As Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee draws to a close, Prothom Alo confronts three eminent citizens of the country with three questions. All three of them were involved in various ways with the Liberation War or the political upheavals preceding independence. They were asked the same questions.

Senior economist and founder of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Rehman Sobhan, responds.

The nation went through various political upheavals which culminated in the 1971 War of Liberation. You yourself were also a part of those unfolding events. What were your thoughts at the time on Bangladesh as a state?

Our excitement and aspirations knew no bounds on 16 December 1971 as Bangladesh emerged in independence. At the outset of the liberation war, everyone had thought this would be a long drawn out struggle. We would have to face bloodshed and destruction. Very few persons could conceive we would win an independent country within nine months.

I myself was very thrilled about the prospect of building the nation. At the same time, as an economist, I was concerned about the rehabilitation of the 10 million returning refugees, the reconstruction of a war-torn country, procuring food for the people though we were bereft of resources, and reviving the broken-down economy. But our main thoughts in the last days of December were about what fate Bangabandhu would face and also, in his absence, what problems would be faced in forging a political unity to tackle the emerging challenges.

How do you compare the state that you envisioned, with Bangladesh as it stands now, 50 years hence? What are the similarities and the dissimilarities?

During our movement in demand of autonomy, we would always believe that Bangladesh would fare much better under its own rule as a democratic republic than under the Pakistan state against whom we had been struggling for so long. Bangladesh's economy has flourished rapidly compared to Pakistan. We are way ahead today in each and every development indicator where we had lagged behind during independence. This includes per capital income, GDP, exports, education, health, life expectancy and poverty alleviation. We have created entrepreneurs in business, among our hard working farmers, women, migrants and civil society groups. Our new generation is leading in the digital revolution and culture.

However, the culture of greed has channeled the benefits of our development to just a handful of people. Economic disparity and social inequality has increased. Corruption and criminal tendencies have increased. A coterie of politically patronised businesspersons has gained control on all our institutions. The rise of such a discriminatory society is contrary to the equality-based, oppression and deprivation-free and just society of which Bangabandhu had dreamed.

After this Golden Jubilee of independence, in the context of the spirit of the Liberation War, which are the issues we should focus our attention upon for achievements in the future?

Under the leadership of Bangabandhu, the people of Bangladesh fought against the Pakistan rule for 25 years. We could not imagine we would have to face so many problems to establish and consolidate democracy in this Bangladesh. We had to spend years under military rule, something beyond imagination. Even under civil rule, our democratic institutions were not strengthened. The Jatiya Sangsad (national parliament) could never play the role expected of it. Our electoral institutions have failed to ensure free, fair and inclusive elections.

The biggest challenge before us in the coming decade is to ensure a democratic environment where the aspirations of the people of Bangladesh are fully reflected and an end is drawn to muscle and money power. Our economy too must be free from the clutches of the coterie of capitalists so that the economy can be more competitive, where small farmers, workers, women, migrants and all sorts of entrepreneurs will get equal scope to exercise their potential and through which we can build up a society based on equality. In such a society, the institutions will function in everyone's interests and the rule of law will be in place for everyone. Everyone's human rights will be upheld and each and every citizen will be able to express their views without fear.