Mir Shawkat no more
Veteran freedom fighter and sector commander of the Liberation War, Lt Gen (retd) Mir Shawkat Ali, Bir Uttam, died at his Gulshan residence yesterday evening.
He was 74 and had been suffering from prolonged illness.
Ali, one of the pioneers of war crimes trial movement, left behind his wife, three daughters, a host of relatives and well-wishers to mourn his death.
Mohammad Sohel, a personal aide, told The Daily Star last night that the war hero felt chest pain around 6:20pm and asked him for a massage.
“Just five minutes after asking me for massaging, he breathed his last,” he said, adding he called a doctor living in the same building.
"The doctor came without any delay and declared him dead."
Shawkat Ali's relative and former state minister Professor Jahan Ara Begum informed The Daily Star that his body was sent to Combined Military Hospital mortuary and will be kept there until the namaz-e-janaza (funeral prayers) to be held on Monday.
"The first namaz-e-janaza will be held at the central office of BNP at Naya Paltan at 10:30am. The second one will be organised in South Plaza of the Parliament at 11:30am, which will be followed by a third one at Dhaka Cantonment Central Mosque," said Jahan Ara.
"He will be laid to eternal rest on the same day after Asr prayers,” she added.
He was alone in Dhaka as his wife and daughters have been in London for about 15 years.
The war idol would be buried at Banani army graveyard after his wife and daughters' arrival in the capital, said Lt Gen (retd) Harun-Ar-Rashid, former army chief and member secretary of SCF.
Former premier and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, Secretary General Khandaker Delwar Hossain, LDP President Col (retd) Oli Ahmed, city Mayor Sadeque Hossain Khoka, members of SCF, freedom fighters and leaders of different political parties rushed to his home soon after the news of his death spread out.
Planning Minister and deputy commander-in-chief of the Liberation War, Air Vice Marshal (retd) AK Khandaker, sector commander and former army chief Maj Gen (retd) KM Shafiullah also visited the house of the deceased.
The eminent soldier was born on December 9, 1936 at Nazira Bazar in the city. He joined the 2nd East Bengal Regiment in 1958.
In 1971, he revolted against the Pakistan government and was appointed commander of sector-5 during the Liberation War. For his valour he was awarded 'Bir Uttam'.
Mir Shawkat Ali, widely known as Mir Shawkat, also served as minister during the 91-96 tenure of BNP.
He was very vocal for ensuring trial of war criminals and played a vital role to float the Sector Commanders' Forum (SCF). He took part in a countrywide campaign to force the government for the trial.
According to The Evidence, written by Mir Shawkat Ali, he served the country as Ambassador in Australia and Germany. He resigned in 1988 protesting the dictatorship of the then military ruler HM Ershad. He later joined BNP as president of Dhaka city unit.
He was elected Member of Parliament in 1991 from the city's Lalbagh area (Dhaka-8).
Mir Shawkat had sent a resignation letter to BNP chairperson, saying he would not be with the party if it does not cut ties with Jamaat-e-Islami, since its top leaders are accused for war crimes during the 1971 Liberation War.
Khaleda Zia remained indifferent to this letter.