Independence Day: Let the democratic structure strengthened

If we are to establish an effective and sustainable democratic system, we must ensure democratic rights of every citizen as enshrined in the constitution

Today is our glorious Independence Day. On this day in 1971, the armed struggle against the Pakistani occupation forces started and the final victory was achieved on 16 December after nine  months of bloody war. Three million people sacrificed their lives for this freedom. About 10 million people were displaced. Many mothers and sisters were tortured.

On this auspicious day, we remember with utmost respect the valiant sons of this soil who laid down their lives. We remember the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who gradually prepared a nation for independence and made the final call for freedom on 26 March 1971. We remember the four national leaders who led the liberation war in the absence of Bangabandhu.

The objective of independence was to establish Bangladesh as a truly democratic, non-communal and exploitation-free state. Our Constitution also enshrines the rule of law, fundamental human rights and equality in political, economic and social aspects and freedom and justice for all citizens.

But how much have we succeeded in achieving that objective? We do have some successes in many socioeconomic perimeters. Per capita income and average life expectancy have increased. Women have been empowered and education has expanded. Poverty rate has decreased. However, inequality has increased in the 53 years of independence. We could not distribute the benefits of development to everyone.

Current government has implemented many mega projects such as Padma Bride and Metro Rail while many more projects are ongoing. Yet, basic needs of a greater section of society could not yet be fulfilled. Even the government policymakers have acknowledged poor and low-income people are suffering due to price hikes of essentials in recent times. But the products that the government is providing at relatively low prices through TCB are very inadequate.

Democracy was one of the main pillars of independence. People of this country took up arms to free the country as Pakistani rulers defied the people’s mandate in 1971. Yet, our political leaders failed to reach any consensus about elections in the last 53 years. The people expected the 12th general election will be held with participation of all political parties.

There were various activities in and outside the country to ensure the election was participatory. But in the end the people of the country experienced an election in which they did not have enough opportunity to choose their representatives. In this circumstance, people have lost interest in the electoral system itself, which is also echoed in the post-election speech of chief election commissioner Kazi Habibul Awal.

Solutions to any political problem or election will have to be found through dialogue. But our political leadership is unfortunately apathetic towards finding any solution in dialogues. We have to keep the election commission and other constitutional bodies beyond narrow political partisanship if we want to strengthen our democratic system.

If we are to establish an effective and sustainable democratic system, we must ensure democratic rights of every citizen as enshrined in the constitution. At the same time, respect for opposing political views and any kind of dissent and freedom of expression including freedom of press must be ensured. Happy Independence Day to all.