Our struggle to build ‘Golden Bangla’

On our anniversary, I only hope that the AL will move forward by preserving democracy and continue with the socio-economic improvements by fighting against all sorts of conspiracies. - Sheikh Hasina

Bangla’s sun of independence set in a mango grove at Plassey on June 23, 1757, thanks to Mir Zafar’s betrayal. The Bangladesh Awami League (AL) was also born on June 23—in 1949. Under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the AL united the people of Bangladesh and brought independence. So, there has been a correlation between Bangla’s independence and the Bangladesh AL ever since the latter’s foundation.
Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani was the founder president of the AL in 1949 and Shamsul Huq was its general secretary. Bangabandhu was then a prisoner of the state and was elected the party’s joint general secretary.
When we see the history of Bangladesh, whatever achievements the country has had, have come through the AL. The Father of the Nation started the Language Movement in 1948. It began on March 11, 1948, and gained momentum in 1952.
He announced the Six-Point Movement following the path of the Language Movement. The Six-Point Movement was the charter of the emancipation of the people of Bangla. When he started his journey across the country with the Six-Point Movement, he was arrested. Then the Agartala conspiracy was staged to send him into the gallows. But the people of Bangladesh freed him through their struggle.
When the 1970 elections were held, Bangladesh AL gained an overwhelming majority in the undivided Pakistan. But the military junta did not hand over power to the AL. Bangabandhu called the Non-cooperation Movement and in his March 7 speech, he proclaimed, “This time, the struggle is for our emancipation; this time, the struggle is for our independence.”
Later, the name of this land became ‘Bangladesh’, which was also given by Bangabandhu. He also decided our national anthem, the size of the national flag, its design and the red sun against a green background. He issued all the directives and made all the preparations for independence.
When the Pakistani Army swooped down on the Bangalis on March 25, the Father of the Nation proclaimed independence on the dawn of March 26 and the War of Independence began. He made all preparations for the Liberation War—where the guerrillas would be trained, how the arms would come, and how the war would take place. He left nothing to chance. Then the war started and we achieved victory.
Bangladesh is an independent country today. If you look deeply, he took all the steps necessary to run an independent country. He gave the country a constitution within nine months. The constitution has enunciated the socio-economic development of Bangladesh and the people’s basic rights and clearly stated the policies in all spheres.
Bangabandhu established good relations with the whole world, achieved the membership of all international organisations, and had good terms with each organisation, like the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Commonwealth. We have a vast sea boundary and rights over it. The Father of the Nation gave us the right over the sea and formulated the Sea Act. He also formulated the Land Boundary Act.
If we look at history, the AL was born in 1949. After that, it won the majority of the United Front seats in the elections. The United Front formed a government, but the Pakistani ruler dissolved it within a short time. Then, the AL formed the government in 1956. It formulated the constitution of Pakistan.
But democracy did not continue for long in the history of Pakistan, and not even in our Bangladesh. Military dictators have come to power again and again. The AL struggled against four military dictators and we struggled against another government after that.
Of the four military governments, Ayub Khan promulgated martial law in 1958, and the AL organised a movement against it. Ayub Khan was toppled through the mass upsurge in 1969. Bangabandhu was freed from the Agartala conspiracy case, and then the elections were held in 1970. Yahya Khan came to power.
People struggled against Yahya Khan and Bangladesh gained independence after the war. When Bangabandhu came to power in a war-ravaged country, there were no reserves in the exchequer. There was no grain in the granary. All the roads and bridges were ravaged. More than one crore people were refugees. Tens of thousands of mothers and sisters had lost their dignity and honour. He thought about everyone, including the families of the martyrs. He helped everybody. There were hardly any roads and streets.
The AL leaders and workers took relief materials by boats to every home in the remote areas so that people did not suffer. The friendly countries assisted us. Thus, he rebuilt a war-torn nation within three and a half years. Today, our GDP growth rate is seven per cent. This was achieved for the first time during the tenure of Bangabandhu, but did not happen again later.
He called for national unity to ensure the socio-economic development of citizens. If the initiatives he had taken been implemented, we could have been a middle-income country a long time ago. But it is our misfortune that the Father of the Nation was brutally assassinated on August 15, 1975.
The AL has faced repression again and again. That includes the torture by Ayub Khan, the torture by Iskander Mirza after the United Front, the torture by Yahya Khan during the Liberation War in 1971 and the killing of the Father of the Nation on August 15, 1975.
I would like to draw the attention of the countrymen to a fact. Who came to power after the killing of Bangabandhu? Those who did, did not want the liberation of Bangladesh; they opposed the Liberation War; they did not want Bangladesh to be established as an independent country.
