A national election was held. Power was not handed over to Awami League though it had won the election, and consequently we achieved an independent country. This country became independent because of economic disparity and our forefathers, in the constitution, pledged rule of law, fundamental rights, economic and social equality, independence and justice for all citizens.
Today in this country, economic disparity between the top 10 per cent of the people and the remaining 90 per cent has increased manifold. We had not foreseen the unimaginable political and social disparity that has emerged over the past decade of misrule. Fair elections, exercising voting rights, electing candidates of one's choice and accepting the results without protest is of vital importance. Without these, a country can break up and a new country can emerge. Whenever the topic of the 1970 election crops up in the conversation, even today we are taken aback by the fact that a free and fair election was held under a hated military autocratic like Yahya, an election where a party from the deprived and suppressed East Pakistan won absolute majority with 167 seats.
Economic disparity between the two Pakistans was the bone of contention that led to the birth of Bangladesh. That disparity is so acute today within Bangladesh itself, with the richer steadily getting richer and the poor are getting further entrapped in the vicious cycle of poverty
This country won its independence based on the democracy mantra, yet today we hear absurd slogans about 'development first, democracy later,' controlled democracy,' 'more development, less democracy, 'development democracy' and such. This resembles Ayub Khan's ' basic democracy'. Military despot Ayub Khan used development as his mantra to prolong his unlawful rule.
A dismal and alarming picture has been drawn up about Bangladesh over the last few years in the reports of various international institutions including the Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, Bertelsmann Stiftung, V-Dem, Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Civicus, Reporters Without Borders, World Justice Project, Transparency International and the Electoral Integrity Project.
Economic disparity between the two Pakistans was the bone of contention that led to the birth of Bangladesh. That disparity is so acute today within Bangladesh itself, with the richer steadily getting richer and the poor are getting further entrapped in the vicious cycle of poverty. The Gini coefficient has reached almost 0.5, indicating extreme disparity. Bangladesh has been ranked first among countries with the fastest increase in the number of ultra-rich owning over Tk 2.50 billion (Tk 250 crore) in wealth. It ranks third among countries with rich persons owning wealth between Tk 80 million (Tk 8 crore) to Tk 2.50 billion (Tk 250 crore). And it ranks fifth among countries with the poorest people in the world.
Amidst all the glitter and fanfare of the golden jubilee celebrations where the ruling government is sprouting development rhetoric to no end, I decided to have a look how the defeated Pakistan is doing. Rather than being amazed, I was pained. A few examples will clarify this. For instance: 1. In the corruption index, Bangladesh ranks at 146, Pakistan 124; 2. in the free press index, Bangladesh 152, Pakistan 145; 3. in election credibility by the Electoral Integrity Project -- Bangladesh 38, Pakistan 47; 4. Global knowledge index, Bangladesh 112, Pakistan 111; 5. Ease at doing business index, Bangladesh 168, Pakistan 108; 6. Millennium Challenge Corporation, Bangladesh has 16 red points among 20 and Pakistan 11; 7. Mobile phone data speed, Bangladesh 134, Pakistan 110; 8. Times Higher Education University Ranking 2021, Bangladesh has one in a thousand and Pakistan 11.
The government, over the past decade, has rendered words like 'Liberation War', and 'Spirit of the Liberation War' to mere clichés, using these to lend legitimacy to all their misdeeds and injustice
I watched the recent movie 'Lal Moroger Jhuti' the other day. It was a brilliant movie by a gifted director. And the story wasn't typical as in other cinema based on the liberation war. I had imagined that people would go to the halls to watch the movie, even if it wasn't going to be a blockbuster. But I was shocked to see only 10 persons in the hall, that too including myself.
Perhaps, unawares, the people have grown a sense of distaste to the theme because of the manner in which the government, over the past decade, has rendered words like 'Liberation War', and 'Spirit of the Liberation War' to mere clichés, using these to lend legitimacy to all their misdeeds and injustice. And that, perhaps, is why such an excellent movie on the war of liberation has failed to draw in the people. What could be more unfortunate for the nation as it celebrates the golden jubilee of its independence?
*Rumeen Farhana is a memberof parliament from BNP and whip as well as a lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court