Vol. 5 Num 46 Mon. July 12, 2004  

A personal remembrance

Barrister Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed said good bye to us and left for his heavenly abode on July 12, 2003. Barrister Ishtiaq was the husband of my first cousin National Professor Sufia Ahmed. I have many fond memories of him. A few days after his death, many organisations, and individuals, irrespective of their ideologies remembered him through deep condolences and memorial meetings. Barrister Ahmed was one of those rare people who managed to balance a strong judicial reputation with a respected career as a national figure, which was in many respects exceptional. He had to tread a long and arduous road to reach the apex that the ultimately scaled. His ancestral home was in Gazipur, Uttar Pradesh, India. He was born in the year 1932 and started his education at Hili, Dinajpur and Kolkata, West Bengal. He did his Bachelor of Honours and Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Dhaka in 1953 and 1954 respectively. With a brilliant academic record, he went to England to study Economics at the London School of Economics. While studying economics there, he joined the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, London for the professional degree of Barrister-at-Law.

Because of his stature and intellectual prowess, the people who wished to misuse judicial interpretation tyo advance their own agenda considered Barrister Ishtiaq a threat. His knowledge of law and its explanation and narration was well known. As a lawyer, he rose to the pinnacle of the profession in our country. He was an independent person in all respects and wanted to do things in his own way. For that he did not join in the then East Pakistan High Court or in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He did not join any political party, although he was more politically conscious than many others. He used to laugh and refrain from making any comment whenever I asked him about his political colours. He was not a politician by profession but always a very much politically conscious man. For that he was a two-time Adviser to the non-party care-taker government in our country.

From head to toe, he was a true lawyer. Throughout his whole career, he tried to uphold the truth and implement it from his remarkable legal brain. His abiding interest was grassroots democracy, for which he considered the need for the bifurcation of the judicial system from the administration. In his later years of life, it was probably his last ambition to see the separation of the judiciary from the executive. It was Barrister Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed who started the process during his sojourn stay as an adviser to the government of Bangladesh in 2001. Although the matter now lies in its final stage, it is pity that Barrister Ishtiaq could not see the materialisation of this during his lifetime. Before his demise he was very much upset about the sordid political scenarios of our country.

He was articulate and assertive and was always surrounded by people, which he used to love very much. His humility, gentility, hospitality, and cordiality constantly amazed those who knew Barrister Ishtiaq. He was a gentleman par excellence. His dealings with public as well as with relatives were immaculate. He used to cut jokes with us as brother-in-law and was always very humorous with us all in private conversations. In public he was kind and gentle. He could relate to people of all ages at a party or in a function. He could communicate with people with ease. He was a very witty and charming person. His passion for roses is well known. He used to cultivate a rose garden in front of the veranda of his house and to nourish it was his immense passion.

He is remembered by his loving wife National Professor Sufia Ahmed, children Justice Rifaat Ahmed and Dr. Raina Ahmed Fateh and grandchildren as a loving husband, father and grandfather. Barrister Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed will be sadly missed but will live in the hearts and thoughts of the millions of our country in the future. Many relatives, friends and admirers will miss Barrister Syed Ishtiaq Ahmed for years to come. May Allah grant him eternal peace in Heaven.

Mesbah-us-Salaheen is Professor of Geography and Environment, Jahangirnagar University.