The 68 year old politician died of stage 4 lung cancer at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday
Veteran Awami League leader Syed Ashraful Islam was a rare breed in Bangladesh politics. With a reserved personality and clean image, he gained widespread popularity and was respected by all quarters regardless of political ideology.
The 68 year old politician died of stage 4 lung cancer at Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, on Thursday. His body will be brought back to Dhaka on Saturday, and his first namaz-e-janaza will be held at the South Plaza of the National Parliament on Sunday.
Syed Ashraf was born in Mymensingh in 1952. He actively participated in the Liberation War of 1971 as a member of the Mukti Bahini, and his father Syed Nazrul Islam was acting president during the war as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had been imprisoned.
Syed Ashraf began his political career at an early age, and served as a general secretary of Greater Mymensingh Chhatra League. He always supported Awami League with passion and dedication, striving to match his father’s contributions to the party as well as the nation.
Following the assassination of Bangabandhu on August 15, 1975, Syed Ashraf’s father Nazrul and three other national leaders were killed under mysterious circumstances in Dhaka Central Jail on November 3 the same year. The national leaders had been arrested by the military regime after Bangabandhu’s death. After his father’s death, Syed Ashraf flew to the United Kingdom.
Four time lawmaker
On his return in 1996, Syed Ashraf took part in the 7th general election and was elected as the lawmaker from Kishoreganj-1 constituency. He was designated state minister for the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry.
Reelected to Kishoreganj 1 in the 2001 and 2008 elections, Syed Ashraf was included in the cabinet as the LGRD and Cooperatives minister.
He was reelected in the same constituency again in 2014, and was made a minister without portfolio in July 2015. Within a week, he was appointed minister of Public Administration.
Syed Ashraf maintained his grip on Kishoreganj 1 in the 2018 election, even though he was abroad for treatment and was not in the country to campaign, or during the polls. He had requested extra time to take his oath, but passed away on Thursday while still under treatment.
Role in Awami League
Syed Ashraf had served as an Awami League general secretary, and was an incumbent presidium member as well as the Public Administration minister.
During the army backed caretaker government in 2007, he took charge of the Awami League as acting general secretary and fought against reformists who wanted to exclude Sheikh Hasina from politics.
He was appointed general secretary in 2009, and held the post until Awami League declared its 20th council on October 21 and 22 in 2016, when Obaidul Quader was appointed the new general secretary.
The veteran politician had been politically inactive since his wife Sheila Islam passed away on October 23, 2016.
He had been suffering from stage 4 lung cancer since then.