512Published on November 17, 2022
`When Khaleda Zia was Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, the Hawa-Bhaban cartel destroyed the country's health sector. Tarique Rahman built a syndicate with pro-BNP doctors’ association DAB Secretary General Dr AZM Zahid Hossain, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's assignment officer Dr Firoz Mahmud Iqbal, and Health Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain. This cartel got involved in plundering hundreds of crores of taka every year allocated for purchasing drugs, medical services and equipment for government hospitals, and massive corruption in tenders and doctors' recruitment in hospitals.
After the caretaker government came to power in 2007, the Prothom Alo on July 8 and the Janakantha on February 9 and March 1 published reports on these anomalies. Tarique recommended Dr Firoz Mahmud Iqbal for his appointment as Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s assignment officer after BNP-Jamaat formed the alliance government. Through him, Tarique would get the news of all the development projects of the Prime Minister's office directly sitting in Hawa Bhaban. Tarique also used to have meetings with AZM Zahid Hossain, secretary general of the pro-BNP doctors’ organization DAB at Hawa Bhaban. As a result, Dr Zahid spread supremacy in the country's health ministry, health and family planning departments, medical colleges and hospitals.
With blessings from the Prime Minister's office and Hawa Bhaban, Dr Zahid started exercising reckless influence in the health sector. Even minority, ordinary doctors and those who supported any party other than BNP had to suffer torture and harassment by the pro-Zahid ring. Transfer or promotion of doctors was absolutely impossible without Zahid's permission.
Even at the beginning of the BNP-Jamaat coalition government, Dr Zahid lived in a rented house on Dilu Road in the capital. Both junior consultant Dr Zahid and his nurse wife jointly supported their family with their incomes. But his fortunes changed rapidly soon after the BNP-Jamaat alliance came to power. Within five years, Dr Zahid became a professor from a junior consultant and the owner of hundreds of crores of taka. He started three commercial and industrial institutions using a foundation called Desh Bangla. His wife Rifat left her job as a nurse in 2003 to take care of these firms.
Even as DAB Secretary General, he used to illegally attend various posting and promotion committee meetings in the health sector. Dr Zahid became so influential that the health minister himself advised doctors to go to Zahid for the recommendation for transfer and promotion. In response to a question from journalists, Health Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain once said: “I am the health minister, but DAB leader Dr Zahid controls everything.”
Zahid did not stop only with corruption and terror. He took the country's medical sector to the brink of ruin. This doctor leader used to enlist pro-BNP doctors and provide post-graduation admission without exams. He himself became the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and approved 10 new private medical colleges. But the caretaker government did not allow them to operate due to poor quality.
At the end of the alliance government, Dr Zahid grabbed 30 Bighas of land in Sreepur of Gazipur using a signboard in his name. Bypassing the rules, he set all arrangements to keep his brother Dr Zakir Hossain as assistant director of the health department, who later on ransacked the health sector without limit using his influence.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's assignment officer Dr Firoz Mahmud Iqbal also became very rich in a short time thanks to his close ties with Tarique Rahman. Despite coming from a very ordinary family, he became the owner of hundreds of crores of taka within five years. He allegedly laundered hundreds of crores of money. However, after the fall of the BNP-Jamaat government, Dr Firoz fled to Canada. He owned several houses, flats, restaurants and businesses in Canada and London with the money smuggled.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Mosharraf himself earned more than Tk 100 crores by manipulating all the tenders of the construction and maintenance works of the health ministry. In five years of the government, he became the owner of hundreds of Bighas of land, several industries and several flats abroad.