As I remember the budget wizard M. Saifur Rahman

Kazi Liakat Hossain
The recent tragic end of longest serving Finance Minister M. Saifur Rahman has come to us as a bolt from the blue. His contributions to establish the base of country’s economy were unparalleled. He was a visionary economist and introduced the new mode of taxation- value added tax (VAT). Ultimately, it proved to be the major source of revenue. Many of his close associates and BNP Party leaders were not happy with him as he refused to meet their “selfinterests” for the greater good of the nation. He believed in real democracy, but always spoke straightforward. He did not even spare to criticise his party men, if it went against the interest of the country. That’s why he was also criticised by a few unscrupulous, dishonest political leaders. He broke the world record having placed budget 12 times before the parliament. So he was called budget wizard. The ruling government should have shown a due state honour to the veteran politician and economist. And even the head of the government did not issue a condolence note. It was also very unfortunate. Every nation has some valiant sons who contribute to the nation and they should be recognised and evaluated. If we fail to honour them nobody in future would be inspired to work for the nation. He was also very critical regarding increasing the age of the High Court and Supreme Court justices. In his own written book which was published on February-1 in the name of “Kechu Kotha Kechu Sreete” he opposed President Iajuddin’s taking over the power as chief adviser. He said, “It is violation of the Constitution. Such a personality was Mr. M. Saifur Rahamn.

Now we can quote some very important quotations published/uttered by world famous newspaper and world leaders.

Once the world reputed daily newspaper “The Washington Post” wrote- “If Bangladesh could produce two Saifur Rahmans, the economy of Bangladesh would have been superior”

Former late prime minister Mrs. Benazir Bhutto once said when she was the prime minister” “Give me one Saifur Rahman, I will give you economically developed Pakistan”. After his sad demise many world leaders sent condolence messages. Indian prime minister Dr. Mon Mohon Singh said, “Saifur Rahman was a good economist not only in Bangladesh but also in South Asia”. A prime minister of a vast country like India gave such recognition. It is not a matter of Joke.

M. Saifur Rahman was born in March 1932 in the district of Moulovibazar Sadar Upazila, at the village ‘Baharmardan’. His father’s name was late Abdul Basir and mother’s name was Talibun Nessa Begum. He had his graduation degree from the Dhaka University in 1953. He took higher degree C.A. from London. He also obtained fellowship ICA from England and Wales. He was made Chairman of IMF and World Bank’s Board of Governance.

Let us come to discuss how I came to know this great political leader and economist of repute.

He happens to be brother-in-law (Bhaira Bhai) of Dr. (Brig. Gen. Rtd.) Qazi Shajahan Hafiz and a reputed Tagore singer. Both of them married nieces of another giant industrialist, political figure and central minister of the then Pakistan late A.K. Khan of Chitttagong. The writer is (Kazi Liakat Hossain) the nephew of Brig. Gen Rtd. Qazi Shajahan Hafiz. For this relationship, I used to go to his (Saifur Rahman) residence along with my another uncle Qazi Jahangir Hafiz (Salim), younger brother Q.S. Hafiz. Saifur Rahman’s wife Durre Samad Rahman (Baby) was own sister-in-law of Brig Hafiz.

Mrs. Q.J. Hafiz is also a good Modern and Tagore Singer. She was sister-in law (Beain) of Q.J. Hafiz. Sometimes he used to teach songs to Saifur Rahman’s wife Durre Samad Rahman. Q.J. Hafiz’s youngest son Balam is now the heartthrob singer of new generation.

I remember, one day we (uncle and nephew) went to the residence of M. Saifur Rahman. We went upstairs where there is an open varanda, a few chairs and a table set there. We sat in that chair; Durre Samad Rahman came towards us with a very sweet smile and received us cordially. After exchanging greetings she brought for us some refreshment, carrying the tray by herself “I promptly threw a questions to her, why are you carrying the tray? You could have asked your maids to carry this”.

Throwing again a beautiful smile towards us she replied, “well, you see you are my won guests, my nearest relatives own how could I ask servants to serve you? Such an amiable lady she was.

