When I was asked by the editor to write an op-ed piece on Mirza Ali Behrouze Ispahani, renowned business leader and managing director of the International Publications Ltd (IPL), the owning company of the Financial Express (FE), after his death, the thought that I would have to write a similar piece on the editor himself in less than two years did not occur to me at all.
This is the inevitable that happens in life. Death lays its icy hands on every human being and it visited AHM Moazzem Hossain, my editor at the FE for 25 years, on Wednesday, August 01. Hospitalised for a brief period in Popular Medical College Hospital just before the last Eid-ul Fitr, he was taken to Singapore for better treatment. He returned after three weeks and was admitted to Square Hospital. After a few days, he breathed his last suffering from lung and heart complications.
It was for the first time in his long 73-year life that he had to be hospitalised. He could not make the head or tail of why his family members and relatives took him to the Popular Hospital for a 'simple' complication. In Singapore also, he only wanted to come back home and return to his office at the FE, where he spent most of the time of his career.
In fact, he thought of nothing beyond the FE. At the initial stage of his hospitalisation, he used to tell me off and on, "I will soon come back. Please tell my colleagues that they should do their utmost to maintain the standard of the paper."
His devotion to his work and attachment to the FE were so strong that before departing for Singapore for treatment, he attended the office for two consecutive days, performed his duties as editor and managing director: disposed of important files, signed hundreds of cheques for salaries and other purposes, and gave necessary instructions to editorial, administrative and financial chiefs. And, as behoves his amiable nature, he exchanged pleasantries with everybody present.
I had the opportunity to work with him for nearly five decades. We both joined the now-defunct Bangladesh Observer (then Pakistan Observer) at the fag end of the country's Liberation War. As a reporter, he made his mark at the very beginning of his new career. He did spot reporting and also made exclusive stories, mainly on economic and financial matters. Slowly and steadily, he honed his skill as an economic reporter and was eventually recognised as the most celebrated economic journalist of the country. He developed his expertise in economic journalism while writing analytical and in-depth aticles in the Weekly Holiday under the pen name, Hossain Khasru.
In 1992, the Bangladesh Observer was having problems at the management level. Legendary journalist S M Ali, who was then editor of the paper, decided to quit it. After submitting his resignation, he called six of our colleagues, both from the reporting section and the news desk. He announced solemnly that he was going to bring out a new English daily and wanted to know whether we were ready to join it. That was a very critical juncture for six of us, Moazzem Hossain included, to leave a prestigious paper like the Observer which had no rival at that time in English journalism. And we all joined The Daily Star under SM Ali's leadership without giving a second thought. At The Daily Star Moazzem Hossain was made Economic Editor and myself Special Correspondent. Distinguished journalists Mr Reazuddin Ahmed, late Fazle Rashid, Khalilur Rahman and Amanullah Kabir joined The Daily Star in some top positions.
Moazzem Hossain was responsible for bringing out a two-page business section of The Daily Star where I assisted him both in writing and make-up. But his association with The Daily Star did not last long. On personal grounds, Moazzem Hossain and most of his Observer-day colleagues resigned.
He then joined The Telegraph, a new English daily, as its Deputy Editor. Initially the outlook of the paper was very promising and it was doing fine compared to other newspapers. Yet the paper was shut down by the management for unknown reasons. The fate of most of the working journalists and employees became uncertain.
But Moazzem Hossain never gave up his hope. He then thought of bringing out a financial daily at his own initiative. With active support of veteran journalist Mr Reazuddin Ahmed, he worked relentlessly to arrange funds for the paper.
His tireless endeavour paid off. Prominent business leaders responded positively to his call. Mr. Mahbubur Rahman, President of the International Chamber of Commerce Bangladesh (ICCB), took the lead in mobilising funds from the business circle. Noted business leaders like Syed Manzur Elahi, Mr. Mosharraf Hossain, Mr. Zakiuddin Ahmed and Mr. Mirza Ali Behrouze Ispahani joined in the endeavour. The Financial Express came into being on November 10, 1993.
Moazzem Hossain became its founding editor while Mr. Reazuddin Ahmed was the chief editor. At that time, the Dhaka stock market was having a peak time in its business. Many companies were floating IPOs (initial public offerings). Moazzem took advantage of his acquaintance with most of the business leaders and requested them to publish ads of their IPOs in the FE. Many other business houses also decided to support the newly-published financial daily with ads.
Thus he strived to lay a solid foundation of the paper from the very beginning. His thoughtful dealings with the ministers, bureaucrats, economists, business leaders and the elite of the country helped the paper earn its name and fame. There is no denying that his sincerity and modesty did a lot in giving the paper a respectable look.
Moazzem Hossain used to advise his colleagues not to bow down to any pressure. He advised the reporters to be objective in reporting and not to indulge in character assassination. Since the very beginning of the paper I have been looking after the news section. Almost every day, he used to advise me not to publish anything that might tarnish the image of the paper. All his instructions were diligently followed. The paper never compromised with any 'ill-motive' of vested interest groups.
Truly workaholic, he used to spend most of the daytime in the office. Except for going abroad on invitations for a brief period, he did never take leave. He used to offer tea to everybody visiting him at his own expenses. The office wanted to recruit a personal assistant for him which he humbly refused.
As his close associate for nearly five decades, I shared so many fond memories with him. He was friendly to everybody. But in the event of any mistake or omission while discharging professional duties, he used to get very tough and spared none. Afterwards, when he cooled down, he would also never forget to say sorry to them. Before flying to Singapore for treatment last month, he again and again apologised to me with tears in his eyes for being rude with us. Can anybody stop being emotional in such a situation?
He was top-to-bottom an honest man. He was an independent director of a private bank and was associated with business bodies like Federation of the Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka (MCCI), Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE). His association with them was thoroughly professional and this earned name not only for him, but also for the organisation, FE, he was working with.
Moazzem Hossain was not so formal in his working pattern, attitude and conversation. His amiability, frankness in conversation, spontaneous laughter, and keen interest in any happening occurring in any part of the world endeared him to us and also impressed us. His depth of knowledge in many fields, politics included, his charismatic behaviour and politeness made him dear to all.
We have lost Moazzem Bhai at a time when journalism is passing through a tough time. Never will he attend his favourite office at the Tropicana Tower. Never will he return to advise us to work hard for the paper. Adieu, Moazzem Bhai, we shall never allow your dreams to be shattered and your memories slip into oblivion.
Shahiduzzaman Khan is Acting Editor of The Financial Express.
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