Bangladesh

Shared Prosperity: A Vision for South Asia

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Following article is based on the Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture 2023 by the author as the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh in Colombo

I am profoundly honoured to have the opportunity to deliver this prestigious Lakshman Kadirgamar Memorial Lecture 2023. I thank the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Mr. Ali Sabry for this honour.

As an academician, it is my immense pleasure to share my thoughts with the esteemed audience of our close neighbour Sri Lanka. I am also happy to return to this beautiful island in less than a year after the BIMSTEC Summit held in Colombo.

At the outset, let me pay my homage to late Mr Lakshman Kadirgamar, one of Sri Lanka’s finest sons. He was Foreign Minister during some of the most challenging times in your recent history. Still, he steadily moved towards achieving his dream to build a multi-religious and multi-ethnic united Sri Lanka where all communities could live in harmony. He was a legal scholar and a leader par excellence. He served to raise the level of the political discourse of Sri Lanka, both at home and abroad. His assassination was one of the most tragic losses for the country. However, we are confident that Lakshman Kadirgamar will be remembered by future generations of Sri Lankans for the values and principles he lived and died for which are even more relevant in present-day Sri Lanka.

I am aware of the regard Late Lakshman Kadirgamar held for Bangladesh. I am also aware that my Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina knew him well. Let me share an anecdote. During one of his visits to Bangladesh, after meeting my Prime Minister, on the way out she impromptu took him to the stage of her political, public meeting and introduced him to the audience. He even spoke there for a few minutes. Mrs. Kadirgamar who is present here today, was a witness to that episode. That was an indication of how highly Late Kadirgamar was regarded by my Prime Minister. Perhaps all these prompted Mrs Suganthie Kadirgamar to think of hearing from Bangladesh at this year’s Memorial Lecture. I am deeply touched by this gesture. Thank you, Madam.

We see this as an extension of collaboration between LKI and our think tank BIISS.

Today I would like to share my thoughts on the theme “Shared Prosperity: A Vision for South Asia” which we hold very dearly to our heart.

It cannot begin without recalling our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who provided our foreign policy dictum “Friendship to all, Malice to None” which he later focused more on promoting relations with neighbours first. His able daughter Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina aptly picked up the philosophy and extended it and went for its implementation.

Before I delve into the theme, it would be pertinent to put Bangladesh-Sri Lanka bilateral relations in perspective. The relationship is based on multitude of commonalities and close people-to-people contacts. Last year, we celebrated 50th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic ties. We regularly exchange high level visits, are engaged in bilateral discussions on sectoral cooperation including shipping, trade and commerce, education, agriculture, youth development, connectivity and so on. Our relationship is all about friendship, goodwill and good neighbourliness. Therefore, it is comfortable for me to speak before you in a broader perspective involving the entire region’s development aspect.

Now, why do we think of a holistic approach to prosperity? It is firstly due to the compulsion of the contemporary evolution of global order. We are now going through one of the most significant phases of human history having already experienced an unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. Just as we showed our capacity to tame the pandemic, another challenge came in our way–armed conflict in Europe. This has not only slowed down our recovery from the havoc done by the pandemic but also caused a global economic recession due to increase in energy and food prices and more importantly, disruption of supply chain and financial transaction mechanism owing to sanctions. Besides, we are also victims of rivalry between big and emerging economies and their strategic power play. All these necessitate the developing countries to get together.

The vision of shared prosperity becomes more relevant when we compare the development trajectory of South Asian countries. Indeed, we have made substantial progress. Some South Asian countries have already graduated to middle income status while others are making their way. Yet, poverty is still high in region.

One predominant characteristic is that our economies display greater interest in integrating with the global economy than with each other. Regional cooperation within the existing frameworks has made only limited progress being hostage to political and security considerations. The problems have their roots in the historical baggage as well as the existing disparity in the regional structure. In addition, there are a number of outstanding issues and bilateral discords.

All these realities have left us a message that for survival, we need closer collaboration among neighbours setting aside our differences; we must have concerted efforts through sharing of experiences and learning from each other.

In this backdrop, Bangladesh has been following a policy of shared prosperity as a vision for the friendly neighbours of South Asia. Guided by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we are advocating for inclusive development in the region. Our development trajectory and ideological stance dovetail our vision of shared prosperity for South Asia. Let me tell how we are doing it.

In Bangladesh, human development is the pillar of sustainable development. Our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in his maiden speech at the UNGA in 1974 said and I quote, “there is an international responsibility … to ensuring everyone the right to a standard living adequate for the health and the well-being of himself and his family”. Unquote.

As the top enabler of the country’s diplomacy, then the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar, called on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on February 26, 2005. [ File Photo]

This vision remains relevant even today. In that spirit, we are pursuing inclusive and people-centric development in association with regional and global efforts. 

In the last decade, we have achieved rapid economic growth ensuring social justice for all. Today, Bangladesh is acknowledged as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. We have reduced poverty from 41.5% to 20% in the last 14 years. Our per capita income has tripled in just a decade. Bangladesh has fulfilled all criterions for graduating from LDC to a developing country. Bangladesh is ranked as world’s 5th best COVID resilient country, and South Asia’s best performer.

Last year, we inaugurated the self-funded ‘Padma Multi-purpose Bridge”. A few days ago, we started the first ever Metro Rail service in our capital. Soon, we shall complete the 3.2 kilometer Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the river Karnaphuli in Chattogram, the first in South Asia. Several other mega-projects are in the pipeline which will bring about significant economic upliftment.

Our aspiration is to transform Bangladesh into a knowledge-based ‘Smart Bangladesh” by 2041 and a prosperous and climate-resilient delta by 2100. We hope to attain these goals by way of ensuring women empowerment, sustainable economic growth and creating opportunities for all.

The priorities of Sheikh Hasina Government are the following:

First, provide food, Second, provide cloths, Third, shelter and accommodation to all and no one should be left behind, Fourth, Education and Fifth, Healthcare to all. To achieve these goals, she promoted vehicles like Digital Bangladesh, innovation, foreign entrepreneurs and private initiatives in an atmosphere of regional peace, stability and security, and through connectivity. Bangladesh has become a hub of connectivity and looking forward to become a ‘Smart Bangladesh’.

When it comes to foreign policy, we have been pursuing neighbourhood diplomacy for amiable political relations with the South Asian neighbours alongside conducting a balancing act on strategic issues based on the philosophy of “shared prosperity”. I can name a few initiatives which speak of our commitment to the fulfilment of the philosophy.

Bangladesh, within its limited resources, is always ready to stand by her neighbours in times of emergency-be it natural calamity, or pandemic or economic crisis. We despatched essential medicines, medical equipment and technical assistance to the Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and India during the peak period of Covid-19 pandemic.

We had readily extended humanitarian assistance to Nepal when they faced the deadly earthquake back in 2015. Last year, we helped the earthquake victims of Afghanistan. Prior to that, we contributed to the fund raised by the United Nations for the people of Afghanistan.

Further, our assistance for the people of Sri Lanka with emergency medicines during the moment of crisis last year or the currency SWAP arrangement is the reflection of our commitment to our philosophy. These symbolic gestures were not about our capacity, pride or mere demonstration, rather it was purely about our sense of obligation to our neighbours. We strongly believe that shared prosperity comes with shared responsibility and development in a single country of a particular region may not sustain if others are not taken along.

In addition, we have resolved most of our critical issues with our neighbours peacefully through dialogue and discussion. For example, we have resolved our border demarcation problem with India, our maritime boundary with India and Myanmar, and also our water sharing with India peacefully through dialogue and discussion.

For an emerging region like South Asia, we need to devise certain policies and implement those in a sustainable manner. I would like to share some of my thoughts which could be explored in quest for our shared prosperity and inclusive development:

First of all, without regional peace and stability we would not be able to grow as aspired for. To that effect, our leaders in the region have to work closely on priority basis. We may have issues between neighbours but we have to transcend that to leave a legacy of harmony for our future generation so that a culture of peace and stability prevails in the region. We can vouch for it from our own experience. In Bangladesh, we are sheltering 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. If remains unresolved, it has the potential to jeopardise the entire security architecture of South Asia. So, here the neighbourhood should support us for their own interests.

Second, we need to revitalize our regional platforms and properly implement our initiatives taken under BIMSTEC and IORA. We are happy that BIMSTEC is progressing better, but we should endeavour to make it move always like a rolling machine.

Third, we need to focus on regional trade and investment. Countries in South Asia had implemented trade liberalization within the framework of SAFTA but in a limited scale. Bangladesh is in the process of concluding Preferential Trade Agreement/Free Trade Agreement with several of its South Asian peers. We have already concluded PTA with Bhutan; are at an advanced stage of negotiations for PTA with Sri Lanka and discussions for PTA with Nepal are on. In the same spirit, Bangladesh is about to start negotiations on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with India.

Fourth, a well-connected region brings immense economic benefits and leads to greater regional integration. To maximize our intra- and extra-regional trade potentials and enhance people-to-people contacts, Bangladesh is committed to regional and sub regional connectivity initiatives. Bangladesh’s geostrategic location is a big leverage which was rightly picked up by our Hon’ble Prime Minister. She benevolently offered connectivity in the form of transit and trans-shipment to our friendly neighbours for sustainable growth and collective prosperity of the region. As for Sri Lanka, if we can establish better shipping connectivity which our two countries are working on, the overall regional connectivity would be more robust.

Fifth, We live in a globalized world, highly interconnected and interdependent. Our region has gone through similar experience and history. Bangladesh believes and promotes religious harmony. We have been promoting “Culture of Peace” across nations. The basic element of “Culture of Peace” is to inculcate a mindset of tolerance, a mind set of respect towards others, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, colour, background or race. If we can develop such mindset by stopping venom of hatred towards others, we can hope to have sustainable peace and stability across nations, leading to end of violence, wars, and terrorism in nations and regions. There won’t be millions of refugees or persecuted Rohingyas. Bangladesh takes special pride in it as even before Renaissance was started in Europe in the 17th century, even before America was discovered in 1492, in Bengal a campaign was started by Chandi Das as early as 1408 that says “সবার উপরে মানুষ সত্য; তাহার উপরে নাই”- humanity is above all and we still try to promote it.

Sixth, we have to look beyond a traditional approach of development and challenges and revisit the non-traditional global crises of the recent time. We are experiencing food, fuel, fertilizer and energy shortages due to global politics and disruption of supply chain; as littoral and island countries we face similar challenges of natural disasters; we have vast maritime area which needs effective maritime governance; we need to curb marine pollution and ensure responsible use of marine resources. Our collective, sincere and bold efforts are required to minimize the impacts of climate change as well.
In this context, I would like to share Bangladesh’s understanding and position.

