Nobel laureate Yunus to launch political party Thursday
Feb 22, 2007 - 9:43:12 AM

Dhaka, Feb 22 - Bangladesh's Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus will Thursday evening formally launch a new political party that he has tentatively named Nagarik Samiti - citizens' forum.

The formal entry into politics by the new national icon who bagged the Nobel Peace Prize last year has had mixed reaction. Political parties, whom he has criticised for being corrupt and inefficient, have reacted with equal vehemence, saying running an NGO and a political party is not the same thing.

In keeping with his style, the rural banking pioneer will make the announcement through yet another 'open letter' addressed to his countrymen, that would be released at the Zia International Airport, the New Nation quoted 'a close aide' who requested anonymity.

Yunus is scheduled to leave for the UAE, where he is to deliver the keynote address at an international students conference, Grameen Bank, that Yunus founded three decades back, announced late Wednesday.

Announcing his resolve to launch a new party, Yunus last week said he would severe links with the rural banking network that has been emulated in 80 countries across the world.

Political parties have called him a 'usurer', since the bank gives out loans to small farmers, especially women, charging interest.

Critics point out that the interest is a high 30 percent on an average, benefiting mostly the middleclass farmers. The banking network has spread despite this.

Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority nation and charging of interest is considered un-Islamic. However, sections of media and the intelligentsia have welcomed Yunus' political initiative.

There is tacit support to Yunus' move from the present caretaker government that runs the country. The Nobel laureate has vocally supported the government's current drive against crime and corruption, netting an estimated 45,000 people, including former ministers, legislators and political workers.

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