Professor Rehman Sobhan on Thursday said Akbar Ali Khan, as a civil servant, was “exceptional” in a period where “integrity and objectivity were progressively eroding” in the culture of the bureaucracy, reports news agency UNB.
“The discussants duly emphasised on his academic prowess. But we also need to explore his life as a civil servant,” said Rehman Sobhan, renowned economist and chairman of Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), while speaking at a webinar.
Remembering noted economist and former caretaker government advisor Akbar Ali Khan, Sobhan also said Dr Khan stood firm and he had to pay the price for it periodically.
Professor Rounaq Jahan, Distinguished Fellow, CPD emphasised on the contribution Akbar Ali Khan made through his writing in the public sphere.
“From his writing, it becomes visible that he was an academic at heart. He believed in promoting reforms, and when he talked about reforms he was very objective about it. He wanted more discussion and debate on his work and writings, which say that he was a believer of public reasoning,” she said.
Akbar Ali Khan was a voracious reader, a dedicated scholar, a relentless writer, and a courageous public intellectual. His life and work have been a journey of discovery
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), BRAC University organised the webinar to commemorate Akbar Ali Khan.
The webinar titled ‘Dynamics of Statecraft, Governance Reform and Public Intellectualism in Bangladesh: The Legacy of Dr Akbar Ali Khan’ was joined by scholars and colleagues who have known Akbar Ali Khan for decades and are familiar with his work and research.
The panelists spoke about Khan’s years of commitment to public service with a fierce sense of integrity and honesty.
They also reflected on his dynamic professional career as a teacher, bureaucrat, freedom fighter, policymaker, writer, and intellectual, all revolving around the fundamental principles of advancing the public.
Akbar Ali Khan was the architect of BIGD’s unique Masters in Governance and Development programme launched in 2005.
Targeted exclusively for mid-level public bureaucrats, the programme was conceived and designed by Akbar Ali Khan, to inculcate a people-centric and scholarship-oriented entrepreneurial bureaucracy leadership.
An interesting aspect of Akbar Ali Khan was that he was both a scholar and a practitioner. He heavily contributed to providing academic explanations to bureaucratic phenomena. His work also challenged colonial legacies and frame of thought
Mirza M. Hassan, senior research fellow, BIGD, made a presentation on the intellectual legacy of Akbar Ali Khan.
The presentation focused on various concepts, analytical approaches, and theories that Akbar Ali Khan frequently used to reflect on Bangladeshi statecraft, governance reform, and many other topics.
He said, “Dr Khan employed various concepts, analytical approaches, and theories to reflect on the critical areas of development, state-society relationship, and governance reform.”
M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, former cabinet secretary and senior advisor BIGD, chaired the session.
Asif Shahan, associate professor, Department of Development Studies, University of Dhaka, took part in the discussion by paying homage.
He said, “An interesting aspect of Akbar Ali Khan was that he was both a scholar and a practitioner. He heavily contributed to providing academic explanations to bureaucratic phenomena. His work also challenged colonial legacies and frame of thought.”
Syed Akhtar Mahmood, former lead private sector specialist, World Bank Group said, “Akbar Ali Khan was a voracious reader, a dedicated scholar, a relentless writer, and a courageous public intellectual. His life and work have been a journey of discovery.”
Ahrar Ahmad, director general, Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Foundation said, “He was fluent and lively with his writing and had the ability and expertise to connect disparate dots, which created curiosity among general people, provoked thoughts, and inspired them to learn more.”
The webinar was also attended by scholars, activists, researchers, development professionals, bureaucrats, journalists, and students who expressed their deepest admiration for Akbar Ali Khan and his work.