Ocean Governance:

Blue Economy: Bangladesh is an avid proponent of Blue Economy and responsible use of marine resources for the benefit of the entire region. We are keen to utilize the full potential of our marine resources and have developed an integrated maritime policy drawing on the inter-linkages between the different domains and functions of our seas, oceans and coastal areas. Bangladesh also values the importance of sound science, innovative management, effective enforcement, meaningful partnerships, and robust public participation as essential elements of Blue Economy.  At this stage, we need support, technical expertise and investment for sustainable exploration and exploitation of marine resources. As the past and present chairs of IORA, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka should find out ways of bilateral collaboration particularly in Blue Economy in the Bay of Bengal.

Controlling of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing:
IUU fishing in the maritime territory of Bangladesh needs to be monitored and controlled. Our present capability of marine law enforcement in this regard is limited. Here regional collaboration would be very useful.

Marine Pollution: Marine pollution is a major concern for all littoral countries. Micro-plastic contamination poses serious threat to marine eco system. Responsible tourism and appropriate legal framework underpinned by regional collaboration would greatly help.

Climate Change and Climate Security in the Bay of Bengal: We have taken a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to make the country climate-resilient. Our Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan was formulated in 2009. Bangladesh has pioneered in establishing a climate fund entirely from our own resources in 2009. Nearly $443 million has been allocated to this fund since then.

Moreover, we are going to implement the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ to achieve low carbon economic growth for optimised prosperity and partnership. Green growth, resilient infrastructure and renewable energy are key pillars of this prosperity plan. This is a paradigm shift from vulnerability to resilience and now from resilience to prosperity.

As the immediate past Chair of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, we had promoted the interests of the climate vulnerable countries including Sri Lanka in the international platforms. Bangladesh is globally acclaimed for its remarkable success in climate adaptation, in particular in locally-led adaptation efforts. The Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) South Asia regional office in Dhaka is disseminating local based innovative adaptation strategies to other climate vulnerable countries.

To rehabilitate the climate displaced people, we have undertaken one of the world’s largest housing projects which can shelter 4,500 climate displaced families. Under the “Ashrayan” project, a landmark initiative for the landless and homeless people, 450,000 families have been provided with houses. Keeping disaster resilience in mind, the project focuses on mitigation through afforestation, rainwater harvesting, solar home systems and improved cook stoves. In addition, the government has implemented river-bank protection, river excavation and dredging, building of embankment, excavation of irrigation canals and drainage canals in last 10 years at a massive scale. We feel, our national efforts need to be complemented by regional assistance.

As the chair of CVF and as a climate vulnerable country, our priority is to save this planet earth for our future generations. In order to save it, we need all countries, specially those that are major polluters, to come up with aggressive NDCs, so that global temperature remains below 1.5 degree Celsius, they should allocate more funds to climate change, they should share the burden of rehabilitation of ‘climate migrants’ that are uprooted from their sweet homes and traditional jobs due to erratic climatic changes, river erosion and additional salinity. We are happy that “loss and damage” has been introduced in COP-27.

Seventh, South Asia needs a collective voice in the international forum for optimizing their own interests.

Finally, and most importantly, South Asian leaders need similar political will for a better and prosperous region.

We hope that Bangladesh and its neighbours in South Asia would be able to tap the potentials of each other’s complementarities to further consolidate our relations to rise and shine as a region. May I conclude by reminding ourselves what a Bengali poet has said, and I quote,

“মেঘ দেখে কেউ করিসনে ভয়
আড়ালে তার সূর্য হাসে”

Don’t be afraid of the cloud, sunshine is sure to follow.

With this, I conclude. I thank you all for your graceful presence and patience.

Joy Bangla, Joy Bangabandhu!

Bangladesh: A Promise of Hope

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On January 8, 2023, Mohammad Salim, deputy leader of Block B, Rohingya Camp-8 West, in the Ukhiya Sub-District of Cox’s Bazar District, was killed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

On January 7, Mohammad Rashid, the leader of Block A, Rohingya Camp-15, in Teknaf Sub-District of Cox’s Bazar District, was killed by masked assailants.

On January 6, 2023, an insurgent, identified as Nurunnabi, was injured in a shootout that took place between two terrorist groups at Block B-39, Rohingya Camp-8 East, in Ukhiya. The members of the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) and law enforcement agencies recovered a grenade from the house of the injured insurgent.

Three terrorism-linked incidents of violence in quick succession, resulting in two fatalities, reported from Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar District. 

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), there were 18 fatal terrorism-linked incidents which had resulted in 22 fatalities in 2022. In 2021, there were five incidents which had resulted in 17 fatalities.

The prominent incidents in 2022 included: 

December 26: A group of 12 armed militants of ARSA shot dead a Rohingya leader in Block 16, Rohingya Camp-8 West in Ukhiya. The dead person was identified as Mohammad Hossain alias Shafique who was the leader of Block B.

November 29: Unidentified assailants shot at and stabbed to death a Rohingya community leader, Shahab Uddin. Uddin was a deputy leader in H-14 Block Rohingya Camp-12 in Ukhiya.

October 18: Unidentified men killed a Rohingya youth, Syed Hossain, at Rohingya Camp-19 in Ukhiya.

ARSA, a lethal insurgent group based in Myanmar, is escalating activities in Bangladesh. Investigations against ARSA ‘commander-in-chief’ Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi and 65 others were launched on November 23, 2022, in the case of the killing of a Directorate General of Forces Intelligence officer, Rizwan Rushdee, and the injuring of a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) trooper, during an anti-smuggling operation in the Bandarban District on November 14, 2022.In October 2022, ARSA was responsible for multiple incidents of killing, attacks and threats in Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. In 30 attacks just between August and October 2022, ARSA killed or injured Rohingyas by shooting, hacking and separating organs, to create a reign of terror among the refugees. According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), in the year 2022, nine ARSA-linked incidents of violence have been reported in Bangladesh, in which five persons (three civilians and two militants) were killed and another six (all civilians) were injured.

Moreover, there has been a marked increase in unlawful activities in the Rohingya refugee camps, through 2022, due to the growing and active presence of organized gangs. According to an August 11, 2022, report, Rohingyas had formed at least 20 organised armed gangs, presently active in the refugee camps, prominently including the ‘Salman Shah Group’, ‘Putia Group’, ‘Munna Group’, ‘Hakim Group’, and ‘Jokir Group’. The gangs were involved in serious crimes such as arms, drugs and human trafficking, gold smuggling, kidnapping, extortion and killing. They were also involved in robberies, burglaries, cybercrime, sexual violence and harassment, as well as illegal SIM card and the hundi (money laundering) trade. They have also been involved in grabbing land from Bangladeshi citizens and also run juvenile gangs.

As reported on August 11, 2022, some 101 Rohingyas have been killed in the last five years in internal conflicts among these gangs. In October, 2021, a report indicated that shoot-outs and clashes between these gangs in the Rohingya camp areas were motivated by efforts to establish supremacy and taking control of the illegal Yaba (a cocktail of methamphetamine and caffeine) and gold smuggling, money laundering, and extortion rackets that have proliferated there. As reported on October 3, 2021, the Officer-in-charge (OC) of Teknaf model Police Station in Cox’s Bazar District, Hafizur Rahman disclosed that a total of 27 cases have been filed against just one such group – the Hakim Group.

Moreover, some 100 armed groups, prominently including ARSA, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), the Arakan Rohingya Army (ARA), and Jamaat-e-Arakan, are engaged in a turf war to control the camps. The conflict is most violent between ARSA and RSO. ARSA and ARA, led by Nabi Hossain, who was part of ARSA, but left the groups in 2020, are also violently engaged in their efforts to dominate the region. Though no authoritative data is available about the losses faced by these groups, Fawz-ul-Kabir alias Moulavi Abu Anas, ARSA ‘second-in-command’, who reportedly resigned from the outfit in June 2022, has publicly criticized the ARSA leadership for recent casualties suffered by the group at the hands of RSO.

Meanwhile, ARSA has targeted members of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPHR), a group that represents parts of the refugee community. Chairman of the ARSPHR and a prominent Rohingya leader, Master Mohibullah, was shot dead by suspected ARSA militants at his office in Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar District, on September 29, 2021. Subsequently, several ARSPHR members have been killed by ARSA. In the most prominent incident, on October 22, 2021, at least six Rohingya refugees, who were followers of Master Mohibullah, were killed and eight were injured, inside a refugee camp in Ukhiya.

On September 19, 2022, reacting to the rising waves of crime and violence Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal declared that no more Rohingya would be allowed to enter the country. Those who had come earlier, fleeing persecution in Myanmar, have created many problems, he added.

On October 27, 2022, three battalions of APBn arrested at least 41 Rohingyas, including six murder accused, in a special operation, ‘Operation Root Out’, in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

In addition, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region, consisting of three hilly, forested southeastern Districts of Bandarban, Rangamati, and Khagracchari, is experiencing increasing ethnic violence even after 25 years of the signing of the CHT Accord of 1997. According to partial data collated by SATP, in 2022 incidents of violence have risen, with 15 fatalities recorded in 2022, as compared to 10 through 2021. The reasons for the increase are, the emergence of ethnicity based armed group, the Kuki-Chin National Front (KCNF) and the Marma National Party in CHT, which has challenged existing groups such as the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) and the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF). The KCNF, an armed organization led by erstwhile PCJSS member Nathan Loncheu Bawm, appeared in 2021. Although it was first announced as the Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO), its latest incarnation as KCNF was declared after KNDO’s head, Nathan Loncheu Bawm, failed to contest the 2018 elections. KCNF’s main demand is the formation of an autonomous state for the ‘greater Kuki-Chin race’, within the CHT. 

Moreover, as reported on January 4, 2023, there are concerns in the CHT that a vested quarter has been providing backing and shelter to armed terrorist groups, while meting out suppressive measures and imposing the responsibility for terrorist activities upon the Jumma people engaged in the movement demanding implementation of the CHT Accord. One such terrorist group is the KCNF, which is reportedly providing shelter and military training to an Islamist militant group, the Jamatul Ansar Fil Hind al Sharqiya (JAFHS), in their hideouts in the remote Ruma township in the southern part of CHT. On January 12, 2023, RAB disclosed that 12 operatives of JAFHS and 14 operatives of KCNF had been arrested, to that date, in the ongoing anti-militancy drive that started on October 10, 2022. On October 20, 2022, RAB arrested seven JAFHS operatives. The arrestees confessed that they had an agreement with KCNF to provide them shelter and training in exchange for money.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government continued to articulate and implement a zero-tolerance policy towards Islamist terrorism and the use of its territory as a terrorist safe haven. Through 2022, there was not a single case of a fatality related to proscribed Islamist terrorist groups reported in the country, continuing with the trend established in the previous year, 2021.

