Former Bangladesh foreign secretary and immediate-past high commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali passed away on Monday at the Combined Military Hospital in the capital, reports UNB.

He breathed his last around 11:45am, family sources said, adding that he had been suffering from old-age complications.

Muazzem Ali, born on 18 July 1944 in Sylhet, joined the Pakistan foreign service in 1968, and retired in December 2001. While serving in the Pakistan embassy in Washington DC in 1971, he declared his allegiance to the government of Bangladesh.

As a founding member of the Bangladesh mission in Washington DC, he was active in the lobbying process for political support for Bangladesh’s independence movement. After independence, he was directly involved in working towards US recognition of Bangladesh as well as the US, World Bank and UN participation in the massive reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Bangladesh (1971-1975).

Ali also served in Bangladesh Embassies in Warsaw (1975-1978), and New Delhi (1986-1988), and in the permanent mission to the United Nations in New York (1982-1986).

He was consul general in Jeddah (1988-1991) during the Gulf War, and later served as Bangladesh ambassador to Bhutan (1991-1992), Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Turkmenistan (1995-1998), France and Portugal (1998-2000).

In Paris, he was also Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the UNESCO. In that capacity, he tabled a draft resolution on behalf of Bangladesh for the proclamation of 21st February as the International Mother Language Day.

He spearheaded the lobbying efforts and its unanimous adoption by the UNESCO General Conference in 1999.

As foreign secretary, Ali worked for the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the South Asian region and beyond. Since Bangladesh was the chairman of the LDC group at that time, he coordinated the move that led to duty-free and quota-free access of LDC exports to the EU at the third UN LDC Conference.

He also worked for the emergence of Bangladesh as the largest troop contributor to UN Peacekeeping operations.

Specialising in multilateral diplomacy, he has represented and led Bangladesh delegations to various senior officials’, ministerial, and summit-level meetings of the UN, UNESCO, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), Commonwealth, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Group of 77, and World Bank’s Development Forum (earlier know an Consortium) Meetings.

Ali comes from a distinguished literary family of greater Bengal. His father, late Syed Mustafa Ali, and uncle late Syed Murtaza Ali, served in the Assam civil service prior to 1947, and also wrote several books and articles.

His youngest uncle Late Syed Mujtoba Ali is a distinguished writer of Bengali literature. His eldest brother Late SM Ali (Syed Mohammad Ali), founder-editor of the leading Bangladeshi English newspaper ‘The Daily Star’, was one of the most well-known Bangladeshi journalists in the international arena.

His father-in-law Late Chowdhury Imamuzaman served in the Assam Engineering Service prior to 1947. His wife Tuhfa Zaman Ali obtained her MA from Dhaka University and MPhil from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Muazzem Ali is survived by two sons, and grandchildren.