Prime Minister’s Political Affairs Adviser HT Imam once again misinformed the media yesterday when he claimed that he took the premier’s consent to hold a press conference to “clarify” his recent controversial statement.
Just when he was briefing reporters in the morning, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a meeting with her cabinet colleagues said Imam didn’t take her consent.
Several cabinet members told The Daily Star that Hasina made the comment when some ministers sought her views on Imam’s recent remarks at a Chhatra League programme where he assured the activists of help once they overcame the hurdle of written test at BCS exams.
His other comments at the programme four days ago also drew sharp reactions from different quarters. In his 50-minute speech, he narrated how the Awami League used the administration to hold the January-5 polls.
Since making the bloopers, Imam tried to contact Hasina but failed. He even went to the Gono Bhaban, but an irked Hasina didn’t grant him an audience, said sources in the AL and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Imam yesterday blamed a section of the media for publishing “partial” and “distorted” version of his speech to undermine him and mislead people.
But his explanations were full of contradiction. He tried to justify his November 12 statement, saying he had advised BCL men to study hard for BCS exams.
He couldn’t give any satisfactory explanation for his assurance about favouring BCL men in BCS viva voce if they qualified in written exams.
At the BCL programme, Imam lauded AL’s pragmatism in picking up its men for forming mobile courts to help hold the January 5 parliamentary polls. Interestingly, Imam yesterday claimed that by “our men” he meant all people in the administration.
But even the AL leaders didn’t subscribe to such claims. A senior cabinet member told The Daily Star yesterday, “A seasoned bureaucrat-turned-politician should not have said things like that. He hurried into holding a press briefing without waiting for directives from the high-ups.”
Imam yesterday claimed that by “our men” he meant all public servants who had no political allegiance.
He said whatever they did was in line with the laws and electoral code of conduct.
As co-chairman of the AL’s election conducting committee, Imam had requested the Election Commission and the local administration to form mobile courts to resist killings by BNP-Jamaat men and capture of polling centres, and ensure safety of people for a free and fair election.
“Since I was not an adviser [to the PM] during the polls-time government, there is no question of using the administration or giving directives for setting up mobile courts,” he claimed.
When BNP-Jamaat resorted to violence, different professionals contacted him for help. He then gave directives to officials concerned in the administration before it came under the polls-time government, said the adviser.
But the entire thing had been interpreted in the wrong way to mislead people, he said.
WHAT HE TOLD BCL MEN
Speaking at the BCL programme, Imam referred to the role of police and administration during the January 5 election, and said he talked to officials concerned in all upazilas, and asked them to form mobile courts with pro-AL officials to help hold the election.
“They [pro-AL officials] stood by us and sacrificed their lives for us. Nineteen of our policemen were killed brutally by Jamaat-Shibir men. They all were our men,” he said, explaining the advantage of having party men in the administration and how the AL benefited from this.
HIS EXPLANATION ON BCS VIVA
Imam yesterday said it is certain that meritorious people would be in the public service. I clearly said that BCL men would have to study, and they would get jobs only when they pass written tests. There is no question of any misunderstanding about it.
He said if they had any bad intention like former PM Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman to give party men public jobs by any means, they would not have told the BCL men to study hard to qualify for government jobs.
IMAM’S PREVIOUS STATEMENT
Four days ago, he said the BCL men would just have to try and overcome the hurdle of written test in civil service exams. The rest would be taken care of.
“We will see how much we can help you with the viva voce,” the adviser said.
“Whenever I take anyone’s curriculum vitae to the prime minister or request her to give someone a job, she asks whether the person was involved in Chhatra League politics and also about his or her contribution to politics.
“Many of you [BCL activists] often request for a job … is there anyone who cares about you more than our leader and I do? We are trying our best to ensure jobs for you … Our leader has told us to arrange jobs for you by any means,” he said.
The BCL men have little time to study as they work for the party and help the government in its tasks. But others who compete in the BCS exams don’t have to work like them, said the adviser.
WHAT PROMPTED HIM TO BRIEF MEDIA?
When Imam learnt that Hasina and other top AL leaders reacted sharply to his statement, he tried to contact the premier.
He called the PM over the phone several times but the premier didn’t respond, according to sources in the AL and the PMO.
The adviser then talked to several senior party leaders, including Tofail Ahmed, to get their support but failed.
Imam convened a meeting of the AL sub-committee on publicity affairs on Sunday, thinking that it would give him a chance to brief the media after the meeting.
But he didn’t attend the meeting as a few party leaders advised him not to brief the media without the PM’s consent, said AL and PMO sources.
When Imam learnt that senior leaders at Saturday’s AL parliamentary board meeting slammed him for his controversial statement, he became desperate to meet the PM.
He then contacted two of the PM’s advisers to help him. Both the advisers assured him of help. One of them, Mashiur Rahman, was present at yesterday’s press conference.
On Sunday, Imam went to the Gono Bhaban to meet Hasina, but he was denied an audience with her. He then requested some officials there to convey to the PM a message that he wanted to clarify his position over his controversial statement.