Shall Joe Biden actualize the political ambitions of Professor Muhammad Yunus?


Professor Muhammad Yunus was a revered figure to majority of people in Bangladesh until he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Since winning this prestigious prize, Muhammad Yunus began showing signs of political ambitions and attempted to float a political party named Nagorik Shakti (People’s Strength). At that time, Bangladesh was ruled by a military-backed interim government which was continuing offensives on politicians while many of the key-players in that government, including then Chief of Army Staff General Moeen U Ahmed was publicly speaking against democracy and democratic institutions while he too was signaling of becoming another military autocrat by gradually seizing power. During those months, Professor Muhammad Yunus became a great defender of that military-backed government, while he was also openly encouraging members of the interim government, including President Iazuddin Ahmed, a committed supporter of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in intensifying actions against various individuals, including politicians in Bangladesh. Main reason behind such behavior of Muhammad Yunus was his eagerness and strong ambition of becoming head of the government in the country.

Global influence of Professor Muhammad Yunus

Most of the people in the world who know Professor Muhammad Yunus are aware of his global influence, particularly his huge intimacy with former US President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and plenty of influential politicians and personalities in the United States.

Despite controversies and criticism, a large number of global leaders and figures see Professor Muhammad Yunus as a renowned economist and social entrepreneur from Bangladesh and they also believe he has made a significant impact on the world through his innovative ideas and initiatives. In their eyes, being a founder of the Grameen Bank, Professor Yunus has pioneered the concept of microcredit or small loans to poor people without collateral, and helped to lift millions of people out of poverty.

Professor Muhammad Yunus, born in 1940 in Chittagong studied economics at Dhaka University and later received his PhD in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States. From 1969 to 1972, he was an assistant professor of economics at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.

In 1967, while Yunus attended Vanderbilt University, he met Vera Forostenko, a student of Russian literature at Vanderbilt University and daughter of Russian immigrants to Trenton, New Jersey, United States. They were married in 1970. Yunus’s marriage with Vera ended within months of the birth of their baby girl, Monica Yunus, in 1979.

According to Nelson Mandela Foundation, during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971, Prof Yunus founded a Citizen’s Committee in Nashville, TN, published a newsletter named Bangladesh Newsletter, and ran the Bangladesh Information Center in Washington DC with other Bangladeshis living in the US, to raise support for the liberation of East Pakistan and lobby at the US Congress to stop military aid to Pakistan. In 1972, he returned to Bangladesh and joined the faculty of Chittagong University, where he taught economics and became involved in social development projects.

Western friends and allies of Muhammad Yunus believe his ideas and initiatives have had a profound impact on the world, helping to create new opportunities for millions of people and inspiring a new generation of social entrepreneurs.

When asked if Muhammad Yunus will continue to use his connections in the West, particularly in the United States against the ruling Awami League government in Bangladesh, a senior political analyst in Washington DC said, “I cannot speculate on individuals’ actions or intentions. However, it is important to note that Professor Muhammad Yunus is known for his advocacy for social and economic development, particularly in Bangladesh, and has been involved in various initiatives to improve the lives of people in the country. He has also been a vocal critic of corruption and injustice in the government and other sectors.

“However, it is not appropriate to suggest or imply that Professor Yunus would use his connections in the United States or elsewhere to act against the democratically elected government of Bangladesh or its leaders. I believe, as a Nobel laureate and respected global figure, Professor Yunus is committed to advancing positive change through peaceful and constructive means, and has always emphasized the importance of dialogue, cooperation, and mutual understanding in addressing social and economic challenges”.

US House resolution in favor of Muhammad Yunus

Although Professor Muhammad Yunus has been maintaining huge pleasantness with the Clinton Family, particularly Hillary Clinton for decades and is known as a supporter of Democratic Party, he also maintains good affinity with a large number of lawmakers from the Republican Party and he has his friends and allies in the US Senate and the Congress. In this case, one may wonder as to why during the past many years there had never been a resolution introduced in the US Congress either by the Democrats or a bi-partisan one by both the parties. One of the many reasons could be – it did not cross the mind of Professor Yunus, as to my understanding, if he wanted a resolution in his defense, it would be introduced and passed.

But now, there is whisper in the US Capitol about fresher initiatives by Professor Yunus in getting a resolution passed in his defense, which may ultimately transform into a law. While Bill is a plan of action, resolution is a statement expressing the opinion of the chamber.

It may be mentioned here that a resolution is an official expression of the opinion or will of a legislative body. The practice of submitting and voting on resolutions is a typical part of business in Congress, state legislatures, and student government associations.

