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Looking back at l'affaire Ashraful

  • Published at 04:44 am July 25th, 2013
Looking back at l'affaire Ashraful

When Mohammad Ashraful, the national cricket hero, tearfully admitted to match fixing, the entire nation was in an uproar.

Newspapers couldn’t get enough of pointing out why the cricket team had been losing so many matches with shameful scores, international media had a field day reporting about how Bangladesh’s former coach "was not surprised" by Ashraful’s admissions; fans of Ashraful were crying out for "symbolic punishment;" Facebook and Twitter were flooded by people voicing their opinions about exactly how shameful this was for the nation and exactly why it should not be tolerated.

This got me thinking.

And the more I thought about it, the more bewildered I became.

What shocked me the most was to find out exactly how quick people were to point fingers. We, as a nation, are pretty swift when the time arises for assigning blame. This is funny, especially in this instance, when you consider the fact that we live in a country, where under-the-table dealings are commonplace.

Do we not turn a blind eye when we witness a road traffic officer getting bribed by someone else for wrongful parking? Do we not take for granted the fact that if you want to get something done fast, all you may have to do is slip the office peon some money on the side?

How many times have some of us waited for hours outside a doctor’s chambers, when suddenly someone else arrived, without an appointment, and miraculously their serial number just happens to be the next one?

What particularly saddens me is the fact that when someone, Ashraful for example, finally came forward and admitted his wrongdoing, almost the entire country rushed to voraciously berate his actions and call for repercussions.

Does his voluntary submission, his honesty in this instance, have no value whatsoever? I for one, find it difficult to believe that this matter could hardly ever be proved, especially without the public admission of guilt.

Let’s face it: a public denial, a few bank transfers to the right people, a few undertakings to perform as desired in the future, a few strategically placed media reports … and the accusation would have disappeared as quickly as it had come about.

Instead, Ashraful came clean about his fault at the very first instance: “I confessed to all charges ... in the interest of cricket. I'll accept any punishment given by BCB,” the glum-looking, 28-year-old batsman told reporters in Dhaka. “I always tried to give my best in cricket but I'm also feeling guilty for my wrongdoings. Please forgive me.” Surely, honesty deserves some respect?

During my first year at university, quite a while back, I was given an investigative report to prepare, dealing with the issue of whistleblowers defined as someone who "blows the whistle" and divulges confidential information to the public about a company or an organisation’s unethical actions.

I remember how my research revealed that although praise existed for such whistleblowers, more often than not they were shunned in the business world, and their careers ended up in tatters, with no viable employment prospects. With Ashraful’s current disclosures, I cannot help comparing him to the whistleblowers that I researched.

In a June 10 letter to the Daily Star, Md. Nahid Iftekhar from Muradpur, Chittagong stated: “Senior players who introduced him to the gamblers must be brought to book, as Ashraful could not do this without their patronisation.” It would seem like somehow, within all the clamouring and hollering, the key issue is being missed out here. The elephant in the room remains – why haven’t the other key players in this scenario been identified and, if they have been, why isn’t there any outcry about them being brought to justice?

Every year Bangladesh receives millions in foreign aid for the purpose of development. I remember making a visit to Malaysia roughly 14-15 years back and feeling mildly satisfied that their state of development was on par with ours.

The next time I visited them, in 2005, I was astounded by what had achieved in just a few years. Yet, so many years having passed by, the ratio of development to time is ridiculously disproportionate. It’s sad that Bangladesh has displayed such insignificant progress, regardless of whichever government was elected to power.

Where has all the foreign aid we have supposedly received disappeared, and why isn’t there enough noise being generated about the corruption in this instance?

It appears that we are willing to turn a blind eye to pressing matters when they are kept hidden from us but when someone steps forward, like Ashraful, to accept his wrongdoing and seek redemption, we are quick to point fingers and cry out for “justice” and “punishment.”

I’m sure everyone remembers how there was once a time when the Bangladesh cricket team was considered a mere hurdle to be overcome; today the Bangladesh cricket team is instead perceived as a force to be reckoned with, and Ashraful has played a major contribution in attaining this status.

To punish someone gravely, for being honest and forthcoming, by destroying their playing career forever is beyond harsh; it is almost barbaric. Surely the fact that he has so readily confessed displays a certain degree of innocence? Surely to err is human; forgiveness is divine.

I dread to think how this witch-hunt is affecting other players on the team – players who may have been considering coming forward with similar admissions.

Surely such information could all have been accumulated and we could have rid this match fixing corruption by investigating and dealing with the root causes? Food for thought my dear readers, food for thought.