Worldwide resignation of diplomats

Last updated: 5 October 2017 From the section 1971 Muktijuddho

Other diplomats who actively supported Bangladesh during those dark days are (but not limited to):

  • Golam Mostafa () Second Secretary in Geneva
  • Waliur Rahman () Second Secretary in Geneva
  • S.M. Maswood () Press Attaché in Tokyo
  • Q. A. M. A. Rahim () Third Secretary in Tokyo
  • Mohiuddin Ahmed () Acting Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong
  • Mohiuddin Ahmed (MUA) Jaigirdar () Third Secretary in Lagos
  • Syed Amirul Islam () Third Secretary in Tunis.
  • Mosharraf Hossain () Cypher Assistant in Paris
  • Shaukat Ali () Counsellor in Paris
  • Mohammad Safiullah () Cypher Assistant in Stockholm
  • Abdul Karim Mandal () Ministerial Staff in Madrid, Spain
  • Abdul Latif () Cypher Assistant in Beirut, Lebanon

When men like these spurned Pakistan, the world paid attention.

Forgotten heroes

Enayet Karim was struck with a fatal heart attack in February 1974. Sujoy Roy, Professor of Cardiology, All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, was flown to Dhaka at the request of the Government of Bangladesh... [Unfortunately] Enayet Karim had passed away in his mid-40s almost without any treatment, a martyr [shaheed] to the cause of Bangladesh. The stresses, strains and uncertainties of 1971, 1972 and 1973 had played havoc with the health of this conscientious, hard-working patriot. Thus the nation lost the services of a brilliant diplomat at the prime of his career.

Habibuz Zaman, a colleague of Enayet Karim and author of "Seventy Years in a Shaky Subcontinent" (1999)

I first came in contact with Rezaul Karim in 1971. At that time, along with my senior Bangali colleagues, I had left Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC, declared our allegiance to Bangladesh, and opened the Bangladesh Mission. We used to keep in touch with him in London. However, I met him for the first time in 1974 when I came to Dhaka from Washington DC on home leave.

He was always elegantly dressed, and very professional. He was kind and affectionate to his junior colleagues and was always generous with us. In 1979, on a trip to Dhaka from Colombo, he and Salma Bhabi took ten mid-level Foreign Service officers, and their wives, to a theatre in Bailey Road to see the play 'Sajano Bagan'. We thoroughly appreciated this kind gesture.

When I was posted in Bangladesh Mission to the UN in early eighties, he came on a visit to New York from Baghdad where he was our Ambassador. He had served in New York in the sixties. As usual, Rezaul Karim took all the officers and their wives for a sumptuous dinner at an expensive seafood restaurant on the New York wharf. He also visited me in Jeddah where I was Consul General in late eighties. The Consulate General was still in the same building that he had rented in 1975. Many Saudi officials that I came in contact with still warmly remembered him.

Before I left on my ambassadorial assignment to Iran in mid-nineties, Rezaul Karim and Salma Bhabi hosted a farewell luncheon for my wife and me. He invited all our colleagues who had earlier served in Iran. He briefed me in detail about life in Iran and also emphasised the need for strengthening bilateral ties with Iran. He specifically mentioned that I should try to arrange a visit to Bangladesh by the Iranian President and also work for the establishment of direct air links between the two capitals.

He had a rich collection of books and antiques. After the lunch, he showed us his well-known collection of walking sticks from different parts of the world. These sticks were systematically numbered and arranged with brief description of each of them. This surely inspired my wife Tuhfa to intensify her own collection of walking sticks.

Rezaul Karim was posted in Tehran in late eighties and we were indeed happy to see how fondly the Iranian people remembered him and Salma Bhabi.

...In his death, the country has lost a capable diplomat, a sound administrator and a dedicated public servant. At the personal level, Rezaul Karim was a caring eldest brother (his youngest brother told us before his namaz-e-janaza, how he took care of them when their father had passed away), a loving husband, an affectionate father and grandfather. He was a deep patriot and we were told at his Qul Khwani how he had gifted his personal house in Kushtia to his district Association.

I pay my tributes to this kind and sympathetic senior colleague and pray for the salvation of his departed soul. May Allah give Salma Bhabi, and their children and grand children the strength to bear this irreparable loss. Amen.

Former Foreign Secretary Syed Muazzem Ali recollects his memory on ambassador Rezaul Karim

It was perhaps fortunate that my father never sought recognition by his country after 1971, whether for his contributions to the liberation movement in 1971 or for later contributions to his country’s interests, because none was ever given. Rather, my father shrank from public life, with the character of which he became ever more disillusioned as time passed. Bangabandhu in 1972, after unsuccessfully proposing that my father continue as Adviser to Bangabandhu, had asked him to become Foreign Minister, which offer my father declined so as to be Ambassador in Paris. Bangabandhu then said that the position of Foreign Minister would be kept warm for my father until he was ready to cease being an ambassador. But this was the last time that my father considered a public role, as he saw standards in national life start an almost continuous deterioration. He was horror-struck by the murders of Bangabandhu and most of his family on 15 August 1975, the news of which broke just as Bangabandhu's two daughters were to set out from Brussels to stay as family guests in our home in Paris (Bangabandhu had attended my parents' wedding in January 1956 and he and my father had an oft-renewed friendship). This was to be followed on 3 November 1975 by the murders of my father's friends in the Mujibnagar government.

