He is an academician who teaches English literature at a private university in the capital.
He was never involved in political activities, except when he participated in election campaigns for his younger brother, Awami League lawmaker Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, before the national polls last year.
Still, Prime Minister and Awami League President Sheikh Hasina has entrusted Prof Sheikh Fazle Shams Parash with salvaging the tarnished image of Jubo League, the youth wing of her party.
Fifty-year-old Parash, son of Jubo League founder Sheikh Fazlul Haque Moni, was elected the organisation’s chairman unopposed at a session of its seventh triennial congress at the Institution of Engineers in the capital yesterday.
Earlier, Hasina inaugurated the congress, that took place after seven years, at the Suhrawardy Udyan.
Mainul Hossain Khan Nikhil, president of the AL front’s Dhaka city north unit, was elected the general secretary.
Sheikh Moni and his pregnant wife Arzoo Moni were assassinated along with the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and most of his family members on August 15, 1975. Parash was only 5 at that time.
Jubo League was founded in 1972 with the objectives of alleviating poverty and establishing the rights of the youths. Moni, Bangabandhu’s nephew, was tasked with uniting the country’s youths.
But Parash’s case is different.
He has been given the charge at a time when the organisation is mired in controversies for various misdeeds of its top leaders. Some of the misdeeds came to light after law enforcement agencies began an anti-corruption drive in September.
At least five Jubo League leaders have been expelled from the organisation. They are now in jail for their alleged corruption and various irregularities.
During the ongoing anti-corruption crackdown, the highest number of allegations were raised against Jubo League leaders.
The leaders included the immediate past chairman Omar Faruk Chowdhury, a brother-in-law of Sheikh Moni. He allegedly patronised corrupt leaders and awarded them key organisational posts in exchange for money.
Faruk, who was relieved of his duties on October 20, was not even invited to the congress yesterday.
Earlier, Parash’s name had been in discussion as a possible candidate for the chairman post. At the congress, the position of his seat on stage gave the councillors and the delegates a hint about his new role.
Despite having no Jubo League portfolio, Parash sat next to AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader, who was sitting beside Hasina.
Hailing from Gopalganj’s Tungipara, Parash obtained his Master’s degree in English from Dhaka University. He has recently been appointed at East West University, after he worked at Brac University for a long time.
His younger brother Taposh is a three-time lawmaker from Dhaka-10 constituency while their uncle Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim is a member of the AL presidium and also a former chairman of Jubo League.
Taposh was also a possible candidate for the Jubo League chief’s post, but AL high-ups decided not to choose him after he showed least interest in running the organisation, said party sources.
Talking to these correspondents, several Jubo League leaders said they believed the new leadership would help the AL wing regain its past glory.
“Parash bhai is a well-known professor. Now he will have to show his organising ability in forming the new Jubo League central committee,” said Mohammad Sayem, a leader of the AL wing in Mohammadpur.
“He can’t get involved in any nepotism like what happened in the past [in Jubo League],” he said.
In his instant reaction, Parash said he was away from politics for a long time as he had been deeply saddened by the assassination of his parents, Bangabandhu and his family members.
“But now I want to tell you that I will discharge my responsibility with honesty,” he said at the election session of the congress at the Institution of Engineers at Ramna later in the day. “I will do my job not as the president, but as an activist of Jubo league.”
He also said, “I will try to bring the young generation out of the ‘I hate politics’ culture so that they can engage in nation building.”
At the inaugural session of the congress at the Suhrawardy Udyan, the organisation’s outgoing general secretary Harunur Rashid blamed the misdeeds of a section of Jubo League leaders for the tarnished image of the organisation.
He said the leaders’ “excessive greed” destroyed the image.
“Our workers and activists are good people. They have no greed. They always work in line with the values of Sheikh Hasina. Our workers only want love and respect, but a few [leaders] have greed,” he said.
At the election session, Convener of Jubo League congress preparatory committee Chayan Islam recommended making Parash the new chairman, which was supported by Harunur Rashid.
As there was no other candidate, AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader announced Parash as the new chairman amid a round of applause by the councillors.
Later, seven candidates were named by the councillors for the post of Jubo League general secretary.
As the candidates failed to reach consensus to pick one of them as the general secretary, Quader, At the instruction of Hasina, announced that Mainul Hossain Khan Nikhil is the new general secretary.
Born in Chandpur’s Matlab upazila, 55-year-old Nikhil is a businessman.
Some 28,000 councillors from 77 organisational district units and around 30,000 delegates from across the country took part in the congress.
Later in the evening, Parash went to the Gono Bhaban to meet the prime minister.