Grameen`s Yunus says he is not a political threat

The Nobel laureate would like to resolve issues "if any" with Bangladesh PM.

Dhaka: Nobel laureate and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus has said he was "not a political threat to anyone" in Bangladesh and would like to resolve issues "if any" with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal reproduced in the Daily Star here, Yunus asked whether the "borrowers" of the bank who were "in control" of its running, would be willing to see the bank being run by "outsiders".

"The real issue at stake is the right of the bank`s 8.3 million borrowers to control their own financial future or whether they will be forced to cede their control to outside authorities," Yunus said.

"Grameen Bank has succeeded due to the fact that it is the borrowers themselves who have been in control of the bank. It is a unique institution."

Members of the ruling Awami League criticised Yunus at various forums Friday while Finance Minister AMA Muhith confirmed he was "in talks" on behalf of the government to reach a "compromise" with Yunus.

Yunus was ousted from the bank he founded three decades ago. He lost an appeal before the high court, but an appeal before the Supreme Court is pending.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia and South Asia Robert O Blake was in Bangladesh recently and during his interaction with government officials strongly backed a compromise and return of the Nobel laureate to the bank.

An anti-Yunus campaign by a section of the Awami League "is being conducted when a compromise between the government and the Nobel laureate is in progress, amid the US and a few other western countries` call for an honourable solution to the vexed issue," the Daily Star said on Saturday.

Seminars, symposiums, round-table discussions and political rallies against Yunus were being held across the country, party sources said.

After keeping mum on the Yunus issue initially, Awami League insiders said the party high command instructed a section of its leaders, including some top-ranking ones, to conduct the campaign.

A senior leader of the party told the Daily Star that they had to begin the campaign as influential international groups were mounting pressure on the government to reach a consensus with Yunus and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was trying to gain political leverage from this.

Awami League joint general secretary Mahabubul Alam Hanif, who is also a special assistant to Hasina, and former minister Mohammad Nasim on Friday criticised Yunus at two separate programmes.

"Whenever Professor Yunus goes anywhere, he takes a poor woman with a goat or hen with him and portrays Bangladesh as a poor nation," Hanif said.

Addressing another discussion, Nasim said it was not right to get respect through foreign pressure without showing confidence in the country`s court and its people.

Some organisations considered close to the Awami league have reportedly condemned the role of Blake in "putting pressure" on the government to waive the laws governing the banking sector to get Yunus back as managing director of Grameen Bank.