When they come to power, they started persecuting the freedom fighters. At the same time, repression was unleashed on the AL. Every leader and worker was arrested. They were jailed year after year.
This situation continued and the AL survived through it. It faced repeated blows, but that only consolidated it. I would say without a doubt that the grassroots leaders and workers have always consolidated and strengthened the party in just the way Bangabandhu established it.
The people of the country have had to pass through one transition phase after another. The AL has always worked for the betterment of the people and fought for their rights. Whatever the people of the country have got, they have got it from the AL-led government. Otherwise, they have been deprived.
A lot of things, including industrialisation, occurred during the United Front government in 1954 just because of Bangabandhu, who was in charge of several ministries. In 1956, when AL came to power, February 21 was declared Martyr’s Day and necessary steps were taken, including a budgetary allocation, for building the Shahid Minar.
Industrialisation, agricultural production, and the education system were greatly developed during his tenure, but the others did not run their government for the betterment of the people. The AL was in power for only three years after the Liberation War. During these three years, Bangabandhu gave the country a strong footing.
When Yahya Khan refused to hand over power after the 1970 elections, Bangabandhu organised the Non-cooperation Movement in 1971, and then, the Liberation War began. The AL representatives formed the first government of independent Bangladesh. That government was formed on April 10, 1971, and it took oath on April 17 at a mango grove in Meherpur.
The Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was the first president of independent Bangladesh. Syed Nazrul Islam was deputy president and Tazuddin Ahmed was prime minister. As Bangabandhu was in jail in Pakistan, Syed Nazrul Islam discharged his duty as the interim president and led the Liberation War. And we achieved victory.
Bangabandhu returned home on January 10 and took over the responsibility of war-torn Bangladesh and gave us the country’s first constitution in this parliament. The main objective of those who came to power after his assassination was to drag the country backwards. Nobody worked for the welfare of the people. They forgot they were bound to serve the people. Rather, they started harassing the leaders and workers of the AL by lodging false cases against them.
They spread lies against the AL. We had to move ahead amid various difficulties. They attacked us again and again, but the AL always fought to realize the people’s rights.
If we see the list of martyrs, we will see all the names are of the leaders of AL, Chhatra League, and Jubo League. We have seen how Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, and later general Ziaur Rahman, General Ershad and Begum Khaleda Zia grabbed power illegally. After assuming power, Khaleda Zia held a voter-free election on February 15, 1996. People did not accept it.
They forced Khaleda Zia to step down March 30 by waging a movement.
The AL has waged movements against every military-backed government’s anti-people activities and has secured victory in each of them. The AL formed the government in 1996 after 21 years and handed over people’s power to them. The 1996–2001 tenure was the golden age for the people of Bangladesh. They realised for the first time that the government was the people’s servant. They had smiles of happiness on their faces.
But we faced tragedy again in the 2001 elections when local and international conspiracies were hatched against AL because I refused to sell the country’s mineral resources to foreign powers. Khaleda agreed to do so, and we did not come to power. Though the AL bagged more votes than the BNP, we did not get the seats and so could not form the government.
After that, repression started on the AL leaders and workers. At least 21,000 leaders and activists were killed in seven years. They (the BNP-Jamaat alliance) killed our leaders and workers during their tenure from 2001 to 2006 just as the Pakistani occupation forces did during the Liberation War.
A state of emergency was declared due to the Khaleda Zia government’s widespread corruption, killings and massive irregularities in different sectors. Even after that, AL did not sit idle. Our leaders and workers, students, teachers, as well pro-liberation forces waged movements against the military-backed government in 2007 and brought back democracy to the country.
Today, Bangladesh has turned into a role model for the world. Every political party has a principle. The AL’s policy is to take the country forward along the path shown by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. His dream was to give the people of Bangladesh a prosperous life and to build a Bangladesh free of hunger and poverty. We always worked for the welfare of the people, whether we were in the government or not.
In 2014, we came to power again with the mandate of the people because we maintained a consistent path of development. We have been able to reduce the poverty rate and increase the per capita income, the average lifespan and the rate of education. The people of our country are now dreaming of a better life—which was the dream of the Father of our Nation.
We could implement the land boundary agreement—an initiative taken by the Father of the Nation. We also solved the issue of the maritime boundary—which was a long-standing problem. We are on the path of solving other problems as well. At the same time, Bangladesh is making remarkable progress in improving its socio-economic condition. Today, Bangladesh is a role model of development for the whole world.
