Published : Tuesday, 7 December, 2021 at 12:37 AM, Update: 07.12.2021 12:40:44 AM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Md Murad Hassan to surrender his portfolio.
The development has come in light of heavy criticism from various quarters over a round of objectionable remarks Murad made towards and about a number of people, including Dhallywood star Mahiya Mahi, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and her granddaughter.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader confirmed the prime minister’s order to the media Monday night.
“I spoke to the prime minister this evening about Murad’s issue. She ordered him to resign from the cabinet by [end of] tomorrow [Tuesday],” he said while talking to reporters at his home in Dhaka.
“I informed Murad about her directive at around 8pm,” said Quader, also the general secretary of ruling Awami League.
Prior to Quader’s briefing, a senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office, seeking anonymity, had also confirmed Dhaka Tribune about the prime minister’s order.
The official said the prime minister called Quader over the phone on Monday evening and asked him to tell Murad that “he needs to resign by Tuesday morning or I’ll fire him.”
Afterwards, Quader tried to reach Murad over the phone but it was found switched off, the official said. Then the senior ruling party leader had people “hunt Murad down and delivered the prime minister’s message.”
Murad was unavailable for comments.
The state minister does not hold any post in Awami League central committee. The first time he was elected MP from Jamalpur 4 constituency with the party’s ticket was through the 2008 general election. However, the party dropped Murad during the 2014 polls.
He managed to secure the party ticket again during the 2018 national election and won, which led Prime Minister Hasina to make him the state minister for health. He was shifted to information ministry in May 2019 during a cabinet shuffle.
Where it went wrong
Over the past few days, the level of criticism against Murad was climbing after Murad made obscene comments about Khaleda Zia and her granddaughter Zyma Rahman, daughter of acting BNP chief Tarique Rahman, during an interview.
Condemnations intensified on social media after a telephonic conversation between the state minister and film actor Mahi recently went viral – in which a man, allegedly Murad, threatened to rape her. He also threatened to send security forces to pick her up.
Recently, on different occasions, the state minister also made insulting remarks about Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury and former BNP MP Syeda Asifa Ashrafi Papia.
Apart from BNP supporters, the country’s women rights groups, feminist organizations, rights activists, academicians and general netizens have expressed extreme disappointment over such "sexist,” “perverted,” “misogynistic,” “racist,” “obscene,” and “objectionable” remarks from a cabinet member.
The situation had also led many, including senior BNP leaders such as Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, to call for his immediate resignation and a public apology from him.
“We wonder how a public representative, who is also a cabinet member, can make comments like a woman-hater and racist person. How can he boast after making such remarks?” asked women rights organization Naripokkho in a statement on Sunday.
The organization had also sought the prime minister’s attention in taking punitive action against Murad.
The state minister had recently drawn flak also by saying that the state religion provision should not remain in the constitution, even though the party’s senior leadership is not considering the matter.
Meanwhile, regarding the leaked phone call recording, actor Mamnun Hasan Emon on Monday confirmed to reporters that it was him who spoke with Murad over the phone when the state minister was threatening Mahi during the same call.
Emon, who had received the call on his phone before handing it over to Mahi, also said that the conversation took place two years ago. The actors were at a meeting regarding the shooting of a movie when the state minister called.
Mahi, who is currently performing Umrah in Saudi Arabia, posted a video on her Facebook page Monday night after the news of the prime minister’s order to Murad broke.
“I was innocent and a victim of the circumstance. I was left speechless [by his behaviour] that day.. I knew Allah will not let this stand. He [Murad] got what he deserved. Alhamdulillah,” said the Dhallywood star in her immediate reaction.
Chhatra Dal ties?
Earlier in the day, while speaking at an event at National Press Club in Dhaka, Zafrullah Chowdhury had also sharply criticized Murad for his remarks.
“One should not behave like an animal because of their lust to become a minister,” he said addressing Murad, before urging the prime minister to fire him immediately.
Meanwhile, addressing a discussion in Dhaka, senior BNP leader Mirza Fakhrul also said: “A very disgusting, derogatory and indecent campaign has been carried out on social media against the Zia family by an infamous person. I have heard he was a doctor probably from Jamalpur’s Sarishabari… shame on him.”
He also alleged that the current government is destroying the country’s culture, sense of courtesy and long tradition. “You have already destroyed politics in the country. Will you now ruin the minimum values and respect for our mothers and sisters?”
Fakhrul regretted that Murad was once involved with Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the student wing of BNP. “He was the publicity secretary of Chhatra Dal at Mymensingh Medical College. He later joined Bangladesh Chhatra League.”
However, Jatiyatabadi Jubo Dal’s Dhaka south unit Convener Golam Mawla Shaheen, who was at the program, instantly protested Fakhrul’s comment and urged him to withdraw it claiming Murad was never involved with Chhatra Dal.
In reply, Fakhrul said: “Don’t talk nonsense. You don’t know about it.”
As Shaheen continued shouting, Fakhrul repeatedly asked him to stop, creating chaos. Later, other senior party leaders brought the situation under control and convinced Shaheen to remain silent.
Standing by his comment, Fakhrul said it is unfortunate that Murad did the politics of Chhatra Dal once. “Later he became a leader of Chhatra League and its president [of Mymensingh Medical College unit]. It’s unfortunate that such a boy was there in Chhatra Dal at that time.”
BNP Standing Committee member Mirza Abbas also said that making indecent remarks against Khaleda Zia, who is fighting for her life, and her family members cannot be tolerated. “We will not tolerate such comments.. the secretariat has been desecrated by giving such dirty person a place in the cabinet.”