Losing one of our better angels

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“Our blood is pure. Our blood is tested. Awami League is not only a party but the name of a feeling,” this is how late Syed Ashraful Islam, one of the brightest stars in Bangladesh’s politics, had encouraged millions of its supporters across the country through his last political speech.

Senior political leaders and followers of the former AL general secretary and Public Administration Minister kept showering their love and respect on him recalling those “encouraging” last words when he said, “If we remain united, no force in the world can stop Awami League.”

On January 3, Awami League Presidium member and former Public Administration Minister Syed Ashraf died of lung cancer at a hospital in Thailand four days after being elected an MP of the 11th parliament. He was laid to eternal rest at the Banani Graveyard after following three namaj-e-janazas - first at the South Plaza of the Jatiya Sangsad, second one in Kishoreganj and the third one Mymensingh, on January 6.

Thousands of people including President Abdul Hamid, veteran political leaders, noted personalities and people from all walks of life joined his first janaza held at the South Plaza of the Jaitya Sangsad. President Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury paid tributes to the Awami League leader by placing wreaths at his coffin after the janaza. On behalf of Awami League, its president Sheikh Hasina, flanked by party senior leaders, placed another wreath at his coffin.

A team of 14-party alliance, led by Mohammad Nasim, also placed a wreath at his coffin as a mark of respect to Syed Ashraf, son of national leader Syed Nazrul Islam who had served as the acting President of the Mujibnagar government in the absence of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman during the War of Liberation in 1971.

“He (Ashraf) was a symbol of mass people’s love and confidence. We’ve lost a broad-minded, honest and patriotic political personality,” said former Industries Minister Amir Hossain Amu mentioning that the vacuum that has been created in Bangladesh’s political landscape through his demise is irreparable.

Former Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed said Syed Ashraf had played a very important role in the War of Liberation and various democratic movements.

He said the vacuum of losing such a friendly, dedicated, far-sighted and honest political leader free from greed will never be filled.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam said Syed Ashraf, son of Bangabandhu’s close associate Syed Nazrul Islam, is an exemplary political personality for them. “He was a widely respected person and the nation will always remember this patriotic and mass people’s leader with respect.”

Talking to UNB, former Dhaka University Vice Chancellor Prof AAMS Arefin Siddique said Syed Ashraf in his entire life fought for establishing democracy and he demonstrated his prudent leadership during the 1/11 episode.

He said Syed Ashraf had always followed the political principles of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and he did never abuse power despite his presence close to power which will remain exemplary to the new generation of political leaders. “His untimely demise will create a big vacuum in Bangladesh’s political arena.”

Syed Ashraf, in his speech at AL’s 20th national council, said Bangabandhu is the name of a feeling and the feelings that came through sacrifices of the lives of thousands of AL people and through various movements is the Awami League.

“Awami League is marching ahead, Awami League will march ahead. Bangladesh will turn into a Sonar Bangla under the leadership of (Prime Minister) Sheikh Hasina,” he was heard saying in a video clip of AL followers are sharing on social media recalling him with respect.

Foreign Minister Prof Dr AK Abdul Momen, who also shared the video clip, said, “He (Syed Ashraf) was a much respected person. I always felt good while talking to him. There was an intellectual flavour in his talks. He was a very realistic and honest politician.”

Momen hoped that other politicians will follow his footsteps saying Syed Ashraf was a very honest politician like his father.

Sharing his memories with Syed Ashraf during their visit to Shanghai, China back in 2014, AL deputy office secretary Barrister Biplob Barua wrote on his Facebook wall, “Syed Ashraf was an authority of different political philosophy in Bangladesh’s politics.”

He said politeness, honesty, courage, ideology and loyalty towards leadership were the main principles Syed Ashraf maintained.  

Syed Ashraf was elected MP from Kishoreganj-1 constituency in 1996, 2001, 2008 and 2014 apart from the latest one held on December 30, 2018.

He started his political career during his student life with Chhatra League and became General Secretary of BCL’s greater Mymensingh district unit. He was a member of the Mukti Bahini during the Liberation War.

Syed Ashraf left the country for the UK following the killing of his father on November 3, 1975, inside Dhaka Central Jail along with the three other national leaders.

In the UK, he got engaged in various activities with the Bangladeshi community and worked for organising the Awami League there.

He was elected MP and served as the State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry from 1996-2001 upon his return home in 1996.

The leader was inducted as the Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives after the 2008 election win.

He was given the charge of the Public Administration Ministry later in July 2015 the post which he held till his death.

Syed Ashraf together with former President Zillur Rahman ran the party when Sheikh Hasina was in jail during the 1/11 episode.

Ashraful, a freedom fighter during the 1971 Liberation War, is involved in politics since his student life. He became the General Secretary of greater Mymensingh district unit Chhatra League and assistant publicity secretary of the central unit.

He also worked as the Acting General Secretary of Awami League after the arrest of its General Secretary, Abdul Jalil, in 2007.

While living in Tower Hamlets, Ashraful was involved in Bangladeshi community activism and played an important role in formation of Bangladesh Youth League (BYL).

He was elected Education Secretary of Federation of Bangladeshi Youth Organisation (FBYO) and worked at an education project based at Montefiore Centre in Tower Hamlets.

  • Losing one of our better angels
  • Issue 27
  • AKM Moinuddin
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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