The political arena of Bangladesh was plunged into shock on Friday with the news of the passing of the popular veteran politician, ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury.
Mohiuddin was born to Hosen Ahmed Chowdhury and Bedura Begum on December 1, 1944 in Gahira Village, under Raozan upazila of Chittagong district.
He passed the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) in 1962, the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) in 1965 and earned a degree in 1967.
The freedom fighter was elected to the first of his three terms as the mayor of Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) in 1994, when he defeated Mir Mohammed Nasiruddin by around 16,000 despite his opponent enjoying the backing of BNP, the then party in power.
Serving as a father figure for the Chittagong people, Mohiuddin set about improving the education system, healthcare services and cleanliness of the city, and was re-elected with ease in 2000 and 2005.
In the second election held in January 2000, a BNP boycott gave Mohiuddin a walkover victory. The third Chittagong mayoral poll held in May 2005 was an even bigger landslide, with Mohiuddin defeating BNP-nominated candidate Mir Nasir by 91,000 votes.
Imbued with the ideology of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Mohiuddin became involved with student politics during his youth. He also heroically took part in the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh.
He served as the general secretary of Chittagong city Chhatra League in 1968 and 1969.
In 1971, he formed a group “Joy Bangla” and was arrested by the Pakistani forces. Feigning as an insane person, Mohiuddin secured his release and fled to India.
Following independence, he became involved in labour politics of Chittagong. In 1975 he formed “Mujib Bahini” led by Moulavi Syed to avenge the tragic assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Mohiuddin, along with his other comrades, even planned to isolate Chittagong from the rest of Bangladesh to avenge the assassination of the fledgling country’s founding father.
Around that time, Mohiuddin was accused in the “Chittagong Conspiracy Case”. He fled to India and only returned to Chittagong in 1978.
Mohiuddin was incarcerated on several other occasions during his chequered political career.
After the army-backed government assumed power in 2007, Mohiuddin, along with other politicians, was arrested on March 7 of the same year. He was incarcerated in various prisons across Bangladesh.
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When first arrested, unlike other detained politicians, he was taken to a remote prison in Bandarban district.
While in prison, Mohiuddin’s daughter was diagnosed with blood cancer in Thailand. He was detained without trial for 21 months by the then government and was not even allowed to see his seriously ill daughter.
He was finally released from prison on October 8, 2008. Despite his release, the army-backed government seized his passport and refused to grant him a permit to fly to Thailand to see his dying daughter.
The government finally allowed him to fly abroad on October 17, but just minutes after he boarded the plane, his daughter passed away.
Mohiuddin was known for his innovative ideas and for thinking out of the box. Even though his actions sometimes sparked controversies, political analysts say Mohiuddin’s brand of populism resulted in him receiving cross-party support and extremely high popularity in Chittagong, which often put him at odds with his own party leadership.
Mohiuddin contested in the parliamentary election from the city’s Kotwali constituency back in 1991, but could not win.
After serving 24 long years as the general secretary, in June 2006 Mohiuddin was made president of Chittagong city unit of the Awami League, a position he held until his death on Friday.
Mohiuddin was the first mayor of Bangladesh who established a private university, opening Premier University with the sponsorship of Chittagong City Corporation.
ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury died at around 3am on Friday at Max Hospital in Mehedibag area of the port city. He was 73.
The beloved mayor of Chittagong had gathered a following of thousands of admirers, followers and leaders and activists during his long political career.
However, he never displayed a desire to become a central leader of the Awami League. Unlike many other politicians, he always confined himself to the politics of the port city.
The departed mayor is survived by a wife, two sons, and three daughters among a host of other relatives, friends and well wishers.
Mohiuddin’s son and Awami League central leader, Mohibul Hassan Chowdhury Nowfel, is currently serving as the central organizing secretary of the Awami League.