2022 witnessed a total of 263 arrests of Islamist terrorists/radicals belonging to various outfits, including 200 Jamaat-e-Islami-Islami Chhatra Shibir (JeI-ICS), 12 JAFHS, 10 Jamaatul Muslimeen, eight Ansar al-Islam, seven Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT), among others. Also, as reported on June 30, 2022, the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) started a process of deradicalizing militants inside prisons under the “Construction of the Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime Prevention Centre of Bangladesh Police”. Under this process, social, clinical, and educational psychologists; religious clerics, and counterterrorism experts were expected to start deradicalizing jailed militants and also those on bail from June 2022 onwards, CTTC chief Mohammad Asaduzzaman disclosed. While reiterating the zero tolerance policy on November 17, 2022, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina stated,

Let us all hold peace, the message of Islam in our hearts and eradicate darkness, illiteracy, discord, violence, terrorism and militancy from the society; resist the evil forces which are making misinterpretation of Islam. We’ve adopted zero tolerance towards militancy to uphold the peaceful glory of holy Islam by keeping the country free from militancy.

Meanwhile, the last quarter of 2022 recorded some violent incidents and clashes involving members of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Awami League (AL), including:

November 28: Multiple cocktail bomb explosions occurred in the AL office in the Chanda area of the Kaliakoir Sub-District in Gazipur District. Two cases have been filed against 27 leaders and activists of BNP and more than 200 others for their alleged involvement in the explosions. On the same day, two bombs exploded at a fish farm on the Trimoni intersection in Gangni city in Meherpur District. Police later recovered another three bombs from the site of the explosion. However, no casualty was reported. A case was registered against 11 leaders and activists of BNP and its allied organizations in connection with the blasts.

November 29: Two AL members were injured as a crude bomb exploded in the AL party office in the Dhangora Junction area in Raiganj Sub-District, Sirajganj District. Later, BNP activists and two party leaders were charged. Raiganj BNP municipality unit convener Ainul Haque, its secretary Khairul Islam, and 20 named and 150 unnamed BNP men were accused in the case. Apart from direct violence, BNP and its allies are also working at the international level with various lobbies, to target the AL Government.

Meanwhile, on December 7, 2022, Sheikh Hasina declared that Bangladesh’s next general elections will be held during the first week of January 2024.

With elections in the coming year, and the increased activities of BNP and its cohorts, the situation in Bangladesh is likely to become precarious. Security Forces’ successes against the Islamists are, certainly, a signal achievement, but Islamist radicalization remains widespread, and the disruptive efforts of terrorist formations – some old and some new – persist. Moreover, the troubles in the Rohingya refugee camps have created new and serious threats to the internal peace and security of Bangladesh in general, and the Cox’s Bazar District and Bhashan Char, in particular. The escalating violence in CHT, is another flashpoint of concern.  A relatively peaceful for Bangladesh could find itself abruptly destabilized as the General Elections approach.

Tributes to a scholar, a wise Jurist, and a role model of Bangladesh

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Chief Justice SM Murshed was born on 11 January 1911. January 11, 2023 would be his 112th Birthday. He was a Bengali jurist and legal scholar who served as the Chief Justice of High Court in the-then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from 1964 to 1967.

We justify our privileged status as legal professionals only as we do justice for all our citizens, young and old, male or female, rich or poor, and without regard to ethnic or racial origin or to religious belief and Chief Justice Murshed strongly believed in this dictum.

He contributed immensely to our judiciary during his time. His demise 44 years back at 68 is indeed a great loss to the judicial fraternity specifically and the nation as a whole.

He was a towering Bengali and that his many accomplishments and contributions to the country were well documented, in particular when he was the Chief Justice and afterwards in life time.

He had written a number of landmark judgments.His judgments, which reflected his judicial independence accompanied by legal clarity and intellectual analysis, constitute a major contribution to our country’s jurisprudence and justice system.

Sharing the same thoughts by his votaries, former Chief Justice SM Murshed was known for his dedication and sharp legal mind and also was highly respected by those who had served under him.Although he was a strict man, everyone admired and respected him… ‘A man of principle, honest and holier-than-thou.

Though he was a tough boss, he was a very good man and had a kind heart. Those who knew him also described Justice Murshed as a man of principle, honest, of the highest integrity.

He would be all ears and heart to discuss legal issues. Many say with conviction that he was incorruptible, the most honest man in his entire life.He trained many to have moral courage and dignity. He was an argus-eyedman, but he was a giant in law and justice.

He was an exceptional gentleman, and a judge, then the Chief Justice of high integrity and good temperament during his days on the bench. His judgments are usually couched in very simple language, succinctly to the issues at hand, and often used as authoritative references by judges and lawyers.

He was a man of unfailing courtesy … he was also a kind, humble and elegant man – elegant in his style, in his thinking and in his writing. He brought to the bench a broad and deep knowledge of the law. As a lawyer, and then as a judge and finally as the Chief Justice…, he worked selflessly for a just outcome.The law was only one of many facets to his Honour’s life.

He believed that the important point to keep in mind is that this judicial branch is not the servant of lawyers, or judges, of clerks, of non-judicial employees, but of the people. Without a functioning judicial branch there can be no constitutional democracy. Without a judicial branch there is no liberty, no peace, no order, no guarantee of fairness. Without an independent judiciary even those citizens who never go to court will be at risk in their lives, their liberty and their property. The loss of a functioning judicial branch is a loss that our society cannot survive.

Considering the magnitude of the challenges the judge faced when he became chief, his administrative accomplishments were extraordinary. With the help of many, he preserved the judiciary’s independence, strengthened its authority, and helped it adapt to the changing demands of justice.

Today, we remember not only Chief Justice SM Murshedas an enlightened and effective administrator, but also as an exemplary jurist, who created a body of law that will continue to affect the lives of our citizenry, and influence the courts in other jurisdictions, well into the future.

The chief introduced a distinct approach to judging. He recognized that courts were being asked to decide matters of fundamental importance to the human condition, that in the 60sthese matters were coming to the courts with increasing frequency because of the inability of other social and political institutions to resolve certain difficult and troubling issues. In addressing these issues, he was not satisfied to employ a mechanical application of legal doctrine. Rather, he sought new ideas, new perspectives, and in so doing, he relied on the best ideas in the history of human thought, spirit and imagination. His opinions were often peppered with references to great thinkers throughout history.

His opinions ring with energy, history, humour, real knowledge of real institutions, penetrating analysis, synthesizing will, an imagination balanced on the point at which what is becomes what can be. They have vision, and they have design. They teach, explain and persuade. Sometimes they sing.

His opinions are scholarly, but they are grounded in experience. They perpetuate ideals, but work in the practical world. They are generous without yielding in principle and tough without failing in mercy. They value the past at the moment they change it, and change outworn laws at justice’s command.

Murshed’s commitment to individual freedom is reflected in the trend he often led to find greater protections of individual freedom.His concern for human dignity is best illustrated by his opinions in cases involving.

He clearly interpreted that the constitutional right to privacy . . . is an expression of the sanctity of individual free choice and self-determination as fundamental constituents of life. The value of life as so perceived is lessened not by a decision to refuse treatment, but by the failure to allow a competent human being the right of choice.

He strongly believed in protecting the incompetent person within its power, the state must recognize the dignity and worth of such a person and afford to that person the same panoply of rights and choices it recognizes in competent persons.

He recognized the essential uniqueness of each human being when he concluded that the primary test is subjective in nature — that is, the goal is to determine with as much accuracy as possible the wants and needs of the individual involved. Significantly, in making this determination, he vehemently disapproved of an analysis that would equate the value of life with an individual’s quality of life.

In reaching this conclusion, he made a visionary observation about decision-making in a democracy that it is the diversity of opinion among individuals, some of whose concepts may well have been influenced by their group affiliations, which is envisioned when we refer to ‘diffused impartiality.’ No human being is wholly free of the interests and preferences which are the product of his cultural, family, and community experience. Nowhere is the dynamic commingling of the ideas and biases of such individuals more essential than inside the jury room.

By values, by vision, by strength of character, Justice Murshedwas the right person to lead this court through one of its most trying times and to so well prepare it for the challenging future that is now upon us. He loved this court, and this country.

He exhorted the legal profession to do justice for all our citizens, young and old, male or female, rich or poor, and without regard to ethnic or racial origin or to religious belief. And what he urged on others, he achieved himself. In this, he lived the imperative to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our Creator.

May it please the court. To summarize the life of any person is a difficult task, and one which each of us must undertake from our own perspective. But in the case ofMurshed, the task is compounded by his extraordinary nature, for he was one of the most exceptional people that our people have ever known.

Winston Churchill once said, “what we get is how we make a living, but what we give is how we make a life.” If that be the measure, then SM Murshed’slife was rich beyond description. As an extraordinary law school acclaimed scholar, internationally known barrister, and brilliant jurist, he gave everything he had to every undertaking, obligation, commitment, and relationship. There was nothing halfway or equivocal about him. And his measure as a caring, sensitive, thoroughly delightful human being was equally compelling.

Totally devoted to his family and his extended family of countless friends, he had a passion for people that was unsurpassed. He was frequently an anchor to the wind for those of people less strong.

It is not surprising that many great jurists were once great trial lawyers, and so it was withMurshed. He quickly established, by his great ability, his trial experience, and his scholarly pursuits, a reputation as an outstanding jurist – areputation as one of the country’s leading authorities on the laws of evidence.

He was a visionary who sought constant improvement in the judicial system and the ability to anticipate the needs of the future.

He was a man who was personally aggrieved by the injustices of this world and the plight of societies afflicted. He was a man of enormous talent who gave all of his heart, body, and soul to the judicial system of this country and his beloved High Court, which he led with such pride and great ability.

He was a man of principle and self-discipline. And when his friends hear words such as integrity, loyalty, honesty, decency, compassion, dedication, and justice, they know that these are not just pious platitudes that are sometimes over used, but rather these were… intimate friends, his constant companions, the guide posts by which he lived throughout his entire life.

From my perspective of my father who was a lucent lawyer during the British Regime in the Indian Sub-continent, Chief JusticeMurshed has my greatest admiration and respect for being everything that a noble profession would like to offer to the world. As our revered person as he is, he had my love for being everything that a great person can be.

Let it be recorded that Murshed lived and he lived life well and he lived it fully. And all of those whose lives he touched are the richer for it.

This confidante of the mighty and defender of the weak, this courageous judicial fighter and warm compassionate friend, this highly public person and highly private family man, made a great mark upon our times.

Although he was of a quiet and gentle nature, he was fearless in defense of what he believed to be right. He not only stood toe-to-toe with certain members of the Legislature in order to preserve an independent judiciary, but also fought to preserve his own reputation in the face of unsupported rumours and innuendo when he could have quietly remained aloof and pursued a very successful and remunerative career. He even stood up to the generals of the Pakistani junta at the risk of his personal safety and in his country.

He was, in short, a man for all seasons, quiet yet determined, open to persuasive argument but unwavering in defense of what he believed.

We miss him terribly and can’t believe that he’s gone. But his voice and his image remain with us. When troubled, we ask, “What would Justice Murshed do?” And when we ask that, we become larger, wiser, fiercer, more generous, and we set our eyes on the task ahead. Thank you, Chief Justice SM Murshed, for being a ray of sunshine even on our darkest days.

Bangladesh in 1971: Genocide of Whom and by Whom?

