It has been our ability to overcome the odds, however, to succeed in the face of adversity, that has dened us as a nation over the past five decades

It was today, on December 16, 1971, 49 years ago today, after a nine month long brutal and bloody Liberation War, that our country emerged as a sovereign nation — that Bangladesh was born.

This victory was only possible because of the indomitable leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who galvanized the entire population, and set about in motion the struggle and resistance that would finally end the 24 years of oppressive Pakistani rule of East Pakistan and give birth to Bangladesh.

Of course, we cannot forget the incredible tribulations and sacrifices of the Mukti Bahini and the sacrifices of millions of brave civilians who were martyred during the war. Despite the most heinous of tactics employed by the Pakistani forces, including massacring our intellectuals, the very best and brightest minds we had during the time so as to cripple us from our very inception, we have not been held back, and over the next five decades, we have grown from strength to strength.

Fast forward to 2020, with Bangladesh in the middle of Mujib Year to celebrate 100 years of the birth of the Father of the Nation, and with 2021 marking 50 years of independence for the country, it was supposed to be a landmark 2020 and 2021 for the country, full of festivities.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the trajectory of the entire planet, with every country in the world struggling to cope with the devastating effect it has had on both lives and livelihoods.It has been our ability to overcome the odds, however, to succeed in the face of adversity, that has defined us as a nation over the past five decades. To that end, Bangladesh’s response to the coronavirus had parallels to our response to the oppressive Pakistani forces in 1971 that gave birth to our country.

Through a collective, concerted effort, this time led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has largely kept our economy moving in a positive direction during the pandemic after an initial setback, despite all indicators suggesting otherwise. This is a testament to the resilience of the Bangladeshi people, one that has always been a hallmark of our nation.

However, challenges will keep appearing, as they always have done for any nation, and Bangladesh has plenty of work to do before it can truly claim to be the “Sonar Bangla” for each and every citizen that resides within its borders, and while our progress as a nation is undeniable, there remain plenty of points of contention that must be addressed with priority.

The most fundamental challenge remains holding on the foundational principles on which Bangladesh was founded — that of nationalism, socialism, secularism, and democracy. We must remember that Bangladesh is for all of its citizens, and the rights of each and every one of those citizens remain the same, regardless of ethnic, religious, or economic backgrounds. To that end, caution must be exercised when fundamentalism threatens to destabilize the country and the secular forces on which it was founded upon.

Similarly, we must ensure a fair and equitable society, not one where the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep being left behind. Technology can be both a great equalizer and a great divider, and it is imperative for the authorities concerned to ensure that it continues to be the former, not the latter.

The threat of climate change also remains the single biggest global problem of the 21st century, with Bangladesh among the most vulnerable countries to its effects. Our government must continue to do its part, not only as a voice of dissent against richer economies who continue their unchecked greenhouse emissions, but also set an example by adopting cleaner, more renewable sources of energy to propel the economy to the next level.

Our goals remain extremely ambitious, with the desire to become a middle-income country by this decade and a developed nation in the next two decades. Keeping the spirit of Victory Day with us, remembering our foundational principles, and persevering as we always have as a nation, there are few today who will doubt our ability to fulfill those ambitions, and become the “Sonar Bangla” that was envisioned by Bangabandhu.

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