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Old December 3, 2011, 07:26 PM
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bujhee kom bujhee kom is offline
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BDFlag Abul Fateh: First Foreign Secretary Of Bangladesh

Abul Fateh (May 16, 1924 – December 4, 2010) was a Bangladeshi diplomat, statesman and Sufi who was one of the founding fathers of South Asian diplomacy after the Second World War, having been the founder and inaugural Director of Pakistan's Foreign Service Academy and subsequently becoming Bangladesh's first Foreign Secretary when it gained its independence in 1971. He was Bangladesh's senior-most diplomat both during the 'Liberation War' period of its Mujibnagar administration as well as in peacetime.

Abul Fateh in 1969, in his official photo as Calcutta High Commissioner

A former Carnegie Fellow in International Peace and Rockefeller Foundation Scholar and Research Fellow, he has been described as "soft-spoken and scholarly" and "a lesson for all diplomats".

Exceptionally for a Bengali-born diplomat, he rose to the most senior ranks of public service in Pakistan. Then at the time Bangladesh began seeking independence, he spectacularly defected and changed sides in order to support the fledgling country of Bangladesh - a major propaganda coup and morale boost for the cause of Bangladeshi liberation given his stature in Pakistan's hierarchy. Fateh was automatically the highest-ranked and most senior foreign service officer in the new country. His story was later documented in a National Geographic documentary, Running for Freedom.

Following his death he was described by a former colleague and successor Foreign Secretary as "a great and brave freedom fighter" who was at the same time "remarkably reticent about his contributions", a "soft-spoken and scholarly diplomat" whose service to the Bangladeshi independence cause at a critical period was "invaluable" and "a lesson for all diplomats. His outstanding professional skill and deep sense of patriotism should be a shining example". The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dipu Moni talked about his "contribution to self-right movements of people, country's independence struggle and managing assistance to war ravaged country after independence." She also cited his "outstanding career", stating that he would be "always remembered for his contribution to the country's liberation" war.

Pakistani Diplomat

While teaching English Literature at Brindaban College in Sylhet, he took the first Foreign Service exams of Pakistan (1948), before teaching English Literature for a few months at Michael Madhusudhan Datta College in Jessore. He joined the first batch of Pakistan Foreign Service trainees in 1949, moving to Karachi. Soon after he left for training in London, which included taking a special course at the London School of Economics, before he moved in 1950 to Paris to complete his training. Returning briefly to Karachi, he was sent back (1951) to Paris as Third Secretary in the Pakistan Embassy.

Abul Fateh (right) with Austrian Foreign Minister Bruno Kreisky, Vienna, 1962

A further posting as Third Secretary followed in Calcutta (1953–1956). During this time he married, at Rangpur on 5 January 1956, Mahfuza Banu of Dhubri, Assam daughter of Shahabuddin Ahmed, a respected lawyer and Mashudaa Banu a well known social campaigner. Then promoted to Second Secretary, he served in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington, D.C. from 1956 to 1960, during which time he and his wife had their two sons, one of whom, Aladin, is a strategy consultant, academic, artist and Editor Emeritus of the Bangladeshi news organisation Bdnews24.

Fateh was a Director attached to the Foreign Ministry in Karachi from 1960 to 1963, during which time he was founding Director of Pakistan's Foreign Service Academy in Lahore and also went for a year and a half (1962–1963) to Geneva as a Fellow of the Graduate Institute of International Studies (Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales) under a Carnegie fellowship.

Further foreign postings followed. He was First Secretary (and latterly acting chief of mission) in Prague from 1965 to 1966, Counsellor in New Delhi from 1966 to 1967, and Deputy High Commissioner in Calcutta from 1968 to 1970. He received his first posting as Ambassador, at the Pakistan Embassy in Baghdad, in 1970.

Bangladeshi Independence

After the Pakistani military crackdown in March 1971, Fateh received a request from a former university dormitory mate, Syed Nazrul Islam, now(then) Acting President in the Bangladesh government-in-exile, to join the liberation struggle.

At about the same time, in July 1971, Fateh received a summons from the Pakistan Foreign Ministry to attend a conference in Tehran of regional Pakistani ambassadors. He chose to take his official car ostensibly to drive to Tehran but, as he and his driver approached the Iran–Iraq border, he feigned chest pains and ordered the driver to return him home, where he arrived that evening. Saying that he would take a plane the next day, he dismissed the driver. That night, he fled with his wife and sons across the border into Kuwait, where they were assisted by officials attached to the local Indian Embassy to take a plane to London.

