We are relieved to see, finally, that a clear decision has been taken by the parliament regarding disgraced lawmaker Mohammad Shahid Islam, also known as Kazi Papul, on grounds of moral turpitude. On January 28, 2021, Kazi Papul was sentenced to four years' rigorous imprisonment by a Kuwaiti court for bribing Kuwaiti officials. He also faces two more cases, one for human trafficking and the other for money laundering, in that country. According to media reports, Kazi Papul has been carrying out his criminal activities for many years.
Details have emerged of how he started as a worker, then becoming a recruitment broker and later establishing four companies that employed 9,000 workers. He earned his millions through his company; he would recruit workers in exchange for money, who later found that their visas were fake. Papul and his associates forced these workers to work for his company. Papul has also been found guilty of forcing workers to toil against their will, in inhumane conditions without wages or proper housing. He is also accused of threatening workers who opposed his views with false cases. Money laundering and human trafficking are also part of his crime portfolio.
After learning about the long list of serious crimes he was involved in, we cannot help but wonder, how did such an individual become an MP? What was the basis of his nomination? According to reports, Papul spent huge sums of money to get his nomination. Did the Election Commission bother to find out what kind of a person Papul was before accepting him as a candidate?
The conviction of Papul in a foreign court should be a wakeup call for the parliament and lead to some serious rethinking about the role and moral character of an MP. From reports, we know that Papul spent crores of money so that he could become an independent MP along with his wife, who became an MP from the reserved seats for women.
A Member of Parliament is a highly prestigious position; an MP is a public representative and lawmaker in the highest legislative body. Does not such a status come with certain expectations of integrity and moral uprightness? Unfortunately, we have often come across reports of abuse of power and corruption allegedly committed by our MPs, and the fact that they are rarely, if ever, prosecuted—let alone convicted—speaks volumes about the impunity they enjoy while in power. It is about time the parliament as a whole looked into the code of conduct of MPs and ensured that there is a system of accountability that will scrutinise whether an MP is playing his/her expected role inside and outside the parliament.
Papul's criminal activities and conviction has been a big blow to the image of the parliament and of the country. His crimes are heinous and include human trafficking and extortion. Just depriving him of his ill-gotten seat is not enough. We hope he is tried in his own country under the law of the land. The parliamentary secretariat must hold all MPs who commit crimes accountable. An MP candidate's nomination should be determined by their moral character and public acceptability, not by how many crores he can spend to buy his nomination.