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Two US Congressmen, Mr. Chabot from Ohio (Republican) and Mr. Khanna from California (Democrat), have moved a resolution entitled “Recognizing the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971” in the House of Representative on October 14, 2022 calling that the House “recognizes that such atrocities against ethnic Bengalis and Hindus constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.” Genocide is a serious crime and genocide was definitely committed during this fateful year but the question that one needs to ask is genocide of whom and by whom. There existed at least three communities at the time, but the resolution mentions only two – Bengalis (Muslims) and Hindus. It ignores Urdu-speaking non-Bengali Muslims known as Biharis because most of them migrated there in 1947 from the neighboring Indian state Bihar. More than fifty years later, one needs to analyze conditions of all three communities to find the truth behind this genocide claim.

An Extraordinary Year

The year 1971 was an extraordinary year, but explanation for events of this year demands some reference to the history of the whole region. The area (Bengal, Bihar and Orissa), rich both agriculturally and industrially, attracted immigrants and colonizers throughout the medieval period. In 1757, the English East India Company (EIC) occupied the territory and introduced a discriminatory policy to eliminate Muslims from socio-economic power by promoting Hindus, although in pre-British Bengal Hindus enjoyed equal opportunities. The British white supremacist Islamophobic approach well matched with the Hindu upper caste outlook. The Hindu rise in economic and political superiority soon resulted into Hindu cultural domination – a phenomenon that came to be known as the Bengal Renaissance. During the century long EIC rule, Muslims and Hindu lower caste suffered heavily. William Hunter, an EIC civil servant, described the condition of Muslims as “‘the Musalmans’ as ‘in all respects…a race ruined under British rule’.” The colonizers, however, seemed to have learned a lesson through this experience: after 1857, they did not destroy a whole community; they only created loyal native aristocrats. Muslims of Bengal, on their part, secured the separate electorate system – a system that safeguarded Muslim voting Muslim members of legislative assemblies in an environment where the Hindu majoritarian approach had threatened Muslim interests. This system eventually helped establishing Pakistan as a separate nation in 1947. However, due to the British discriminatory policy, Bengali Muslims hardly had any representation in top civil and military bureaucratic cadre in the newly established government in Pakistan. The 1971 catastrophe must be understood in this context.

United Pakistan Years

The twenty-four years history of Pakistan (1947-1971) is a tragic history for Muslims of the sub-continent. Pakistan’s idealism was lost and within a decade, elites in Pakistan fulfilled the objective of the former EIC official Lord Macaulay’s desire of creating agents of English taste (brown sahib) in colonial territories. They hardly recognized contributions of Bengali Muslims to the Pakistan Movement and made no gesture to create equal opportunities for East Pakistanis to catch up with their legitimate share in the country’s civil and military bureaucracy and in its economic growth. In fact, the only handful of those East Pakistani officials who had held higher positions in the British-Indian administration, were also deprived of further promotion. Justice Abu Saleh Muhammad Akram, the senior most serving judge to succeed the first chief justice of Pakistan’s Supreme Court did not do so. Instead, Justice Muhammad Munir became the second Chief Justice of Pakistan’s apex court. Justice Munir soon came up with a new term – the doctrine of necessity – to validate an executive action justifying the dissolution of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly. East Pakistan was also deprived of their fair share in central government’s assets while the main source of foreign currency income came from an East Pakistani product, namely jute. This created a huge tension between the two regions of Pakistan. East Pakistani demands for justice and equal rights went to deaf ears. In Pakistan today there is a common tendency to blame India for what happened in 1971, although both the Qur’an and history has taught us that whatever befalls a community, it happens due to its internal weaknesses. More than half a century later, one needs to reflect and look back and identify its causes. Aside from historical causes noted above, one finds plenty of immediate weaknesses. We will highlight only a few here.

Moving toward Conflict

Faced with protests against his dictatorial rule, President Ayub Khan handed over power to the chief of armed forces, although under the constitution formulated under his own patronage, he was supposed to hand over power to the Speaker of the National Assembly. The Speaker happened to have been from East Pakistan. The new military general turned president, Yahya Khan, conducted a general election in 1970 but did not ensure a free and fair process. In East Pakistan, the Awami League (AL) – the party that secured most seats in the parliament – made a mockery of the system. It began with a huge propaganda campaign by publishing pamphlets with fake information about discrepancies between the two wings of Pakistan. Then they made sure that none of its political rivals could hold large public rallies anywhere in East Pakistan. On January 18, 1970 they attacked an opposition public rally (since January 1 public political activities were allowed) killing two and injuring hundreds in the open daylight in the capital city Dhaka. Neither the martial law administration, nor the civilian authorities took any action for exaggerating and spreading fake information about provincial inequalities. They also began fascist type attacks on political opponents. The AL had already a reputation of having a fascist approach to politics: In 1957, some of its leaders were involved in killing the Deputy Speaker of East Pakistan provincial Assembly during an ongoing session. Its student’s wing, East Pakistan Chhttra League, was also known for campus violence all over East Pakistan. By the end of Ayub regime, they began to receive support from International Islamophobic forces. A former KGB agent, Yuri Bezmenov, in an interview has revealed mechanisms of Soviet assistance to breakup Pakistan.

Years later, I found more information about how India was assisting secessionist elements in East Pakistan. In a casual discussion, an Indian friend of mine told me that he had received an offer from one of his neighbors that he could assist settling a personal dispute by supplying him with grenades. How he could have a military weapon in his personal possession, my friend wondered. His neighbor explained that when he was posted in East Pakistan during the last days of Ayub regime to work for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of the Indian armed forces, he officially received those weapons. Since there was no accountability, he kept some when he retired. Many academic works on RAW would later confirm this claim. Nevertheless, as soon as the election results were out in late 1970, a drama of negotiations began between the military and political leaders. While these negotiations were still going on, extremist elements of AL began to target non-Bengalis all over East Pakistan; not only looting and vandalizing their properties but also sporadically killing them extremely cruelly. Both the martial law and civilian authorities maintained complete silence on these atrocities.

Beginning of the Carnage

The government of Yahya Khan decided to take the fatal military action on March 25, 1971. Reporting on their first night’s operation in a Dhaka University hostel, a Pakistani army officer describes in a recently self-published book:

In another room of the hostel, twenty stark naked young girls of West Pakistan and Bihari origin were found locked up, some since as long as fifteen days. In Jul 1971, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the NCOs of this unit, who was a part of the party, which recovered these unfortunate girls. This tough and hardy soldier shuddered at the memory and said that what they saw at that time would neither be forgotten nor forgiven by anyone present there. The young and innocent girls had been kept naked throughout their captivity and were sadistically tortured and brutally raped beyond all conceivable limits. The last addition to this group was a fifteen-year-old daughter of a Bihari businessman, who had been forcibly lifted from her house on 23 Mar, and during the last two days had been raped by at least 50 hoodlums. Five of these girls later expired due to internal injuries. It was only on witnessing such barbaric and inhuman episodes that some soldiers went berserk too and it became difficult for their officers to maintain the traditional control and discipline of the Army. In some instances, even some officers lost control over themselves. The intent here is to present some idea of the inherent stress of the situation and the extreme emotional trauma the troops were exposed to. Suffice it to say that for many soldiers as well as some officers, the spirit of revenge coupled with the opportunity to exact it proved too strong to be curbed merely by platitudes of the traditional Army discipline. [The Creation of Bangladesh: Witness to Carnage 1971 (p 217)]

Killings and rape of non-Bengali communities outside of Dhaka continued after March 25. A Bangladeshi academic, Taj Hashmi, has recently narrated his personal experience and developments in Bangladesh in the “Preface” of his book Fifty Years of Bangladesh, 1971-2021: Crisis of Culture, Development, Governance and Identity (Palgrave, MacMillan, 2022) as:

“At Sirajganj, a small town in northern Bangladesh before the Pakistani Army entered the town on 27 April 1971, I lost many Bihari school friends, who were burned alive or brutally killed by Bengali lynching mobs. Fazlul Haq Qureshi was one of them. He saved my life the day before he was killed along with all of his immediate family members. Almost 700 Bihari men, women and children met the same fate at Sirajganj alone, where I grew up.”

He has devoted one chapter in the book about the merciless massacre of Bihari Muslims in 1971. The Indian-American academic Sarmila Bose has perhaps conducted the most extensive and painstaking research on the subject. In 2006, in an article in The Telegraph (India) she captioned a picture as “The massacre may have been genocide, but it wasn’t committed by the Pakistan army. The dead men were non-Bengali residents of Jessore, butchered in broad daylight by in Bengali nationalists.” Bose has partially answered the question that we have asked in the title of this article. And yet the Congressmen have failed even to mention massacre of non-Bengalis in 1971. In an article writing for Aljazeera in 2011 after the publication of her major work on the subject she wrote:

As soon as I started to do systematic research on the 1971 war, I found that there was a problem with the story which I had grown up believing: from the evidence that emanated from the memories of all sides at the ground level, significant parts of the “dominant narrative” seem not to have been true. Many “facts” had been exaggerated, fabricated, distorted or concealed. Many people in responsible positions had repeated unsupported assertions without a thought; some people seemed to know that the nationalist mythologies were false and yet had done nothing to inform the public. I had thought I would be chronicling the details of the story of 1971 with which I had been brought up, but I found instead that there was a different story to be told.

The different story that is missing regarding events of 1971 is the story of the treatment of non-Bengalis. Why are these stories missing? Not only the Yahya regime – the regime that imposed a war on the total population of East Pakistan with its Operation Searchlight on March 25; it also made non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistani Bengalis vulnerable to aggression of the secessionist elements. By then most Bengali members of Pakistan armed forces either had revolted or were eliminated by Pakistan armed forces themselves. Only a handful remained loyal to Pakistan. Indiscriminate killings continued by all sides. The Yahya regime foolishly kicked out all foreign journalists from East Pakistan and heavily censored internal press. Subsequent governments in Pakistan seemed to have been shy to speak about it. Brig Karrar Ali Agha failed find a reputed Pakistani publisher for his work. Even to this day, the government of Pakistan has not released findings of its own appointed commission on the subject. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report came into the public eye only when an Indian news channel leaked it.

I have always wondered about reports of non-Bengali massacres in various parts of then East Pakistan. Were these reports exaggerating the situation? As a college student at the time, I participated in many protest marches during the last days of Ayub Khan, and I witnessed growing tension but I could not have imagined such behavior against non-Bengalis. However, knowing the character of AL student wing, Chhattra League, I could not rule out the possibility of such atrocious behavior. Yet, reports of organized massacres all over East Pakistan struck me as extremely shocking. This reminds of many unknown faces participating in anti-Ayub rallies and my Indian friend’s assertion of the presence of RAW agents in East Pakistan makes sense to me now.

Genocide of Whom?

