The military government in 1975 initially prevented Public Administration Minister Syed Ashraful Islam from returning home after his father, national leader Syed Nazrul Islam, had been killed in Dhaka Central Jail on November 3, 1975, which is now commemorated as Jail Killing Day.
After independence, Ashraf was sent to London for higher studies. “He tried to come back after hearing that his father along with three other national leaders had been killed, but the government at the time did not let him,” a close relative of Ashraf said.
He finally got permission to return on November 5. “A week later, the government sent him back to the UK without letting him complete the immigration process so that it would make it harder for him to return,” added the relative.
His father Syed Nazrul Islam was held at Cell No 1 along with Tajuddin Ahmed, Asabul Haque, Korban Ali and four other leaders in Dhaka Central Jail.
A close aide of Syed Nazrul’s family told the Dhaka Tribune that in September 1975, family members of Tajuddin Ahmed and Muhammad Mansur Ali were permitted to meet with them, but Syed Nazrul’s family did not get that permission.
Ashraf’s brother, Maj Gen (retd) Syed Shafayetul Islam, said they did not know how their father was killed but were told of his passing on November 4.
“We wanted to bury our father at Doel Chattar but they never handed over his body. Instead, my father was buried at the Banani graveyard amid tight security measures. None of us were even allowed to see his grave and offer prayers for his departed soul,” Shafayet said.
A relative of the Syed Nazrul’s family told the Dhaka Tribune that after killing of Bangabandhu, Khandaker Mushtaq Ahmed tried to contact Syed Nazrul Islam several times, but was ignored by Nazrul, who made his wife tell him on the phone that he was not home.
Shafayet said: “Mushtaq Ahmad warned us that if my father failed to negotiate with him, then his life would be in danger.”
Sources told the Dhaka Tribune that after Syed Nazrul Islam was killed, the government increased the rent of their house to Tk100,000 forcing them to move. “The Mushtaq gang pressured Ashraf’s mother to move to Mymensingh,” they said.
Syed Ashraful Islam was born in 1952 in Kishoreganj, took part in the Liberation War with his brothers – Maj Gen (retd) Syed Shafayetul Islam and Syed Manjurul Islam.
Before the war, Ashraf was a leader in Bangladesh Chhatra League. He was the general secretary of Chhatra League’s greater Mymensingh district unit and served as the assistant publicity secretary in the Awami League student front’s central body.
Ashraf returned to Bangladesh in 1996 and became a parliamentarian from Kishoreganj 1 constituency in the seventh national election.
He also served as the Awami League acting general secretary after the arrest of Abdul Jalil and became the party’s general secretary in 2009. Obaidul Quader replaced him in 2016.
Ashraf is currently the public administration minister and also an Awami League presidium member. He has also served as the LGRD minister.