Ignoring a bi-partisan resolution passed by the US Congress can be considered as contempt of the US Congress and disrespecting the official expression of the opinion or will of a legislative body. In this case, members of the US Congress can take fresher measures of transforming a resolution into a bill, which can later be approved by the president and turned into a law. If the president chooses to veto a bill, in most cases Congress can vote to override that veto and the bill becomes a law.

Bills, if passed by the House and Senate and signed by the President, become binding law and part of the United States Code. Although resolutions are not laws; rather, they are expressions of the “sentiments” of either the House or Senate, it can certainly have further implications when the resolution is ignored by the party or parties on whom it has been initiated and passed.

In 2009, Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after investigating a US$230 million fraud involving Russian tax officials. Magnitsky was accused of committing the fraud himself by Russian officials and detained. While in prison, Magnitsky developed gallstones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis and was not given medical treatment for months. After almost a year of imprisonment, he was beaten to death while in custody.

Magnitsky’s friend Bill Browder, a prominent American-born businessman working extensively in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, publicized the case and lobbied American officials to pass legislation sanctioning Russian individuals involved in corruption.

In a similar pattern, Professor Muhammad Yunus shall also succeed in getting a resolution and then bill in his favor, which can ultimately become a globally applicable law on various individuals.

We need to remember, Professor Mohammad Yunus is not any ordinary individual. He has substantial contacts and connections with plenty of policymakers and lawmakers in the United States, which he certainly can use – if he wants.

Global opinion about free, fair and transparent election in Bangladesh

Due to numerous reasons, including frantic lobbyist bids of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and similar efforts of Professor Muhammad Yunus, the international community is calling on the Bangladesh government to ensure a free, fair and transparent general election in 2024. In this case, the United States being the top buyer of readymade garment products from Bangladesh and being one of the top donors has been repeatedly focusing on free and fair elections in the country, which is seen by most of the political opponents of the ruling Awami League as an effective “pressure tool”.

Commenting on the challenges in holding a free, fair and transparent election in Bangladesh in 2024, a geopolitical analyst in Washington DC said:

The issue of holding a free, fair, and transparent general election in Bangladesh in 2024 is a complex one, and there are several challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process. Some of the key challenges include:

Ensuring the independence and impartiality of the election commission: There have been concerns about the independence and impartiality of the election commission in Bangladesh in the past, with allegations of political interference and bias. It will be important to ensure that the election commission is truly independent and free from political influence, and that it has the resources and capacity to organize a credible and transparent election.

Addressing political violence and intimidation: Political violence and intimidation have been a significant problem in previous elections in Bangladesh, with reports of harassment, attacks, and even killings of opposition candidates and supporters. It will be important to take effective measures to prevent such violence and ensure the safety and security of all candidates and voters.

Ensuring a level playing field for all candidates: There have been allegations of unequal treatment of opposition candidates and restrictions on their campaigning in previous elections in Bangladesh. It will be important to ensure that all candidates have equal access to resources, media coverage, and other means of campaigning, and that there are no arbitrary restrictions on their activities.

Addressing concerns about voter fraud and irregularities: There have been allegations of voter fraud and irregularities in previous elections in Bangladesh, including vote rigging, ballot stuffing, and voter intimidation. It will be important to take effective measures to prevent such practices and ensure that the voting process is transparent and credible.

Ensuring the participation of all eligible voters: In previous elections in Bangladesh, there have been concerns about the exclusion of certain groups of voters, such as minorities and women. It will be important to ensure that all eligible voters are able to participate in the election and that there are no arbitrary barriers to their participation.

Addressing these challenges will require a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including the government, the opposition, civil society organizations, and international observers. It will also require a commitment to dialogue, cooperation, and respect for democratic norms and principles.

As very recently Professor Muhammad Yunus succeeded in getting a letter in his favor which was signed by forty individuals, many of whom are globally known, and as the Nobel laureate has spent thousands of dollars in publicizing this letter through The Washington Post and other PR agencies, it is very much likely that he may now start playing cards centering the 2024 general elections in Bangladesh – again with his years-old ambition of becoming head of the government in Bangladesh.

It is no secret that US President Joe Biden is under heavy influence of his guru – Barack Obama and under significant influence of a few more individuals, including Hillary Clinton. Considering these scenarios, one may ask – if Joe Biden shall finally start playing a role in actualizing the political ambitions of Professor Muhammad Yunus.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Blitz. He regularly writes for local and international newspapers on diversified topics, including international relations, politics, diplomacy, security and counterterrorism. Follow him on 'X' @Salah_Shoaib

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