Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir
Dr. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir (born 1942) was the present Bangladeshi Minister of Home Affairs during 2011–2013. He is also a prominent economist, civil servant, writer, and political leader in Bangladesh.
Alamgir holds a Master's degree in economics from Dhaka University, a Master's in development economics from Boston University, and a PhD in economics from Boston University. He began his professional career in 1962, by joining the economics faculty at the University of Dhaka.
He taught at the university until 1965. Joining the civil service that year, he served in numerous positions, for a total of 32 years. He held several positions with the Finance Ministry, in addition to regional posts. Beginning in the late 1990s, he was appointed to political positions when the Awami League was in power. As a leading opponent of the Bangladesh National Party, he was detained without charges and tortured during 2002. An international effort helped obtain his release. He was arrested, charged and convicted in 2007 under a military caretaker government, and imprisoned until October 2008. He was elected as an MP in the December 2008 election, in which the Awami League won two-thirds of the seats. His son Jalal Alamgir, an educationist in Massachusetts, died in a tragic accident on 3 December 2011 at Pattaya, Thailand.
In addition to writing and publishing development economics textbooks and numerous articles on this topic, Alamgir published his memoir My Days in Jail (2003), which sold out three editions through the following year.
In 1965 Alamgir joined the Civil Service of Pakistan. Among other posts prior to the independence of Bangladesh, he served as the Subdivisional Officer at Naogaon. He was serving the Pakistani government as deputy commissioner of Mymensingh when the 1971 war of liberation broke out.
After Bangladesh achieved independence in 1971, it established its civil service independently as well. Alamgir was assigned to the new Finance Ministry, where he contributed significantly to drafting the initial budgets of Independent Bangladesh. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the District Commissioner of Jessore.
Later he served in various capacities in the Finance Ministry. In 1993 Alamgir was appointed as Secretary for the Ministry of Science and Technology. He later was appointed as a Member of the Planning Commission.
From 1996 to 1997 he served as Secretary to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Bangladesh Awami League. During that time, he led the negotiations with India to renew the historic Ganges Water Sharing Treaty. He also helped negotiate a Peace Treaty with separatists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, signing the final treaty. He retired in 1997 after 32 years of civil service.
Research and writing
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Alamgir served as President of the Bangladesh Economic Association. In 1989 he spent a semester at Pennsylvania State University as a Visiting Scholar on an Asia Foundation fellowship.
Alamgir has written numerous books, journal articles, and hundreds of newspaper articles on the economy and current affairs of Bangladesh. His Development Strategy for Bangladesh (three editions) has been used as one of the textbooks in advanced development economics courses at different universities in the country. His memoir, My Days in Jail (2003) was a best-seller. Three sold-out editions were published between 2003 and 2004.
Early political controversy
From time to time, Alamgir has been outspoken about his politically progressive ideas. In the 1980s, when Bangladesh was under the military rule of Hussain Muhammad Ershad, Alamgir was the first civil servant to openly question the role of civil servants under a military regime. He said that as civil servants, by the constitution, are servants of the state, and thereby the people, they are not obliged to serve under a non-representative non-democratic government. But, he has served military governments of both Pakistan and Bangladesh during his career.
In 1996, the government led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) held national elections which were boycotted by the opposition. It proceeded to form a government based on the election results. Alamgir joined a mass protest of those who considered the government illegitimate. He eventually led civil servants to withhold co-operation from the government, and it fell in 1996. The movement was called Janatar Mancha-1996. His role was controversial; opponents claimed that his position encouraged civil servants to break their traditional neutral role and become politicised.
Appointee with the Awami League
During Awami League rule in 1997, Alamgir was invited to join the cabinet as the State Minister for Planning. He also served stints in charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry and the Science and Technology Ministry. He was the initiator of the Fifth Five-Year Plan, which shaped Bangladesh's development policy from 1997 to 2002.
Imprisonment and torture
After BNP was returned to power in 2001, the party sought revenge for Alamgir's role in causing it to lose power in 1996. The government arrested Alamgir in 2002, detaining him without charges. He was tortured while in police custody. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the groups that fought for his release, Alamgir later reported in court that
"every evening at midnight, the police would enter his cell and blindfold him. He was taken to a separate room where masked men interrogated and tortured him. They beat him with lathi (bamboo sticks) and glass bottles filled with water. He reported that he was beaten severely on his buttocks, feet and other muscular parts of his body, and was sodomized with the bottle. In addition, he was denied fresh water and his diabetes medicine. He reported that the police demanded that he sign a typed document. When he refused to sign, they continued to beat him."
