Dissatisfied with the level of commitment to his diplomatic assignment, Bangladesh’s Ambassador to Washington DC Mohammad Imran was recently told to proceed on long leave by the Sheikh Hasina regime.
The surprising move comes at a time when the threat of US punitive measures hangs over the ruling Awami League government which has repeatedly been advised by the American State Department to hold free, fair and violence-free elections.
According to reports, Imran, who was posted to Washington DC from New Delhi in September 2022, proceeded on leave for an “indefinite” period of time on November 22. In accordance with diplomatic norms, he is said to have informed the State Department of his “decision” to go on leave.
What has raised eyebrows among diplomatic circles in Dhaka is that Imran’s move came four days after he presented his credentials — as part of “concurrent accreditation” – to Columbian President Gustavo Francisco Petro Urrego at the presidential palace in Bogota on November 18. Bangladesh has no mission in Bogota.
However, within four days of his return to Washington DC, Imran, who is on contractual service, applied for long leave and immediately left for Australia to be with one of his children living there.
Reacting to this development, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, who was in India earlier this week, today said in Dhaka that Imran was on “sanctioned leave”. Responding to reporters’ queries, Momen said, “After two years we are entitled to take leave. He is entitled to take one month leave. But he took less than a month’s leave”.
Taking pains to offer an explanation, Momen continued that “his (Imran’s) was a sanctioned leave. It’s an old application. We just approved it now. He will join even before the election”.
However, Bangladesh government sources said that the Sheikh Hasina regime was “not satisfied with his efforts” over the past few months and “advised him to proceed on leave”. Bangladesh’s Deputy Chief of Mission at the country’s embassy in Washington DC, Ferdousi Shahriar, will now be in charge.
Speaking to Northeast News, a former Bangladesh foreign secretary agreed that it was “indeed unusual” for Imran to proceed on a month’s leave now and that it was “equally unusual” for the government to approve his leave application when Bangladesh’s bilateral relations with the US was “not at its best”.
But a former Bangladesh ambassador to the US, who did not want to be identified, said “yes and no” in response to a question whether he considered the “timing to go leave surprising and unusual”. The former envoy agreed that ambassadors were well within their rights to claim a month’s paid leave but applications are usually submitted at least three to four months before approval is granted at headquarters.
On the other hand, this former envoy said, Imran’s “leaving station” at a time when US-Bangladesh bilateral relations had touched new nadir “does lead us to ask questions” on his effectiveness in the US capital.
For the record, Imran was part of the discussions in October when Salman F Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s investment and industry advisor, met two senior American State Department officials in an effort to avert any strong measures against the ruling Awami League regime.
A career foreign service officer, Imran belongs to the 1986 batch of the Bangladesh Civil Service’s foreign affairs cadre. Besides serving as Bangladesh’s high commissioner to India between 2020 and 2022, Imran has been ambassador in the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Director General of Foreign Affairs in Dhaka, Deputy High Commissioner in Kolkata and held several other diplomatic assignments in his career.