Annisul Huq: From TV studio to mayoral hot seat – the remarkable rise of a businessman

It was a goodbye that came too early as the curtain came down on the colourful life of the 65-year old former FBCCI president at London’s Wellington Hospital on Thursday.

Besides readymade garments trade, the business ventures of the two-time BGMEA president’s Mohammadi Group range from power generation to ICT and real estate.

It also owns DigiJadoo Broadbrand Limited, a cable TV distributor, and Nagorik TV channel. 

With no apparent political ties, Annisul was a surprise pick by the Awami League to run for the mayoral election in 2015.

In his election manifesto, he had promised to make Dhaka a clean, safe and ‘smart’ city.

Born in his mother’s ancestral village of Sonapur at Sonagazi in Feni on Oct 27, 1952, Annisul Huq graduated in economics from Chittagong University.

His father Shariful Huq, hailing from Noakhali’s Companyganj, was an official of the Ansar force.

Annisul founded Mohammadi Group in 1986 after a stint in television as an anchor in the 1980s and 90s.

BTV programmes Anandamela and Antarale became popular with Annisul anchoring them. He also worked in the live programme on the state-run television announcing the results of the 1991 general elections.

Later, the people saw him more as a business leader. After heading the BGMEA, he became the president of apex trade body FBCCI during the military-controlled caretaker government’s 2007-08 regime.     

Aside from being a full-time businessman, he also served as president of the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and chief of the Bangladesh Independent Power Producers’ Association.

His brother General Abu Belal Mohammad Shafiul Huq is the current chief of Bangladesh Army. 

His brother Iqbal Huq is a doctor living in the United States. His another brother, Helal Huq, is a US Navy captain.

His wife Rubana is Managing Director of the Mohammadi Group. Their daughter Tanisha Fariaman Huq is also a company director.

The two other directors of the group are Annisul’s son Navidul Huq and Rubana’s daughter Wamiq Umaira, who is working at the International Labour Organization.

Navidul is working as Managing Director of the group’s concern Desh Energy Limited.

After becoming mayor, Annisul drew media attention on several occasions.

He faced the ire of transport workers when the city corporation was conducting a drive to free the street in front of the Tejgaon Truck Terminal from illegal parking and land grabbing four months after taking the charge.

His comment – “I am a businessman, but I am here to face the goons.” – was a hot topic of discussion at the time.

Annisul also launched Dhaka Chaka bus service and special rickshaws for Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Niketan areas when the government heightened security in the upscale areas following the Holey Artisan Bakery terror attack.

Many criticised him for barring other public transport services in the areas.

One of his comments during the chikungunya outbreak in Dhaka also drew intense criticism. He had said, “Can’t hang mosquito nets at someone else’s home.” 

He initiated a project to set up 11 U-loops on the road from Tejgaon to Gazipur to ease traffic congestion on the Airport Road.

The mayor also took action to free the canals in Dhaka North from encroachment.

The Banani road 27 was expanded after the recovery of a part of a house, illegally built on the street, by the family of former East Pakistan governor Abdul Monem Khan, who was steadfast in his allegiance to Pakistan and had opposed the creation of Bangladesh.

Annisul had some other pledges to make good on as mayor. He had emphasised six points to make the capital a ‘liveable’ city.

Those were – clean, green and environment-friendly Dhaka, safe and healthy Dhaka, traffic-congestion free Dhaka, a centre of humanity, smart and digital Dhaka, and participatory and well-governed Dhaka.