Annisul Huq … The dreamer who was one of us

Syed Badrul Ahsan
Thursday, December 7th, 2017


There was that ubiquity of a smile which hinted at the friendliness in him. Annisul Huq always smiled, even when he tended to disagree with someone on a point of critical importance. There was never the pugilistic in him, never the adversarial. In a society where conversation often turns into heated debate and debate swiftly leads to the confrontational, Annisul Huq was different. Because he could not be abrasive, because he respected others as he expected them to respect him, he was able to draw people to him. Hubris had no place in his being. Humility there was in plenty.


And that is how we who knew him up close or knew him a little will remember Annisul Huq. And those who did not know him, in that personal sense, will not forget the contributions he made to their lives in his rather brief period in office as Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation. He had pavements restored to citizens; he compelled angry transport workers, those not used to experiencing leadership of grit and determination, to move out of the road in Tejgaon they had kept commandeered for years. They would not yield; and he would not relent. In the end, they blinked. He came away, not with a feeling of victory but with the clear sense that in ensuring the public weal it was unhealthy to be triumphalist in attitude.


That earned for him enhanced respect. And respect was what Annisul Huq had always lived by in his many avatars. In the 1980s, his role as a presenter of programmes on Bangladesh Television was a whiff of spring for viewers. Not the formal, stiff manner that was the norm for television hosts in those days. Not the pretension and the artificiality which drilled holes into otherwise good programmes aimed at enlightening the masses. Annisul Huq brought humour into his work. He let informality replace the stiff. Television — and there was only BTV — was ready for change, if Annisul Huq would have his way.


Annisul Huq’s was a multi-dimensional personality. On television he was a celebrity few could match. In the world of business, his stars shone bright, as his leadership of the BGMEA and then the FBCCI would demonstrate so well. And then came his entry into politics, that which focused on urban affairs. During his campaign for election as Mayor, he reached out to all citizens. He would not permit his ruling Awami League-backed candidacy to come in the way of his non-partisan approach to people and to issues. He did not antagonize the opposition but let it be known that he would be Mayor for everyone. His style, his fame and his integrity catapulted him to office with relative ease.


It was Annisul Huq’s opportunity to bring his ideas into fruition. His goal was a cleaner, greener Dhaka, a city where citizens would have pride of place. He went into the business of ensuring clear pavements. He had buses, under the Dhaka Chaka scheme, a palpable guarantee of a safe environment, hit the roads in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Niketan. He went, in determined manner, in freeing the road leading from Gabtali in the city to Savar of the chaos caused by a haphazard parking of buses.


Annisul Huq’s politics was without prejudice. There was in his being, as Mayor of DNCC, a leader who looked at the larger picture, who often painted that picture himself in the liberality of his imagination. He spoke truth to power, to those who would derive opportunistic advantage from a pursuit of or closeness to power, in language at once firm and polite. Euphemism was no part of his vocabulary. As they say, he told it like it was. It was a truth he demonstrated when, not long ago, he visited the offices of this newspaper. He spoke of his dreams, which were our dreams as well.


As the grave claims the dreamer, something tells us the dreams he fashioned through the vast spaces of his imagination will live on. For those who come after him, the task is thus chalked out — Annisul Huq’s dreams must take the shape of reality, for he was one of us.

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