Does this mean we are suggesting that Pakistan armed forces did not commit genocidal crimes? Definitely not. However, genocide by definition demands evidences of organized killings and elimination of a community. Therefore, one should examine whether Pakistan army’s actions were in response to some of the atrocities committed by AL thugs earlier, as reported by Brig Karrar Ali. I have discussed the subject with Dr. Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, explained the situation in Bangladesh during the period, but he was insisting on Hindu genocide at the time. Referring to his Bangladeshi and Indian colleagues, he told me that any recognition of Bihari genocide would only undermine the genocide committed by the Pakistani troops. He also expressed his reluctance to conduct further inquiry on the subject. Are the interest groups politicizing the issue? Only a thorough examination of all three communities today has the potential of finding the answer. Such undertaking, however, may jeopardize India’s image as a “magnanimous power.”

Magnanimous India

The resolution placed at the US Congress wants us to recognize India’s “magnanimous role” in creating Bangladesh. Hundreds and thousands of Bangladeshis, particularly in the diaspora, are crying foul today because of India’s hegemonic control over their country. They forget that the geography of their country is the main factor that their leaders in 1947 opted for fighting for a homeland jointly with what became Pakistan. More than half a century later one should also seriously examine India’s role in the whole episode.

Views expressed are personal

All we have of freedom; all we use or know – Our Victory Day

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Today is 16 December. It is our Victory Day. This is a day of celebration for us all in Bangladesh!In memory of our Victory Day of 16 December 1971, our fallen heroes who left us in the heart and in the lungs, this round ember of pure love, that I try to rekindle with my poor means, with each breath. We will one day disappear, but let’s swing like feathers before we merge into the ground.

Today, as we should every day, we remember those who volunteered, sacrificed, served, fought, and died, for our freedom. We thank you, and we salute you as we salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We will never forget it. We will remember you.

Bangladesh is a land of countless festivals, in stride with the cycle of the seasons. These proceed with sowing and harvesting and around them have grown legends, most of them portraying the victory of good over evil. Joy Bangla (meaning victory to Bengal). Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Bangladesh, we love you. Joy our valiant and patriotic people who fought with the cruel Pakistani military junta and their local henchmen for establishing Bangladesh in the 1971 war. We salute those heroic people of Bangladesh who were brutally murdered by the evil forces of the Pakistani establishment.

We have lost in nostalgia for those horrible months of 1971 and are now enjoying the sunshine of our independence on this bright morning. Victory Day is Bangladesh’s most important secular holiday and a key element of the national identity, reflecting the nation’s enormous sufferings and honouring millions of victims of the bloody hell 1971 war, but we also wish to speak about the need today to fight global terrorism and cooperate with other nations to do that.

Victory Day is a public holiday in Bangladesh. In a remarkable feat of historical memory, today it is a vast torrent that fills the streets of every Bangladesh city. Yet, it is hard to deny the sheer weight of public enthusiasm on display, with whole families walking together to honour their ancestors, generating a mood that seems both sombre and festive. It is something for parents to do with their children, generation after generation. About three million Bangladesh people died and much of the country was devastated, leaving almost no family untouched. The anti-Pakistani victory is a great source of pride for our people, and legitimacy for our state, at a time when there is quite a lot of uncertainty. So, the idea is to take every opportunity to celebrate it.

This year’s Victory Day will commemorate the 49th anniversary of the capitulation of the Pakistani regime. Victory Day is comparable is like to Memorial Day in Bangladesh, and dedicated to the commemoration of all who died during our glorious Liberation War in 1971. Both are typically marked with parades and the visiting of memorials and cemeteries. For us, it can be canonised as the “Great Patriotic War” in Bangladesh — can in terms of mythological importance be compared to D-Day for Americans? Both events have left unforgettable imprints in the psyches of the respective societies.

While paying dues to fallen heroes is commended around the world, Victory Day in Bangladesh has increasingly become a manifestation of our people’s supreme sacrifices in 1971. Victory Day marks the decisive battle during the 1971 War of Independence in which our people defeated Pakistani forces who sought to re-assert control over our sacred land. Although it marks an important historical battle, the annual military parade also commemorates and recognises the contributions of all our people in their fight to gain and retain our independence.

Victory Day is celebrated all over the country. We hope the people of Bangladesh celebrate the end of Pakistani domination on us and remember those who stood by us in those times when Pakistan’s Army and their local accomplices were knocking at our doors, bombing our places into oblivion and killing millions of our people with no mercy in their hearts. The veterans also say that even though those horrible days are long gone, they should never be forgotten, adding that unfortunately, our world has changed from true patriotism to mollification.

The people bring together people whose near and dear ones fought for the independence of Bangladesh. Thus, we are honouring the memory of heroes who earned this hard-won victory 49 years ago, the war, the deadliest conflict in human history, came to an end as Pakistan’s Instrument of Surrender came into force on 16 December 1971. Almost all people of Bangladesh’s population were caught up in this 9-month-long war. Fireworks will conclude the day of commemoration. The observance of Victory Day is carried annually out to pay respects to the victims and fallen heroes of the war and to give laurels to the surviving veterans.

Long live the cause of freedom! Being a landmark event, people commemorate the patriots who gallantly fought the then-fascist Pakistani troops. It was the shared arduous experience of defending our beloved country that shaped and formed Bangladesh’s modern nation. The memory of the war has become sacred, and, for most people, it is as important as their own birthday. The emergence of Bangladesh has always had a significant place in Bangladesh’s ideology and its importance to its people can be magnified.

With some three million deaths in the fight against the Pakistani military junta and its local confederates, most of Bangladesh’s families experienced personal loss. Victory Day is a public holiday to mark the defeat of the Pakistani enemies by our freedom-loving forces in accompaniment of the Indian people and the Indian Army. The Pakistan Army ceded to the joint command forces of Bangladesh and India on this day 49 years ago. Victory Day is the festival of hope and togetherness. May our life be illuminated with endless prosperity, sparkling happiness and glowing health and that should be our prayers on this gracious occasion. We wish all parts of light in our lives and our dreams come true for a golden Bangladesh.

It is rejoicing that will be when we all see the green and red flag flying atop. We will sing and shout the victory because life is a highway. Righteousness was restored driving away wrongful-nesses; those were the days of great trials of fierce battles, darkness, tanks, bombs, guns and bayonets; still, we were the voice in the desert crying to behold the victorious freedom fighters were coming, riding on the clouds shining like the sun, at the trumpet’s call.

Lift our voices because it is the day of remembrance out of the harrowing hill, salvation will then come to our golden garden.

And those were the days of hell, but our dry bones became as flesh as living, and the time came for rebuilding the devastated country of praise. Bangladesh’s beauty is a merited gift; her departure is unnecessary, and her lips without speaking can write history. Bangabandhu’s call is the one we want to answer for eternity; to speak until no words remain; give until there is nothing to defeat to his submission is life’s greatest victory. The night flower of this heart was like a rainbow, our presence brightened the horizons, but just like the stars disappeared with the daylight.

Our eyes were full of tears once we discovered the beasts ramped on us. The news of the black night of 26 March 1971 blew like a missile in the heat with a fire shooting out from the dark sweltering us, blazing us, leaving the world of our land, all ribbon tied. Dimples and pretty lips, we dropped our world with beauty and tissues fighting back the enemies in full force. Filled with pink ivory issues, this is the way that we felt, we were real… They were killers, they were a disease!  They sat there and shattered our lives. With many of people, you will discover we did not break like glass. Still, we walked in high heels strolling through pink valley skies. With a charm called a Pink Ribbon; – we wore.

Melodic lullabies echo as heartstrings strum secret chords as transcendental images appear. Stargazers are lost for words kaleidoscopic Illuminations paint the sky in an optimistic light. Hope descends in serene silence floating through shadows of the night dancing spirits move to dulcet tunes. Shadows can be seen against the moon. Do you hear our call? To the hallowed ground, we trip hand in hand with a new chapter to embrace in its splendour. Ring out voices on notes sweet and clear. To the universe, our souls will surrender, and fragments of the past spun into flags of freedom. Our Victory March erased from strife away with the racing winds ever so bold singing Golden Bangladesh to hail a new Life on this Victory Day; the lighter the air the higher we climb.

No more the fetid chitterlings to the fading strains of a repetitive tune. Not broken -We rise – We matter. Victory Day celebrations spell a victory for Bangladesh. Joy Bangla and Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Four National Leaders. Joy all Freedom Fighters.

Recollecting glorious December in Bangladesh

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December is the Month of Victory for Bangladesh.

If war is necessary, it is a necessary evil. Its evil is sometimes concealed for a time by its glamour and excitement, but when war is seen in its reality, there is a little glory about it. At its best, it is hideous calamity. It brings in awful loss of life. In our great liberation war of 1971, millions of men, women and children were killed; many died of diseases, and encountered untold sufferings. Hundreds of thousands of our mothers and sisters lost their chastity at the wretched hands of Pakistan’s savage military forces and their local mango-twigs, particularly Jamaat-e-Islami gawks.

If we recall the divested homes and wrecked hearts tell the rest of the story with tears. It brought in destruction of property, waste of health, dislocation of trade and industry, and general upsetting of the social life of the nation by war – imposed on us deliberately by Pakistani military junta.

Men have found way to abolish their great evils, such as, slavery and if they want to abolish war, they can definitely find ways to do that as where there is a will there is a way. We must not think the way Pakistan and American rogue states think.

Some people forget that war always brings destruction on mass scale. They forget Mahatma Gandhi’s teaching of non-violence, following which he freed his motherland from the shackles of slavery. They forget that if Gandhi could oust the powerful Britishers by dint of non-violence, why not others follow the same foot print.

In the month of our victory, we want to remember that wars are necessary evils and their horrors are so many and of such magnitude that they cannot be described in words. We must not forget the horrors of the two world wars. In the wars, there was mass-killing and destruction of property. Thousands were made widows and orphans. War brings hatred and spreads falsehood. People become selfish and brutal. As a result, humanity and morality suffers.

War is the enemy of all humanity.

Wars are not the solution of the problems. Instead, they generate problems and create hatred among nations. War can decide one issue but gives birth too many. Bangladesh, Hiroshima and Nagasaki are the greatest horrible faces of the consequence of wars. Even after so many decades, people are suffering from the miseries of war. Whatever be the cause of war, it always results in destruction of life and property at large.

One obnoxious face of modern warfare is terrorism which targets the strongest of the strong and causes dangers beyond control of anyone. Terrorists do not discriminate between races, religion, and culture. They target only the humanity as a whole.

Victory Day is celebrated on every 16 December in Bangladesh to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Pakistan’s armed forces in Bangladesh at the end of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

We are in the know of the union with Pakistan only came about as a result of the partition of British India into Muslim and Hindu zones in 1947 – India becoming one nation and Pakistan another. However, West Pakistan (now Pakistan) was separated by hundreds of miles from East Pakistan (Bangladesh), which made for a most unnatural union.

Later, Pakistan began to refuse equal status to the Bengali language, people of this land and otherwise ignite resentment in Bangladesh. Finally, in 1971, a bloody broke out with Pakistan as Bengalis demanded an independent and sovereign state.

