Barrister Rafiqul Haque was a legendary lawyer

Dr. Mahfuz Parvez, Associate Editor,
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photo Collected

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Dhaka:  Numerous people are involved in various professions. But how many people have achieved proverbial success and fame? Which doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, journalists or bureaucrats are known by the one name at home and abroad? There are very few such successful people. Many, many years later came someone who made the profession dignified and became an icon.

In the context of the legal profession, it can be said that Ramjet Malani of India. Ramjet Malani, a young Sindhi man who came to India from Karachi in 1947, has never lost a case. Justice has been ensured in many discussed, complex, controversial and important cases through his intellectual participation and contribution. In the realm of Indian law, he has played a glorious role in advocating for the human-legal rights of the people, from politicians to life legends.

In Pakistan A. K. Brohi was also a lawyer who played a memorable role in defending democratic rights against military rule. His contribution to the political history of undivided Pakistan is exemplary.

Among thousands of lawyers in Bangladesh, such brilliance has been seen in a handful of people. One was Barrister Ishtiaq Ahmed. He is an emigrant like Malani, Brohi. After partition of India, Barrister Ishtiaq came to live with his family in Mymensingh, his father's workplace. Incidentally, he was a student of Mymensingh Zilla School. My father was the first MBBS practitioner in Kishoreganj, a language veteran and an organizer of the liberation war was the class mate of Dr. A. A.  Mazharul Haque.

In addition to personal affection, I also had contact with Barrister Ishtiaq for professional reasons. He freed 'Sapatahik Robbar' at the Ittefaq bhavan in 1989/90 through a special legal battle. On behalf of Robbar journalist Sheikh Mohiuddin and I kept in touch with him every day at that time.

That's when I met Rafiq-ul Haq. He was the junior of Barrister Ishtiaq. Like the rest, he was a man who became a victim of partition of India. Born on 2 November 1935 in the village of Subarnapur in Kolkata, he graduated from Kolkata University in 1955 and obtained his post-graduate degree in philosophy in 1957. He passed LLB in 1958. He completed Bar- at -Law from the United Kingdom in 1962. He started his legal career in 1965 as a lawyer in the Supreme Court and in 1973 as a lawyer in the Appellate Division. After nearly 60 years in the colorful legal profession, he has left a beacon of glory as he traveled to an unknown destination.

He was a staunch supporter of national politics and democratic rights. His voice was loud and was a front warrior in crisis. Everyone knew this brave lawyer in the complex situation of 1/11. On talk shows, on the court porch, in the courtroom, he regularly spoke in favor of political rights. High profile cases could not have been imagined without him. In the special circumstances of 1/11, he handled the cases of the two imprisoned leaders fearlessly.

When no one dared to come forward in fear, panic, this old- slim man fought like a banyan tree inside and outside the court. He showed light in the dark days for the rule of law and democratic rights. He was vocal in establishing good governance and protecting the independence and image of the judiciary.

Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq also assisted the court on many important constitutional and legal issues of Bangladesh. His experience, knowledge and respect in the field of law made him a respected and acceptable figure in all circles. His fearless speaking, intellect, intelligence and sense of humor were exemplary.

Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq has worked with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ziaur Rahman, Hussain Muhammad Ershad, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia at different times. From April 7 to December 17, 1990, he served as the state's highest law officer, the Attorney General. It is a rare fact that he did not take any honorarium while performing this duty and he has never formed any political party in his professional life following the purity and neutrality. But all politicians stood by him in danger. He spent the lion share of his earnings on human welfare and was a patron of many social services organizations.

Barrister Rafique enjoyed his whole childhood and schooling in his birth town, Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal province of India. His first school was Chetola Primary of south Kolkata. Later he went to London to study Bar-at-Law and returned back to Dhaka as a Pakistani citizen. In this consideration, he had unique credential with the citizenship of four countries such as British, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi respectively.

During his study in Kolkata Islamia College, he came in touch with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Again, in Baker Hostel of Kokata University, he was next door neighbor of Bangabandhu.

Barister Rafique was a scholar with extraordinary merit. When he was a student of Law at Kolkata University, he stood first in the subject named Criminal Law and achieved a Gold Medal. He was also an expert of Hindu Law. He completed the study of Bar-At-Law in one and half year although it was a three year course. He was the pioneer in teaching Hindu Law in Dhaka University and also the examiner of the Law Departments of Chittagong and Rajshahi University.

He was involved with student politics as per his family’s political background. He was elected twice in the Student Union of Kolkata University. He was also the Vice President of West Bengal Province Youth Congress (Juva Congress) when Indira Gandhi was the Central President of All Indian National Youth Congress. He had the opportunity to met and work with Indira Gandhi in several occasions.

Barrister Rafique’s father Momen Ul Haq was a physician. But he was a political-social leader and the Chairman of 24 Parganas Municipality, Kolkata was the part of this during that time. Barrister Rafique’s grandfather was one of the founder of Islami Eye Hospital located at Farmgate in Dhaka. Similarly, Barrister Rafique involved in various charitable organizations like Shishu Hospital, Suborno linic, BARDEM, Ad-Din Hospital, Ahsania Mission Cancer Hospital etc. He devoted all most his every earning in 100-beded Suborna-Ibrahim General Hospital in Gazipur.

His beloved wife Dr. Farida Haque died in 2011. After the death of Farida Haque, he became very lonely. Later he himself contracted many complex diseases. Nevertheless, he was active in his profession and human welfare. He has enhanced the prestige and prosperity of his profession in his long career and has established himself as a successful legacy of devout lawyers in South Asia. He will be remembered in the world of Bangladeshi law courts as a rare, unique and exemplary lawyer.

We will not see him in various seminars, discussions or social events or in the shady, cool, tidy house named 'Subarna' of 47/1 Purana Paltan in the capital. Turning his hand gently on his back, he would no longer say, 'Young Professor, what's up'. But I am sure that beyond the stillness of death, he will remain awake in the court of law, in the struggle for democracy, in the quest for the rule of law, and in the jewel of the human heart. Bangladesh will forever remember Rafiq-ul-Haq, a unique and extraordinary barrister.