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Fearless diplomat Mohiuddin Ahmad

Zeauddin Ahmed

Zeauddin Ahmed

Wed, 19 Jun 24

We are five brothers and two sisters, diplomat Mohiuddin Ahmad, our second brother. He was an economics student at Dhaka University, on an interviewing scholarship he went to Karachi in West Pakistan to do his Masters. After completing his Masters in 1965, he took a job as a translator in Pakistan Radio, with a monthly salary of 200 taka. We were three brothers and one sister, school and college students. Our father Abdur Rashid Master passed entrance from GA Academy School, Feni under Calcutta University in 1924. In 1926, a zamindar Gangadhar of GM hat area of Feni established a minor school on the land given by Majumdars and he was the founding headmaster of that school. English medium schools with sixth standard were then called minor schools.

Due to financial hardship, our elder brother passed matriculation in 1954 and started teaching in the same school. Although we brothers and sisters studied on scholarship, we would not have been able to be established without the help of my elder brother Muhammad Sahab Uddin and second brother Mohiuddin. On his father's instructions, Mohiuddin Ahmed left the job of Radio Pakistan and joined Feni College as a lecturer. He was a student of Feni College. While a student at Feni College, Azam Khan, the then popular governor of East Pakistan, visited Feni College and Mohiuddin Ahmed spoke to him as a student representative about the college. Mohiuddin Ahmed's conversation in English amazed Azam Khan. Mohiuddin used to give almost all the money to his father after receiving salary from the college.

He joined the Pakistan Foreign Service in 1967 after participating in the Pakistan Central Superior Service (CSS) examination. Among his batchmates who passed the CSS exam were notable figures such as Mizanur Rahman Shelley, Dr. Akbar Ali Khan, Dr. Tawfiq-e-Ilahi Chowdhury, Bir Bikram, and Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed. He was sent to West Pakistan for training, spending a considerable amount of time there during his Master's studies and CSS training. During this period, he became acutely aware of the significant disparities between East and West Pakistan.

As the leader of the Chhatra League organisation at Dhaka University's Salimullah Hall, he was also actively involved in politics. Throughout his career, he frequently encountered the theoretical leader Sirajul Alam Khan at his residence.

After completing his training, his first posting was as Third Secretary at the Pakistan Embassy in London. He was promoted to Second Secretary in 1971.

From the position of Second Secretary, he left Pakistan's embassy in London and pledged allegiance to Bangladesh on August 1. On that day, around 30,000 Bengalis gathered in London's Trafalgar Square. After departing the Pakistan Embassy, Mohiuddin Ahmad went directly to this gathering, took the stage, and declared his loyalty to Bangladesh. The crowd of 30,000 Bengalis erupted in joy, chanting the slogan "Joy Bangla" in unison.

At the beginning of the war, Mohiuddin Ahmad wanted to leave the Pakistan embassy and work for the Bangladesh government. However, he was unable to do so due to the lack of consent from Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, the temporary special envoy of the Bangladesh government in Mujibnagar. Abu Sayeed Chowdhury assured him, saying, "I will tell you at the right moment."

Mohiuddin Ahmad was the first diplomat to pledge allegiance to Bangladesh in the Western world. At the time, his wife was pregnant, and their first child, daughter Aru Mohiuddin, was born 22 days after his declaration of allegiance. Their second daughter, Lora Mohiuddin, was born in Bangladesh. After leaving the Pakistan embassy, he faced significant hardships, having no place to go and no money for food. Despite these challenges, he did not hesitate to quit his elite £360-a-month job.

Bengalis living in Pakistan used to send letters to London, which Mohiuddin Ahmed arranged to forward to their relatives in Bangladesh. He recounted that industrialist Jahrul Islam handed over 5,000 pounds to Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury for the liberation war.

January 8, 1972, is a historic day in Mohiuddin Ahmad's life; on that day, he had the rare privilege of receiving the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had been released from a Pakistani prison, at London's Heathrow Airport. At that time, no one was sure whether Bangabandhu was still alive, as he had been sentenced to execution, and a grave had even been dug for him.

