Friday, 5 September 2014

Obituary-Barrister Ali Mohammad Azhar (1935-2014)

Barrister Ali Mohammad Azhar
 Dr. Mozammel Haque

When I met Barrister Ali Mohammad Azhar for the first time in 1981 at his chamber 9 Kings Bench Walk, Temple, he was already a successful legal expert in criminal defence professionally as well as successful in his personal life.

Crime (Defence and Prosecution)
Barrister Azhar has extensive experience in all areas of law at the highest level, including the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords. He had acted as leading junior in many significant cases representing those charged with murder and other offences of the most serious nature. Several of his cases had been reported and are still leading authorities. These included DPP v Fagan (mens rea), Hoque v. Singh (immigration) and Qureshi v. Qureshi (family).

Human Rights Lawyer
Barrister Azhar is said to have worked extensively at high level UK institutions like the Court of Appeal and House of Lords, specialising in areas such as international and human rights law. During his time as Head of Chambers at 9 Kings Bench Walk, Mr. Azhar was always heavily involved in Chamber’s human rights work abroad in such cases as the Guantanamo Bay case. He defended in a murder in Canada and has attended national security courts in Turkey and Egypt. He visited Israel and made representations for the release of Palestinians from the Israeli high security prisons, as well as a military tribunal in Cairo, Egypt.

Barrister Azhar, who visited the Maldives back in 2005 along with Sir Ivan Lawrence QC as part of a fact finding mission dealing with alleged human rights abuses, is also an expert in Sharia Law.

Expert in Islamic Law
Barrister Azhar was enrolled as an Advocate of the High Court of East Pakistan and was an expert on the Islamic Law of marriage, divorce, contact, custody and guardianship, inheritance and succession, as applicable in any Muslim country in the world, particularly in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.

Barrister Azhar was also conversant with the constitution and the civil, criminal and Family Laws of these countries. He appeared as an expert witness in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Central Criminal Court, as well as other courts throughout the country. He is considered to be the leading expert on "mirror orders".

Deeply religious
Barrister Azhar was a most amicable, respectable God-fearing person. His firm belief in Islam made him religiously polite and well-behaved. It is this which initially helped to lead him to his chosen profession. This stems from his belief that the foundations of society are based on laws, and since the Qur’an is Allah’s Book of Laws, then as Muslims, we should follow the Qur’an in order to produce a stable and productive society.

Salman Rushdie case
Barrister Azhar led the prosecution of the infamous writer Salman Rusdie in the British Supreme Court on the ground that the writer had vilified Islam and made scurrilous attacks on the beloved Prophet of Islam in his profane book “Satanic Verses”.

On behalf of millions of Muslims across the world, Mr Azhar took the case to the British High Court, then to the Court of Appeal and then to the highest Court of the land, the House of Lords. Mr Azhar spoke over 11 hours advocating that the writer had committed the serious criminal offence of blasphemy and had to be punished accordingly.

Family man
Away from work and his professional achievement, Mr. Azhar was also a very successful proud family man who also succeeded in his personal life. We will see below his upbringing and success in personal life leads to his success in professional life which I just mentioned before.

Mr. Azhar married his wife, Mrs Farhat Azhar, in 1970 and they have two daughters – Shabeena Mahmuda and Rubeena Mahmuda. Shabeena and Rubeena are also barristers, and they both are tenants of their father’s chambers. In fact, a career in law almost seems to be a prerequisite if you are within the extended family of Mr Azhar; Shabeena Mahmuda’s husband is also a barrister, as is Mr Azhar’s nephew Hafizur Rahman.

Pioneer of British Bangladeshis
Clearly, Barrister Azhar can be seen as a pioneer of British Bangladeshis as, along with his brother, Mr. Azhar’s initial strides into the arena of law have allowed many other members of the community to follow in their footsteps. For this, the community must be extremely grateful as through his determination and hard work, he has become a wonderful representative and ambassador of British Bangladeshis.

Few Asian Barristers
Mr Azhar was called to the bar by the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn in 1962, and since then he has been a huge success within the field of law. He began practising law alongside his brother, the late Ali M Abbas, in 1962. At the time, Asian barristers were few and far between, although the two brothers quickly imposed their expertise onto the legal sector. Both brothers conducted several cases either together or opposed to each other, which have set milestones in the British legal system and are reported in the English legal books and studied by all students of law. Many laws were passed by the British Parliament as a follow-up of the outcome of these cases.

In this connection, it is worthwhile to mention about his brother Ali Mohammad Abbas who was also a barrister. Son of a poor Bengali farmer, Abbas was educated and brought up by his wealthier maternal grandfather, who gave him a higher education that only one in thousands of Bengalis could afford at that time. He became the secretary and president of several student organisations, and joined the All India Muslim League, becoming well known in student circles for his eloquent oratory skills, as well as his fire and conviction. He decided that the progress of the All India Muslim League depended on them having someone to represent them in London.

Like many other Indian nationalists, he came to London towards the end of the Second World War to study law. He joined the All-India Muslim League in London and edited newspapers (Our Home and the Voice of Pakistan) from London. With the creation of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, Abbas used his flat in Tavistock Square as an unofficial Pakistan embassy until an embassy was set up. He remained in England after independence and practised as a Barrister. With the help of local councils, Abbas set up twenty-eight schools all over England to enable Pakistanis to speak, read and write in English.

Mr. Azhar’s Early life
Like his brother, Mr. Azhar in student politics. Born in Serajganj, Pubna, Mr. Azhar studied in the local Chandaikona High School and then joined Pabna Edward College in 1951. Mr. Azhar completed his BA (Hons) in history and MA also in History from the Dhaka University in 1958.

During his student life, Mr. Azhar was deeply involved in student politics. He became the General Secretary of the entire East Pakistan Students’ League and suffered imprisonment on a number of occasions.

Buried in Garden of Peace
Ali Mohammad Azhar breathed his last on Sunday, 24 August 2014 at 10pm at Archway hospital from chest infection. His namaz-e-janaza was held on 26 August Tuesday afternoon at East London Mosque and then his body was taken to the burial place, Garden of Peace at Hainault. Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Indians took part in his funeral.

Brief biography
Name: Barrister Ali Mohammed Azhar
Date of Birth: 01.01.1935
Death: 24.08.2014
Academic Profile
SSC: 1951 - Chandaikona High School
HSC: 1953 - Pabna Edward College
BA (Hons) - 1956 - History - Dhaka University
MA - 1957 - History - Dhaka University
Bar Vocational Course - 1962 - Gray's Inn

Enrolled as practicing Barrister - 1962 (Bar of England and Wales)
Landmark Cases:

Salman Rushdi - 1989
Qureshi Vs Qureshi -1970 
DPP Vs Fagan (mens rea)
IAT v Hoque and Singh (Court of Appeal) IAR 216 1988

Father: Mohammed Maser Ali
Mother: Asia Khatun
Wife: Mrs. Farhat Azhar
Daughter -1. Barrister Shabeena Mahmuda Azhar
Daughter - 2. Barrister Rubeena Mahmuda Azhar
Grand children

1. Leila Safair Azhar Mole
2. Zarina Ayesha Azhar Mole
3. Mariam Al Zara

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