Welcome speech of Dr. Masuma Hasan: In Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan: Dr. Kamal Hossain on Building a peaceful South Asia: 24 September 2012

This session is dedicated to the memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan former Chairman of this Institute, whose death anniversary falls on 26 September and the members of the Institute are indeed grateful that Dr. Kamal Hossain has travelled from Dhaka to be with us today. So many memories flood my mind as I welcome him. The year was 1965, the month was January, well before the Pakistan-India war. A delegation went from this Institute to attend the unofficial commonwealth relations conference in Delhi, comprising its Chairman Professor A B A Haleem, its Secretary Khwaja Sarwar Hasan, and Dr. Kamal Hossain, a brilliant young barrister from Dhaka, who was accompanied by his wife, Hameeda Akhund. The conference was attended by representatives of institutes of international affairs from all the commonwealth countries.

Although I was not a delegate, I went along on a private visit. In the proceedings of the conference, Dr. Kamal Hossain made an outstanding contribution. But my memories are more personal, the beauty of the Taj at Agra, the magic of Fatehpur Sikri, and the other events that Kamal, Hameeda and I attended, will always remain vivid in my mind. As also their support and hospitality during my subsequent visits to East Pakistan in pursuance of my research.

A few years later, however, our country split apart. Dr. Kamal Hossain worked for the creation of Bangladesh and was detained in West Pakistan in April 1971, being released only when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released in January 1972 and allowed to leave for London.

In independent Bangladesh, he was given important responsibilities and held high positions in the cabinet. He was minister for law and is the principal author of the constitution of Bangladesh. As foreign minister he played a crucial role, in those difficult times, in placing his country, then so ravaged by the affects of war, on the map of the world.

Dr. Kamal Hossain was educated at the University of Oxford from where, among other degrees, he earned a doctorate in International Law. His expertise in International Law has won him many important assignments and his wisdom and knowledge are much sought after in international arbitrations. He was the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan between 1998 and 2003 and is currently a member of the UN Compensation Commission. Universally respected for his professional acumen and integrity, he is easily one of the leading figures in jurisprudence in the world. We are indeed fortunate that he has spared the time to address us today.

We have gathered to mark Fatehyab Ali Khan’s epic struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Pakistan, full as his life was of incidents of brutality and injustice against him, long terms in prison, internments and externments. He was only 25 years old when he led the movement of the youth in West Pakistan against Ayub Khan, at a time when the political parties shied away from confronting the dictator. As a leading figure in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against Ziaul Haq, he went underground to mobilize the people, and indeed he was the only original signatory of the MRD declaration who was awarded a prison sentence by a Martial Law court. These trials and tribulations did not, however, force him to abandon his struggle or even lose his sense of humour. In the political alliances in which he participated he was a consensus builder but he never compromised on his principles or changed his political affiliations. He remained President of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party until his death. Nor, indeed, did he need to compromise, as money, power and pelf meant nothing to him. He used to smile and say in his quiet, cultured way, ‘mein nazaryati aadmi hoon’.

Fatehyab’s love for this Institute was legendary. His courageous stand saved us from the construction sharks who wanted to dispossess the Institute and had their eyes on this beautiful building. After Ziaul Haq took over the Institute in 1981 through a presidential ordinance, with his grit and determination Fatehyab kept the issue alive for over a decade in the public sphere and through his supporters in the courts of law until the Institute was returned to its independent status by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Later, as Chairman, he always jealously guarded its independence. He wrote extensively on international and constitutional issues and has left behind a large archive which I hope can be published soon.

Dr. Kamal Hossain will address us on ‘Building a peaceful South Asia in response to the aspirations of all our peoples’.

Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

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Comments

  • Zahir  On May 19, 2014 at 1:57 am

    Masuma
    i have nothing but tears for my beloved friend may Allah give him the best of junnat Aameen

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