The guiding light that we lost
A long distance call helped change my work plan in the USA. It was Moazzem Hossain from Dhaka. 'What are you doing Shahid over there right now?' he asked.
'Nothing of the sort,' I told him. "I'm waiting for the Green Card for residentship in the USA". Moazzem Hossain said, "We are bringing out a financial daily. This will be the first specialised daily of the country. Why don't you join us?"
I immediately agreed to his proposal. Moazzem Hossain advised me to return to Bangladesh as soon as possible. Within 10 days of my talks with him, I returned to Dhaka and joined the new paper in early September 1993.
While starting a new journey, I joined the core group comprising Reazuddin Ahmed as the Chief Editor, Moazzem Bhai as the Editor and Achintya Sen as the Executive Editor. I started as the News Editor of the financial daily and began recruiting newsmen.
It was really difficult to get skilled and experienced hands for a new daily. Yet we tried our best to get young and talented ones for the news desk, reporting and the editorial section. Reazuddin Ahmed and Moazzem Hossain worked hard to mobilise a dependable team. Within a month, our recruitment process ended and we began to bring out dummies for the upcoming newspaper.
Believe it or not, within 20 days of dummy re-run, The Financial Express began its journey with the first issue published on November 19, 1993. From then on, we did never look back. The forward journey just paced up soon with the warm and spontaneous support from the business community.
The country's renowned businesspeople lent their support by placing advertisements on their IPOs (Initial Public Offering) that were floated on the Dhaka Stock Exchange. Many gave their support by subscribing to the newspaper which helped it stand on a sound footing. In fact, Moazzem Hossain was instrumental in mobilising most of the advertisements on IPOs from various business houses. He personally went to each and every business house and requested them to support our paper. His acquaintance with most of the country's business houses helped get adequate support from them from the very beginning of the paper.
Not only businesspeople, he also maintained constant contact with the ministers, high government officials, diplomats of various countries and high-ups of multinational companies. His openness, cordiality attracted many people and he was the topper figure in the community of journalists.
Moazzem Hossain and myself joined the then Pakistan Observer at the same time in 1971. He joined the reporting team and I joined the news desk as a subeditor. From the very beginning of his career as a journalist, he appeared to be very serious about building his career as a reporter. His micro-level reporting attracted many readers and he was never found inactive idling his time away. Besides the Observer, he also used to write for the weekly 'Holiday'.
After obtaining his master's degree in Economics from the University of Dhaka, he joined the Habib Bank of Pakistan in 1969 and was posted in Karachi. After working there briefly, he went to work as Economic Investigator, Ministry of Finance, Pakistan in 1970. After the Liberation War broke out, he left the job and returned to Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Arriving in Dhaka, he decided to join the then Pakistan Observer which suited his aptitude. After joining the Observer group of publications, he earned his fame as a brilliant economic reporter. He continued his service with the Bangladesh Observer until 1987.
In the middle of the year 1987, former editor SM Ali resigned from the Bangladesh Observer. After his resignation, he decided to bring out a new English daily. He talked to some of us about his new plan and we decided to join his new venture, 'The Daily Star.' Along with Moazzem Hossain, six of us joined initially and started the recruitment process with SM Ali at the helm.
Moazzem Hossain was made Economic Editor and me Special Correspondent of the new daily. Distinguished journalists Mr Reazuddin Ahmed, late Fazle Rashid, late Khalilur Rahman and late 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 prospect of the daily appeared very good and it was doing fine compared to other newspapers. Yet the paper was shut down by the management for unknown reasons, leaving most of the working journalists and employees jobless.
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 efforts 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.
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 help the paper earn a respectable position.
Moazzem Hossain used to advise his colleagues not to bow down to any pressure. He advised the reporters to maintain objectivity in reporting and not to indulge in any 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 gave in to 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.
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 did never forget to say sorry to them.
He was top-to-bottom an honest man. He was an independent director of a private bank and was associated with business bodies like the Federation of 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 reputation 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.
The writer is Executive Editor of The Financial Express.