Aided by India and former Soviet Union, Pakistan was finally defeated by us. Pakistan’s General Amir Niazi finally surrendered to the joint forces of Bangladesh and India on 16 December at the-then Ramna Race Course in Dhaka. The crowds gathered to witness the event cheered wildly. Within only a few months’ time, most other nations of the world had recognised Bangladesh’s hard-won independence.

The 16th of December, 1971 is a red-letter day in our national history. It was on this day; we were to snatch our independence after a life and death liberation war for long nine months. This victory was a victory of right against wrong. It was a war of self-emancipation. Every year, we observe this day in a colorful manner. This day reminds us of the supreme sacrifices of our people in a colorful manner.

This day also reminds us of the supreme sacrifice of our freedom fighters who will ever shine in our hearts like the luminous stars in the sky. But at the same time, we must remember the spirit of the liberation war.

We wanted a country where justice will prevail over injustice and wrong. The lords of the mischief mongers are getting upper hand in the society, whereas the meek and mild become the worst sufferers. Disorder in everything has become the order of the day.

I call back after the victory, I felt proud and dignified. I revisited the well-known battlefields, which were familiar to me, after the war was over.

December – the month of the war victory marks great memories for us as we lived the moments of victory on 16 December 1971, and feel glory of eliminating all sense of sorrow incurred by the defeat of Pakistan’s military forces.

On this month of December, we pay rich tributes to the memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the sake of our independence. So, let all of us remember the spirit of the victory and see to establish just laws in the country to build it as a country which is rightly be called ‘Sonar Bangla.’

December is a red-letter month for the people of Bangladesh. The biggest fight for the people of a nation is the fight for independence. Salute to the brave people and army of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is a symbol of the immense victory of good against evil! It was a celebration of the right against wrong. Every fighter who sacrificed their life for the freedom of the country will forever stay at the heart of the people.

The struggle for freedom was long and gory for the people of Bangladesh. However, the moment they achieved it, there was a sigh of relief in the entire country.

Let us use the independence in the right manner as it comprises the hard-earned tears and sweats of all the people of the nation who had been through the liberation war of 1971. Salute the flag as the red ball in the national flag of Bangladesh symbolises the power of the country and also the blood that has been shed by our soldiers to get freedom. Victory day of Bangladesh is part of the collective memory of country. The greatest battle fought and won by the nation and its people.

Let us take an oath that we will not misuse the freedom given to us by the country. We will make each of the freedom fighter proud with the way we use our independence. Independence of ours shall not cut the freedom of others. Co-exist and co-ordinate is the mantra of living.

Our freedom was possible due to the support of India and former Soviet Union. Our youth got trained and we got freedom through our youths. Victory day is a struggle to be at the depth of our hearts forever.

The cruelty can only be defeated with grit and determination. Every warrior from Bangladesh was then determined to drive out the Pakistani enemies and live on their own terms. The nation faced its greatest crisis until finally Victory Day arrived and the people of Bangladesh could finally smile.

On the morning of 16th December 1971, the sun did shine bright on the land of Bangladesh and the day was greeted with smile throughout the entire country.

Bangladesh is rich in culture and heritage. Pakistani rulers wanted to play with it and hence were thrown out of the country. The nation has had enough of patriots; let us not add to it by fighting amongst each other.

You cannot cage a wild bird and so you cannot cage Bangladesh. It is a country flying high with dreams and thriving to betterment every moment. We struggled our way to freedom and we are never going to easily let it away! The cries of pain yet reverberates into the ears of the living. Our nation has a dark history and it teaches us to fight and stand for ourselves.

On the whole, war has always been the greatest blot on humanity. Now it requires retrospection for the whole of human race to think over it for the sake of humanity, otherwise nothing will remain neither war nor humanity.

Bangladesh: Plaudits to PM Sheikh Hasina for her bold stance

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Bangladesh is a peace-loving nation which has never tried to hurt any country, but if any attempt is made by anyone, be it an outlander or a local to disrupt peace and harmony in the country’s domestic affairs by any means, a befitting reply shall be given.

It is the duty of every citizen to carry forward the ideals and resolutions of our freedom fighters and soldiers, protect the independence, integrity and sovereignty of our nation and play their part in building a strong, prosperous and self-reliant Bangladesh. We always want peace and friendly ties with countries across the world because it’s in our blood and culture.

But we warn of befitting response to any misadventure in our internal affairs by any person or country!

Lashing out at the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, recently a few foreign diplomats and their mango-twigs are making irresponsible and provocative statements in connection with Bangladesh’s forthcoming national voting which is raspingly reprehensible and reflects the chauvinistic mindset, especially of Uncle Sam, which can further exacerbate the already impaired environment.

Let us now turn back, a little while. In 1971, the malevolent US administration under President Richard Nixon and secretary of state Henry Kissinger sided with the vicious Pakistani military junta during the nine-month Liberation war when we were battling life and death to establish our own homeland – Bangladesh.

Moreover, the history of the US Central Intelligence Agency is replete with numerous examples of political assassinations, not only in the US but also of leaders of other countries. So, on 15th August 1975, the world’s cruellest and most disdainful killing outfit CIA of America actively developed various methods for the deliberate elimination of the US’s newest political opponent, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, involving not only special forces in this task but also the special services of countries that cooperated closely with the CIA. Because Pakistan and its strong ally America were given a crushing defeat by the Bengalis in cooperation with our friendly countries India and the former Soviet Union in our glorious Liberation War with Pakistan in 1971 to establish Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu’s worthy daughter Premier Sheikh Hasina places human solidarity, the concern for others, at the centre of the values by which she lives and as she does. Using her experience, moral courage and ability to rise above nation, race and creed, she is making our planet a more peaceful and equitable place to live. Massive development works have happened and are taking place under her able and dynamic leadership for changing a lot of people in the country.

A hero should possess leadership power, be strong, and be devoted to a just cause. Strong willpower would allow the hero to get things done. And lastly, the hero needs to be devoted to their cause, while having the mindset of not giving up until something is accomplished. Sheikh Hasina portrays great leadership, a strong will for what’s right, and a devoted mindset; all of which signify that she deserves the title of a hero. With a strong will to get something done, she has proven that hard work pays off. She has been showing she is a strong leader through her good deeds. She is a strong, determined woman who has stopped at nothing to achieve her goal for people’s welfare in Bangladesh.

But we restate that some Western external strangers – diplomatists under the leadership of an over-enthusiastic American Ambassadors stationed in Dhaka have recently been trying to trespass into national affairs, especially in our upcoming national voting process…

Sheikh Hasina has bravely reminded them about Article 41 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, the diplomats have a duty not to interfere with the internal affairs of the State they are involved in the diplomatic missions.

They should bear in mind that Bangladesh can also take legal action under the Convention, since it is stated in Article 9 (1) of the Convention that, the receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is not acceptable.

Outrageous enough. The western power countries are also of their own volition and all of a sudden want to rewrite our history, but it is a squall attack on the truth. Their immoral acts have created an impression that they are taking sides with their old local mango twigs of 1971 in the current so-called political situation.

Thus, some foreign diplomats stationed in Bangladesh have been working against our freedom, against the sovereignty of our country. We will not tolerate this any longer.

Some of Sheikh Hasina’s cabinet colleagues have also issued bold statements, warning foreign diplomats against interfering in the country’s internal affairs. 

We do not need to resort to laws from other countries. Moreover, the country does not need an endorsement by any foreign envoy in the next general elections. 

Bangladesh is not a banana republic, and the country can never accept the arrogant behaviour of ambassadors and high commissioners from any foreign diplomatic missions, whatever the country they represent.

We urge foreign diplomats to Bangladesh to respect the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which stipulated that foreign countries have “the duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of that State.”

Bangladesh is a sovereign and independent state. We have liberated it through a bloody war. We’ll not give any concession on the question of the country’s dignity. It will never bow down to anyone. We must maintain its dignity.

We will never allow being dictated by foreign entities on how we manage our internal affairs. We will be happy to accept the help of our foreign friends. We will never accept dictation on how we are managing our own internal domestic processes. Rather, we chide them angrily.

Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen hoped that the foreign diplomats here will follow the ‘code of conduct, saying some overseas missions do interfere in Bangladesh’s domestic affairs.“It’s sad… some foreign missions here are interfering in our domestic issues … it’s not right as they interfere in domestic issues beyond their own duties,” he told journalists after attending a programme at Bangabandhu Conference Centre in the capital.

Commenting on the US sanctions on Russia following the Ukraine war, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “No nation can be controlled through sanctions. She termed the sanctions on Russia as a violation of human rights.”

Speaking as the chief guest at the inauguration of the newly constructed office building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “It is our misfortune as the Russia-Ukraine war is taking place at a time when the whole world is at great economic challenges due to Coronavirus. She said the situation of people around the world is getting worse. People are being harmed due to sanctions. The sanctions that the United States has imposed on Russia are creating a hurdle for countries which are in need of importing various items. Due to the sanctions, transportation costs have increased, while there also are hurdles. The source for importing various items has shrunk. It is not only in Bangladesh, even United States is facing similar hurdles.”

She further said, “The US and developed nations need to think, the sanctions they are imposing is causing suffering to their own people as well. They also need to consider, ordinary people of all countries in the world are suffering more than those countries under sanctions. People in developed, developing and low-income countries are the worst sufferers of these sanctions.”

Sheikh Hasina called upon the United States and the Western countries to lift sanctions as they cannot control any nation ever through these sanctions.

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister said, people living in the US and the Western nations also are complaining of sufferings due to the sanctions. “Everyone’s life is becoming miserable”, she added.

Everyone would also agree with the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, as the sanctions imposed on Russia are failing in causing real suffering or stress in Russia. Instead, these sanctions are becoming counter-productive and are blowing back. Americans and Europeans are actually the worst sufferers of these sanctions, as inflation is becoming intolerable to people.

Thank you, reveredApa, for being who you are, your fearless and truthful standing posture against those arrant people. We stand by you with all our boldness.

Bangladesh’s Great Liberation War of 1971

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Five decennaries ago in 1971, Bangladesh with India’s strong-willed back up won a glorious victory over Pakistan due to the brilliant soldiers of Bangladesh-India, full-fledged support of the Bengalis, an unwavering political leadership of India and Bangladesh governments, and strong military and diplomatic support from Moscow. Well known is Russia’s power play that prevented a joint Pakistan-American-Chinese attack on the soil of Bangladesh in 1971.

“I speak to you at a moment of grave peril to our country and our people,” the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said, as she addressed the nation on All India Radio on December 3 evening, 1971.

“Some hours ago, soon after 5.30 pm on December 3, Pakistan launched a full-scale war against us,” Gandhi said, referring to sneak attacks launched by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The PAF targeted Indian Air Force (IAF) bases in Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipur, Utterlai, Jodhpur, Ambala and Agra. These were pre-emptive strikes meant to forestall Indian fighter jets from attacking targets in Pakistan. Emergency has been declared for the whole of India.”

