Our dear Latifur Rahman has left us. He left on the very same day that his dear grandson Faraaz also left this world, killed in a militant attack four years ago. It is very difficult, very painful for us to accept this departure, first of the grandson and then of the grandfather.
Latifur Rahman, our Shameem bhai, had been ill for quite some time now. He had gradually withdrawn himself from the innumerable activities in his busy life. He was staying at peace at the home he had built in his village Cheora, Choddogram, amidst the trees, ponds and greenery all around. He passed away in his sleep there.
After independence when his family’s W Rahman Jute Mills was nationalised, Latifur Rahman faced difficult finance times. He even had to hire furniture to start up his office again. He began with the tea business and gradually built up his business to eventually become the chairman and managing director of 16 companies of the Transcom Group.
From the very outset Latifur Rahman had fixed our target. Prothom Alo must be the No. 1 newspaper of the country.
With Latifur Rahman at the helm, over the past 22 years we built up Prothom Alo. The newspaper was launched on 4 November 1998. It was our friend Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star, who eagerly introduced me to Latifur Rahman. I had been only slightly acquainted with him before that.
At Latifur Rahman’s behest, we brought out Prothom Alo with just two month’s preparation. From the beginning of our preparations till the actual publication, he was with us throughout, directly and indirectly. He and bhabi were with us the night that the paper came out. He only went home once he got a copy of the newspaper from the press. That excitement and exhilaration is unforgettable.
From the very outset Latifur Rahman had fixed our target. Prothom Alo must be the No. 1 newspaper of the country. It had to be able to stand on its own feet. It would have to run on its own revenue. All taxes and tariffs would have to be paid. Every year on the anniversary of Prothom Alo, during our discussion in office, he would determine the target for the next year.
We didn’t have that that much of a grasp on the business side of running a newspaper, the management, publicity and sales, revenue through advertisements and such. We gradually began to learn the ropes. That is how we begun our journey at Prothom Alo. It was an uphill task and, looking back, it seems incredible how we climbed to the No. 1 position in just four years. We stood firmly on our own feet. And we haven’t looked back since then.
Through ups and downs over almost 22 years, Latifur Rahman, our Shameem bhai, has been by our side as a guardian, a friend, giving us courage and encouragement. Not a single day did he ever interfere in a single news report or decision. He never obstructed the open and free publication of news and views. That is why Prothom Alo was able to become the leading newspaper of Bangladesh.
A decade on, we expanded further. We brought out several monthlies (Kishor Alo, Biggyan Chinta, Chalti Ghotona), the quarterly journal Protichina, the publishing house Prothoma and more. Shameem bhai would advise us and encourage on these matters. He extended his full support in every effort.
Generally speaking, at home and abroad, the newspapers are run at the behest of the owners, at their directives and in their interests. Our experience has been quite the contrary. We ran Prothom Alo. We took all the decisions in running the paper, its management and finance. Latifur Rahman always remained in the background. This was the biggest reason that Prothom Alo has won the reputation as a neutral and independent newspaper. This applies to the Daily Star too.
Awami League was at the helm of government when Prothom Alo was launched. After that there was BNP, then the caretaker government and then Awami League again. Under every government Prothom Alo had been kept under pressure, had to pass through all sorts of hardships and obstacles. There were many crises and challenges to face. Outside of the government, various forces have tried to obstruct Prothom Alo’s way forward.
Through such ups and downs over almost 22 years, Latifur Rahman, our Shameem bhai, has been by our side as a guardian, a friend, giving us courage and encouragement. Not a single day did he ever interfere in a single news report or decision. He never obstructed the open and free publication of news and views. That is why Prothom Alo was able to become the leading newspaper of Bangladesh.
Latifur Rahman may have departed physically, but he remains among us. His dream remains embedded in Prothom Alo.
Not just as the editor of Prothom Alo, but I gradually became very close to Shameem bhai on a personal level. He would often come to the office, and we would often go to his home, chatting till late in the night. I drew close to him and his family. His integrity, hard work and goodwill were amazing. He was a rare example of these qualities in our society.
Latifur Rahman completely broke down when, on the night of 1 July 2016, his dear grandson Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain, was killed in the brutal militant attack on Holey Artisan Bakery in Gulshan, Dhaka. Faraaz was his dearest grandson. They would travel together, enjoy vacations and have fun. After Faraaz’s death, he withdrew into himself.
Even before the brutal killing of Faraaz, there had been another devastating incident in their lives. Latifur Rahman’s youngest daughter was brutally murdered in their own home. He was devastated. It is shocking that he had to wait for two decades to get the verdict for that murder. The Supreme Court gave its final verdict after two long decades.
Latifur Rahman’s daughter Simeen, Faraaz’s mother, said, “Every night abbu would look at Faraaz’s picture before going to sleep. He went to sleep last night, never to awake. It is amazing how Faraaz had left on the same day. Had Faraaz called his dear grandfather to him? Or had grandfather Latifur Rahman decided to go to him?”
Latifur Rahman may have departed physically, but he remains among us. His dream remains embedded in Prothom Alo. It was Latifur Rahman’s initiative and support that has brought us so far. He was the chairman of our organisation, but we had him among us as a friend. He would warmly shake hands with each and every member of the staff, inquire about their welfare. His death has left Prothom Alo shocked and grieving. We will feel his loss every day, every moment. We will take Prothom Alo further ahead with our love and devotion towards him. We extend our deepest love to bhabi Shahnaz Rahman, daughter Simeen Hossain and everyone of his family.