When we were talking and having our food, Saifur Rahman came near to us wearing a striped sleeping dress and asked his wife whether we had been served properly. As a couple they were very happy and loved each other very much. I asked her (Baby Khala) as a journalist. I want to write something in favour of you. As we have come to know that you are doing some social works in your father-in-Iaw’s district Moulovibazaer and you help the poor people of your husband’s village Baharmardan areas. She liked more her husband’s areas poor men and women and helped them with cash and kind. She was a hidden philanthropist, she did not like to expose herself after helping the poor. Because of these rare qualities, I wanted a picture of her to be published in the newspaper. She gave me her photo on condition that the article should not be published before her death. Accordingly, I gave her my word. Tears roll down from my eyes whenever that face flashes in my mind’s eye. When she died we saw hundreds of people came to her residence to mourn her death. Same was the case of late M. Saifur Rahma. He was a lucky one; he got such a beautiful lady as his wife. Saifur Rahman also thought that without Durre Rahman he (Saifur) could not have come up to this highest position. Her noble birth, her manners, her deeds, her tendency to help the poor, her wish to raise the prestige of her husband all worked together. Late Saifur Rahman looked from outside very grave, but he had a child like simplicity.

Let us now give a brief picture of Saifur Rahman and (Brig Gen. Rtd.) Dr. Qazi Shajahan Hafiz’s matrimonial relations as other noble families in Bangladesh. As we did not mention earlier both of them married the daughters of late (Bazlur Samad Chowdhury) popularly known as B.S. Chowdhury a reputed Banker of the then Pakistan. Mr. B.S. Chowdhury’s eldest daughter was given in marriage to the editor of the ‘Daily Dawn’ Pakistan. He also died. Saifur Rahman’s only daughter Saifa Rahman was given in marriage to the son of late M.R. Siddiqui of Chittagong. Both Saifur Rahman and Q.S. Hafiz’s maternal uncle-in-law was late A.K. Khan. He was a veteran industrialist and minister. Saifur Rahman’s eldest son married daughter of former minister Chowdhury Kamal- Ibne- Yousuf, whose father was also renowned political figure popularly known as Mohan Mian of Faridpur.

Qazi Shajahan Hafiz’s younger son Kazi Ehtesham married granddaughter of Mohan Mian. Saifur Rahman’s last desire was that he should be laid to rest beside his beloved wife Duree Samad Rahman at his own village Baharmardan.

On one occasion I went to my uncle Qazi Shajahan Hafiz’s residence to take his interview as a Tagore songs artiste at his previous DOHS residence early in the morning. At about 8.30 AM a telephone call came, my uncle, who happens to be brother-in-law (Bhaira Bhai) of late M. Saifur Rahman received the telephone. From the other side M. Saifur Rahman was talking. Brig. Hafiz jokingly used Moulovebazar district’s colloquial language which is as follows “keta khobor, amareto moulovebazar loia jaoar khota silo, khoi lowaito gelenna, desher manush keta matay”.

When my uncle dropped the receiver, I asked him whether it was his Bhaira Bhai M. Saifur Rahman. He told me that he (Saifur) was given a gala reception in his local areas and he was profusely garlanded by them.

He was in a cheery mood and happy having been cordially received by the people. He rang me up just to inform me of that good news.

On another occasion we (Q.J. Hafiz and writer K.L. Hossain) went to visit Saifur Rahman at Gulshan. It was in the year 1991, under caretaker government national election was held. Late Saifur Rahman could not come out successful in parliament election. He was sitting idle and relaxing, wearing a ganji and lungi. Having seen us entering into the room he threw a question to my uncle Qazi Jahangir Hafiz in a Sylheti dialect – keta khobor? Mr. Jahangir said, khobor bala, you are going to become finance minister again. He was surprised to hear this and asked how could he be a minister since I could not pass in the parliament election. He was looking straight at me and was smiling. My prompt reply was yes, you will be finance minister in a technocrat quota and that became true.

According to his desire, he was buried beside his wife and parents at their family graveyard.

May Allah rest their souls in peace!

“Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity”-John Milton.

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