“Today, the war in Bangladesh has become a war on India, and this imposes upon me, my government and the people of India an awesome responsibility,” Gandhi said.  She further said, “India and Pakistan were formally at war.”

The war is not going very well for Pakistan, as Indian armour mowed through Bangladesh and the Pakistan Air Force was blown out of the subcontinent’s sky. Meanwhile, the Pakistan’s military in the West is demoralised and on the verge of collapse as the Indian Army, its Air Force attack and freedom fighters of Bangladesh made onslaught on the Pakistan army round the clock.

But still then, Nixon vauntingly expressed desire was to save Pakistan. He concurred with his buddy Kissinger. Nixon ordered to keep US aircraft carriers moving now.

Kissinger responded, “The carriers—everything is moving. Four Jordanian planes have already moved to Pakistan, 22 more are coming. We’re talking to the Saudis; the Turks we’ve now found are willing to give five. So, we’re going to keep that moving until there’s a settlement.”

Nixon then asked his crony, “Could you tell the Chinese it would be very helpful if they could move some forces or threaten to move some forces?” Kissinger replied in the affirmatory. Nixon unwrapped that they have got to threaten or they have got to move, one of the two.

With the fullest support of Bangladesh’s valiant and patriotic freedom fighters and the freedom-loving people in general, the 1971 war is considered to be modern India’s finest hour, in military terms. The clinical professionalism of the Indian army, navy and air force; a charismatic brass led by the legendary Sam Maneckshaw; and ceaseless international lobbying by the political leadership, especially by PM Indiraji worked brilliantly to set up a glorious victory.

After two weeks of vicious land, air and sea battles, nearly 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered before Bangladesh-India’s rampaging joint army command, the largest such capitulation since General Paulus’ surrender at Stalingrad in 1943. However, it could all have come unstuck without help from veto-wielding Moscow, with which New Delhi had the foresight to sign a security treaty with them in 1971.

However, Russia’s entry thwarted a scenario that could have led to multiple pincer movements against India.

On December 10, even as Nixon and Kissinger were frothing at the mouth, Indian intelligence intercepted an American message, indicating that the US Seventh Fleet was steaming into the war zone. The Seventh Fleet, which was then stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin, was led by the 75,000-ton nuclear powered aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. The world’s largest warship, it carried more than 70 fighters and bombers. The Seventh Fleet also included the guided missile cruiser US’s King, guided missile destroyers USS Decatur, Parsons and Tartar Sam, and a large amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli.

Standing between the Indian cities and the American ships was the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet led by the 20,000-ton aircraft carrier, Vikrant, with barely 20 light fighter aircraft. When asked if India’s Eastern Fleet would take on the Seventh Fleet, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Vice Admiral N. Krishnan, said: “Just give us the orders.” The Indian Air Force, having wiped out the Pakistani Air Force within the first week of the war, was reported to be on alert for any possible intervention by aircraft from the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Soviet intelligence reported that a British naval group led by the aircraft carrier Eagle had moved closer to India’s territorial waters. This was perhaps one of the most ironic events in modern history where the Western world’s two leading democracies were threatening the world’s largest democracy in order to protect the perpetrators of the largest genocide since the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. However, India did not panic. It quietly sent Moscow a request to activate a secret provision of the Indo-Soviet security treaty, under which Russia was bound to defend India in case of any external aggression.

Russia dispatched a nuclear-armed flotilla from Vladivostok on December 13, 1971 under the overall command of Admiral Vladimir Kruglyakov, the Commander of the 10th Operative Battle Group (Pacific Fleet). Though the Russian fleet comprised a good number of nuclear-armed ships and atomic submarines, their missiles were of limited range (less than 300 km). Hence, to effectively counter the British and American fleets, the Russian commanders had to undertake the risk of encircling them to bring them within their target. This they did with military precision.

Russian Admiral Kruglyakov, who commanded the Pacific Fleet from 1970 to 1975, recalled that Moscow ordered the Russian ships to prevent the Americans and British from getting closer to “Indian military objects”. The genial Kruglyakov added, “The Chief Commander’s order was that our submarines should surface when the Americans appear. It was done to demonstrate to them that we had nuclear submarines in the Indian Ocean. So, when our subs surfaced, they recognised us. In the way of the American Navy stood the Soviet cruisers, destroyers and atomic submarines equipped with anti-ship missiles. We encircled them and trained our missiles at the Enterprise. We blocked them and did not allow them to close in on Karachi, Chittagong or Dhaka.”

The Russian manoeuvres clearly helped prevent a direct clash between India and the US-UK combine. The declassified documents reveal that the Indian Prime Minister went ahead with her plan to liberate Bangladesh despite inputs that the Americans had kept three battalions of Marines on standby to deter India, and that the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target the Indian Army, which had broken through the Pakistani Army’s defences and was thundering down the highway to the gates of Lahore, West Pakistan’s second largest city.

Despite Kissinger’s goading and desperate Pakistan’s calls for help, the Chinese did nothing. US diplomatic documents reveal that Indira Gandhi knew the Soviets had factored in the possibility of Chinese intervention. According to a cable referring to an Indian cabinet meeting held on December 10, “If the Chinese were to become directly involved in the conflict, Indira Gandhi said, the Chinese know that the Soviet Union would act in the Sinkiang region. Soviet air support may be made available to India at that time.”

On December 14, General A.A.K. Niazi, Pakistan’s military commander in the-then East Pakistan, told the American consul-general in Dhaka that he was willing to surrender. The message was relayed to Washington.

Interesting glimpses from history that must be still so fresh in memory for all those who lived in the sub-continent in those eventful days of 1971. India, in 1971 succeeded in defeating a mightier military axis (USA-Britain-France, aided further by the tacit support of China for Pakistan) because primarily of India’s ‘moral power’ and, certainly, because it knew it was going to win the war in the very ‘object’ front (the Eastern Front) which was the cause and reason for the 1971 War.

The ‘peoples war’ unleashed by the allied Bangladesh freedom fighters made the victory in the Eastern Front only a matter of time and a ‘writing on the wall’ for those who could see. Needless to add, the war on the Eastern Front happened to be the cause as well as the ‘object’ of the 1971 War from the point of view of both India and Pakistan. Only the fools of the kind of Richard Nixon or Henry Kissinger had any different hope about the outcome.

The 1971 war was the finest among all wars fought by India-Bangladesh joint command against Pakistan. Along with Indian army, over half a million Bengali freedom fighters trained by revolted Bengali army, Bengali East Pakistan Rifles (entire EPR force), Bengali police (almost entire East Pakistan police) and Indian army were very formidable and capable to stand against the combined forces of West Pakistan, USA and witty Britain. The USA (fully)and Britain (lesser extent) played dirty tricks in 1971. Despite having hate and love relation, the Indians and the Bengalis will remain together in any eventuality in the subcontinent. They are naturally brothers. The Bengalis are always grateful to their brother India and former Soviet Russia who stood firmly by us for our (Bengalis) right.

Thus Nixon-Kissinger’s gunboat diplomacy was sunk by former Soviet Union. And the obnoxious nexus of America-Pakistan-China was also given a crushing defeat on 16 December, 1971. And Bangladesh was born. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu. Joy Four National Leaders.

Bangladesh: Promoting “culture of peace” through UN peacekeeping

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The establishment and maintenance of stability through cooperation was the key motivation behind the UN’s founding in 1945. The primary objective of the UN is to “maintain international peace and security, and in pursuit of such ends, to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace and to bring about by peaceful means and in compliance with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.” As a part of a global peace movement, the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) were established in 1948 to settle international conflicts. The first mission was to send UN Army investigators to the Middle East to observe the agreement between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In recent years, the UN peacekeeping operation has changed to reflect the dynamic nature of international conflicts and the global political landscape. The UN peacekeeping role was specifically extended after the Cold War.

South Asian countries send a sizable contingent of soldiers to peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping operations are one area of international activity where the region’s united efforts have had a positive effect. Bangladesh has assumed a leadership position in the UN’s peacekeeping mission and is well-versed in the history of such missions. Bangladesh is one of the UN’s most significant and trustworthy partners thanks to its ongoing commitment, adherence to the organization’s regulations, and prompt adaptation measures. It has stayed committed to acting as an accountable UNPKO stakeholder despite the changing nature of the world’s security environment. Instead of concentrating only on peacemaking and peacebuilding, modern peacekeeping aims to ensure social protection in both pre- and post-conflict environments and to seal harmonious connections. After intrastate warfare ended and armed conflict began, peacekeeping now has a variety of responsibilities that go beyond its core duties. One of the main goals of UN peacekeeping missions may be to increase state efficiency and reduce state fragility. As a result, the current batch of troops may significantly affect the UN forces’ ability to operate.

Despite challenging topographical, meteorological, and other unfavorable conditions, Bangladeshi forces are completing the job with the utmost integrity, dedication, and professionalism. Bangladesh has been actively taking part in peacekeeping operations all over the world for the past three decades, and it has been essential to maintaining world peace and stability. In 1988, Bangladesh participated for the first time in both the United Nations Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group (UNIIMOG) in Iraq and the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in Namibia. In addition to multiple successful operations in Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladeshi troops ensured that rebels in Liberia and the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) gave up and laid down their arms. The country also closely monitored the elections in Mozambique, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and other African countries. Since 1988, Bangladesh has sent almost 175,000 soldiers, including more than 1,800 women, on 54 peacekeeping operations to 40 different countries on five continents. Presently, around 7,000 military and police are participating in ten distinct tasks. The majority of Bangladesh’s peacekeepers are stationed in Africa. The nations and names of the missions where Bangladeshi personnel are presently stationed are included in the following table.

When they first joined the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia in 1993, a detachment of 1,002 soldiers was headed by the 3rd East Bengal Regiment, an infantry regiment from the Bangladesh Army. The operation in Cambodia was a huge endeavor for Bangladesh, and the military of that nation contributed a sizable detachment to the peacekeeping effort. The Bangladeshi military participated in DDR efforts in Kosovo, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone, and Liberia as well as demining operations in South Sudan. They have also helped Juba have access to water, sanitation, basic education, jobs, and other means of livelihood. In response to the growing threat presented by improvised explosive devices, Bangladesh’s Engineer Centre and School of Military Engineering and Ordnance Centre and School has started providing specialized training on counter-IED (IED). All peacekeeping units getting ready for deployment to Mali receive specialized training from these two institutes. Bangladesh was one of the first countries to adopt the 2016-introduced Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System. It has accelerated its deployment by contributing troops to the UN mission in Mali. Bangladesh is dedicated to upholding its reputation in order to bring about world peace. The most casualties occurred during three large ambushes against Bangladeshi contingents in 2017 and 2018. Eight valiant Bangladeshi warriors gave their lives in these three ambushes, inflicting serious injuries on 10 more troops.

