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     Volume 8 Issue 55 | January 30, 2009 |

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One Off

Let's Redeem the Pledge of '71

Aly Zaker
Photo: Anwar Hossain

We have just had a new government sworn in. This government came to power through a landslide victory. If we look at the election manifesto of the party that came to power it entails certain steps that may seem to promise breaking away from the archetypal political rhetoric and bring us to the gateway of a new beginning. This is what encourages me to see a dream that pursued us to take up arms in 1971. In '71, when we took up arms against the occupation forces of Pakistan, we had a dream. And that dream was to tear away from the colonial practices that ruled over us starting with the British occupation of the subcontinent and, subsequently, Pakistani occupation of East Bengal. But to our dismay, we found that all that happened was merely a change of the rubber stamp from Pakistan to Bangladesh. Just as it happened after Pakistan came into being---from Great Britain to Pakistan. The newly found Bangladesh earned at the cost of blood and honour of countless people, was to be based on a total departure from the colonial values and practices of the past. This was to have been reflected in all spheres of national life of the independent country.

But this was not the case. The government that took over immediately after the liberation of Bangladesh, despite its best wishes, were not in a position to bring in a sea change in the manner of running the country that could be termed as new or innovative. I suppose there were reasons for it. When we were forced to take up arms against the Pakistani occupation army we were not ready to plan out how we shall go about running a new state after the end of the war. We had only a dream. I think many of our leaders also did not think much about how to go about the job of giving the newly formed state a resounding beginning. So we had to depend on the bureaucracy that was trained in the Civil Service Academy of Pakistan and were not used to thinking differently. So we started on the beaten track of an administration wrapped with the mindset of a colonial legacy. Under normal circumstances, a revolutionary government should have been in a position to take revolutionary measures. But we missed the bus. Even today this legacy binds us to a not so pleasant a past that was Pakistan.

However, we mustn't despair. Every cloud has a silver lining. The party that is in power today did promise something which could be the beginning of a new dawn. They promised to our youth, and I quote “We promise to sacrifice our present for your future”. Needless to say, such a sagacious statement is a rarity with our politicians. They also promised that they envisioned a digital Bangladesh by 2021 and that all those who were connected with war crime would be tried, if necessary in consort with the United Nations. All these were close to what our youth had wanted. Thirty percent of Bangladesh's voters were of less than thirty-five years of age and their choice was amply reflected in the election. Now is the time to redeem the pledge. Now is also the time to bring novelty in the thoughts and deeds of the new government. The signs are already there. The government has shown that they have the inclination to infuse new blood in running of the affairs of the state. But this is only the beginning. We have miles to go. If we look at the trend of how successive governments had pushed the nation a little further from the values and ideals of '71 every time they came to power, we may get an indication of the agenda we have to address without further loss of time. To begin with, we may explain what we mean when we say the ideals of '71. Simply put, these ideals embody righteous, democratic behaviour devoid of communalism and corrupt practices and inclusive of the culture of this part of the world. Our governments since 1975 were against the values mentioned above and, almost with vengeance, acted against all that we stood for in '71. The party comprising the present government were in power in the interim for one term but with a very slim majority to be able to do something radically different. Now, with the new generation imbued with the spirit of '71 the media so sensitive to basic human and societal values, the people so consciously against the vestige of corruption, the new government should be well poised to start acting.

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