Minister Shajahan Khan also backs movement for quota
Shajahan Khan, shipping minister who is also a transport sector leader, has once again come into the spotlight by expressing solidarity with the demonstration demanding reinstatement of the freedom fighters' quota in the public service.
He was a key target of the students' movement for safe road for his misdemeanor after the death of two students in road crash in Dhaka in late July. He is also criticised for he sided with the unqualified drivers blamed for rising road crashes.
Despite being a member of the cabinet, Shahjahan Khan now backs a movement for reinstating the quota abolished by the government and his engagement with the demonstration raised questions among many.
The pro-quota demonstrators took position in the city's busy intersection of Shahbagh, following a government circular that confirmed abolishing of the quota on 4 October.
The government scrapped quota in class I and II jobs of public services following demonstration on the campus across the country demanding reforms in the civil service quota.
Around 55 per cent quota were kept for various groups including descendents of freedom fighters, all of whom surpassed their recruitment age since the countrymen fought the liberation war 47 years ago.
As repercussion to abolising of the quota, a group emerged and demanded 30 per cent quota in the class I and II bracket in civil service for the children and grandchildren of freedom fighters.
Denying his involvement with the protest, Shajahan Khan, however, told the media on Thursday that he was just helping the children of the freedom fighters.
A faction of protesters claimed that the protest for reinstatement of quota slowed down after the shipping minister had intervened.
Shajahan Khan tried to hijack the movement and install his son as the new leader of the demonstrations, they complained.
This movement divided into two groups after that. One platform, Muktijuddho Moncho, was carrying out the demonstration at the time.
Muktijuddho Moncho, amid the confusion, announced fresh programmes and formed a new committee on Friday.
AKM Jamal Uddin, the spokesperson for the previous committee, has been made convener while Shajahan’s son Asibur Rahman Khan has been made the member secretary of the new committee.
Notably, Shajahan Khan visited the protesters at Shahbagh intersection on 8 October. He asked them to remove the blockade till October 14 and assured them of fulfilling their demands by then.
The minister allegedly changed the name Muktijuddho Moncho into Muktijuddho Chetona Bastabayan Moncho.
“We want to build a movement that will eliminate the children of razakars (collaborators) from the country,” the minister said at the time.
The other faction, however, has refused to agree with the committee.
“The movement diminished because of Shajahan Khan. It seems that those who handed over the control of the movement to others have made a new committee without discussing with others. Freedom fighters’ children are agitated by such a decision,” said the president Mehedi Hasan of the other faction of the movement.
Rejecting Mehedi Hasan’s allegation, Jamal Uddin, also a Dhaka University teacher, said the new committee has been formed with due discussion with all groups of protesters.
A leader of Muktijoddha Sangsad Shontan Command, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that there was already another organisation titled Muktijuddher Chetona Bastabayan Moncho and the minister was trying to snatch the demonstration for quota and bring it under his control.
The convener Jamal Uddin, though, said the new platform would operate separately.
There is an objection from within and outside the government that Shajahan Khan is trying to gain political ground by participating in various movements of transport workers, RMG workers and sometimes to spread the spirit of liberation war.
Shajahan Khan never deviated from this despite controversy and criticism.
Several ministers said Shajahan Khan has been participating in such demonstrations to secure ground and remain in the spotlight.
Though the government has been embarrassed because of the shipping minister often, no one from the top ever warned him, the ministers, on condition of anonymity, said.