Sutherland, head of the South Asia Department of the British Foreign Office, was the first to receive the news that Bangabandhu was alive. The plane carrying Bangabandhu was informed by Pakistan just an hour before landing at Heathrow Airport in London. MM Rezaul Karim, head of the Bangladesh Mission, received the message of Bangabandhu's arrival from Sutherland. Rezaul Karim then called Mohiuddin Ahmed, who picked up another diplomat, Mohiuddin Jaigirdar, on his way to the airport. At that time, Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury was in Bangladesh. The three diplomats greeted Bangabandhu at five o'clock in the morning in the cold winter of January.

Upon seeing Bangabandhu, Mohiuddin Ahmed cried, and Bangabandhu hugged him, reassuring him by saying, "Don't be afraid, I have arrived." After independence, Mohiuddin was transferred to the Bangladesh Mission in India. One of his responsibilities there was to receive Bengalis returning from Pakistan at the airport and facilitate their journey to Bangladesh.
One day at the airport, the third and fourth class employees of the mission suddenly attacked a person who had returned from Pakistan. Mohiuddin Ahmed, affectionately known as Mejo Bhai, quickly rushed to the spot to intervene.

Tajuddin Ahmed sent a note requesting Riaz Rahman to work on behalf of the Bangladesh government, but Riaz Rahman spat on the note and left for West Pakistan. Riaz Rahman was the son-in-law of Hamidul Haque Chowdhury, owner of the Daily Observer newspaper. In 1973, Mohiuddin Ahmed saved Riaz Rahman from an attack by third and fourth class employees at an Indian airport.

Ironically, the same Riaz Rahman, who was later Foreign Secretary, ensured Mohiuddin Ahmed's dismissal in 1992. The charge against Mohiuddin was that he committed a crime by displaying a picture of Noor Hossain, with the slogan written on his chest, in the office of the Bangladesh Mission to the United Nations. Additionally, there was another photograph in the office showing interim president Sahabuddin Ahmed, Khaleda Zia, and Sheikh Hasina together.

Mohiuddin filed a case against the BNP government's decision and President Sahabuddin Ahmed reinstated him in 1996. In 1971, the liberation war was not only on the soil of the country, but also on the diplomatic front on foreign soil. There was a worldwide uproar as many Bengali diplomats pledged allegiance to the Bangladesh government by leaving the Pakistani embassy. One of the creators of this stir was the fearless diplomat Mohiuddin Ahmad. Despite participating in the war on the diplomatic front, he did not feel compelled to accept the freedom fighter certificate, nor did he take the anti-dated seniority of two years announced by the government. A few days before his death, he was motivated to take the freedom fighter's certificate due to the urge to distribute the freedom fighter's allowance among the poor and needy. He listed destitute relatives and provided financial support every month, making arrangements for them to receive financial support even after death. He used to rush to hospitals to visit abused child domestic workers, offering them financial support. He has written many columns in newspapers against the torture of child domestic workers. After retiring from service, he wrote about 1500 columns in various newspapers. A book called 'Rashtra-Pararasthra' was published by Punthi Niloy in the last book fair with some of his columns. He used to regularly get together with his acquaintances and friends at his house - these gatherings were regular cultural events. Prominent columnist Sa'd Ullah regularly sang Rabindra Sangeet on all these occasions, country's veteran guitarist and guitar instructor Enamul Kabir played guitar, Jatiya Party Chairman GM Quader's wife Sherifa Quader and Bilkis Mohiuddin etc. also sang.

Mohiuddin was a devoted fan of Rabindra Sangeet and wanted to live longer just to listen to it. A fervent devotee of Bangabandhu, he was extremely angry with the role of the Election Commission in the 2018 elections. After the current Election Commission came to power, Mohiuddin was invited, along with other prominent figures, for an exchange of views. He threatened to file a case against the Election Commission if it was absent in the next elections, as it was in 2018. However, he did not live to see the last national parliamentary election held in 2024.

Mohiuddin passed away on June 20, 2022, due to incorrect treatment. His death marked the loss of an honest, unselfish, wise, and humanitarian man for the country and the nation. For his family, it was the loss of a compassionate and selfless person.

Author: Former Executive Director of Bangladesh Bank and former MD of Mint

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