Updated (January 21, 2011): Robert O. Blake Jr., Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs: “The investigation into the Nobel prize-winning Grameen Bank, however, has raised concerns. Secretary Clinton has urged the government to maintain its democratic values and ensure its investigation is impartial and balanced.” Please compare this with government press release regarding Hillary’s call.

Dr. Yunus and Hillary Clinton

Photo: Daily Star

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday. Since the only press release regarding this call has come from the Prime Minister’s Office, they understandably did not mention it, but Hillary was calling with only one message: “Don’t mess with Dr. Yunus.”

The phone call was not an isolated event. US Ambassador James Moriarty had also delivered the same message a few days ago. And just in time. The Government has annouced that it has formed a committee to investigate Grameen. It is headed by DU’s Prof. Monowar Uddin Ahmed, who has had a famously difficult relationship with Dr. Yunus. As everyone knows, once a committee is formed, you’re one step away from the death squads.

As an additional channel of attack, the Government has also started harassing Dr. Yunus through the courts. Obviously, the good doctor thought that op-eds in the New York Times are well and good, but Secretary Clinton speaks a language that our Premiere understands clearly. And with his first court appearance due Januarry 18, clearly the phone call was timed with some thought.

I have mixed feelings about this. I don’t like the government hounding Dr. Yunus. However, I also don’t like foreigners telling our Prime Minister what she should or shouldn’t do. Hasina took office with incredible support from Western governments; why she would choose to start a vendetta with the one person in Bangladesh with even better foreign support than herself is still beyond me.