“I’m old enough to die now. I don’t think about that anymore. I used to think and talk about that. I will not say anymore. I don’t want to say”
2 November is only a few days away and Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq, the oldest lawyer in the country, would have been 85 on the day. However, he could not touch that "milestone" because of the infallible law of nature.
He passed away on Saturday (24 October). It will not be possible, nor should it be, to forget the contributions he has made in his life.
His life at a glance
Rafiq-ul Haq was born on 2 November 1933 in Calcutta. He graduated from Calcutta University in 1955, obtained a master's degree in philosophy in 1957 and an LLB in 1958.
In 1988, he became a member of the bar as a lawyer in the Calcutta High Court. He obtained his Bar-at-Law from the UK in 1961.
Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq joined the Dhaka High Court in 1962. In 1965, he began working as an Advocate in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. A decade later, in 1975, he joined the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh as a senior lawyer.
He served as Attorney General of Bangladesh from 7 April to 17 December 1990.
Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq has worked with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Ziaur Rahman, Hussain Muhammad Ershad, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia at different times.
During the political crisis in Bangladesh in 2006-08, when corruption cases were brought against Awami League president Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia, he acted as their advisor but did not take any fees. Although he never openly supported any political party in his professional life, politicians always found him beside them at various times.
Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq played a significant role during various crises confronting the country not only as a reputed lawyer but also as a social worker.
He spent most of his earnings as a successful lawyer on social work and welfare of people. He was instrumental in establishing several hospitals, orphanages, mosques and medical colleges in the country.
He fought cancer in 1986 and was to be successful in recovering from it. This strenuous personal struggle led him into focusing his thoughts on the question of health care for the poor.. He established Subarna Clinic in 1995. He also played a role in the establishment of Dhaka Children's Hospital. He undertook the construction of a 100-bed hospital at Kaliakair in Gazipur, work on which is still going on. It is part of the legacy he has left behind.
The lawyer was chairman of the Department of Microbiology at Birdem General Hospital and Nurjahan Ward, Ahsania Mission Cancer Hospital and Ad-Din Medical College Hospital. He was also directly involved in at least 25 service-oriented organisations.
Living in a shady house
Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq lived in a shady, cool, tidy house called "Subarna" in Dhaka's Purana Paltan.
In the last days of his life, he was overwhelmed by old age. He spent his days in silence, spending time reading books and journals and watching TV. He did not leave the house and was confined to a wheelchair.
He did not go to his favourite workplace, the Supreme Court, either. His son barrister Fahimul Haque and junior lawyers handled almost all legal cases.
Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq recently told a media worker at "Subarna" recently, "I am old enough to die now. I don't think about that anymore. I used to think and talk. I will not say anymore. I don't want to say."
Journal of illness and loneliness
Shortly after winning his battle against cancer, he underwent surgery on his left leg at a private hospital in the capital in January 2017. Since then he had not been able to move around normally.
According to his relatives, he fell into loneliness after his wife Farida Haque died in 2011. Old age multiplied that loneliness several times.
Several housemaids used to look after him at Subarna. They said due to age there came some changes in his life. For example, he got up late and consumed moderate food.
One of his junior lawyers said the house Subarna was so dear to Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq that he did not want to go anywhere else or go out of it.
Barrister Rafiq-ul Haq has departed from his Chirochena home, Chirochena workplace and bade goodbye to his Chirochena people. He has proceeded on an eternal journey.