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A Political Nobel Laureate
by Amin George Forji
2007-02-14 08:44:49
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Last year's Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Bangladeshi Muhammad Yunus, who won the prestigious award for his "banker to the poor", is now making new headlines following his announcement that he is forming his own political party that would "build a new Bangladesh" after the next general elections.

"I seek your support to form a political party. Please write letters or call me to give your opinion. I seek your support and advice. I am waiting for your response...If they say: go ahead, I will join politics...form a party. I am ready to take this risk. My politics will be to build a new country...set a new current in politics," Yunus announced at a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

Yunus said he and his new party would not ally with any corrupt politicians. "My main goal will be to re-establish political goodwill, qualified leadership and good governance…I don't have anything more to achieve. I know entering politics means making one's self controversial. I am ready to take that risk if people think my participation will help to open a new political horizon,'' he stated.

Bangladesh is presently run by an unelected army-backed interim administration, which has imposed a nationwide state of emergency, and tightened its grip on power by detaining more than 60 key figures from the leading political parties ahead of the forthcoming elections, which date is yet to be announced.

The interim government, led by Chief Fakhruddin Ahmed-a, Central bank governor, has threatened to detain all politicians before the elections can take place, with the outgoing Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the opposition Awami League being the main targets. The arrests, so far, have been accused of being preferential and based on a political agenda to restrain only certain persons from for running office during the elections. The administration is accused of turning a blind eye on some of the most corrupt officials.

The administration has, nevertheless, been credited for embarking on a number of sound reforms, such as introducing voter's identity cards, re-organising the electoral commission and the depoliticisation of the civil service ahead of the elections.

The ballot was initially set for January 22nd but was postponed to an indefinite date after the country sunk into a new wave of violence that left at least 48 people dead, and several hundred others seriously injured. The army-backed interim administration responded by imposing a nationwide state of emergency.

Yunus' announcement to form a new political party has taken many by surprise, as he has long refrained from playing active politics, despite several calls. He and his Grameen Bank won the Nobel Prize award for handing out small, but very symbolic loans, to the vulnerable and desperately poor in Bangladesh, lifting millions out of abject poverty as a consequence.

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