Professor Muzaffer Ahmad: In Memoriam

Munir Quddus

Professor Ahmad will be remembered as a fearless activist-scholar who was never afraid of speaking the truth. In his long and distinguished career, he served the nation as a public servant, an educator, a civil society leader and a human rights organiser. In all his wide-ranging activities he studiously tried to be above partisan politics, concerning himself solely with the welfare of the ordinary man and the society. As the condolence messages from across the political spectrum demonstrate, he was successful in staying above narrow political interests that has been the bane of the nation in recent days. In this and many other ways, he was a role model for many.

Some of us have known him as a teacher, mentor and even as a senior colleague in our student days and professional lives. As an educator, he taught business ethics and related disciplines and was a beloved teacher to a generation of students. The list of his students is long and distinguished, including Professor Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Prize winner for peace. His students remember him as a brilliant lecturer who would always make time for them and would graciously write letters of recommendations for them as they sought career opportunities at home or abroad. As an academic administrator, for a number of years, he led the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Dhaka University with great distinction, building it into one of the finest centres of higher education instrumental in producing future business leaders for the country.

Although a graduate of the economics department at the University of Chicago, widely considered as the bastion of free-market economics, Professor Ahmad was well aware of the limitations of markets and those of capitalism. As an economist he worked in the area of industrial economics (including readymade garment export industry), as well as topics in political economy. Among his many rich and varied publications, by his own admission, he was most proud of his 1980 book on state enterprises co-authored with Professor Rehman Sobhan, Public Enterprise in an Intermediate Regime: A Study in the Political Economy of Bangladesh.

Over the last two decades, his untiring efforts in building a strong homegrown environment movement have been a great success. As the President of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), he led a number of successful initiatives that firmly established the pro-environment movement in Bangladesh. His other prominent role in civil society was as the founding member and chairman of the board of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) and SUJAN, to oversee the objectives of good governance and combat the scourge of corruption in Bangladesh.

Professor Ahmad was a noted public speaker and above all a distinguished public intellectual. He was a scholar who did not confine his considerable intellect to academe, but had the courage to step into the real world to improve the lives of all Bangladeshis, especially the poor and oppressed. He will be remembered as a role model of all that is good in Bangladesh.

From: The Daily Star 28th May 2012

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