Vol. 5 Num 515 Tue. November 08, 2005  

In Memoriam
Ambassador Rezaul Karim
As I knew him

I was deeply saddened to hear of the pre-mature passing away of Ambassador Mir Mohammed Rezaul Karim, in Cairo, on October 29. He was one of my esteemed colleagues in the Foreign Office who was known for his ready smile, wit, strong intellect, and his deep commitment and patriotism to Bangladesh.

He went to Cairo as Bangladesh Ambassador in August of this year -- an assignment he agreed to because Cairo is the hub of the Arab world. The transformation in political contours in the Arab World, including the Middle East, can be gauged and perceived from Cairo, besides Egypt has itself gone through a multi-party Presidential elections, unheard of in the Egyptian entire history.

His contribution to the Liberation War was immense. Rezaul Karim was posted as First Secretary in London at the Pakistan High Commission during the time of Liberation War. Although he decided to leave the High Commission to work for Bangladesh after the massacre of March 25, he was advised to stay on for strategic reasons by the provisional Bangladesh government.

Finally he left the Pakistan Mission on October 7, 1971, and dedicated himself wholeheartedly for Bangladesh cause. It must have been a severely testing time for him and his young family under the changed circumstances.

Although he worked under the guidance of late Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury, he had built up good relations with some senior officials of the British Foreign Office and with a number of journalists and editors in Britain. He was instrumental in getting things done through his contacts for Bangladesh.

It was his unique honour in London to receive Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who he flew in from Pakistan after the release. He was the acting head of the London Mission. Later he wrote about the fascinating events in newspapers

In the formative years of the Bangladesh Foreign Office, he was Director General in charge of Western Europe in 1973. At work, he applied his agile mind, he hated the half-baked, and always tried hard for clarity and simplicity. He had the capacity to build strong teams around him.

He went to New Delhi as Deputy High Commissioner in the late 1970s and bore the brunt of diplomatic work at the Mission with finesse. Many a time I visited New Delhi during that period for bilateral negotiations with Indian officials as I was holding the post of Director General (South Asia & South East Asia). He and his wife Salma were always hospitable to us and many a time we had dinners at his residence at late hours after the meetings.

He was Ambassador to China, Iraq, Iran, and Russia, and High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom, from where he retired in 1992. Throughout his diplomatic career, Rezaul Karim was dedicated to serving the national interest. Determined and well-organised, he could be formidable to all working with him or his opponents.

While he was Ambassador to Russia, I was in Geneva, and at the time the Berlin Wall was falling down. We used to have extensive exchange of views at the interesting and stimulating time. Often he provided me his comprehensive but dispassionate assessment of the situation in the former Communist Eastern Europe.

His diversity of interests and contribution was impressive. After retirement, he joined the BNP and became an Adviser. He wrote copiously on various issues in newspapers, advancing his line of thinking, although you might not have agreed with his views, yet you could discern his inquiring and sharp mind in his writings.

Reazul Karim took great interest in participation in seminars and discussions on national, regional and global issues. Always we met at seminars at the Bangladesh International Institute of Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA). We sat next to each other most of the times at the seminars.

He was involved in many social and cultural organisations. In fact, he invited me to attend the inauguration of the Foreign Film Festival held in Dhaka last year. Whatever he did, he made a mark.

The last time I met with Reazul Karim was at a dinner at National Professor Dr. Sufia Ahmed's residence in Gulshan. We discussed many things of our life and he seemed to be in very good spirits. He was very warm to all other guests as well.

It is a tragedy that he should have left us. I express my sincere condolences to Salma and his children, Shahed and Seema. His loss will not be easily borne, but may Allah give them strength and fortitude to bear this irreparable personal loss.

May Allah grant his soul eternal peace.

Barrister Harun ur Rashid is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.