Mohammed Shahabuddin met Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for the first time in Pabna at the height of discussion surrounding the Six Point Charter in 1966 when the Father of the Nation invited him to take to the streets, kickstarting his career at a young age.
That was right after he completed his SSC exams. Shahabuddin, nicknamed Chuppu, went on to cut his teeth on student politics. He fought in the Liberation War, pursued a career in law and the judiciary and later took charge of important state organisations over the following six decades.
Now he stands on the verge of becoming Bangladesh’s 22nd head of state.
The Awami League has picked Shahabuddin as its candidate for the upcoming presidential election. A ruling party delegation led by General Secretary Obaidul Quader submitted his nomination papers to the Election Commission headquarters in Dhaka on Sunday.
The Awami League currently occupies 305 of the 350 seats in parliament. As a result, Shahabuddin is certain to be Hamid’s successor to the office of the head of state.
Shahabuddin was born in 1948 in Jubilee Tankpara area of Shibrampur, Pabna and spent most of his childhood in Pabna town.
He studied in the former Gandhi Girls School until the third grade and moved to Radhanagar Majumder Academy the following year to get his matriculation (SSC) certificate from there in 1966. Shahabuddin then enrolled in the Government Edward College in Pabna where he got involved in student politics.
He passed intermediate (HSC) exams from Edward College in 1968 and graduated as a Bachelor in Science in 1971 with the exams taking place in 1972 there. He later gained his Master’s degree in Psychology in 1974 from Rajshahi University and an LLB degree the following year from Shaheed Advocate Aminuddin Law College.
Chhatra League, Liberation War and jail-time
Shahabuddin wrote about his initial meeting with Bangabandhu in a column published in bdnews24.com opinions, highlighting his adoration for the day when Abdur Rab Baga Mia, the then General Secretary of Awami League’s Pabna unit, introduced him to Sheikh Mujib, M Mansur Ali and AHM Kamaruzzaman among other leaders.
Mentioning how Sheikh Mujib called him dearly at the meeting, Shahabuddin wrote: “At the end he told me - ‘Come to the [conference].” I’d just completed my SSC, not even a college student then. How much of politics do I understand? But I still can’t forget the affection residing in the 5 ft 11 in man’s voice.”
After joining the student faction of the Awami League, Shahabuddin quickly became the general secretary of Edward College unit of Chhatra League. He then rose to vice president of Pabna unit of the student affiliate before serving as its president for six years.
Shahbuddin served as the convener of Swadhin Bangla Chhatra Sangram Parishad in Pabna district in 1971 and actively took part in the war. He then became the president of Pabna district Juba League in 1974.
Shahabuddin was nominated the join secretary general of Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League, or BAKSAL, in Pabna district after its formation the following year.
Shahabuddin was arrested and imprisoned after the assassination of Bangbandhu in August 1975. After being released, he took office as Awami League publicity secretary for the district.
Career in law, judge and ACC
Shahabuddin was a member of the Pabna Bar Association before joining as a judge through a BCS (judicial) in 1982. He was elected the secretary general of Bangladesh Judicial Service Association two successive times in 1995 and 1996.
Having served in various capacities in the judiciary for 25 years, he retired as a district and sessions judge in 2006. He also served as the chairman of the Labour Court.
Shahabuddin, who was then a judge, also served as the coordinator of the Bangabandhu killing case appointed by the law ministry. Even after hanging his coat as a judge, Shahabuddin revisited his law career later.
The government appointed him the commissioner of the Election Commission during his tenure as a Supreme Court lawyer from 2008 to 2011. He held the role until 2016.
Journalism and other roles
Shortly after the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami formed a coalition government in 2001, leaders and supporters of the Awami League and its affiliates, as well as members of minority communities, across the country came under attack, with various crimes, including murder, rape and looting being reported. The Awami League later formed a commission headed by Shahabuddin to investigate those crimes after returning to power in 2008.
He was elected a member of the Awami League’s advisory council in January 2020 before serving as election commissioner at Awami League’s last national council.
Shahabuddin’s glittering career also included a spell in journalism. He worked at the Dainik Banglar Bani for two years in 1980 before joining the judiciary. He was a member of Pabna Press Club and Annada Govinda Public Library.
He wrote columns regularly on politics, Bangabandhu and forming policies for bdnews24.com
Shahabuddin took office as Islami Bank’s vice chairman in 2017 as a representative of JMC Builders Limited. He is a member of the bank’s audit committee.
In his personal life, Shahabuddin has a son with his wife Rebecca Sultana, who is a former joint secretary of the government.