Allah Malik is the lone banker to have served only the central bank throughout his career. He played a key role in formulating the Bangladesh Bank’s promotion policy, transfer policy and offshore banking policy
Just 20 days before his death, he was trying to bolster my morale through a text message that read, "For the roughly 14 days of isolation, make sure to keep all essential provisions (cooked, uncooked foodstuff, water, likely essential medications, and so forth) at hand. You can have these delivered outside your apartment door. I suppose your colleagues will come forward with such help as you may need, but do also feel free to contact me if and when necessary. Don't get panicked. Relax and keep your calm. The cloud hopefully will soon blow over with no damage done."
Well, Covid-19 could not damage me yet the man who was giving me courage lost his life to this deadly virus on June 26.
He is a legendary personality -- Allah Malik Kazemi, change management adviser of the Bangladesh Bank who served the central bank until his death at the age of 74.
This is how Covid-19 is taking many precious lives from among us, which we could never imagine even three months back.
Allah Malik Kazemi succumbed to the coronavirus while undergoing treatment at a private hospital in the capital.
He is the lone man who served only the central bank during his entire career, because he was irreplaceable.
He has made major contributions in shaping foreign exchange and money market policies when the country faced challenges in liberalising in line with the global economy.
He joined the Bangladesh Bank as a Class 1 officer in 1976 and retired as a deputy governor in 2008. After his retirement, he was appointed as an adviser and served in that position for 12 years until his death.
While Covid-19 shook up the entire moral universe, it could not make the legendary banker mentally weak as he started to go to office after the government reopened offices on a small scale from May 31, following the two months' break due to the nationwide shutdown.
In a personal conversation with me over phone on June 6, he was suggesting to me to not go out - even to meet him at his office - during this pandemic, to stay safe. When I asked him why he was going to office taking such risks, he said, "I am in my bonus life, so I don't have to worry much about death."
This is how strong-hearted a man he was, but did he think even for a moment that this virus would really put a stop to his bonus life?
Since the outbreak of the virus, he would regularly email me links of philosophical documentaries on how to keep the mind calm during such pandemics, documentaries on how people survived during previous pandemics. He used to say, "Stop worrying about anything that is out of your control."
He had unquestioned integrity, was uncompromising and was a very caring and protective person, which was reflected through his regular work.
For instance, he was drafting a write-up for the governor for presentation at a meeting of government high-ups. In the draft he strongly opposed the decision to enforce interest cap, which the government wanted to implement. Nobody was daring to raise the issue as the decision came from high-up, but Kazmi wanted to highlight the risks of this decision, which is now a burning issue in the banking sector.
He told me, "I know this issue may finally be avoided in the meeting."
Yes, the issue was not raised in the meeting in the end. But Kazemi was this sort of a bold central banker who did not shy away from agreeing or disagreeing with any government decision in the financial sector.
Sharing his memories, Md Ahsan Ullah, former executive director of the Bangladesh Bank said many important guidelines and policies were born in Kazemi's hands.
"He was a prudent banker who worked all through his life with foreign exchange management, investment and policy and regulations.
Ahsan Ullah found Kazemi as his first boss when he joined the central bank in 1981.
He said Kazemi played key roles in preparing the Bangladesh Bank's foreign exchange guideline. He would manage Bangladesh Bank's foreign exchange investment, monetary policy and research.
He played a key role in formulating the Bangladesh Bank's promotion policy, transfer policy and offshore banking policy.
His prudent management took foreign exchange reserves of the country to $35 billion, said Ahsan Ullah.
It was impossible for me to implement inclusive and sustainable strategies without advice from Kazemi, said Atiur Rahman, former governor of the Bangladesh Bank.
He shared his experience of working with Kazemi on a whatsapp platform of Bangladesh Economic Forum.
He said Kazemi was an institution and a running encyclopedia.
"He had a sea of knowledge about foreign currency management."
"He was such a prudent and expert central banker who has no parallel as yet."
Sharing his memories on the same platform, Salman F Rahman, private sector adviser to the prime minister said, "I knew him personally and had the good fortune of interacting with him many times over a long period of nearly four decades, starting from when he was a junior officer in the foreign exchange department of the central bank. Although many a time we agreed to disagree, I always came away from a meeting with him more knowledgeable and enlightened."
"Allah Malik Kazemi was an iconic central banker. He contributed immensely towards shaping the foreign exchange policy to face the challenges when liberalization of the global economy occurred and towards the promotion of inclusive banking in Bangladesh."
"He had a brilliant analytical mind but most importantly he was an upright person of unquestionable integrity and strong principles. The country has lost a true asset."