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Bangladesh - April 30, 2022

Muhith laid to rest in Sylhet

Staff Correspondent: AMA Muhith, former Finance Minister, diplomat, Freedom Fighter and language veteran, laid to rest at his family graveyard in Sylhet after Zohr prayers yesterday.
People from all walks of life will pay last respects to Muhith, one of the giants of Bangladesh’s political arena whose role stretches through the entire history of independent Bangladesh, before his last namaz-e-janaza in Sylhet yesterday.

One of the country’s longest serving finance ministers, the only one who commanded the economy for 10 consecutive years, and the principal architect of the Awami League’s era of development, breathed his last in the in the wee hours yesterday.

Muhith’s first namaz-e-janaza was held around 10.45 am at Gulshan Azad Mosque in the city yesterday.

Later, his body was taken to Central Shaheed Minar where people from all walks of life paid homage.

The second namaz-e-janaza of Awami League advisory council
member was held at Dhaka University central mosque after Zohr prayers yesterday.

Muhith had been keeping unwell for quite some time. In July 2021, he tested positive for Covid-19, but fought that back. Then in March, he was hospitalised again as he became enfeebled in his old age.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who entrusted him with authoring the Awami League’s manifesto as the party charted its comeback ahead of the 2008 election, expressed deep shock and sorrow at the death of Muhith.

With the most influential portfolio in the cabinet, for ten years, his seat was reserved to the right of the prime minister at weekly cabinet meetings.

As the finance minister of the Awami League government, he presented the budget in parliament for 10 years at a stretch. He had also presented it in an earlier era, as finance secretary in the early days of the Ershad-led administration.

Muhith left his mark in the deliberate and strategic move towards expansionary fiscal policy, reflected in the burgeoning of the budget under his watch – from Tk 114,000 crore in 2009-10, the first under the newly elected AL government, to Tk 464,000 crore in his last, for the 2018-19 fiscal.

At first, his critics said he was overambitious with his budgets. His retort was that he would rather be that, than fall short on ambition.
Muhith retired from politics after serving as the finance minister of Sheikh Hasina’s government from 2009 to 2018.

Condolences pour in for Muhith

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock and sorrow at the demise of Muhith.
In her condolence message, the PM said that despite being a member of the Civil Service of Pakistan, Muhith joined the first government of Bangladesh in 1971. At the time, he was posted in the Pakistan Embassy in the US.

“A successful economist and politician, this Independent Award winner will be remembered by all for his works,” Hasina said.
The PM prayed for the eternal salvation of the departed soul and expressed sympathy to the bereaved family.

Foreign Minister Momen too expressed deep shock at the death of his brother. In a condolence message, Momen prayed for the salvation of the departed soul and conveyed deep sympathy to the bereaved family members.

In a separate message, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam also expressed deep shock and sorrow at the demise of Muhith.

Speaker of Jatiya Sangsad Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal also expressed profound shock at the demise Muhith.

FBCCI president Md Jashim Uddin too expressed deep shock and sorrow at the demise of Muhith.

In a condolence message, the FBCCI chief said the nation will remember him for his unparalleled contribution to the economic development of Bangladesh.

Indian High Commission in Dhaka on Saturday conveyed sincere condolences to the family of late Muhith. As a civil servant, he played an instrumental role in the 1971 Liberation War, said the high commission.

The high commission described him as a prolific writer, accomplished economist and an astute politician. “May his soul rest in peace.”

Birth and Early life

Muhith was born on 25 January 1934 in Dhopadighi, Sylhet.
He was the third child of Advocate Abu Ahmad Abdul Hafiz who was a leader of the Pakistan movement and the founder of the then Sylhet District Muslim League.

His mother Syed Shahar Banu Chowdhury was also active in politics and social work.

He secured first place in the intermediate examination in the province in 1951 from Sylhet MC College. Muhith stood first class first in BA in English Literature in 1954 from Dhaka University and passed his MA with credit from the same university in 1955.

During his service period, he studied at Oxford University from 1957-58 and received an MPA degree from Harvard University in 1964.

After joining Pakistan Civil Service in 1956, he served in different capacities in the government of East Pakistan, the central government of Pakistan, and then Bangladesh.

During his service as the chief and deputy secretary of the Pakistan Planning Commission, he made a report on the disparity between East and West Pakistan in 1966 and that was the first report submitted on that issue in the Pakistan National Assembly in fulfilment of the constitutional obligation.

Liberation War and Beyond

He was the counsellor (economic) at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington DC, when he joined the Liberation War effort as the first in his station to defect for Bangladesh and inspired many others to join him later on.

After retiring early from government service in the early Eighties, he embarked on a decades-long career as a consultant on economic and development matters at the Ford Foundation, IFAD, UN, UNDP, ADB and World Bank.

Muhith was also a pioneer of the Bangladesh environment movement and was one of the founders as president of BAPA in 2000.

He joined Awami League in 2001 and was elected a member of parliament in 2009 from his home constituency in Sylhet, after an earlier foray with Gono Forum fizzled out without notable success.
Muhith was awarded the highest civil award Swadhinata Padak (Independence Award) in 2016 for his contribution to the Liberation War and devoted record of public service.

He was equally gifted as a writer and published 35 books on different subjects including Liberation War, economic development, history, public administration and political problems.

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