A brigade-sized force was able to be sent to Freetown, Sierra Leone as a result of Bangladesh’s prompt provision of more troops in response to the UN’s request and in compliance with the mission’s increased mandate. Bangladeshi soldiers continued to serve in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo by frequently keeping an eye on villages to maintain security. Missions by Bangladeshi contingents in Darfur, Cyprus, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were completed successfully. Former peacekeepers and observers claim that the UN hired the majority of Bangladeshi soldiers for peacekeeping operations worldwide over the previous three decades because of their neutrality, professionalism, and quick responsiveness during the deployment. In addition to their competence, former members of the military forces and the police claimed that Bangladeshi peacekeepers’ high moral standing while serving in UN missions also assisted the country in sending out more troops. In 2011, 2014, 2015, 2021, and 2022, Bangladesh was the country that supplied the most troops.

In November 2019, Bangladesh Police received the Best Police Unit Award for its dedication to UN Peacekeeping missions. The Nyala Super Camp in South Darfur, Sudan, was secured by the Bangladesh Formed Police Unit (FPU) 11, which received praise for its outstanding efforts in boosting the capabilities of the police force. In 2021, some 110 Bangladesh Navy servicemen who took part in the UN mission to uphold stability in Beirut, Lebanon, were awarded the Peacekeeping Medal. Rear Admiral Andreas Mugge, the Maritime Task Force (MTF) Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, presented the medal to the officers and crew of the Bangladesh Navy destroyer “Sangram” in recognition of their contributions to peacekeeping operations. Since the Navy was sent to Lebanon 11 years ago, its personnel have performed their responsibilities with the utmost integrity, commitment, and efficacy. The Navy’s proud participation has strengthened Bangladesh’s status and image overseas. Additionally, Bangladesh was warmly commended this year by the US Embassy in Dhaka for their contributions to UN peacekeeping missions. When Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, the former president of Sierra Leone, paid a visit to Bangladesh in 2003, he expressed his appreciation for Bangladesh’s significant help to Sierra Leone as a result of the performance of the nation’s peacekeepers in Africa. Ivorians frequently called Bangladeshi soldiers “munami,” which is Ivorian for “my friend.” Additionally, the UN awarded medals to about 861 members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, including 19 women, who were serving with the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2020 for their unwavering efforts to ensure the safety of civilians.

The UN peacekeeping deployment is a significant illustration of internationalism and world collaboration. It has been proven to be one of the best strategies for promoting and upholding global peace and stability. The “Blue Helmet” now stands for global cooperation and collective leadership for world peace. Bangladesh eventually joined the “Blue Helmet” family with pride due to its enormous commitment to UN peacekeeping efforts over time. The nation of Bangladesh has reached unprecedented heights as a result of its participation, service, and sacrifice in UN peacekeeping missions for world peace. Bangladesh has been building its reputation in the UN for more than three decades thanks to its diligence and commitment. As a global peacekeeper and advocate, Bangladesh may be regarded as exceptional and exemplary. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have served in Africa’s arid regions and continue to do so. They have made a significant contribution in a variety of fields as security personnel, medical professionals, engineers, trainers, and advisors while dealing with numerous security threats, difficulties, and challenges. Around the world, threats are currently taking on new dimensions, which is likely to jeopardize world peace. Radicalization, environmental concerns, enormous human migration, the growth of right-wing extreme nationalism, catastrophic catastrophes, trade conflicts, etc. are some of the primary security dangers of the new millennium. The UN may react to the fresh challenges and change its emphasis to take into account the developing nature of the dispute and the evolving role of PKO. If Bangladesh is to keep up with the rate of global development and manage difficult disagreements, it may need to make progress.

Jail Killing Day in Bangladesh: Commemorating the Four National Leaders

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There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people. 47 years have elapsed by this time. I was then a senior student of the University of Dhaka and lodged in Sergeant Zohurul Hoque Hall. After the brutish slaying of Bangladesh’s Founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by some pettifogger military Majors on 15 August 1975, the country entered into the dingiest frat house. It was a terrible shock that shook the whole country.

Despite being apolitical, I cannot forget that jounce wallop as of today. Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed usurped power of Bangladesh walking on the blood of his supreme leader, Bangabandhu and became the self-proclaimed President of the country in connivance with those shyster junior army officers. Since then, despoiling of the core values on which Bangladesh were grounded in 1971 after a huge bloodbath, started by Mushtaq tam-tam which was vociferously espoused by the shyster military dictators – Gen Zia, Gen Ershad, civilian ignoble politician Begum Zia and their mango-twigs showing arrogantly their banal actions.

In absence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was then internment in Pakistan’s jail, when under the Premiership of a great statesman Tajuddin Ahmad of the Provisional Mujibnagar Government was in the process of attaining of Bangladesh, Khandakar Mushtaq Ahmed was the Foreign Minister. But he was a deft-schemer since our glorified Liberation War of 1971 who constantly was after Tajuddin Ahmad to do impairment to him to gimpy the fight against the bestial Pakistani military regime to gain ground for establishing Bangladesh. This artful character, in fact, cherished for a confederacy with the Pakistani regime instead of an independent and sovereign country for us for which we had then been fighting do-or-die like revolutionaries.

In less than three months of the country’s Founding Father’s bestial killing, the four national leaders – Tajuddin Ahmad, Syed Nazrul Islam, Capt. M. Monsur Ali and AHM Kamaruzzaman, the lambent leaders who manoeuvred the Bangladesh Liberation War successfully to attain Bangladesh from the brutal vitellus of Pakistani government were gunned down along with bayonet charges in the wee hour on 3 November 1975. This horrific incident was designedly kept closed book for a long time by the felons, Mushtaq and his bands together.

To change our taste of food, I along with my class-mates and friends – Kajal, Arif, Kashem, Nabendu and Nasir were taking dinner at the Jagannath Hall’s canteen on that November evening time; a one band radio was then tuned on to listen to the BBC news and to our utter shock and outrageousness, we heard that those bright star politicians of our glorious yesteryear history were felled in the safe custody of Dhaka Central Jailhouse. All present in the canteen were dumb-founded momentarily. There continued heated up discourses amongst us. Some said these malefactors must not go unpunished; some pronounced that they must be sent to the gibbet and some enounced aright that the true inspirits that we achieved through our splendiferous Liberation War would now be sent to limbo to bring back the Pakistani political orientation in Bangladesh.

But everybody presents there also expressed their potent fret against the malevolent acts by those ruffians. While returning to my abode in the Sergeant Zohurul Hoque Hall, I was so upset that I was only thinking that Bangladesh had entered into a black society where some ghosts and goblins would rapine it with more ferocity.

These four gentlemen like politicians walked many a path for several decades; brought many bridges along the way until their feet became weary. An emphatic glance into their lackadaisical drowsy eyes, revealed hidden sorrows built up through their last drop of blood. Every wrinkle on their sullen faces seemed to be an emblem of pain. They looked tired, worn down by life and defeated by some hands of savage goons belonging to the netherworld. Life is full of emotions, broken dreams, forgotten promises and bleeding hearts!! Regretful memories, of haunting ghosts, whose spirit voices torment my mind!! We want to call back something nostalgic. Walking away in somewhat of a daze instinctively I remember the lamentable song of losing them all.

They were like great speechifiers, writers, fighters, old-timer word rhymers always thought free verse was asinine. They were the queerest, the dearest and the tear in our hearts. They were archaic, prosaic, euphoric, historic and made pentagrams optically divine for Bangladesh. Montages made their artistry torch shine. They were the spiffiest, geekiest, and uniquely most outré; they were the people’s welfare-oriented statesmen over the line; they were the personas of great abilities; and the poets of politics for their motherland.

With thick love and trust, they bivouacked in our hearts as heroes and shall remain as heroes in our hearts in the days to come. I am a reader, a writer, an eternal life seeker; I am a trier, a crier who is drowning in the tears that they groaned before their painful demise. These old sorrowful songs that I sing are not now just a fading memory of the days when they loved us, but them ole’ tears will start to stream with those beautiful notes and melodies knowing they won’t hear a single word that I say.

They were fighters who stood up with their blood dripping down. The steel of their helmets was holding back their scowl with pleasure they saw their just cause was emerging as victorious. The theme of us has been written about for ages. Love missed us, tragedies shared and shaped us. We did our best to live, to survive, different kinds of battles, but battles nonetheless bloodied, and battered. Life taught us how to survive and we have. Our worlds were so much the same like those of our majuscule fallen leaders, but different. They have always been in our hearts, that’s simple to say. Men can be so transparent. And are we not so different.

So, the gardeners when you plant, up your flowers, sow your lawns and baskets you hang. Remember to also put up a feeding table and put out seeds for the starlings that sing.

The harsh winds bite at my very soul. Alone I sit, waiting for the fight to commence. My heart is racing, sweat pours despite the cold. Caution…not of today only! The warrior reaps the spoils and cowards merely pray. Scars are reminders, painful, but not fatal lessons of a fighter. Forward! We march to claim what is ours. Steel rise above our heads; and our swords of truth transcends time. Seize the day! The moment is now not for past heartaches, nor future vows only. Slay the demons, for they must fall. Thrust our sword deep and only then will we hear Victory’s call.

Our dreams that we earned in 1971 are spoiled by some rogue politicians. Our upright causes are wrecked by the skullduggeries of those nefarious of people.  Some hour, perhaps, will come our chance, but that great hour has never struck; our progress has been slow and hard, we have to climb and crawl and swim, fight for ever stubborn yard; but we have kept in fighting trim. We have to fight our doubts away and be on guard against our fears; the feeble croaking of dismay has been familiar through the years; our dearest actions must keep going right, events combine to thwart our will; but fighting keeps our spirit strong, and are we undefeated still! NO, not, at all!

Arise, our soul, arise; shake off our guilty fears; the bleeding sacrifice in our behaves appears: before the throne our surety stands; their chequered names are written on our hands. They ever live above, for us to intercede; their all-redeeming love, their precious blood to plead; their blood atoned for our entire race, and sprinkles now the throne of grace. Their bleeding wounds they bear received on the jailhouse floors; they pour effectual prayers; they strongly speak for us. Their spirit answers to the blood, and tells us we were born for loving of our beloved country – Bangladesh. We can no longer fear: with confidence we now draw nigh, and Dear Leaders, we cry for their absence in the soil of Bangladesh that they once created for us.

We do not want to stand at their graves and weep. They are a thousand winds that blow, they are the diamond glints on snow, they are the sun on ripened grain, and they are the gentle autumn rain. When wake up in the morning’s hush, they are the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight. They are the soft stars that shine at night. They are our North, our South, our East and West. They are our working week and our Sunday rest, our noon, our midnight, our talk, our song; and our thick respect for them would last forever.

Each night we shed a silent tear as we speak to them in prayer. To let them know we love them, take our million teardrops, wrap them up in love, and then we ask the wind to carry them to those patriots in heaven above. We remember those golden sons of this soil with all sacrosanct.