Shameless lies of vote-seekers in Bangladesh


In a surprising revelation that has sent shockwaves through Bangladesh’s political landscape, the affidavits submitted by several candidates vying for becoming members of the parliament have come under scrutiny due to glaring disparities in the valuation of their assets. From land holdings to gold reserves and high-end properties, the discrepancies, as reported by Dhaka-based English newspaper – The Daily Star, have cast a shadow over the transparency and accuracy of the candidates’ financial declarations, prompting a deeper examination of the electoral process.

One of the most perplexing examples emerges from the affidavit of Nuruzzaman Ahmed, the social welfare minister and an Awami League candidate for Lalmonirhut-2. He asserts ownership of 25 bighas (3 bighas make 1 acre) of land valued at BDT 31,500, a sum scarcely exceeding two months’ minimum wage for a garment worker.

Similarly, Abul Kalam Ahsanul Hoque Chowdhury, an Awami League candidate for Rangpur-2, declares ownership of 25 bighas of land but values it at a mere BDT 70,000. The apparent undervaluation raises concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the information provided by these candidates, leaving the public to ponder the intricacies of land valuation in the electoral arena.

Gold, often considered a reliable measure of wealth, is not immune to the discrepancies found in candidates’ affidavits. Abdul Hafiz Mallik, the AL pick for Barishal-2, claims ownership of 30 bhoris of gold worth BDT 40,000, a valuation massively below the current market rate, which exceeds BDT 100,000 per bhori for 22-karat gold. This stark contrast prompts questions about the methodology used by candidates in assessing their gold holdings and whether such under-valuations are intentional or indicative of a broader issue within the electoral system.

The intrigue surrounding asset declarations extends beyond agricultural land and gold to include upscale real estate. Zahid Faruk, the state minister for Water Resources and AL candidate for Barishal-5, discloses the value of his flat in Dhaka city’s Baridhara DOHS as BDT 1.3 lakh. In an affluent neighborhood where monthly rents often surpass this amount, the apparent undervaluation raises eyebrows about the accuracy of such property valuations.

Similarly, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal’s wife claims ownership of an eight-storey building in Gulshan-2 area, a prestigious and posh area, valuing it at BDT 3.5 million. Such figures challenge existing perceptions of the real estate market and prompt a closer examination of the candidates’ declared assets.

Affidavits, intended as legal documents to provide transparency about candidates’ personal and financial assets, now face scrutiny over their efficacy. While the Supreme Court’s 2007 verdict aimed to enhance transparency by mandating the Election Commission (EC) to collect and publicize this information, recent revelations suggest vulnerabilities in the system. As affidavits become a tool for political accountability, questions arise about their susceptibility to manipulation and deception, and whether they serve their intended purpose in fostering an informed electorate.

Falsification in affidavits is not a mere ethical breach; it is a punishable offense under both criminal and election laws. Offenders may face up to three years in jail, and in severe cases, their nomination could be canceled. Despite these potential consequences, candidates seem to undervalue their assets with apparent impunity, raising concerns about the effectiveness of legal deterrents in preventing deceptive practices.

Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, the executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, views these cases as exemplifying “multi-level deception, fraud, and abuse of power for illicit accumulation of wealth”. He suggests that undervaluation of assets may involve collusive illegal transactions to evade taxes, highlighting systemic failures in addressing such practices. Despite public frustration, the Election Commission, Anti-corruption Commission, and National Board of Revenue appear to have fallen short in taking decisive action against instances of illicit income.

While the Election Commission is tasked with making information public, questions emerge about its role in ensuring the accuracy of the data provided by candidates. Some argue for a more proactive role for the EC in scrutinizing information to detect discrepancies, while others suggest that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the National Board of Revenue (NBR) should take a more assertive stance in investigating potential tax evasion and fraudulent practices.

As the nation approaches the upcoming elections, addressing these issues becomes imperative to uphold the integrity of the electoral process. Transparency, accountability, and adherence to legal standards are paramount in ensuring that voters can make informed decisions based on accurate and reliable information about the candidates seeking to represent them in the government. The resolution of these concerns will be pivotal in restoring faith in the democratic process and preserving the principles of fair representation.


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