Bangladesh celebrates 49 years of victory in the shadow of coronavirus

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Dhaka, Dec 16: Bangladesh is celebrating the 49th anniversary of its victory and commemorating the martyrs of the nine-month Liberation War against Pakistan.

The nation began the day with paying tributes to martyrs at the National Memorial in Savar at 6.30 am on Wednesday.

The government has scaled down the Victory Day celebrations this year, due to the pandemic. There was no parade by the armed forces.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina were not physically present at the memorial.

On behalf of President Hamid, Military Secretary Maj Gen SM Shamim-uz-Zaman paid homage at the National Memorial, while Hasina’s Military Secretary Maj Gen Naqib Ahmed Chowdhury paid the tribute on her behalf.

A gun salute rang out at first light, followed by the armed forces paying their homage.

On behalf of the cabinet, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque, State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid and State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Enamur Rahman paid their respect.

Dhaka South City Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh also paid his homage, followed by freedom fighters and leaders of Bangladesh Administrative Service Association.

A non-communal Bangladesh began its journey 49 years ago but the 1971 Liberation War spirit of non-communalism has been attacked time and again.

The Awami League government is running the country with a promise to reverse the backward course of the country that began after the killing of Bangabandhu in 1975, but the efforts are facing obstacles.

Just weeks before the Victory Day, hardline Islamist groups have opposed government plans to construct Bangabandhu’s statues, saying that sculpture is forbidden in Islam. A statue of the Father of the Nation was also vandalised.

His daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has issued a stern warning against the religious extremists in her address to the nation on the eve of Victory Day. “We’ll not allow any disparity in the name of religion,” she said.

Just ahead of Victory Day, the central bank announced that its foreign currency reserves have crossed the $42 billion milestone, double the reserves of Pakistan, which brutally oppressed the Bengalis for over two decades economically.

“Work on the big projects is going on in full swing. We have completed the installation of all spans of the Padma Bridge, our dream project. The Metro Rail project in Dhaka has also progressed. Construction of the Rooppur Atomic Power Plant never stopped for a single day amid the pandemic,” Hasina said in her speech.

International organisations forecast that Bangladesh will have the highest economic growth in South Asia in 2020 despite the pandemic, she said.

President Hamid in his message said the country making advances in every socio-economic index, including health, education, women’s empowerment and the per capita income while average life expectancy has also increased.

“Bangladesh is now a proud member of the elite satellite club with the launch of the Bangabandhu-1 Satellite into space. Full cooperation as well as a positive change of outlook of our people is imperative to carry this ongoing development trend forward,” he said.