She has given the Awami League general secretary another politically important portfolio of public administration.
The Cabinet Division issued a circular on Thursday announcing the new ministerial job for him.
“It’s a matter between a brother and a sister. Better not talk about this,” a Central Working Committee member of the ruling party told bdnews24.com.
“It means that the leader (Hasina) has kept him at an important place at last,” another Awami League leader said, also preferring to remain unnamed.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith met Syed Ashraf earlier in the day.
“I meet him whenever I need to,” Muhith said.
The announcement was made within hours of Muhith indicating a change in the Cabinet.
Senior Awami League leaders were silent on the stripping of Syed Ashraf’s portfolio, but party supporters were not happy with the decision.
The latest development suggests Hasina has gone back on her earlier decision to sack the party’s virtual number two.
On July 7, media had speculated about the removal of the Kishoreganj MP from the LGRD ministry after the prime minister expressed her “anger” over his absence at an ECNEC meeting.
Reports had it that she had ordered the removal of Syed Ashraf as the LGRD and cooperatives minister amid allegations of his “almost regular” absence from such important meetings, but there was no official confirmation that day.
Known to be a trusted lieutenant of party chief Hasina, Syed Ashraf was removed from LGRD ministry on July 9 and reduced to a minister without portfolio.
He had come under some flak within his party for absence in important meetings and his removal triggered widespread speculations.
Following a meeting with Hasina on Monday, Syed Ashraf cancelled his trip to London. He was set to leave Dhaka on Wednesday to spend the Eid with his family.
After the chop, Syed Ashraf had said, “I’m not in politics to make a fortune for myself…My father was an honest politician and gave his life for the leader (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman).”
Syed Ashraf is the son of Syed Nazrul Islam, who was Bangladesh’s acting president during the 1971 Liberation War.
Syed Nazrul was brutally murdered inside Dhaka’s Central Jail on Nov 3, 1975 along with three other leaders.
His son proved his mettle when the military-backed emergency government sought to punish politicians and banish Hasina and BNP chief Khaleda Zia from politics.
When Hasina returned to power for a second time in 2009, Ashraf was made the LGRD minister. His portfolio was retained when Hasina formed government after the 2014 general elections.
But his style of functioning and ‘difficulties’ civil servants encountered while working with him drew criticism from senior Awami League leaders, according to party insiders.
Secretariat sources say the minister was hardly seen in his ministerial office in the past six and a half years.
Syed Ashraf would be the first minister to handle the portfolio after the Ministry of Establishment was changed to the Ministry of Public Administration in 2010.
Until now, Hasina has kept the portfolio to herself.
Former Awami League minister late AHSK Sadique’s wife Ismat Ara Sadique has been serving as the state minister for public administration for over a year now.
She was appointed after Hasina assumed office for a straight second term after the 2014 elections.
The general secretary of a party in Bangladesh usually gets the politically important local government and rural development (LGRD) ministry.
Late President M Zillur Rahman, too, was at the helm of the ministry during Hasina’s previous government. The BNP also had followed that norm.
Syed Ashraf was general secretary of Awami League’s student wing Bangladesh Chhatra League at Mymensingh during his student days.
He went to London after his father was murdered after Hasina’s father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s assassination in 1975.
There, he involved himself in Awami League’s activities.
He returned home in 1996 and was elected to Parliament. He was made State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism.
The Kishoreganj-1 MP has won all parliamentary elections since 1996.