Mashiur on leave finally

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman was sent on leave for a month on Monday to pave the way for the government to convince the World Bank to revive its loan for Padma bridge project.

Earlier on Sunday, Mashiur applied for the leave to the premier, PMO sources said.

On September 15 Awami League General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam requested Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to send Mashiur Rahman on leave.

The under-fire advisor, who is also the Integrity Advisor in the Padma bridge project, was absent in Monday's regular weekly Cabinet meeting that he usually attends. The Advisor could not be reached.

Another prime ministerial advisor, Dr Gawher Rizvi, left for Washington on Sunday night to negotiate with the World Bank over the Padma funding, a source in the government said.

World Bank Country Director Ellen Goldstein also went to Washington, where the global lending agency is headquartered, on Saturday to discuss the issue, Communications Officer at its Dhaka office Mehrin A Mahbub told media.

No government official, however, agreed to speak on record about the Advisor going on leave.

A press photographer who took pictures of the Cabinet meeting and several intelligence officials tasked with the security of the meeting had also confirmed the absence of the advisor there, report bdnews24.

They said Moshiur was not seen even five minutes before the meeting started and added that he would usually take his seat before the Prime Minister does.

When asked about Moshiur's absence, Cabinet Secretary M Mosharraf Hossain Bhuyian told: "I was busy receiving the Prime Minister and later with the agenda of the meeting. So I can't say whether he came or not."

On whether the Advisor resigned, Bhuiyan said he knew nothing about this.

The co-financiers of the project -- Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) -- have extended their loan effectiveness after getting specific commitment from the government to remove Mashiur, officials of the two agencies said.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith assured ADB Director General for South Asia Juan Miranda of Mashiur's removal when they met on August 30.

The resignation of Mashiur is the last hurdle in efforts to get the $1.2 billion loan, cancelled by the World Bank in June over corruption allegations, revived.

The WB recently came up with three conditions, including the removal of Mashiur, for withdrawal of its loan cancellation.

The two other conditions are issuance of gazette notification about the resignation of Syed Abul Hossain, and terms of reference (TOR) to ensure a WB panel's access to the ACC probe into the graft allegations.

About a month after Abul resigned as ICT minister, the Cabinet Division issued a circular on August 23 declaring the post vacant.

Sources said the ACC might sign the TOR getting the go-ahead from government high-ups.