Now in London, BNP Senior Vice-chairman Tarique Rahman has told an official of the US mission in Dhaka that his party, if voted back to power, will introduce a new type of government and show zero tolerance for corruption, party sources told The Daily Star.
Tarique also explained his party's plan to fight militancy. The next general election is scheduled to be held between October 25 this year and January 24 next year.
Pushpinder Dhillon, counsellor for political and economic affairs at the US embassy, met Tarique, elder son of BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, at a London hotel on September 23, sources in the BNP and a US embassy official, wishing not to be named, confided to The Daily Star.
BNP Vice-chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, who was also present at the meeting, told this correspondent that different bilateral issues were discussed during the 40-minute meeting.
Also a former foreign secretary, Shamsher, however, refused to elaborate on the meeting.
Contacted, Kelly McCarthy, press and information officer at the US embassy in Dhaka, in a written communication to this correspondent said: “During a recent visit to London to meet with family members, an officer from the US Embassy, Dhaka used his presence in the UK to meet with British officials, Bangladesh watchers and members of the Bangladesh UK diaspora.”
“Among those whom he [the US official] met was Tarique Rahman. These meetings were part of our ongoing outreach to individuals from across the governmental and non-governmental spectrum engaged on Bangladesh,” she added.
This was the first time since 2009 that any key US official met with Tarique in London. He left the country for London in September, 2008 during the period of the then military backed caretaker government.
Top BNP leaders, who favour Tarique, are considering the meeting as significant and an “ice-breaking” event between the US and Tarique. The US had regarded Tarique as a “symbol of violence”, according to a US diplomatic cable leaked by the Wikileaks in September 2011.
BNP top leaders, including its acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, have been claiming for the last several months that Tarique, who had suffered “serious injuries in his back due to torture” by the then military backed regime, was getting better and is scheduled to return home soon to get involved in party politics.
Sources close to Tarique said a report run by a national daily was not correct saying that US State Department officials had met Tarique in London.
According to the diplomatic cable, the US embassy in Dhaka in 2008 had even recommended blocking Tarique's entry into the US, portraying him as a symbol of “kleptocratic government and violent politics” in Bangladesh.
The embassy believed that Tarique was “guilty of egregious political corruption that has had a serious adverse effect on US national interests," namely the stability of democratic institutions and US foreign assistance goals, said the cable.
James F Moriarty, the then US ambassador to Bangladesh, had sent the confidential cable to Washington on November 3, 2008. He also cited several examples of Tarique's major corruption as he described his worries in the cable about the possible impact of giving him access into the US.
In August this year, the USA had denied a visa to Tarique as he wished to speak at a party convention there, party sources told The Daily Star.
Tarique's corrupt practices have had deleterious effects on US interests, said the cable, adding, “His [Tarique's] antics have weakened public confidence in government and eroded the stability of democratic institutions.”
It noted that the bribery, embezzlement, and culture of corruption that the BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's elder son has helped create and maintain in Bangladesh has directly and irreparably undermined US businesses, resulting in many lost opportunities.
“His theft of millions of dollars in public money has undermined political stability in this moderate, Muslim-majority nation and subverted US attempts to foster a stable democratic government, a key objective in this strategically important region,” reads the cable.
It added: “His history of embezzlement, extortion, and interference in the judicial process undermines the rule of law and threatens to upend the US goal of a stable, democratic Bangladesh.”
Tarique's “flagrant disregard” for the rule of law had provided potent ground for terrorists to gain a foothold in Bangladesh while also exacerbating poverty and weakening democratic institutions, mentioned the cable. “In short, much of what is wrong in Bangladesh can be blamed on Tarique and his cronies.”
During the period, said the cable, he had established an alternative centre of power at Hawa Bhaban, the then political office of the chairperson. It was an open secret that Tarique and his cronies used to interfere in government activities and control all major business deals.
It termed Tarique “notorious for flagrantly and frequently demanding bribes in connection with government procurement actions and appointments to political office.”