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Rumours swirl over Syed Ashraf’s fate He dismisses speculation

31Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a stern warning to the local government and rural development (LGRD) minister, Syed Ashraful Islam, telling him that he would be relieved of his portfolio, sources said. However, Syed Ashraf himself said that no heed should be paid to such rumours.Rumours that Syed Ashraful Islam was being stripped of his portfolio spread rapidly after the Prime Minister expressed her resentment over his absence at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday. The Premier was annoyed when she came to know that Syed Ashraf was absent from the ECNEC meeting, which was held at the office of the planning ministry in the capital.
At the meeting, a proposal for projects worth Tk. 6,076 crore was placed by the officials of the LGRD ministry, under which each lawmaker would get Tk. 20 crore over a period of five years for carrying out development works in his/her respective constituency. However, Ashraf—the head of the LGRD ministry—was absent, causing the Premier to be displeased. Sheikh Hasina reportedly said she would drop Ashraf from the Cabinet.
After the ECNEC meeting, the Cabinet Division prepared a summary, proposing that Syed Ashraful Islam would become a minister without portfolio, and minister for expatriate affairs, Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, would replace him as the LGRD minister. The summary was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking the PM’s approval. But, till the time of filing the report (8pm), the Premier had not approved the proposal, said sources in the PMO. In the meantime, different television channels ran scrolls, reporting the removal of Syed Ashraful Islam from the LGRD ministry.
When contacted, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said he was yet to receive any directive from the Prime Minister in this connection.
Sources at the PMO said Syed Ashraful Islam met the Prime Minister at her office in Parliament after the ECNEC meeting. However, details of their discussion were not available.
After meeting the PM, the minister left Dhaka for Kishoreganj, his hometown, to attend a function of the local Awami League (AL), disclosed the private secretary of the LGRD minister, Madhob Roy. Syed Ashraful Islam said at his residence in his hometown of Kishoreganj, “There is no need to pay heed to rumours concerning my fate as a minister.” “I am not aware of anything about the ministry concerned,” he added.
Sources in the LGRD ministry disclosed that the minister was highly irregular in attending office, even skipping many meetings.
Syed Ashraf, the general secretary of the ruling Awami League, was appointed LGRD minister twice—in 2009 and 2014.
He also served as the state minister for civil aviation and tourism from 1996 to 2001.