Quick, bold and pragmatic action taken by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to remove Abdul Latif Siddique from the cabinet and from the Presidium of ruling Awami League has saved the country from otherwise inevitable chaos by orthodox section of the Muslims and opposition political parties looking for an inflammable pretext to set off a violent campaign.
Particularly, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia had almost found Siddique's outrageous and derogatory remarks against holy Hajj, Prophet Muhammad (SM) and Tablig jamaat to launch an anti-government movement that BNP chief Khaleda as a new lever in her yet unsuccessful bid to launch a long-promised movement to topple the government.
But Sheikh Hasina 'deprived' her arch rival for power of an unexpected opportunity provided by Siddique by axing him, AL grassroots leaders and activists said. The prompt action taken by the Prime Minister against one of the most senior cabinet members caught the BNP and its allies including anti-independence Jamaat-e-Islami 'off-guard' and watered down their "evil designs" at least for the moment, they told The Daily Observer.
"Now, the BNP-led 20-party alliance is on the back foot," one leader said.
Not only politicians but ordinary people of the country have also heaved a sigh of relief following the PM's stern measures against the former Posts, Telecommunications and Information Communication Technology Minister, who has long been known for corruption, abuse of power and a 'damn care" attitude towards important issues of national interest.
Once he reacted to a question from a reporter saying 'throw rules into the river' and at times used his 'bad mouth' against fellow ministers. An investigation by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in February found him involved in gross irregularities while being the Textile Minister during Sheikh Hasina's immediate past five-year rule from 2009.
After her re-election in this year's January 5 national polls, Sheikh Hasina allotted Siddique a new ministry. But he went rogue in both words and deeds, and finally was made to pay for these dearly.
The sensitive Siddique issue now revolves around his possible return home from abroad and likely arrest to face trial in a home court.
Radical Islamic groups have demanded Siddique's trial and punishment - and said they would call for a hartal on October 26 unless he is arrested.
Siddique has been in India since last week when he flew to West Bengal's capital Kolkata via New Delhi from New York, USA, where he made the audacious anti-Islam utterances.
At a private meeting in New York's Jackson Heights, he termed Hajj as a wastage of time that, he said, Prophet Muhammad (SM) arranged Hajj to help his people to eke out a living, and that Tablig jamaat is an unnecessary ritual without any economic value.
His remarks infuriated Muslims in and outside Bangladesh. Many called him an apostate deserving highest punishment.
Roads and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said on Thursday the government would take no responsibility for Siddique's return to Bangladesh. "He must come back home on his own," Quader said.
The AL grassroots leaders and workers also opposed Siddique's return under the government's initiative. They feel the furor over the sacked minister would get a new boost if he returns. They also think Siddique may utter more inflammable words to 'avenge' the decision of axing him from two prime positions.
What is still undecided about him is whether Siddique will retain his membership in parliament. This question is being wildly debated in the country both within and outside the political ambits.
AL Chief Whip ASM Feroz, however, has said Siddique could continue as MP while law says it can only be decided by the Election Commission - not even by the Speaker of parliament. The EC seems confused and is sitting on the matter.
BNP alleged that the government made Siddique a scapegoat in an effort to perpetuate its 'autocratic' rule.
Siddique did not resign from the AL or the Cabinet which also disturbed AL grassroots. Many of them felt that Siddique could have a 'hidden' mission behind his unexpected utterances and his 'dare devil' move to live with these.
Dhaka City AL Vice President Mukul Chowdhury said, "Prudent decision and timely action of Sheikh Hasina against Siddique has saved the country from anarchy and politically volatile situations."
"It was also a warning for the party leaders and Ministers not to get involved in corruption and any action which defame the country and party." He also hoped the PM would spare no one like Abdur Rahman Bodi, Nizam Uddin Hazari and Shamim Osman whose political career has been tainted by corruption and activities not compatible with party policy and discipline.
AL Presidium Member Nuh-Ul-Alam Lenin told The Daily Observer, "A Dhaka court has issued arrest warrant against Siddique, so he has to face Court if he returns to the country."
"Law will decide his fate. The government and the party have no business with Siddique anymore," he said.
On the other hand, AL grassroots also suggested that the Prime Minister should now ensure that Siddique should be put in dock as soon as possible to answer charges of corruption and abuse of authority as a minister and senior party stalwart.
After hearing the information that Siddique is being sacked from the Cabinet and expelled from the party Presidium, people of those villagers have started to raise voice.
Meanwhile, the anti-graft watchdog has not even thought of taking steps over the matter though the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) formed a probe committee that already submitted its report pointing out with findings of squandering assets of at least 46 government institutions while he was at the helm of Jute and Textiles Ministry.
Siddique, his wife Laila Siddique and their son Anik Siddique grabbed many Khas land and other land of local people overnight, forcefully or purchased land at a nominal price by providing only the 'baina' money.
The local alleged that, 115 decimals of land of Mazid and Rashid's ancestral property at Chatihati-Alenga road at Kalihati upazilas was grabbed by Siddique family. Majid and Rashid could not do anything in fear. A company named Ruposhi Textile has been setup by Siddique's wife.
Laila Siddique is not only the owner of 115 decimal land of Mazid and Rashid but also the land belonging to five families of Idris Ali, Sabur Ali, Yusuf Ali and Shahjahan Ali. The current price of per decimal land is Tk two to Tk three lakh.
In such a way, (through occupation and providing nominal price only) Laila Siddique has become the owner of 400 bigha of land of more than 50 people of Paschim Pakutia village.
As per the account, Liala Siddique is now the owner of about Tk 182 crore. But in the affidavit submitted to the Election Commission in 2008, Latif Siddique informed that his wife owned Tk 41,000 in cash, 20 bhori gold and two buildings on 9.28- acre of land. In the affidavit for January 5 election it was shown that Laila Siddique had Tk 26 lakh 60 thousand 604 in cash in two bank accounts.
But in fact, she has more than 400 bigha of land as well as weaving industry. Not only the Siddique couple but their son Anik Siddique is also a zaminder (landlord). He has 1,600 bigha of land at five Mouja of Gohalia union near the east side of Bangabandhu Bridge of Dhaka -Tangail highways.
Anik Siddique has established Magistica Holding Limited at Jogarchar village. But people are still unaware what type of industry will be established there. Anik has purchased through registration about 600 bigha of land but occupied another 1,000 bighas only by paying "baina" money - which too did not reach the actual landowners, in many cases, local people said. The market price of the 1,600 bigha stands at around Tk.450 crore.
Local people alleged that though they were not enthusiastic to sell their land, Anik's cadres had forcibly occupied it. Anik was not available for comment.