Before 1975, if a Bangladeshi went abroad, he/she had to hear that Bangladesh was a land of poverty, famine, cyclones and disasters. Bangladesh had to beg other countries for aid. Today, insha’Allah (by Allah’s grace), it does not have to. We have implemented 90 per cent of our budgetary projects with our own money. This has only been possible because the AL is in power because our motto is to serve people and work for their betterment.
The 67 years of AL history is marked by both sacrifice and struggle. On the one hand, it has a rich history of leading the country to independence, and on the other, it has a history of taking it on the path of socio-economic development. I express my gratitude to all for staying by the side of AL and voting for its symbol ‘nouka’ (boat) to elect the party to form governments. Because of them, we have been able to work for the
development of the country.
The example set by the Father of the Nation to achieve independence is unparalleled in the world. Whenever there have been any wars for liberation in the world, and the allied forces have defeated the enemy, the allied force has remained in the country after independence. Bangladesh is an exception to that because we had an open-minded leader like Bangabandhu.
Right after the war ended, he asked Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, “When are you going to take back your forces from our country?” Indira Gandhi, too, was an open-minded leader. She immediately agreed to take back the Indian troops which had helped Bangladesh in the war of independence. In the history of the world, such an incident has never happened.
US soldiers helped West Germany during the wars, but they remained there long after the war ended. Soviet soldiers helped East Germany and they remained there in the same way. Japan still has US military establishments. There are numerous examples of allied forces that stayed back for prolonged periods after the end of a war. But Bangladesh had a strong and independent leader like Bangabandhu, who made sure that the allied forces did not stay for long in the newly formed independent nation.
We are an independent, sovereign country. We should always remember that we have achieved our independence through a glorious Liberation War. We are a victorious nation. As a
victorious nation, we always want to hold our head high amidst other nations of the world. I strongly believe that we are governing our state in line with that pride after forming the present government.
Bangabandhu taught us the foreign policy of ‘Friendship with all, enmity with none’ and we are still abiding by that foreign policy. Because of that, we have been able to establish friendships with all nations of the world. Very few other countries have been able to do that. We have even solved problems with the neighbouring countries by maintaining friendship. We have solved the problems of both land and maritime boundary. We could sign the Ganga agreement.
Our only concern now is to move forward by improving the socio-economic condition of our country. We are governing our state with that thought and the people of our country gain benefits because of that. We don’t think what we are getting as a party; we think about the nation.
I personally think that my father devoted his life for the independence of the country. He sacrificed his personal happiness to ensure that the people of his country could have rice on their table twice a day. He also tried to ensure clothing, education, healthcare, and other basic services for the people of his country and he spent hours thinking how to ensure those.
So, I always try to work on the lessons that I have learned from him for the betterment of the people. Today, at least all our people have food. We provide food to the extreme poor free of cost. Ahead of Ramadan and Eid, we distribute food among them. We also provide housing facilities to those who do not own houses. These are our goals.
The Father of the Nation established the idea of clustered villages to ensure housing and employment facilities for the landless and homeless people. So, our goal is to ensure that no one remains homeless in this country. Everyone should also get healthcare facilities. We could deliver healthcare services through community clinics were 23 types of medicines are available. The maternal mortality and child mortality rates have gone down substantially.
We have seen that many people chose to end their lives because of their failure to pay interest on loans to microcredit institutions. For them, we have started the provision of micro-saving schemes. Only yesterday, we inaugurated 100 Palli Sanchai Bank branches. By following the policy of ‘one household, one farm’, we have been able to transform villagers from destitute to middle-income families. The entire country is reaping the benefit of this initiative.
Our goal is that the people of our country should live well, have education, get healthcare and get the opportunity to upgrade their lifestyles gradually through the implementation of our government plans and initiatives.
One of our goals was to establish a digital Bangladesh. The entire country is now being covered by the internet and mobile phone network. Everyone has a mobile phone now. We have come a long way in using technology to improve our lifestyles. I believe those days are not far when, as the Father of the Nation dreamt, we will be able to declare our country a middle-income country. We hope to do it by 2021 and figure among the developed countries of South East Asia by 2041.
Along with that, the steps we take to fight terrorism would make the country a peaceful place to live in. We need help from the people to fight terrorism because some people will always conspire against the country’s interests.
On our anniversary, I only hope that the AL will move forward by preserving democracy and continue with the socio-economic improvements by fighting against all sorts of conspiracies.
I ask the people of the country to pray for us so that we can establish a golden Bangla. Our only wish is to serve the people and to ensure peaceful and prosperous lives for them.