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28 August, 2019 10:57:12 AM
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Professor Muzaffar Ahmed: A career marked by idealism and integrity

For this towering personality politics was a mission. His goal was to serve the people
SYED MEHDI MOMIN
Professor Muzaffar Ahmed: A career marked by idealism and integrity

The politics of Muzaffar Ahmed’s, the recently departed esteemed politician and member of the Mujibnagar government, was marked by deep idealism. Throughout his long career the man was an idealist to the core. Honesty and integrity are qualities rare in politics. Very few can claim to be incorruptible. And things being what they are, the idealists among politicians are left out of the mainstream and often fade away. While Muzaffar Ahmed’s place in history is assured, he did become almost irrelevant in Bangladesh politics in his last years.  And this is something that is very unfortunate. It is also very unfortunate that a person of his stature could not become a lawmaker after democracy was re-established.
There was hardly any report in the media when the nonagenarian leader was in the intensive care unit of a hospital fighting for his life. The hospitalisations of much lesser personalities are eagerly covered by the media. The last time he was in the news was when he did not accept the Swadhinata Padak in 2015.
For people like this writer who were born in the 1970s Professor Muzaffar Ahmed was synonymous with ‘Kunreghar’ or cottage, his election symbol. He took part in parliamentary elections in 1979 and the presidential elections in 1981. His campaign was marked by his simple and sensitive approach.  He became an MP in 1969 from the Debidwar, Cumilla constituency. For him politics was not a profession or business. For him politics was a mission. His goal was to serve the people.

During the autocratic HM Ershad regime he came down to the streets to join the protest and was arrested. It was the time when his National Awami Party, slowly but surely, began to fade away. However Ahmed was not one to give up. He wanted to train political workers and established a training institute for the purpose named ‘Social Science Council’.

Actually it is his idealism that prevented him from coming to the limelight time and again. During the army-backed caretaker regime a group of politicians and members of the civil society met the elderly politician to seek his support and blessings to implement the so-called Minus-Two Formula but he refused and turned them away saying that he can’t involve himself in conspiracies.  When for many socialism became an anachronism, Professor Muzaffar Ahmed was steadfast in his belief that it is only through socialism that people can be ultimately free. While one does not necessarily agree with him his idealism must be appreciated.

In 1971 to, his idealism and moral fibre shone through.  In an interview with Pakistan Forum during the war he stated,  “The consultative committee has been formed with the purpose of coordinating the activities of the different groups engaged in fighting the West Pakistani army. It is a step towards the formation of a united front.

Its relationship with the Provisional Government is not clearly defined. Ideally, the Provisional Government should have been formed at a later stage after the formation of United Front. But as it already exists, we have to work with it. The decisions of the Consultative Committee are not legally binding on the Provisional Government but because of its composition the decisions of the committee cannot be turned down by the Provisional Government.”

In the same interview he succinctly said about himself “But what am I? I am only making a modest contribution to the struggle of my people. I do not overestimate myself."

His role was not limited to that of an adviser. The idealist in him would not have been content with that. Professor Muzaffar Ahmed helped raise a 20,000 strong guerrilla force.

It was his idealism that made him break ranks with Maulana Bhashani back in 1968. He was against the pro-Chinese trends that the party was following. Since then his faction of NAP has been known as NAP Muzaffar.  

Professor Muzaffar Ahmed got inspired to join politics by Mahatma Gandhi, albeit in an indirect way. He was a mere boy of 15 when Mahatma Gandhi visited Chandina, Cumilla in 1937. Ahmed walked to the venue of Gandhi’s rally. On his way he asked people about Gandhi. He learnt from them that the Mahatma did not lecture the crowd he gave “messages”. This left a lasting impression on Ahmed. While a socialist, Ahmed had a special place for Mahatma Gandhi throughout his life.   

He was teaching economics at the Dhaka University in February, 1952. It is widely believed that the first secret meeting regarding the Language Movement was held in his residence at Azimpur, near Dhaka University. Just two years later he left his  job and entered into politics. In the 1954 provincial elections he beat the then Education Minister Mafizul Islam of Muslim League.

He was a close friend of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. While he was a teacher Bangabandhu encouraged him to join politics. However when Bangabandhu offered him the post of a minister after liberation, he declined. He preferred to stay in the opposition and point out the mistakes of the ruling party. When many politicians have become synonymous with opportunism and cynicism Professor Muzaffar Ahmed left a permanent mark in the history of this country.   

Professor Muzaffar Ahmed was born on April 14, 1922 in Debiddar PS under Cumilla District. He was a brilliant student of the Economics Department of University of Dhaka and obtained MA with BA (Hons.) in Economics with distinction.

He was a teacher in the Economics Department of Dhaka University in 1952-54. He was a leading figure in the language movement.

Professor Muzaffar Ahmed started his political career in 1937 when he was   student.  In 1958, Military dictator Ayub Khan issued arrest warrant against him. From hideout, he organised movements against President Ayub Khan.  

He came into open politics after eight years of hideouts. He became the Joint Secretary of the undivided Pakistan NAP. In 1967, he became the President of the-then East Pakistan NAP. He played a leading role in the movement of 1969 for the downfall of Dictator President Ayub for which he was put behind the bar. He attended the Round-Table Conference in Rawalpindi in 1969 summoned by Ayub Khan as a leading political figure from the former East Pakistan.

During the Liberation War in 1971, he was one of the key figures of principal Bengali leadership to attain Bangladesh from the cruel clutches of Pakistan's Army.

To garner support for our liberation struggle, he toured many countries during that time. At that time, he also represented the exiled Mujibnagar Government at the UNO.

His role to organise about 20,000 freedom fighters under his able leadership to fight the Pakistani Army in 1971 in order to gain Bangladesh is unforgettable. In 1979, he was elected the Member of Parliament.

The writer is Senior Assistant Editor of The Independent and can be contacted at: syed.mehdi@theindependentbd.com

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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