Murad Hassan is sacked from cabinet and Awami League. What else awaits him?

After the Awami League returned to power since 1996, Sheikh Hasina's cabinet was jolted by the first departure when Tanjim Ahmad Sohel Taj resigned as state minister for home in 2009.

Sohel Taj, son of Bangladesh’s first prime minister Tajuddin Ahmad, cited personal reasons behind his decision. Attempts to bring him back to politics failed.

All of the next departures were stories of disgrace.

Two years after Sohel Taj’s resignation, Suranjit Sengupta stepped down as railways minister after one of his aides was caught with a huge amount of cash. Prime Minister Hasina kept Suranjit as a minister without portfolio.

Syed Abul Hossain resigned as information minister in 2012 after he was transferred from the communications ministry amid allegations of corruption in the Padma Bridge project.

Then Latif Siddique became the first to be removed from the cabinet by the president in 2015 in line with the law after the former declined to step down amid an uproar over his comments that hurt Muslim sentiments. Latif, who was the telecommunication and ICT minister, lost his membership of parliament as well.

Now Murad Hassan has become the latest to be shunted out of the cabinet over a scandalous audio leak of expletive-laden misogynistic comments.

Murad asked the women of Bangladesh for their forgiveness on Tuesday after the audio went viral on social media. He also sent his letter of resignation as he had been ordered to step down by Prime Minister Hasina.

Now the Hasina government has 25 ministers, 19 state ministers and three deputy ministers.

FROM JCD TO BCL, THEN MP TO STATE MINISTER

Murad, son of Jamalpur Awami League leader Matiur Rahman Talukder, had once been a member of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal, the BNP's student affiliate, while studying at Mymensingh Medical College, former student leaders have confirmed.

He had been the publicity secretary of JCD’s Mymensingh Medical College Unit. Later he joined Bangladesh Chhatra League, the Awami League’s student front influenced by his father and became the president of Mymensingh Medical College Chhatra League in 2000.

He was elected to parliament from Jamalpur-4 (Sarishabari, Mesta and Titpalya) on Awami League ticket in the 2008 general election. He was elected once again in 2018.

He was initially inducted into the cabinet as the state minister for health. After his transfer to the information ministry in May 2019, Murad created controversies on several occasions.

He had faced the wrath of fans after body shaming Arifa Zaman Moushumi and other film actresses, and criticising actor Shakib Khan for his performance.

The 47-year-old doctor by training has been in the eye of a social media storm for his recent untoward remarks on former prime minister Khaleda Zia's granddaughter, prompting calls from the BNP for his resignation.

Amid the furore, an audio clip of a telephone conversation began to circulate on Facebook. In the audio record purported to have his voice, Murad was heard using a stream of obscene words and threatening to drag an actress into a five-star hotel and rape her. 

The government confirmed the order on his removal on Monday.

In another video, Murad belittled Dhaka University, particularly female leaders of BCL, with indecent remarks.  

Leaked audios have caused the removal of several politicians from party and government body posts recently.

Zahangir Alam was fired as Gazipur mayor and a leader of the Awami League. The others include Abbas Ali, mayor of Katakhali municipality in Rajshahi, and Aminul Islam of Gopalganj municipality in Sylhet.      

WHAT AWAITS MURAD

Murad emailed his resignation letter to the Cabinet Division first, but wrote 2021 as his appointment year although he was appointed as state minister in 2019. The Cabinet Division then asked Murad to submit a hard copy of his resignation letter with correct information.

He followed the instructions and later the Cabinet Division said in a notice President Md Abdul Hamid accepted his resignation.

The Awami League’s Jamalpur District Unit has also removed Murad as its health and population affairs secretary, saying the leaders will inform the Central Working Committee of their decision to remove Murad on the accusation that he has damaged the party image and got involved in activities against party constitution and discipline. 

Party General Secretary Obaidul Quader said the central committee will decide on Murad’s membership once it meets.

If he loses membership of the party, it may mean Murad may lose his membership of parliament as well.

Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury will decide on the matter, said Quader.

In Latif Siddique’s case, legal complexities were created over his membership of parliament after the Awami League expelled him.

The Election Commission held a hearing on the issue, but failed to take a decision. Latif finally resigned from parliament, putting an end to the complexities.   

It is unclear what Murad will do. He did not speak to the media after the government took action against him.

“If I have made a mistake, or my words have hurt our mothers and sisters, then I ask for your forgiveness,” Murad wrote on Facebook on Tuesday, soon after he had emailed his resignation letter.

“I will always abide by the decisions of our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina...”

But it appeared that even if he resigns from parliament, or the speaker revokes his membership, he may still face legal action from people aggrieved by his comments and threats.

A leader of BCL’s Dhaka University Unit filed a complaint with Shahbagh police on Tuesday night over Murad’s comments dishonouring the institutions and its students.