When you look at how far we have come from the devastated land that nonetheless had the courage and self-respect to hold its head high and declare its independence this day 50 years ago, what we have achieved is nothing short of a miracle
When Bangladesh declared its independence on this day 50 years ago in the wake of the genocidal attack that had been unleashed on its people, who could have imagined that we would be standing where we are today?
Then, freedom and victory were far from our sights, as we fought for our very lives as a nation and a people. We had no assurance that we would win what looked like an unequal war against a ruthless and much better armed oppressor.
But it was in the ensuing nine months that Bangladesh showed its true greatness, as we rallied fearlessly under the leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and joined together in the face of horrific odds and in the teeth of unthinkable brutality to wage the war that would bring us our freedom.
Those nine months showed Bangladesh and Bangladeshis at our best: courageous, unflinching, indomitable, and unbowed, as we won the respect and admiration of the entire world.
But our freedom was won at the ruinous cost of countless lives lost and destroyed and we started our journey as an independent nation almost from zero.
Our newly freed homeland lay in ashes, devastated by nine months of cataclysmic destruction to say nothing of the two centuries of oppression that had preceded it, and it was left to us to forge a new nation out of the wreckage all around us.
We started with nothing. Our country was in ruins. Our best and our brightest had been cut down. Poverty and privation were our inheritance.
All we had was our freedom, our pride, and our determination to build a country that could stand on its own two feet and look the rest of the world in the eye as an equal member of the community of nations, second to none, beholden to none, answerable to none.
In 50 short years, we have achieved just that.
When you look at how far we have come from the devastated land that nonetheless had the courage and self-respect to hold its head high and declare its independence this day 50 years ago, what we have achieved is nothing short of a miracle.
In the early years of our independence Bangladesh was a punch-line, a by-word for poverty and misery. Not any more. Today Bangladesh is a country that takes care of its own people, that is a respected and responsible member of the global community, and where opportunity and optimism are everywhere.
We have risen from the ashes and shown the world just what we are made of. The world will never again take Bangladesh lightly, never again treat us with anything less than the respect we have earned day by day over half a century.
The world will never again make the mistake of thinking of Bangladesh as anything other than a land of dynamism and determination where anything is possible.
The world will never again make the mistake of thinking of Bangladeshis as anything other than a brave and bold people who can overcome and have overcome and will continue to overcome every challenge that destiny throws our way.
There is nothing that Bangladeshis cannot do and everyone knows it now.
Things in Bangladesh today are not perfect. Far from it. We all know what our problems are.
But the point is that they are our problems and no one else's. They are ours to solve and they are ours to fix. And fix them we will. Because there is nothing we cannot achieve if we put our minds to it and if we hold together.
Let us today renew our pledge of half a century ago. Let us build on the sacrifices of our forefathers and mothers. Let us promise to our sons and our daughters that we will build this country into something the rest of the world will look upon with awe and wonder and which truly honours the martyrs who gave their lives so that we could be free.
Zafar Sobhan is the editor of Dhaka Tribune