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Syed Ashraful Islam (File)

Syed Ashraf finally removed

WT24 Desk

Amid the widespread speculations over his removal from the LGRD and Cooperatives Ministry following his absence in an Ecnec meeting, ruling Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam has finally been made minister without portfolio.  Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain replaced Syed Ahsraf, according to a gazette notification issued by the Cabinet division on Thursday.

It said Mosharraf will also perform as the Minister of the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister as his additional charge. Exercising the power bestowed up her under rule 3(1V) of the Rules of Business 1996, the Prime Minister has redistributed the portfolios of the ministers, the notification says. The notification signed by cabinet secretary Muhammad Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the order will take immediate effect.

Hours after the order for his removal from the LGRD ministry, Syed Ashraful Islam attended an iftar party hosted by Awami League’s youth front Jubo League at Bangabandhu Avenue in the city. As reporters sought comments over his removal from the politically important ministry, Ashraf parried the question. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reportedly expressed her annoyance over

Syed Ashraf’s absence at a meeting of Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday and decided to remove him from the LGRD Ministry. A according to media reports, a project involving Tk 6,076 crore of the LGRD Ministry was placed at the beginning of the Ecnec meeting, but neither Ashraf nor his deputy was present to explain the project, prompting Hasina who was presiding over the meeting, to sharply react.

Following their absence, Finance Minister AMA Muhith suggested the meeting dropping discussion on the project from the agenda of it as the mega project should be approved with the opinions of the minister concerned. At one stage, the Prime Minister intervened Muhith saying there is no need for pulling out the project from the meeting agenda. “Take for example, I’m the minister of the ministry concerned, and you better carry on discussions on the project.”

Sheikh Hasina further said, “Why isn’t he (Ashraf) here? “I’m going to relive him of the ministry as he (Ashraf) is reluctant about attending the meeting.” She then asked Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed to discharge as the LGRD ministry in addition to his current portfolio, but he suggested giving the charge to Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain saying he is overburdened with his ministry.

Later, Hasina directed Mosharraf to prepare for taking over the charge of the LGRD ministry. Rumours ran high the whole day on Tuesday about Asharf’s removal following the Prime Minister’s displeasure, but he trashed the matter as mere rumour and suggested reporters not to pay attention to it. After formation of the current government in 2009, Hasina made her party’s general secretary Ashraf LGRD Minister as per tradition as ruling party’s (AL or BNP’s) general secretary or secretary general had been given the charge of the ministry since restoration of democracy in the country in 1991.

He continued to serve as LGRD Minister for his second term after Sheikh Hasina formed the government for the third term after the January-5 election in 2014. It was the second change in Hasina’s third term cabinet as Posts and Telecommunications Minister Abdul Latif Siddique was dropped from the Cabinet for his anti-Islamic comment on October 12 last year. Eldest son of slain national leader Syed Nazrul Islam, a close political aide of Bangabandhu and the acting President of the Mujibnagar government formed during the Liberation War, Asharf went to London for settlement after his father’s assassination in 1975, but he was active there with AL politics.

In 1996, he retuned home and elected MP from Kishoreganj Sadar constituency with AL ticket in the 7th parliament elections. After the formation of her government, Sheikh Hasina inducted Asharf in her cabinet in 1996 as a junior minister and gave him the charge of civil aviation and tourism ministry.

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