The stock market in Bangladesh stopped trading for several days when small investors went on a citywide massive rampage at the sudden fall of values of shares of a large number of companies -- in the second biggest share-scam in Bangladesh since the tenure of Bangladesh's Awami League government, which came in power for a 5-year term in 1996. In 1996, hundreds of small investors were turned into paupers when several companies artificially inflated the prices of the shares.
The Finance Minister AMA Muhit has told the media that the current crisis in the stock market is the result of some of his "mistakes." Although the Bangladeshi finance minister admitted his failure, he did not resign from the post. Instead, he is trying to find some real or artificial way to cool down the current crisis, thereby tackling the virtual lawlessness prevailing in the stock market.
According to media reports, a number of companies listed with the Dhaka Stock Exchange are not only cashing hundreds of millions of dollars through countless manipulations,m but also that most of such these companies are either backed or owned by influential members of the current ruling party. A number of influential ministers are also actively involved in this huge scam.
The government has also failed to address issues like the increasing prices of essentials, as well as law and order.
Like many other developing nations, small and medium sized investors, as well as the unemployed and students, invest money in the stockmarket. In most cases, such investors have been lured and misled by these companies, as well as some corrupt stock brokerage firms and corrupt officials within the Dhaka Stock Exchange. The concerned ministry is visibly remaining silent even after seeing small investors virtually ruined in the stock market.
The former deputy governor of the Bangladesh Bank [Central Bank], Khondokar Ibrahim Khaled, in an exclusive interview with a local news agency revealed that around 10-15 politicians and businessmen seized Tk150 billion from the country's investors in the last four months, crashing the stock market to a new low.
He said, "One lawmaker of the then-ruling Awami League was responsible for the '96 share-market scam, but this year's crisis was created by other politicians and businessmen, including a BNP leader. However, I do not want to name anybody's name."
In answer to a question as to how such a huge amount of money vanished from the stock market as the tiny investors had done well with huge investments since the beginning of the upturn in the stockmarket index, he said, "I think this huge amount of money simply poured into the pockets of a group of people who reaped a windfall out of a freefall in share prices over the last few days."
He added: "In creating the crisis they looted such a huge amount of money, which they would never invest in the stock market."
Local and international media reported the plunge in the stock as unprecedented in the 55 years' history of the Dhaka stock exchange. The Dhaka Stock Exchange [DSE] general index lost 1,235 points in two consecutive days, bringing nerve-shattering shocks to small investors.
According to stockmarket analysts and financial experts in Bangladesh, the current crisis may not be easily tackled by the government: several unscrupulous companies have already extracted millions of dollars from the market and smuggled out major portion of this money to various countries.. If the government fails to tackle this situation immediately, however, there will be a huge negative impact on the fate of the ruling party in Bangladesh.
The stockmarket scam took place at a time, when the ruling party was already feeling nervous and uncomfortable about the municipal corporation elections just concluded. During this election, it was clear that voters were getting increasingly unhappy with the current government. The ruling party won seats almost neck-to-neck with the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, while voters also elected a few candidates belonging to Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. The voters also rejected all the candidates from the Jatoyi Party, headed by former military dictator Hussain Muhammed Ershad.
This result has several dimensions: First, the same voters who had elected the Bangladesh Awami League with landslide victory -- giving it an absolute majority in the parliament, and pushing Bangladesh Nationalist Party to the status of a cornered opposition -- has become visibly annoyed with the ruling party. Secondly, the voters also categorically showed that there is no sympathy for former military dictators like Hussain Muhammed Ershad, who is known not only to be corrupt, but is also is a war criminal. (He was a member of the tribunal formed by the Pakistani government in 1971 to try the officers who were defecting in favor of Bangladesh and the liberation movement.) The voters also showed that anti-liberation forces like Ershad or Jamaat-e-Islami have been rejected from politics. Although politically different, Ershad's Jatiyo Party and Jamaat-e-Islami have a few ideologies in common: Ershad made Islam the "State Religion" of Bangladesh, and supports enforcing Sharia Law, making the Blasphemy Law more powerful in Bangladesh. Further, Ershad advocates Dhaka's "closer ties" with the Arab nations as well as with China, while he indirectly opposes cultivating any relations with the West. Hussain Muhammed Ershad is also one of the leading political figures supporting countries like Iran, Palestine, and other voices calling for the elimination of Israel from the global map.
Most unfortunately, Hussain Muhammed Ershad and his Jatiyo Party are an influential partner of the current ruling "Grand Alliance" led by the ruling Bangladesh Awami League.
Secularist forces want to see parties like the Awami League in power in the Muslim nations, as they can very actively combat Islamist militancy and Jihadist forces; they can also give a solid foundation to the country's democratic institutions. But what we are witnessing in Bangladesh in current days is nothing but a serious red-alert to the party in power. Wish those in power would pay minimum heed to such issues and actively formulate policies in addressing these without wasting any time before it is too late for us - or for them.