Every year 16 December comes back to remind us of the sacrifices and bloodshed Bangladesh had to go through during the glorious Liberation War of 1971. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's charismatic leadership brought about the independence of Bangladesh. Three million people laid down their lives to free the country from the repressive clutches of the Pakistan regime. Bangladesh became independent on 16 December 1971 astounding the entire world.
During the Liberation War of 1971 India and the then Soviet Union comprehensively cooperated with Bangladesh for its independence. A few superpowers and some Muslim countries opposed the independence of Bangladesh. However, the patriotic masses of Bangladesh were not to be terrified. All the men and women who loved Bangladesh took up arms and began the struggle to liberate the country.
The Liberation War was fought on the basis of socio-economic equity, justice and with communal harmony. Time has arrived to judge to what extent we have been able to establish equal rights for everyone in our country. Bangabandhu created Bangladesh while his capable daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has bolstered Bangladesh with enormous economic advancement during the last several years under her firm leadership. Bangladesh has now become a role model in terms of development.
Per capita income has drastically increased. Literacy rate has mounted too. Child mortality rate has gone down while women empowerment has broadly expanded. People all over the country have now come within the network of digital technology and electrification. In this way Bangladesh has become a development wonder to the rest of the world.
Foreign currency reserves have escalated from 2 billion dollars to 38 billion dollars. Educational institutions have spread all over Bangladesh providing academic learning to students at all levels. All people of Bangladesh are now enjoying a better grade of monetary solvency. All these changes have become possible because of the independence we gained on this day in 1971.
Despite all the achievements Bangladesh has secured, there are certain challenges which we are yet to overcome. Irregularities and corruption in the banking and financial sectors pose threats to the country's economic prospects. The sums of defaulted loans are increasing without cease.
Money laundering and financial scams one after another are glaring instances of the lack of good governance in the country. Integrity, accountability, rule of law and good governance are indispensable for any country to move forward. These things are essential to retain and push ahead the scale of development Bangladesh has so far attained.
Radical Islamic parties have in recent times become much stronger. Particularly Hefazat-E-Islam and qawmi madrassas which are fundamentalist organizations threaten interreligious harmony across Bangladesh. Hefazat-E-Islam deplores women's rights.
Hefazat leaders denounce the festivities of Pahela Baishakh. This is how Hefazat-E-Islam contradicts with the cultural heritage of Bangladesh. We have to remember that political fronts believing in religious bigotry like Jamaat opposed the Liberation War of 1971.
There is very little difference between the ideology of Jamaat and Hefazat. That's why the government has to be very cautious and keep sharp surveillance on the activities of Hefazat-E-Islam. Hefazat and qawmi madrassas do not show respect to the national anthem and national flag of Bangladesh.
As the eleventh parliamentary election nears, it is now very important to keep the law and order situation in the right shape for the sake of safety so that people can go out to cast their ballots without fear. Fanatical religious outfits are the most hideous threats to peace and stability in Bangladesh and abroad.
We will have to protect Bangladesh's economy from the debt-trap Chinese diplomacy. Chinese financial schemes have caused irreparable damage to Kenya, Sudan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some other countries. We should not fall in the Chinese trap, for that can undermine our economic emancipation.
Economic self-sufficiency was one of the major targets with which we fought during 1971. We should exercise foresight and vigilance regarding financial deals with China keeping in view the hazards hammered on other countries by Chinese loans. We also remember the role of China during 1971.
We want our younger generation to know deeply about the saga of our Liberation War. For this reason the text of the Instrument of Surrender of Pakistan army is appended below. This is one of the most vital documents in Bangladesh's history which triggered the fall of the Pakistan army in 1971. Air Vice Marshal AK Khandaker, who was at that time Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces of Bangladesh was present at the surrender ceremony. The surrender text is as follows.
"The Pakistan Eastern Command agrees to surrender all Pakistan Armed Forces in Bangladesh to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding in Chief of Indian and Bangladesh forces in the Eastern Theatre. This surrender includes all Pakistan land, air and naval forces as also all paramilitary forces and civil armed forces. These forces will lay down their arms and surrender at the places where they are currently located to the nearest regular troops under the command of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora.
The Pakistan Eastern Command shall come under the orders of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora as soon as the instrument has been signed. Disobedience of orders will be regarded as a breach of the surrender terms and will be dealt with in accordance with the accepted laws and usages of war. The decision of Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora will be final, should any doubt arise as to the meaning of interpretation of the surrender terms.
Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender shall be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to in accordance with provisions of the Geneva Convention and guarantees the safety and well-being of all Pakistan military and para-military forces who surrender. Protection will be provided to foreign nationals, ethnic minorities and personnel of West Pakistani origin by the forces under the command of Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora."
16 December is a delightful day for us. At the same time it is a day for us to recall with honor the valor with which the freedom fighters made Bangladesh independent. We will have to safeguard Bangladesh from the shadow of all evil powers. We also need to protect Bangladesh from a vested quarter of fraudsters, corrupt people and opportunists. Moreover, it is necessary to uphold ethical values and to cherish the vitality of 1971 in our thoughts and actions.
The writer is a diplomat, entrepreneur,
social activist and CIP.
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