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     Volume 8 Issue 68 | May 8, 2009 |

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An Unsung Hero

Farida Sheikh

Sir Walter Scott

BREATHES there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
'This is my own, my native land!'
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concerted all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung.

Fighter Pilot, flying instructor and squadron commander, a soldier, a visionary, a man with foresight and deep insight, an artist, a calligrapher, a social crusader, a writer, but above all a patriot. AMM Enayetullah was a dynamic personality, and for me, my handsome husband.

No one would miss him in a crowd. His very gait was the epitome of manhood.

He was then only a flight lieutenant in the Pakistan Air Force, when his commandant told him that he was selected to be the Aide de Camp, ADC to the military ruler of Pakistan President Ayub Khan. Contrary to the response of any other young man who would have jumped at this opportunity, his response was just the reverse. He declined. He was asked a second time, he turned down the offer, and told the commandant that he joined the Air Force for he loved flying and his mission was to reach the sky. Afterwards to his room mate in the Officers' Mess he quipped, 'I do not want to be a hat and stick boy of the General.' Such was the self-esteem of the man himself.

Among his students, he was known as a perfectionist. He deliberately cultivated that distinction.

The cadet officers who originated from the eastern region, now Bangladesh, were very few in number. His aim was to keep the numbers up, encouraging them to be serious about learning flying, even though this may have been under trying and difficult situation. He was a role model for young aspirant fighter flyers. His senior the Group Captain MU Ahmed, who within the inner circle was known as 'Peanut Alam', would admonish their students saying, 'you want to be an Air Force Officer then be like Flt Lt. Enayetullah.' He was a man, a teacher with extraordinary dedication for his students. There was a marvelous bondage between him and his students whom he taught to fly. Many years later he would reminisce that, 'some of my students did make it to the top and became chief of the Air Force.' This honour list of his students included, Bir Sherestho Matiur Rahman.

After the Liberation War, like of repatriated thousands Armed Forces Personnels he too arrived in the country and was assigned to be the first Base Commander at Chittagong, Bangladesh Air Force. It was soon after this he led a team of 12 fighter pilots to USSR for conversion to MIG-21 aircraft. His student and retired Air Force chief, AVM Mumtaz Uddin Ahmed who was part of the team said, ‘…The Soviet training system was far inferior to the western training system with which all of us were accustomed. Our team leader was not satisfied with the elementary training that was scheduled for us. The Russian turned a deaf ear to all his argument to impart advanced training to the BAF pilots. A series of meeting with the local Air Force commanders produced no tangible results. Finally Wing Commander Enayetullah stood up from his chair and threw the syllabus paper towards the Russian commander and shouted that Bangladesh contingent would go back to their country. He also added that the matter might be sorted out between Comrade Brezhnev and Bangobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His concluding remark acted like a catalyst as an Air Force general was dispatched from Moscow on the very next day to sort out the matter according to the suggestion of our team leader'.

All this happened so spontaneously, free of fear and hesitation that it stands as a glaring example of his patriotism. Yet another Russian instance mentioned by the same team member confirms his leadership quality and the burning spirit of patriotism in his heart.

'The Bangladesh contingent was to put on Russian uniform during the training period according to an agreement between the two governments. He felt it was not befitting for the BAF officers to put on foreign uniform and prevailed on the Russian to scrap such a provision. Only a towering personality like Enayetullah could win over the Russians with such dominant arrogance that up held the honour of Bangladeshi officers.'

As an active Life Member of the Bangladesh Flying Club his goal was to up grade the Flying School to be at par with the standard of training of the International Civil Aviation Organization. He regularized the Pilot Training Courses that would enable the young flying students to earn Commercial and Private Pilot license. He did much to introduce the collaborative charter service with the Bangladesh Flying Club and the Mission Aviation Fellowship of Sweden.

This was going to be the first international airport in Bangladesh -- Zia International Airport. So with a team of civil, mechanical and electrical engineers he took on the responsibility of building this huge airport amid negative comments that a poor country does not need a large airport. It was an enormous challenge, as the work was being undertaken in less than a decade after the Liberation War; there were many limitations that confronted building work of such magnitude, and this seemed even more difficult when he earnestly took on the task of examining that the ground beneath the runway is free of mines so as to met the safety standard of international aviation. The airport became operational well ahead of the target date only to demonstrate his single mindedness to his mission.

As so much of the country is riverine, river transport is the very nerve of the country. For the common man this mode of travel must be affordable and safe. It is with such a purpose in mind that he made a detailed study on the fuel and maintenance of vessels at Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation. The findings were startling for all tiers of personals. It showed the wastage of running fuel and the inflated passenger fare.

His plan was also to popularise water sports. This he started off with 'nauka baise,' where typical long narrow boats were used for the race. The winners were awarded with television. River cruise was being promoted to gain popularity as a way of river tourism.

He was an exceptional man in many ways. He was extremely caring, a diehard disciplinarian, forthright, and of a quick judgmental disposition. He lived profoundly, a man who laughed heartily, loved and is loved dearly. We remember him fondly to-day and everyday after 27th April 2005.



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