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Bangabandhu’s dream of making Bangladesh the ‘Switzerland of the East’

  • Published at 04:12 pm August 6th, 2021
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Rafiqur Rahman

He perhaps wanted to say that Bangladesh would become a developed and peaceful country like Switzerland, writes journalist AL Khatib in his book ‘Who Killed Mujib’

On this day in 1975, Switzerland’s ambassador to Bangladesh presented their credentials to the then president, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. 

While speaking to the Swiss envoy, the Father of Nation voiced his dream of turning Bangladesh into the “Switzerland of the East,” according to Bangabandhu Obhidhan by Sheikh Sadi.

This was not the first time Bangabandhu had expressed his wish to mould Bangladesh into a peaceful country like Switzerland. Earlier, he made the remark at his maiden press conference after taking office as the prime minister of Bangladesh in the post-liberation war period.

After the defeat of the military forces of West Pakistan, Bangabandhu returned to an independent Bangladesh from a Pakistani prison on January 10, 1972. 

He was arrested by the Pakistan military junta on March 25, 1971, and taken to what was then an under-construction national assembly building in the second capital area (today’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar).

He was then moved to Adamjee College in the cantonment, where he was kept for the night, and later shifted to Flagstaff House.

Three days later, he was flown to West Pakistan and put in solitary confinement in Punjab’s Mianwali jail.

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On the prison life of Bangabandhu during the Liberation War, Journalist AL Khatib in his book “Who Killed Mujib” said: “For nine months Mujib was locked in the prison’s condemned cell and lost 20kg. 

“On January 8, 1972, he was tired and exhausted when he reached Rawalpindi from London on his way to Dhaka.”

Bangabandhu, the country’s first prime minister, appeared in his first press briefing after returning to independent Bangladesh on January 14, 1972.

Responding to a journalist at the briefing, Bangabandhu said: “We want to make our country the Switzerland of the East.”

AL Khatib writes in his book: “He probably wanted to say that Bangladesh would become a developed and peaceful country like Switzerland.” 

Later on August 7, 1975, two state ministers of that time — state minister for defence Nurul Islam Chowdhury and state minister for commerce Dewan Farid Gazi — met with Bangabandhu following his meeting with the Swiss ambassador. 

The two would later join the cabinet of Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad following the brutal killing of Bangabandhu and most of his family members on August 15, 1975. 

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