Abul Fateh : biography
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.
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.
Early life and education
Abul Fateh was born in Kishorganj on May 16, 1924 in a landowning family, to Abdul Gafur and his second wife Zohra Khatun. Fateh was a middle child, in a large family of a dozen children who survived to adulthood, while two other siblings died young. His father Abdul Gafur had attended Presidency College, Calcutta, and was one of the first Muslim daroga (sheriffs) in British India. Fateh's mother Zohra was the daughter of a local nobleman. Fateh passed his matriculation exams from Ramkrishna High English School in Kishorganj in 1941. After passing his Intermediate exams from Ananda Mohan College in Mymensingh in 1943, he undertook higher studies in English Literature at Dhaka University (BA Honours in 1946 and MA in 1947) where he also excelled in sport, for a time captaining the cricket team and becoming the table tennis champion.
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.
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.Abul Fateh, first foreign secretary, turns 85, published by BDNews24 edited by Toufique Khalidi (Dhaka: http://www.bdnews24.com/details.php?id=84616&cid=2 ) 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.The Bangladesh Liberation War, Mujibnagar Government Documents 1971, edited by Sukumar Biswas (Dhaka: Mowla Brothers, 2005)
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