The list of few revered people that ever nurtured the purest well-being for our motherland must contain the name of Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu – a man who outshines his fame with numerous contributions. He is one of the very few leaders who envisioned the big picture of the coming days. His activities showed how he prioritized massive betterment with a unique perspective. Starting from the liberation war of ’71 to consecutive political crises dated back to the ‘80s, Mr. Chowdhury took undelayed action at the right times. Accordingly, he organized platforms that reflected upon the dreams, desires and opinions of the mass people of Bangladesh.
Home is where the Heart is:
A follow back along the trails of benefaction takes us back to the root of Akhtaruzzaman Babu. It is the place where he was born, the people he grew up with that worked as an indomitable stimulus for the philanthropic attempts. The fact of being born to a well-to-do Muslim family neither did impede his sociability nor limited the scope of amicable understanding. He had the friendliest approach to the fellow people in Chittagong. The most envious achievement of Mr. Chowdhury is the love of common people who knew that his conduct and intentions went without greed or envy. His selfless motive in voluntary and welfare strives had a huge impact on his people; he became a man of respect, shelter and someone who to rely upon in critical times. These chimeras of leadership & coordinating qualities eventually led to his getting elected to the East Pakistan provincial assembly (from Anwara-West Patia) in 1970.
Lead the way to Redemption:
During the Liberation war of Bangladesh, he organized Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra in Chittagong. As stated by the South District Awami League: at the time of the non-cooperation movement on the eve of the liberation war, the struggle committee conducted its tasks from its Jupiter House in Patharghata. The tasks included dispersing Bangabandhu’s declaration of independence when it first arrived in Chittagong. The declaration of independence was sent from Akhtaruzzaman’s residence to all places including Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. This initiative worked as the first torch-holder to shed light on the vital message. It let people know that the war was inevitable and it was time to strike back.
When the war of liberation started, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu went to India. Being there, he undertook important duties as a part of the newly formed government of Bangladesh. He was in charge of the relief and rehabilitation committee of the Mujibnagar government. Moreover, in the middle of the war of liberation, he visited different parts of Europe and the US; he was focused to build a worldwide opinion in favor of the sacrifice done by the Liberation War soldiers. Starting from the UK, he traveled to the US as a delegate of Bangladesh led by Justice Abu Saeed Chowdhury. During the war, he was a freedom fighter and one of the facilitators who strived to pave the way to independence.
Of the People, for the People:
The trek taken by Akhtaruzzaman to social development and politics started prior to the Liberation war period. The practices kept flowing to an amplified pace after Independence was achieved. His unique sense of politics and industrial business meant more than gain & profitability. His pursuit of progress and common development of the then newly born country is proven promising over the years.
Akhtaruzzaman Babu’s name is mention-worthy as an ideal politician. His inborn capability of getting along with mass people enlightened not only his home city Chittagong but also the politics of Bangladesh. The utmost devotion to the people of Anowara Karnaphuli was considered a moral responsibility by him. Driven by political ethics and norms which were trail-blazed by Bangabandhu, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu became one of the persons who sacrificed himself for the betterment of the Bangladeshi people. The historic Chittagong movement was led by him. And, to mention, Bangladesh went through a number of critical political climaxes right on the first decade of independence. Several heroes of the Liberation war diverged in their ideology and gave in to the controversies that resulted in an unworthy brutal massacre. In these critical times, be it risking life and foreseeing inevitable confinement, Mr. Chowdhury kept his cool and took the actions into account.
In 1972 he deployed his ideas and experiences in reforming the constitution of Bangladesh. He was a Member of Parliament elected in the years of 1986, 1991 and 2009. He was the president of the standing committee of the Ministry of Jute and Textile of the 9th national parliament. He was the elected chairman of Haildhar Union Parishad from 1967 to 1975. The position of chairman of Thana Parishad was held by him after independence.
Other than being a National democratic elect several times, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu played significant roles as a member of the Awami League in parallel. He was elected the President of the South District. He also served as the Central Industry and Commerce Secretary of the Bangladesh Awami League. After the assassination of Bangabandhu and his family in 1975, when the foundation of Awami League was shaken by this uncompensable loss, he risked his life to keep contact with the leaders and workers of the League. This worked as a table turner, both in the revival and reorganization of the party. In the eighties, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu also played a strong role in the anti-authoritarian movement. Despite the torture and jail confinement threats inflicted upon him, he kept protesting against the tyranny.
