Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has mourned the death of former finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, recalling their acquaintances since the liberation war.
In a written statement, the Grameen Bank founder reminisced about their first interaction in Washington DC back in March 1971.
Yunus said they formed the Bangladesh Citizens Committee consisting of six Bengalis from Nashville immediately after hearing Bangladesh's declaration of independence on the radio. The committee made a fund by depositing $1,000 each.
Yunus then called Enayet Karim, the second highest ranking official at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington and told him of his plan to move to Washington.
"With six thousand dollars in funds, I went to Washington the next day and went straight to the house of Enayet Karim with whom I had never been acquainted," recalled Yunus.
"After that, it became a regular occasion to sit with everyone at Muhith Bhai's house in Washington at night – exchanging various news, exciting debates, clashes – everything became a part of this meeting," Yunus carried on.
"One day, Muhith Bhai said he needed some money for a wireless set and we handed him $6,000 from the fund we had. We took another responsibility to visit the embassies of different countries and request for the recognition of Bangladesh. Muhith Bhai would introduce us to the embassies and give us briefs on how to raise our proposal," said the Nobel laureate in the statement.
After returning to the country, we met again on his (Muhit) own initiative, Yunus said.
"He wanted to know about my programme saying that he was bored in government service. I gladly arranged it. I spent a whole day with him in the Hatubhanga branch of Tangail. I answered his thousands of questions."
"On the way back to Dhaka, he said a lot about his plans to quit his job, his desire to work with me for the people of the village. He said he would set up a branch of Grameen Bank in Sylhet," Yunus said.
Later I heard that he had quit his government job and might have gone abroad. We met again in March 1982 at an international conference at Comilla Academy, he continued.
"We were both invited at the conference as speakers. There was a lot of talk the evening before. Especially about the future of Grameen Bank. So I wrote a concept paper. I gave it to him and explained it in detail."
"We all had to return to Dhaka in the morning the day after the conference. But suddenly a curfew was declared across the country. General Ershad had imposed martial law.
After lifting the curfew, I returned to Dhaka in the evening. The next day I heard the announcement that Muhith Bhai had joined the new government as Finance Minister."
"I congratulated him and he sent a letter to meet. I was happy in my heart thinking that this time I will get the opportunity to institutionalise Grameen Bank."
"We met and the work for Grameen Bank went forward. At one stage, Grameen Bank Ordinance was issued. The ministry asked to organise the inauguration ceremony of the new bank. We were ready for the occasion. But the ministry wanted to do it in Dhaka. We bent down. We said that the inaugural ceremony of Grameen Bank will be held in the village. The ministry did not agree to this at all. I called Muhith Bhai. He said enthusiastically - it must be in the village. And I'll go there."
"The inaugural function of Grameen Bank was held on 3 October 1983 at Jamurki village in Tangail with a large gathering of landless women in the presence of Muhith Bhai.
Today, I am saying goodbye to Muhith Bhai, remembering many happy, dreamy, glorious memories of my long time with him. May Allah forgive his soul," the statement concluded.