A widespread international campaign pressured the government to stop the torture and to release Alamgir. Prominent politicians, such as United States Senator Edward Kennedy, United States Representative Frank Pallone, Jr., and others urged the government to release him. Professional and human rights organisations also pushed for his release, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Amnesty International, Asian Human Rights Commission, Committee of Concerned Scientists, New York Academy of Sciences, Organisation mondiale contre la torture (World Organisation Against Torture), 1997 Nobel Peace Prize Winners Physicians for Human Rights, Scholars at Risk, and South Asia Forum for Human Rights. Thousands of individuals from around the world wrote letters to the government about his case.
The High Court disputed the government's rationale for the former minister's detention without charge; in an unprecedented step, the Court issued an ultimatum to the government, demanding that it release Alamgir or risk having the High Court free him by force. The government released Alamgir on 18 September 2002, an hour before expiration of the court-ordered deadline. In December 2002 the BNP government filed a sedition case against Alamgir for his role in a widespread protest in 1996 against the elections of the previous year.
Re-imprisonment and release
On 4 February 2007, Alamgir was arrested from his home by civil and military police; the government had called a state of emergency in Bangladesh. Eventually the government charged him with corruption based on a wealth statement that he was forced to write while in jail and without access to lawyers or any documents. During the trial in July 2007, seven prominent persons, including well-known economists of Bangladesh and the United States, testified to his honesty. The summary tribunal set up by the military-led caretaker government convicted him of graft and sentenced him to 13 years imprisonment. All in all, the government filed six cases against Alamgir between February 2007 and October 2008.
On 21 October 2008, Alamgir was released on bail after being held in prison for 20 months by the military-backed caretaker government. In December 2008, the Alwami League coalition won two-thirds of the seats in Parliament; Alamgir was among those elected while he was still on bail.
As a result of an appeal, on 13 July 2009, the High Court overturned Alamgir's conviction and sentence.
At the helm of the home ministry
As a home minister, he was widely criticised for using police and armed forces to torture and kill the opposition activists. During the 2013 Savar building collapse in which a nine storied building collapsed and more than 1000 people lost their lives, he made a comment that the building may have collapsed because members of the opposition were shaking it with their hands. He was also alleged as a Pakistani collaborator by Kader Siddqui, a freedom fighter of Bangladesh liberation war because Alamgir used to work as a district commissioner for the Pakistani government in 1971. In the context of his responsibility for the 2013 Motijheel Shootings in which estimated 61 protesters were killed by government aligned cadres and security services, a case has been filed against Alamgir in the International Criminal Court.
- Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Honorable Minister
- "MK Alamgir's son killed in Thailand accident". banglanews24.com. 3 December 2011.
- "CV". Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- "The Janatar Mancha Case", The Independent (Bangladesh), 27 December 2002
- Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, Jailer Kotha Manusher Kotha (My Days in Jail), Dhaka: Subarna, 2003
- Asian Human Rights Commission, "Bangladesh: Arbitrary Detention and Torture of Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir", 11 April 2002
- AAAS Human Rights Action Network
- "Bangladesh: Bangladesh: arrest, detention and torture of Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir (Case: BGD 090402)" (Case). World Organisation Against Torture. 9 April 2002. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- "Bangladesh: deaths in custody must be investigated". Amnesty International (UK). 19 December 2002. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
- "The Plot Against MKA: A son's protest". The Daily Star 5 (1044). 10 May 2007.
- [archive.thedailystar.net/2007/07/11/d7071101044.htm "Eminent persons tell court Alamgir honest"], The Daily Star, 11 July 2007
- [archive.thedailystar.net/2007/07/27/d7072701022.htm "MK Alamgir Handed 13 Years Over Graft"], The Daily Star, 27 July 2007.
- The Independent (Bangladesh), 22 October 2008[dead link]
- "MK Alamgir Freed on Bail". The Daily Star. 22 October 2008.
- "HC scraps sentence against MK Alamgir". The Daily Star. 13 July 2009.
- Video on YouTube