Govt to investigate source of BNP’s US lobbying fund: Shahriar Alam
The government has decided to investigate the source of BNP's lobbying money -- at least USD 3.75 million -- that they spent in the last several years to campaign against Bangladesh, said State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam today.
He also said that the Awami League government has not appointed any lobbyist in the US but a PR firm to promote Bangladesh's positive image as well as fight the negative publicity against the country.
"In the last several years, BNP signed three agreements with the US-based lobbyist firms. Our calculation found that BNP spent at least USD 3.75 million," he told reporters at the foreign ministry.
Besides, Jamaat-e-Islami also signed deals with some US lobbyist firms including the New York-based Organization for Peace and Justice, to campaign against Bangladesh, especially to prevent the International Crimes Tribunal from trying the war criminals in 2013-14, he said.
He said the address of Jamaat-e-Islami is not used but the party could use other organizations for achieving its objectives.
He presented a number of documents that show BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir wrote to the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs in 2019.
The BNP lobbied the US to stop foreign assistance to Bangladesh and increase US government pressure on Bangladesh on human rights grounds, Shahriar Alam said.
Some BNP-Jamaat deals with US firms also speak of advancing economic development through free market economy and human values through preaching Islam, he said.
"We believe, under disguise, the BNP-Jamaat worked on other issues against Bangladesh," Shahriar Alam said.
"We decided today to send the documents to Bangladesh Bank to inquire if the money spent by the BNP on lobbying is legal and declared to the Election Commission," he said.
Accordingly, the central bank and the EC will take actions, he said.
He said as per US law, appointing a lobbyist is acceptable but these also have a role to ensure if the money being spent is clean because this money can also come through illegal ways.
"Those who believe in democracy and conscience should also see if the source of the money these political parties spent is clean," he said.
Asked about Awami League's appointing lobbyist in the US, Shahriar Alam said the government signed a contract with a BGR PR to fight the negative campaign against Bangladesh, especially that began during the war crimes trial in 2013-14. The contract is valid until March this year.
He said Bangladesh also needed to show to the world its achievements in terms of SDGs, women empowerment, climate change, and poverty alleviation. "In no way, this is for lobbying, but for the promotion of Bangladesh."
Asked if the government decided to appoint any lobbyist firm, especially after the US sanctions on Rab, he responded in the negative.
"We do not believe in pursuing a political agenda using that route where cash is involved…we will directly engage with the US and can bring the result, we hope," he said.