Grameen vs. Bangladesh

HONG KONGThe feud in Bangladesh between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Mohammed Yunus, the founder of the microloan-making Grameen Bank and a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is being portrayed as a modern-day replay of the famous battle between the wicked Kauravas and the virtuous Pandavas in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata.

The suggestion is that a vindictive prime minister is playing politics in punishing the saintly Yunus, the man who pioneered microfinance, for having threatened to enter politics. Sheikh Hasina is even being compared to Russia’s Vladimir Putin in his campaign against the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

But the Grameen case is more complicated, and carries a moral contrary to what Yunus’s well-managed public-relations campaign suggests.

First, Sheikh Hasina is no ordinary politician. She is the daughter of the first president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a charismatic leader often described as the Father of the Nation, who was assassinated in August 1975 by the army.