The announcement of Fateh's defection to the Bangladesh cause marked the first time a full ambassador had joined the fledgling Bangladesh diplomatic service. The news was received with fury by the military regime in Islamabad, duped by what was later described as a "cool and calculated James Bond-type adventure" and a calculated plunge into danger. It was a dramatic defection which created sensation in diplomatic circles and greatly boosted the morale of those engaged in the war of liberation. The Yahya Khan military regime in Pakistan was furious and requested the British Government to extradite Fateh from London, but the requests were rebuffed by the British Government. These events were chronicled in a 2003 National Geographic Channel television documentary, Running for Freedom.

Abul and Mahfuza Fateh in 1976

The Mujibnagar government made him ambassador-at-large, followed in August 1971 by the concurrent position of Advisor to the Acting President, a position he was to resign in January 1972 after the return to Bangladesh of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He had a key role managing relations with the United States and India whilst heading the nascent country's diplomatic service. As the senior-most diplomat of the Bangladesh movement in the United Nations delegation under Justice Abu Sayed Choudhury which was in New York in September 1971 to lobby for the Bangladesh cause at the General Assembly, he played a vital role in the delegation's lobbying efforts. He was also in communication with other governments, such as the Nixon administration in the United States and also with Senators, Congressmen, and high officials in the US Administration, World Bank, and IMF; he had the advantage as well of being familiar with decision-makers and the decision-making process having served as a diplomat in Washington 20 years earlier. Former colleague Syed Muazzem Ali described him as a "soft-spoken and scholarly diplomat" who was exceptional in articulating the cause and whose contributions were invaluable. He was one of the first high officials to reach Dhaka after its liberation, and was quartered with other senior officials in Bangabhaban until January 1972. He was also the highest Bangladeshi official in Dhaka until the acting president and cabinet arrived after independence; on his arrival in Dhaka he was driven under escort from the airport, becoming the first civilian official to lay a wreath at the ruins of the Shaheed Minar, an act planned to mark the first presence of the government in Dhaka. Already the effective head of the incipient foreign service, he became Foreign Secretary at the end of 1971, playing a key role in formulating Bangladesh's foreign policy.

Bangladeshi Ambassador

He then took up the position of Bangladesh's first Ambassador in Paris (1972–1976). The early part of this posting involved extensive travel in Africa to persuade African governments to recognise the independence of Bangladesh. In 1973 he represented Bangladesh at a Commonwealth conference for Youth Ministers in Lusaka. In 1975 he went to Morocco and, at a time of a shortage in supply of phosphates, managed to secure a substantial phosphate shipment for Bangladesh.

In mid-1975 he was selected to be High Commissioner in the UK, which post he took up in early 1976. His two years in London (1976–1977) saw him Chairing the Commonwealth Conference on Human Ecology and Development and the Bangladesh government approved his recommendation that dual citizenship be permitted. Many people from Bangladesh were settled in the UK, whose remittances into Bangladesh were an important source of foreign exchange. He pointed out that to oblige them to forgo Bangladesh citizenship if they took up the benefits of British nationality was not conducive to the continued maintenance of their ties to the mother country.

His last post was as Ambassador in Algiers (1977–1982). He represented the Bangladesh government at conferences on Namibia in Algiers of the United Nations (1980) and the Non Aligned Conference (1981). He retired from that post in 1982.

Fateh became a casualty of Bangladesh's complex and shifting political landscape towards the end of his career. As he was closely identified with Bangladesh's initial, Liberation War era administration Fateh was not favoured by the military-backed regimes which followed it. Contemporary historians have characterised his Ambassadorial assignment to Algeria as a premature transfer and a virtual exile in a diplomatic post which was a relative back-water. One commentator stated Fateh was "a victim of conspiracy hatched against him by anti-liberation forces.

Please Read More: Link/Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abul_Fateh
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Old December 4, 2011, 01:58 AM
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Thanks Javed bhai.
Didnt know anything about this great man before.
A true unsung hero of our country.
Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest [Al-Qur'an,13:28]
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Old December 4, 2011, 08:49 AM
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Naimul_Hd Naimul_Hd is offline
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Thanks BK bhai for sharing this brave man's story. There are so many untold stories of our liberation war heroes like this.
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Old December 4, 2011, 01:44 PM
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Zeeshan Zeeshan is offline
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Thanks Zaved bhai.

Here is a further link/redirection (which brings my question: one doesn't physically have to bear arms to be considered a freedom fighter, correct?)

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Old December 4, 2011, 02:12 PM
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^^ We should also pay respect to the many Bangladeshis abroad who, through financial support and lobbying, promoted the cause of an independent Bangladesh. Even at home, there were many elderly people who supported the cause by providing shelter/storing armaments for freedom fighters etc.

They may not get the title of 'mukti joddha' and may not have been in the front lines, but they do deserve a great measure of respect and gratitude.
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