FIRST, trenchant criticism. Late last year Bangladesh’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, accused Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of Grameen, the world’s best-known microfinance institution, of playing “a trick” to evade taxes. Then, broad hints that Mr Yunus might consider quitting: “ At 70 , Professor Yunus is five years beyond the retirement-age limit for bank managing directors in Bangladesh, ” the finance minister said in February. Now, direct action. The country’s central bank wrote to Grameen’s board on March 2 nd, informing it that Mr Yunus had been “relieved of his responsibilities as managing director of Grameen”. The letter echoed the finance minister, though inexactly, saying that it was against government rules for Mr Yunus to stay on as managing director beyond the age of 60. Both Mr Yunus and Grameen’s non-government-appointed directors have challenged the decision; Grameen said that he was “continuing in his office”. The matter is unlikely to be resolved immediately. The bad blood between Mr Yunus and Sheikh Hasina is thought to stem from the former’s abortive attempt to set up a political party in 2007 , when he called for a “complete emasculation” of the country’s established parties. Some reckon that the sheikh is miffed at Mr Yunus and Grameen because they won the 2006 Nobel peace prize. But Mr Yunus has many supporters, both within Bangladesh and outside it. Several Bangladeshi economists have sprung to his defence, making the reasonable point that any transition should be orderly so as not to harm Grameen. Friends of Grameen, a voluntary organisation headed by Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland and ex-head of the UN’s human-rights agency, denounced what it called “the new attempt of destabilisation against Professor Yunus”. According to reports in the Bangladeshi press, the issue of the government’s treatment of Mr Yunus has led America to threaten to suspend all high-level diplomatic contact. The issue goes beyond Mr Yunus. Some fret that the government’s actions could spark fears about Grameen’s stability, even leading to a run on the bank, which offers savings accounts as well as loans. If so, then the biggest losers from the government’s bullying would be Grameen’s 8.35m clients, almost all of them poor Bangladeshi women.