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Bangladesh - September 9, 2023

Foreign Ministry becomes ineffective

Most missions involved in corruption

Rabiul Haque: Nigeria has ordered almost all of its ambassadors to return home after a long observation. The announcement was made to ensure world-class service delivery from Nigeria’s diplomatic missions abroad, but the reason behind it is the ongoing corruption, trade and harassment of diplomatic missions, including ambassadors.
A few years ago, I spoke to several expatriates to find out about the service of Bangladeshi embassies in various countries in the Middle East. In some cases, I received very bad feedback. I think that the embassies are involved in at least four types of corruption and irregularities:
The embassies are involved in the cycle of unlimited harassment and bribery in issuing passports, national identity cards and visas to expatriates. Migrant workers in Middle Eastern embassies are treated with disrespectful and sometimes vulgar language. Expatriates can’t enter the embassy on demand, and the embassy staff on the phone cannot provide accurate Q&A and service information.
There is a mistake in the national identity card of Bangladesh as made by amateurs. Sometimes these are deliberate to keep the cycle of bribery going. Besides, the embassy officials are also in trouble due to brokers’ visa fraud, NID fraud. Get into an unwanted professional mess. However, using it, bribery trade is going on in the Middle East missions.
In many cases, the local diaspora Awami League people forcefully took over the responsibility of managing various events including the celebration of various days, product exhibition, VIP MP-minister travel cover, development and interior work of the embassy office. It is alleged that expatriate government party members misbehave with embassy officials by threatening, abusing them, ordering them to do this and that over the phone. Basically, the reason for all this is to spread absolute influence over the embassy officials to embezzle the money of the embassy through corruption. Allegations of spending considerable labor hours of embassies in taking care of sons and daughters of Awami League leaders-MPs-ministers’ families (Begumpara effect) staying abroad are very old.
The chain of command of embassies has broken down. It is not the work instructions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but the people of the foreign wing of the Awami League who give professional instructions to the officials of the Republic. In this, the lives and honor of the professional and reputable officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in an embarrassing situation in many countries.
Money laundering and hundi have links with many officials. The income of expatriates in Bangladesh is decreasing day by day in legitimate channels, the foreign currency earned by expatriates is going to Hundi channels. Hundi money is being allocated locally through mobile banking with black money earned within the country. The foreign exchange that was supposed to come into the country through legal channels is spent on gold and drug smuggling, and in a few cases on imports. In some cases, embassies and airline officials are involved in these crimes.
Awami League’s foreign wing people play a major role in money laundering. They maintain strong connections with MPs, ministers, bureaucrats and businessmen in the country. Ministry of External Affairs however some unscrupulous embassy officials work with this cycle. Apart from money laundering, their big job is to buy properties abroad for MPs, ministers, bureaucrats and businessmen.
Some of the ambassadors sit abroad and trade tenders. Many are involved in commission trade, bribery and money laundering by getting small and medium jobs in the country.
Apart from Washington, Delhi, Beijing, London, Tokyo and Riyadh, the remaining embassies of Bangladesh can’t be called diplomatic missions. Main tasks are passport and visa work and some general government communication. Almost all the mails that come from the Bangladeshi embassy throughout the year are about celebrating the day. Bangladesh’s future asset or wealth creation, strategic human resource development, higher education and research framework and trade expansion have nothing to do with nearly a hundred embassies abroad. In the name of expanding trade, people from various ministries come abroad mainly for travel and shopping, to smuggle money. Recently, Awami League party journalists under the umbrella of PIB have also been added to this list.
Apart from passport and visa services for expatriates, Bangladesh embassies located abroad have become a minor center of money wastage. Three embassies in Washington, Delhi and London have been given a license to waste money on lobbyists! There are whispers in teak garden that these three embassies have been given ‘blank checks’ to run various programs with the support of the government, hire and sponsor foreign politicians and social activists. Thus, the three embassies have become major centers of corruption and party smuggling.
In such a situation, even if you do not expect a ‘bulky’ initiative to return almost all the ambassadors like Nigeria, it is necessary to bring Bangladesh embassies and missions abroad for a long time. Foreign embassies and missions that have questions about the quality of service – smuggling, corruption, trade and harassment – need to be taken into account.
The government has kept important senior officials of the foreign ministry, including the foreign secretary, busy at home and abroad in a series of meetings to drum up support for the illegitimate government in the form of night-time polls, sidelining the political settlement amid internal unrest to garner early support for yet another flawed election. While it was said that the officials of the republic will be busy in new trade expansion diplomacy, new labor market development, education research and skill enhancement, intellectual property benefits from the developed world, LDC graduation discounts, technology transfer, creating a strategic economic framework to beat the opponent country, new export destination. In manufacturing, diversification of exports, creation of free trade area with ASEAN and regional neighbors including South Asia, introduction of duty-free facilities, European GSP Plus, US GSP negotiations, water sharing negotiations with India, environment and climate protection in multiple diplomacy. A decade of the pending Teesta Agreement and six years of the Rohingya crisis have passed, but the government’s diplomatic success on repatriation has been zero.
Finding new lobbyists, going after previously appointed inefficient lobbyists and taking care of Awami League’s expatriate wing cannot be the main tasks of the diplomatic wing of the republic!
Due to these unwanted reasons, Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs is losing professionalism in human resource development and they are falling behind in strategic diplomatic skills in regional and global context. ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement), GISOMIA (General Security of Military Information Agreement), Indo-Pacific Strategy, IPS, BRICS, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Rohingya repatriation, European GSP Plus, restoration of preferential GSP benefits in the US market etc. in strategic negotiation Bangladesh i.e. teak garden is lagging behind. While India is securing chip manufacturing, green power investment, electric vehicle technology transfer, skilled labor market, intellectual property benefits in Indo-Pacific strategy, Bangladeshi officials are kept busy to defend the international concerns regarding missing murder political rights, Dr. Muhammad Yunus case.
It can’t be the job of republican officials to orchestrate a documentation and communication matrix to gloss over the government’s own crisis of legitimacy, to cover up its poor human rights record. Spending important resources on these unnecessary activities is a gross waste of state resources, it is also morally unacceptable.

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