Subsequent developments showed to my father that Bangladesh was not leaving the depths in public character demonstrated by these events. Bangladesh was changing in its governance, but not for the better, while my father stayed unchanged with the ideals for which he had risked his family in 1971. My father insisted against then President Ershad's wishes on retiring from service in 1982, and he returned to live in Dhaka. He retreated into intellectual interests, of which he had a broad range, and lived on quietly with my mother in Dhaka for 10 years.

Memories of his actions in August 1971 became tinged ever more with sadness for him as my father witnessed the ever-growing contrast between what he then had hoped for his country and the actuality of the society in which he and my mother were living. Eventually he found this insupportable, and in 1992 he emigrated with my mother to live near my brother and me in London. It was in London, therefore, and not in the country for which he had risked much, that he died.

Anatul Fateh recalls his dad AFM Abul Fateh's disillusion with independent Bangladesh

The aristocratic family background and the towering personality of his grandfather had influenced the personal traits and political views of Khurram Khan Panni throughout his life. His childhood in Karatia was most urbane and yet, tranquil and peaceful as it was away from the hectic city life of a big city. However, at home, the family then was actively involved in Muslim League politics and freedom struggle. So, any political turbulence in Delhi or Calcutta had its resonance in Karatia Zamindar House as well. Hence, from a very young age, KKP got interested in politics and felt deeply disturbed about the British policy towards Indian struggle for independence.

...He was very ill during the last 3/4 years of his life. He could not walk, and was almost bed-ridden. When mother passed away in 1995, I used to go to the USA often and stay for months to look after and nurse him and to cook for him. He was so pleased and I think our bond as father and son became strong during the last period of his life. Since I studied in a boarding school and he was very busy with his political engagements we hardly got time to share ideas when I was young.

So I felt grateful to the Almighty for giving me an opportunity to look after him when he was weak and frail. He used to share his experience as a politician and diplomat and cherish the nostalgic memories of Karatia, Calcutta and Dhaka and, of course, of Bangabandhu. He asked me to join Awami League as he felt this is what he owes to Bangbandhu. When he visited Bangladesh in 1980, he was shocked that there were no pictures of Bangbandhu any where and no one talked about this great man and then he commented sadly, "Is our nation is so ungrateful?".

He died on 25 January 1997.

As a person KKP was warm, friendly and lovable. It was well known that he was a person whom no one could greet first. He was polite and gentle to everyone, irrespective of class, politics and nationality. His manners were impeccable, a true aristocrat with great manners, yet humble and honest. He was always vivacious and dynamic. When he was a young man he was a great horse rider and played polo with the princes in India. His hobby was flying and had a PPL (Private Pilot's License]. He also sang well. No man could be a better host than him. He was charming with good breeding, elegance combined with simplicity and sincerity. He was always attentive to his guests and admired arts and music. He encouraged us to learn music and musical instruments. He enjoyed interesting conversation and his own contribution during long hours of chatting was lively in a calm voice. He appeared well dressed and grace was natural to him. As a father he was the embodiment of affection and discipline.

While looking back, I feel so proud to be the son of KKP. I can't claim that I have inherited many of his best qualities as a human being and a great leader. But, I am sure he had profound influence on my personality, political views and attitude to the common man and his myriad problems.

And, above all, I feel that I have inherited the most important part of my father's legacy - Love for our own Bangladesh. Whatever his success or failure, his misjudgments and misgivings, he stood for shaping and nurturing Shonar Bangla as envisaged and dreamt by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I am so proud to inherit the spirit of his will and desire to watch Bangladesh achieving the zenith of its glory.

Wajid Ali Khan Panni's tribute to his dad Khurram Khan Panni

Sadly, contributions of one group seem to have been largely forgotten. Normally diplomats, who live in their insular world, do not take such steps, and during the cold war, Balkan war or even the most recent "Arab spring" democracy revolts, only a few had "defected".

...After the murder of Bangabandhu in August 1975, these "defecting" diplomats were subjected to all kinds of harassments by subsequent authoritarian Governments; some suffered but some, through their shear professional competence, rose to highest ranks. All of them have now retired from active service and most of the senior diplomats who had led them have died. But their contributions still remain unrecognized. Other than Enayet Karim who was posthumously given the Independence award in 1980 (largely at the initiative of the then Foreign Secretary SAMS Kibria), no other defecting diplomat has been given any national award or even recognized for their contributions. They truly remain forgotten heroes of our independence war. It will be only befitting to honor the heroes of our diplomatic front.

Syed Muazzem Ali, a former Foreign Secretary

You admire their sense of patriotism. More than that, you keep reminding yourself of the grave risks they put themselves and their families to by rejecting the state of Pakistan at a time when none of us was sure when freedom would dawn or if it would dawn at all. Their larger families parents, siblings and others were in the occupied land and could easily be put through horrible suffering by Pakistan's soldiers. Human frailties are natural. All too often, it is the probable consequences of our actions which stay our hand. And we do not go forth into the region of the unknown.

But these brave Bengali diplomats plunged into the dark in their sheer belief that at the end of it all there surely was light somewhere.

Syed Badrul Ahsan, Journalist