Death of Akbar Ali Khan: The end of an era
We deeply mourn the loss of Akbar Ali Khan, eminent economist, public intellectual, and former adviser to the caretaker government, who passed away on September 7, 2022 after suffering from cardiac complications. His death will be felt by the entire nation, which has not only lost a shining example in the form of a man of great integrity, but will now have to deal with the intellectual vacuum that has been left in the wake of his demise.
It is difficult to adequately capture the depth of the contributions that this towering personality has made to Bangladesh within the confines of these columns. Whether it was during his years of service as a seasoned bureaucrat, or in his work as an educator and academic, it was clear that everything he did was guided by a deep love for his country and uncompromising personal ethics.
This became apparent early on in his life, when his active participation in the 1971 Liberation War while being a part of the Civil Service of Pakistan led to him being sentenced in absentia to 14 years of rigorous imprisonment by a Pakistani military court. Once Bangladesh became independent, he immediately went back to the civil service to continue to work for his country, occupying some of the highest positions of government before retiring. At the same time, he added to the nation's intellectual wealth through his work in academia, shaping the futures of countless students, while also writing 17 books.
Akbar Ali Khan's expertise spanned across several fields, including economics, politics, governance, history, and literature. But regardless of what he did, there was always one common thread: the development of Bangladesh and the improvement of its people's lives. Alongside this central thought, his work was grounded in a progressive, pro-people, and democratic philosophy. This philosophy has, time and again, guided this nation in the right direction, especially during his time as an adviser to the caretaker government during 2006-07, when his strong sense of personal ethics led to him resigning in protest of the chief adviser's failure to ensure a free, fair, and impartial parliamentary election.
The fine example of honesty and integrity in the service of the nation that was set by Akbar Ali Khan is even more crucial for us now. In many of his writings, he made clear his wish for the people of Bangladesh to think about politics and government, and to choose progressive and democratic values over conservative and illiberal practices. We cannot think of any better way to honour his memory than to respect this wish and translate it into action.