meanwhile, when
many field workers are absconding from their home to avert
police harassment, Kazi Faruque, who is in hiding since
last two months or so, has challenged the government to
prove its claims.