Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury: As I knew him

Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury: As I knew him

Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury’s tragic demise due to the road accident on 29th November was the most wrenching piece of news for me. .I never thought that I would have to write an obituary about Zaglul, an eminent journalist of Bangladesh, because I am much senior in age.

The accident demonstrates how callous and incompetent the drivers are. There has been an alarming rise in road accidents, significantly highway accidents, in Bangladesh over the past few years. According to a study conducted by the Accident Research Centre (ARC) of BUET, road accidents claim on average 15,000 lives annually and lead to about 35,000 injuries. Hence, the roads in Bangladesh have become deadly!

Many say that most of the drivers escape punishment and the owners of motor vehicles allow their buses on the road without fitness certificate. There is no punishment for the owners as well. In recent days, there has been a drive in Dhaka to impose fine on a vehicle if it is found to be without a fitness certificate on the road.

I never though Zaglul would be a victim of a ghastly road accident. As he alighted from a bus, another bus from the left came and mauled him.

Although he was from Sylhet, he was raised in Dhaka for his entire life and in that sense he more of a “Dhakaiya” than any one else.

I have known him for more than 35 years. The last time I met him on 21st September of this year when I invited him for a get-together at my place. Whenever I invited him, he invariably attended irrespective of his busy schedule in the evening at the talk-shows.

First I came to know him in New Delhi while he represented BSS and I used visit to New Delhi for bilateral negotiations with Indian officials as Director General, South Asia in the Bangladesh Foreign Office. He used to come to me to know the outcome of bilateral negotiations. Soon he was able to win my confidence and I used to brief him off-the record which he never divulged in the media.

When I was Additional Foreign Secretary in 1986, he used to visit my office quite often. He was conscientious, hardworking and a knack for asking tough questions..

Zaglul had his own style of reporting and earned respect among other journalists in New Delhi.. It is not surprising that he was a member of the executive committee of Foreign Correspondents’ club in New Delhi.

He had been a prolific writer in Bangla and English newspapers on issues mostly on South Asia.. He was proficient in both languages and wrote articles in a manner understood easily by the readers. He wrote on contemporary topics on South Asia and other subjects which are of great interests to readers. He wrote about the hot topics and his analysis was penetrating and objective.

He was the managing director and the chief editor of BSS in 2006. He was associated with prominent foreign media outlets such as the Time Magazine, Times of India, ABC news and Qatar News. He was assistant secretary general of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists in 1977-78. He was the consulting editor of the Financial Express, Dhaka .

He represented Bangladesh at the UN General Assembly where he addressed the special political committee as a Bangladesh delegate. The Special Committee usually deal with a group of issues related to Palestinian refugees and human rights, peacekeeping, mine action, outer space, public information, atomic radiation and the so-called University for Peace. But it is precisely this eclectic spectrum that has led to the committee’s temporal elasticity.

Since Bangladesh has the largest number of peacekeepers in the UN peacekeeping missions, this committee assumed importance for Bangladesh and other nations interested in international peace and order..

He led a modest and simple life and a journalist of his status would not hesitate to ride a public transport to his call of duty, although he had a personal car. He had a good sense of humour and was a great story-teller. He was highly receptive to the thoughts and ideas of others.

He was the son of a Minister of the United Front Government in 1954 and son-in-law of a Minister in the Muslim League cabinet in East Pakistan but he never said this fact to anyone. He was a class mate of our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and he was close to her members of her family. . However he never exploited it for furtherance of his own career and he never talked about it unless one asked about it.. In one diplomatic reception I witnessed Sheikh Rehana, younger sister of the Prime Minister was having private discussion with him.

Among his many books he wrote : Global Flashpoints: South Asia and the Middle East” and at the launching of the book at the Dhaka Club in 2012, I was one of the guests who spoke about the relevance and importance of the issues of book he had covered.

Zaglul’s untimely demise is a serious blow to objective journalism and he judged journalists by the yardstick whether they had passed the test of moral courage to write on national issues for readers benefit.

.He rarely missed an opportunity to emphasise the source of strength—his family He left behind his wife, a son, and a daughter who lives in the US. My sincere condolences to them and I pray to Allah for the courage and fortitude to bear this irreparable personal loss. .

Although he left the mortal world, he will be source of inspiration to many journalists to others who knew him quite closely. Finally let me quote George Eliot,: “Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.”. We will not forget Zaglul and he will remain with us forever. I pray to Allah for the salvation of his soul.

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