The courage of undertaking bigger dreams:
Every position and responsibilities carried out by him reflected upon the dreams of Bangabandhu and the vision of his worthy daughter Sheikh Hasina. Right after the independence, whenever he became a member of the parliament or an important placeholder of the party, he never lost an opportunity to contribute with what he has the best to offer. He was a dependable member of the party, a confident team-player who worked out the odds in favor. He believed that no development can be materialized without painstaking struggle and risk-worthy investment. So, he indulged not only in politics but also in businesses and industrial sectors. His business in various sectors got wide-spread – creating employment opportunities throughout the country.
As a leading businessman and industrialist, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu pioneered the very early efforts with a view to holding upright the country’s economy. His aptitude to make progress in Industry started before the liberation war and left examples yet to be continued over for decades. His business practices started in 1965. Before Bangladesh fought for freedom, he confronted the apparent boundaries, beat the odds, and established Boyle Industry, a factory on Batali Road. The later industrial practices include the foundation of Asif Steel Mill, Javed Steel Mill, Asif Synthetic, Panam Vegetable, Afroza Oil Mill, Bengal Synthetic Products, and so forth. After the Independence when there was more space to build and grow, he purchased Vanguard Steel Mill and Synthetic Resin Products. The Zaman Industrial Group was established by him in the ‘80s. He also reinforced the foundation of the foreign-owned Armit Mill after buying it.
Apart from the industrial sector, Akhtaruzzaman Babu used his keen insight into finance. The goal of economic uplift pursued by him for the life-time led to establishing a private bank. He is the founder and founding chairman of United Commercial Bank Limited (UCBL), the second earliest private bank in Bangladesh. He was re-elected chairman of the bank in 2011 – the position he held for the rest of his life.
As an affluent businessman, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu had a great impact and was an ideal example to the entrepreneurs of the country. He became an influential spokesperson and business leader to the business community in Bangladesh. He was honored with the position of the President of the Chittagong Chamber twice. In 1988, he was the President of the FBCCI which is known as the country’s top business organization. He also served as the President of the OIC Chamber of Commerce. In 1989, he was elected Vice-Chairman of the 77 Jati Group. With that, he became the only Bangladeshi to work in this position of the prestigious international organization.
A number of mosques, madrasas, schools and colleges established by him, stand as charitable instances at Anwara and West Patiya in Chittagong. The sanctions include Anwara Degree College, Haildhar Basharuzzaman Memorial Education Center, Barumchhara Shaheed Basharuzzaman High School, Anwara Jugesh Chandra Memorial Trust & JHB High School. Battali Mohchen is a founding member of Aulia Degree College, Chandnaish Burma College, Enayet Bazar Women’s College, AJ Chowdhury Degree College, Raipur Coastal High School, Anwara Paschim Patiar and many school colleges in Chittagong. All these benevolent services rendered by him since the early ‘60s eventually depicted him as a guardian figure in the hearts of people of the greater Chittagong.
Modesty, the greater grace:
Even after becoming one of the best leading industrialists in Bangladesh, Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury never boasted off. On the contrary, people were pleased with his implicit humbleness. Rather than people calling him a successful business persona, he preferred being noted as the people’s leader. The cordial appreciation of mass people he gained is incomparable – an achievement that he cherished throughout his life.
The exemplary philanthropist, big-hearted leader and visionary politician had indeed a short time to live. However, Akhtaruzzaman Babu had his momentary life flourished with accomplishments. The void created by his passing away is a loss to our country and the party alike. Nevertheless, the trail that he left for us awaits further enhancement, yet to be nurtured and built by the generations to come.
Personal life of Akhtaruzzaman Babu:
Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury Babu was born to Nuruzzaman Chowdhury & Khorsheda Begum in 1945. His birthplace is a village named Anowara Haildhor in Chittagong. His father was an advocate and landlord.
As a bright student, he completed his secondary school certificate in 1958 from Patiya High School. After that, he got admitted to Notre Dame College, Dhaka in the same year. Followed by his educational accomplishments in the higher secondary level, he achieved a scholarship to get admitted to Illinois University of Science and Technology, US. Later he studied business administration at the New York University. The oath for serving his motherland was an undeniable drive, against which the luxurious life abroad couldn’t gain on him. He returned to Bangladesh in December 1968 after having completed an associate degree from the US.
He was married to Nur Nahar Zaman – the daughter of one of the renowned industrialists, Late Sirazul Islam. They are blessed with three sons and three daughters.
Akhtaruzzaman Babu fought with kidney complications in his last days; he died on 4 November 2012 owing to the same reason at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. The Muradpur-Lalkhan Bazar flyover has been named Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury flyover as a token of respect and reminiscence.