Basharat Ali loved T&T. And that love was not just a fleeting emotion or meaningless words for Ali. It was something that he put into action.
Ali’s journey began from “very humble” beginnings in Aranjuez, his brother-in-law and friend of over 50 years, Patrick Jadoo told the Business Guardian.
Affectionately known as “Little”, Ali was one of 14 children born to a hard-working farmer named Ameer and his wife Zora.
Ali eventually entered St Mary’s College on a Government Scholarship. And in 1952 he left T&T’s shores to pursue a degree in chemical engineering at Manchester University, England, on a Shell international scholarship.
“It was amazing that the community of Aranjuez turned up at the Port of Port-of-Spain to bid him farewell,” Jadoo said.
At Manchester University, Ali graduated with Upper Second Class honours. It was at Manchester University he met two people that would play an important role in his life.
One was George Maxwell Richards who would, later in life as president of T&T, appoint Ali as an Independent Senator. The other was Joyce Headley, who was at the time pursuing her career in optometry.
Ali fell in love with Headley and on their return to T&T got married at the St Joseph TML Mosque.
“Against all odds, some would have said at the time. But, they proved love conquers all,” Jadoo said.
The couple eventually had two daughters Yasmin and Nazmeen.
Ali joined the Shell Company at Point Fortin as a junior engineer.
From his first salary onwards Ali financially supported his parents until they passed away.
He also looked after the education of his younger siblings.
“Today, from a family of 14, four became teachers, three became bankers, one pharmacist, one economist, one aircraft mechanic, one registered nurse, one tailor, one seamstress and, of course, one chemical engineer,” Jadoo said.
Jadoo said Ali was responsible for this outcome in many ways.
“He was always generous, giving freely of his time and resources. Simply put, he was a benefactor to many,” he said.
Jadoo said because of Ali there are now at least four more engineers in the family.
At Shell, Ali eventually worked his way to the position of chief technologist.
He also lectured on a part-time basis at the University of the West Indies’ Faculty of Engineering.
In 1974, Ali became a member of the board at the T&T Industrial Corporation.
And, in 1975, he became a member of the board of the National Gas Company.
“In 1975, chemical engineer Mr Basharat Ali, embraced a leadership role as a member of NGC’s very first Board of Directors. He was instrumental in contributing to decisions that advanced the expansion of NGC’s natural gas pipeline network,” NGC stated.
“Along with other distinguished members of that board, Ali provided a foundation for NGC’s growth into a successful state entity and, ultimately, T&T’s emergence as a regional energy player,” it stated.
On June 10, 2003 Ali first entered the T&T Parliament as a Temporary Independent Senator.
Six months later he was appointed an Independent Senator by Richards.
NGC’s chairman Conrad Enill thanked Ali’s family for his contribution both to the company and the Senate.
“I knew him as a senator and his contributions were always positive and added value to our deliberations. He was very knowledgeable and his presence was appreciated,” Enill told the Business Guardian.
Ali’s tenure at the Senate ended in 2012.
Energy Minister Stuart Young said while he did not know Ali personally his reputation in the energy sector preceded him.
“From what I have gathered Mr Ali contributed in a meaningful manner towards the development of our energy sector and was recognised as an expert in the field,” Young said.
In 2009 Ali was honoured as a pioneering hero for leadership in celebration of 100 years of commercial oil production in T&T.
In 2011 he was awarded the Chaconia Medal Silver for his long and meritorious service as a chemical engineer.
During the last few years, Ali was battling health issues.
He eventually succumbed to them on Christmas Eve (December 24).
On Boxing Day (December 26) Ali was laid to rest at the Aranjuez Muslim Cemetery.
Sadly one week later Nazmeen also passed away.
“I express condolences to his family on his passing and thank them for the support they would have given him as he served our nation throughout his adult life in numerous capacities culminating with his senatorship. It is sons and daughters of the soil like Mr Ali who have helped our country to develop and for this, as a citizen, I am personally grateful,” Young said.
“Mr Ali’s family should be proud of his achievements and contributions and he will be remembered,” he said.
The chief executive officer of the Energy Chamber Dr Dax Driver described Ali as a “stalwart” of the energy industry.
“The Energy Chamber extends sincere condolences to the family of Basharat Ali, a hugely respected professional and stalwart of the energy industry. The Energy Chamber worked closely with him when he was an Independent Senator and consulted with him frequently and widely on issues relating to energy and related policies,” Driver said.
“He frequently sought our views and opinions especially relating to the establishment of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and he made many well-received contributions in Senate debates on energy policy issues and on the EITI,” he said.
A Note from Curtis Williams, Lead Editor, Business:
I also knew Mr Ali who from time to time would call me and talk to me about issues or articles I wrote in the newspaper on the energy sector. At the time he was an Independent Senator in the Parliament of T&T and I was always struck with his humility, openness to sharing all his knowledge and experience and guiding anyone who sought his help. I also want to express my condolences to his family.
T&T is a better place because of people like Mr Ali.