Bangladesh lost a philanthropist on January 16 2017 in Md. Fazlul Haque, who dedicated his life to spread of education among womenfolk, in rural Bangladesh in particular, and one of the pioneers of establishing ready- to-wear garment factories. Having obtained his Master degree in Economics from Dacca University in 1960 and obtaining post-graduate diploma in agriculture economics from Oxford University in 1965 and Ph.D. degree from Texas A&M University of the United States in 1969, he served Agricultural University in Mymensingh as Assistant Professor of Economics in 1972 followed by his stint at Jahangirnagar University in 1973. Mr. Fazlul Haque was also awarded fellowship by Nuffield Foundation of London in 1973. This foundation is designed to work on research and an analysis programme on students.
Having served as an economic consultant at SEARCA in Manila, the Philippines during 1976 to 1978, Mr. Fazlul Haque moved to Sabah of Malaysia to serve in Kor Porasi Pembangounan Desa in Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah in the same capacity. He returned to Bangladesh in 1982. We, somehow or other, developed friendship from my posting at the Bangladesh embassy in Kuala Lumpur during my first strip to Sabah and Sarawak, two states of Malaysia, at the invitation of the press wing of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Wisma Putra) in September of 1979. This writer was among a fourteen-member delegation from different foreign embassies headed by Press Counsellor of the Indonesia embassy. On the advice of High Commissioner Gen. K.M. Safiullah, this writer conveyed our schedule to Mr. Musa H. Aman, Honorary Consul of Bangladesh in Sabah and Dr. Fazlul Haque as well. Musa H. Aman became Chief Minister of Sabah in 2009. To my utter surprise, Dr. Fazlul Haque was present at the Sabah airport, apart from officials of the Sabah government. On his request I spent the night in Sabah with him at his residence where I met his wife Dr. Nazma Yasmin Haque, who earned Ph.d in Education from the Philippine University. Dr. Nazma Yasmin comes from a cultural family. She is the third sister of Farida, Fauzia, Nilufar and Sabina Yasmin. Dr. Nazma Yasmin also served as Principal of the Radiant School at Dhanmondi in Dhaka. On return to Kuala Lumpur I received an interesting letter from Mr. Fazlul Haque who eulogised me for projecting Bangladesh in news media whereas the High Commissioner did not receive a single column during his recent visit to Sabah. Sometime in June of 1981 Dr. Fazlul Haque was guest of honor at our official residence at Kuala Lumpur. Dr. Mohsin also joined, who was serving as a professor at the Fisheries Department of the Malay University.
In 1982, Mr. Fazlul Haque succeeded to set up the Shagore garment factory at Tejgaon in Dhaka. The Shagore garment factory earned reputation from foreign buyers for quality garments as per specification of buyers and supply of garments on schedule. Possibly this is one such garment factory which did not face any strike by labourers, because relationship between the owner and labourers was unique. This writer witnessed Mr. Fazlul Haque on two occasions to enquire about the welfare of labourers and instruct the manager to ensure lunch on time for the labourers as well, apart from visiting all sections of the garment factory. On the other hand, Mr. Fazlul Haque established real estate business and a complex in 1993 providing spaces for renting out and establishing different kinds of shops to cater to needs of the people of Uttara town. The complex is known as Amir Complex. He had his office on the third floor of the Amir Complex. A retired police officer was appointed to look after the complex.
Since education is the backbone of a nation, Mr. Mohammad Fazlul Haque took the pain to establish Dr. Fazlul Haque Girls' College at Bagoan under Daulatpur upzila of Kushtia district in 1997. The college was established initially on nine bighas of land followed by another on five bighas of land for expansion of the college. Construction of the buildings was completed at a cost of Tk 15 million (1.50 crore). The entire amount was given by Mr. Fazlul Haque which shows his urge for and magnanimity towards education of girls in particular. Girls are basically neglected in rural areas of Bangladesh. The college has all three faculties of humanities, science and commerce. The founder himself has introduced an award system to promote the teaching profession, which appears to be a new phenomenon in the context of Bangladesh's educational environment. An award amounting to Tk 50,000 is on offer annually for the best performing teacher. Selection of teachers is made differently. No teacher is appointed on the basis of donation. The management of Dr. Fazlul Haque College selects teachers on the basis of academic qualification, apart from interviewing candidates by a selection committee comprising a representative from National University, principal of a government college and professors of respective subjects selected by National University and president of the governing council of the college. There is hardly any scope for donation. Scholarships are also offered to brilliant students of the college. This writer has had the privilege to stay at the ancestral home of Dr. Mohammad Fazlul Haque at Bagoan for four days from December 26 2002 and it was an honour bestowed on this writer to inaugurate two hostels with 100 beds each, named after his wife Dr. Nazma Yasmin Haque in presence of teachers. Newly-appointed English teacher Subarna Kazi, a grandson of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam's younger brother, was also present and rendered songs in the evening programme along with other teachers. Principal Nasreen conducted the function.
Dr. Mohammad Fazlul Haque also extended cooperation in setting up the Uttara University, for which he became honorary Chairman of Uttara University. A student of Dr. Fazlul Haque at the Agricultural University in Mymensingh is the founder of the Uttara University. This writer recollects that Dr. Fazlul Haque organised a meeting of admirers of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam to hold a function near the graveyard of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam (opposite the mosque of Dhaka University) on May 25 2003. This writer also was there to talk about Poet Nazrul's role in journalism during the occupation by the British and a few others recited his poems, including Kazi Subarna and Dr. Fazlul Haque narrated his meeting with Kazi Nazrul Islam in Calcutta after being paralysed. Dr. Fazlul Haque also sought a meeting with Peer at Narinda Syed Mohammad Nazre Imam which this writer organised sometime in 2001. This writer has had good relations with Narinda's religious leader for a long time. The Peer of Narinda talked about the situation in India during the rule of the British, apart from touching on Poet Nazrul Islam's role with regard to Islam. Kazi Subarna also recited some poems of Poet Nazrul Islam relating to Islam like 'O brothers bury me near a mosque.' Bangladesh lost this great religious leader Hazrat Nazre Imam on September 02 of 2002 when hundreds of disciples paid respect to him at the Namaze Janaza at the Baitul Mukarram mosque in Dhaka.
I would not forget the excellent relations that Dr. Mohammad Fazlul Haque had maintained with this writer. On many occasions, this writer was the guest of honour of Fazlul Haque at Dacca Club, apart from Amir Complex. Having performed Hajj in 2008 Mohammad Fazlul Haque was determined to disassociate himself with business which he expressed to this writer when I met him last time in October of 2009 during my visit to Bangladesh from the United States. Dr. Mohammad Fazlul Haque wrote two books: travelogue and on Nawab Sirajdullah. He left behind wife Dr. Nazma Yasmin, three sons Naushad, Shagore and Zayat. Two of them are in the United States. May Allah bless him in the heaven.
Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat from Bangladesh, writes from Virginia.
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