Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus has stepped down as the managing director of Grameen Bank, a week after Bangladesh's Supreme Court dismissed his appeal to remain as head of the pioneering micro-lending agency he founded nearly three decades ago.
Yunus, 70, said he was relinquishing his post to prevent undue disruption of the bank's work. Deputy Managing Director Nurjahan Begum will take over from Yunus until the board names a chief.
"I am today relinquishing the post of Managing Director of Grameen Bank on the basis that the Deputy Managing Director Mrs Nurjahan Begum would hold charge until a Managing Director is appointed in accordance with the procedures under section 14 of the Grameen Bank," Yunus said in a statement issued last night.
Yunus's resignation came as he lost his final legal battle in the apex court to thwart a Bangladesh Bank decision removing him from the position on March 2.
Authorities said he was over the legal retirement age, but supporters say his dismissal was politically motivated.
Yunus said he decided to resign "without prejudice" to the legal issues and to prevent "undue disruption of the activities of Grameen Bank and to ensure my colleagues and our 8 million members, and owners of the bank, are not subjected to any difficulty in discharging their responsibilities".
"I hope Grameen Bank will continue to operate maintaining its independence and character under the Grameen Bank Ordinance and move towards even greater success," he said.
Yunus's resignation came hours after finance minister AMA Muhith rejected possibilities of his appointment as ceremonial chairman of the Grameen Bank.
"It is not possible to make him the chairman [of Grameen Bank] because of differences of opinion among the employees of the Bank about the proposal," he said.
Muhith, who apparently tried to defend Yunus earlier during his dispute with the government, however, called Yunus "the pride of the country" and said the government still wanted a "respectable transition of leadership to the new managing director".
"Measures will be taken for a dignified transition of the bank's helmsman-ship from the nation's only Nobel laureate, who is the pride of our country," he said.
Yunus's experiment of poor men's banking earned Bangladesh the repute of being the home of microcredit. He had founded the bank in 1983.
He and his Grameen bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for helping millions out of poverty with small loans. The Grameen Bank model was copied in a number of developing and developed countries.