A. K. Khan: The story of an extraordinary man
We have all heard of the late Abul Kashem Khan, commonly known as A. K. Khan. But if asked who exactly the man was, not many would be able to answer properly. Some may remember him as a former minister during the Pakistan period while others will recognise him as a businessman or an industrialist. He was an extraordinary man, a scholar of English and an honest judge. He was also a noble politician and a real patriot.
A. K. Khan was born in 1905 in Mohora, Chittagong to a respectable Muslim family. His father, late Abdul Latif Khan, served as a government officer in the colonial British regime. From his boyhood, A. K. Khan was a meritorious student and always secured first position in his academic pursuits. He completed his honours and master’s degree in English from Presidency College, Calcutta and then he decided to become a lawyer. He passed the B.L. examination and later joined the Bar Association of the then Calcutta High Court. He then appeared for the Bengal Civil Service examination and secured the highest position, joining the government service as Munsif. During that period A. K. Khan was posted in Barisal. An honest and courageous man, he had delivered a historic verdict during his time at the Barisal Court Chamber. A British Superintendent of Police illegally tortured a native person. The victim had registered a case with the court. A. K. Khan, as a judicial judge, passed a verdict against the S.P. of Barisal. It was not easy for a native government service holder to pass a verdict against an English S.P. But A. K. Khan as a judge made his historical judgement in favour of true justice. Late Mr. A. K. Khan was an eminent and courageous judge in the judicial history of the subcontinent. During that period A. K. Khan played a great role to established a Girl’s High School for the education of the females. A. K. M. Fazlul Hoque the then Chief Minister of Bengal extended his cooperation for the cause of the Girl’s School. By establishing this school, A. K. Khan started a golden chapter for female education. A. K. Khan had the opportunity to take up teaching and become a professor of English and could easily secure a job at Calcutta University or Dhaka University. But he did not do so as he wanted to bear the beacon of truth and justice. Later, he gave up his job as a justice and returned to Chittagong and became member of constitution in undivided Bengal in 1946. In 1952 once again, he became a member of parliament of National Assembly.
From 1958 to 1962, A. K. Khan became central minister for Industries, Works, Irrigation, Power and Mineral Resources. During this period A. K. Khan decided to set up an industrial estate in the then East Pakistan. A. K. Khan was a pioneer Muslim Bangladeshi industrialist who created job opportunities for many. A. K. Khan has also been appreciated for his great role as a philanthropist. He was the pioneer leader who established the Chittagong Arts & Crafts College. He also extended his cooperation to establish child and mother Hospital in Chittagong, which has benefited the common people of Chittagong. The name of A. K. Khan is also associated with a number of other health care institutions. For example, he was the founding president of the Chittagong Diabetic Hospital. He also helped establish the Chittagong Eye Infirmary Hospital, which is still providing services to the people of Chittagong.
A. K. Khan’s efforts towards the enrichment of health care services in Chittagong have made him immortal in the hearts and minds of the people. He was not only a human being, but was also an institution by himself, who stood up for the welfare of the people. A. K. Khan also set up the first steam navigation company with a Bangalee ownership. He was also a founder of Eastern Mercantile Bank – the then East Pakistan based bank. A. K. Khan played great role in taking initiative in favour of our liberation war. In March, 1971 A. K. Khan lost his brother and relatives to the brutality of the Pakistani Army. He left Chittagong and took shelter in Calcutta and whole heartedly extended his cooperation in support of the liberation war. Late A. K. Khan, before his death, donated 30 per cent profit from his business to the A. K. Foundation. As per his desire, educational institutions and poor meritorious students are being given financial support. In addition, the helpless poor families are also given rice, wheat and other essentials from A. K. Foundation once a week. Recently, it was learnt that the A. K. Foundation has already allocated 17 crore taka for the construction of A. K. Khan Law Faculty of Chittagong University. A. K. Khan is not with us anymore, but his philanthropic activities have made him immortal. May Allah give his soul eternal peace. We hope A. K. Foundation will continue their charitable activities in the days ahead to materialise the dream of A. K. Khan.
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