Today we celebrate 48 years of our existence as an independent nation, breathing the air of a free country and in a free environment. But it is with a sense of mixed feeling that we celebrate this day. Our joy is constantly laced with sadness. Freedom came but at the cost of three million lives and the sacrifices of thousands of our mothers and sisters. We mourn for the martyrs, for their loss is irreparable.
While our freedom brought relief and respite from the hands of a rapacious marauding occupation military machine, oiled by the minority’s hatred for the people of East Bengal, the nine-month war left in its wake a horrid tale of death and destruction. The country literally rose from the ashes like the legendary phoenix. And that was possible only due to the leadership of the Father of the Nation and the guidance of his four trusted lieutenants, who had steered the people in the trying times during the period of the Liberation War, and which saw the successful end of the war in our favour—our Victory. And it was also to the credit of the people of a war-ravaged country who displayed the kind of resilience and grit seldom witnessed.
But while we celebrate the day and grieve for those we lost, we cannot but help reflect on the fact that we are in the cusp of the golden jubilee year of our victory, which we will celebrate two years hence. While 50 years is not a long time in a country’s history, it is well to remember that we have been an independent nation for twice as long as we have been under Pakistan. And in this nearly half a century, how much of the dream of the martyrs have we been able to fulfil? If the dream that we all fought for was freedom and development which would be inclusive and cover all spheres of the nation’s life, how have we fared?
We can justly take pride in the fact that we have done very well as far as the development agenda goes. We have a remarkable growth rate, but that perhaps should be more inclusive. Our human development index is an envy of many and would be worth emulating by all the other countries of the region.
On the other hand, however, if democracy and democratic institutions of a country are the two major underpinnings of freedom, then regrettably, there is a shortfall; some would even say regression from the principles of democracy. After all, it is for democracy and democratic rights that the Bengalis took up arms. And it is, therefore, sad to see a deficit of democracy even today.