A liberation warrior in nation’s independence struggle, he stood by his party against all odds
Senior Awami League leader Mohammed Nasim, who has died at the age of 72, has been described by political colleagues as a person who stood by the party in tough times as his father did in an earlier phase of national history.
Nasim was the son of M Mansur Ali, a close confidant of Bangabandhu and was one of the four national leaders killed inside Dhaka jail in 1975, two and a half months after Bangladesh’s founding father was assassinated.
A member of the ruling party’s policymaking Presidium who earlier served in a number of ministerial positions, Nasim breathed his last on Saturday at a Dhaka hospital.
Nasim had been on life support at Bangladesh Specialized Hospital after suffering a stroke. He is survived by his wife and three children
President Md Abdul Hamid said Nasim’s death was an irreparable loss for the nation.
“He was a fearless fighter in the country’s struggle for independence and in the Liberation War. Being elected MP five times showed how much he was loved by the people,” is how the President paid tribute to his long-time political colleague.
Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina, in her expression of condolence, said she had lost a ‘trusted comrade’.
“Like his father, Mohammed Nasim served the nation, in line with the ideology of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, until his death,” she said in her condolence message.
One of the key organisers of the 1971 Liberation War, Nasim’s father Mansur Ali was a member of the wartime cabinet and in post-liberation Bangladesh served as home minister and prime minister.
In a political career spanning over five decades, Nasim held different positions in the party and served in four different roles in the cabinets led by Sheikh Hasina.
Born to M Mansur Ali and Amena Mansur in Sirajganj’s Kazipur on April 2, 1948, Nasim represented the Sirajganj constituency for five terms.
He was brought up in Pabna district town, where his father practiced law. Sirajganj was part of greater Pabna district at the time.
After clearing his matriculation exams in 1965, Nasim enrolled himself in Edward College in Pabna and took to politics. He was a member of the then Communist Party's student wing Chhatra Union.
During his college days, Nasim met Laila Arjumand Bithi, also a Chhatra Union activist. They subsequently married in 1973.
In 1966, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman went to Pabna for a rally to garner support for the historic Six-Point demand.
Following the rally, Bangabandhu went to Mansur Ali’s residence, where some leaders of the Chhatra League told him that Nasim was a member of the Chhatra Union.
Bangabandhu spoke to Nasim and requested him to attend an event of the Chhatra League, following which Nasim joined the student body backed by the Awami League.
In 1967, Nasim was elected literary and cultural affairs secretary of the Edward College students’ union. He was the only candidate floated by the Chhatra League to clinch a seat in the union.
In 1969, Nasim moved to Dhaka and went to Jagannath College (now Jagannath University) for his bachelor's degree in political science.
When the War of Liberation broke out in 1971, Nasim worked with the wartime Mujibnagar administration, in which his father Mansur Ali served as a cabinet member.
Nasim was part of the wartime government's wing that was in charge of aid efforts for refugees and recruitment of freedom fighters.
In independent Bangladesh, Nasim served as general secretary of the Awami League’s Pabna district unit.
During the first national election of 1973, a 23-year-old Nasim sought the Awami League’s nomination, but Bangabandhu gave the party ticket to a senior leader of the party’s unit in Pabna.
The same year, Nasim was made a presidium member of the Jubo League, which had been founded by Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni.
In 1975 when Bangabandhu formed BAKSAL, Nasim was appointed general secretary of its Pabna unit.
Following the August 15 assassination of Bangabandhu, Nasim fled to India. He was imprisoned after he returned to Bangladesh.
Nasim, who has been a member of the Awami League’s central body since 1982, served the party as its youth affairs secretary, publicity affairs secretary and organizing secretary before making his way to the policymaking Presidium.
He was elected MP five times, in 1986, 1996, 2001, 2014 and 2018. Nasim could not contest the 2008 polls due to legal issues as well as health-related complications.
In the 1996 Sheikh Hasina-led government, Nasim served as a cabinet member. He was first given the portfolio of post and telecommunications and was later put in charge of housing and public works as well.
He dealt with the two ministries until March 1999, when he was appointed home minister. He was not in the cabinet formed after the 2008 elections, but served as health minister in the administration formed after the 2014 election.
When Sheikh Hasina formed the government for a third straight term after the 2018 elections, Nasim was not included in the council of ministers.
He continued to serve the party as a presidium member and also as the coordinator of the Awami League-led coalition, the14-party alliance, until his death.
Nasim headed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Food in the 11th National Parliament.
He played an important role in the movement against the 2001-06 BNP-Jamaat Alliance government. He was imprisoned by the military-backed 2007-08 caretaker administration.
"Defying all odds and hurdles he played a unique role in establishing the ideals of the Liberation War and the spirit of secularism," is how party chief Sheikh Hasina remembered Mohammed Nasim.