Bangladesh honours Freinds of 1971 Liberation War

President Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni award Col (retd) Ashok Tara with “Friends of Liberation War Honour” in Dhaka yesterday. In 1971, Ashok rescued the family of Bangabandhu from captivity. PHOTO: PMO

The nation expressing its deep gratitude yesterday honoured 61 more individuals from across the world, mostly from India, for their wholehearted support during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971.

President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina conferred the awards on the nation’s foreign friends at a special ceremony at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

Foreign friends’ contributions invaluable, says President

Those who were honoured

যাঁরা সম্মাননা পেলেন

বন্ধুদের সম্মানিত করল বাংলাদেশ

The state accolades, titled “Bangladesh Liberation War Honour” and “Friends of Liberation War Honour”, went to 61 recipients — 50 from India, three from the UK, two from the USA, two from Sweden and one each from Nepal, Italy, Australia and Vietnam.

Two heads of government — former Indian prime minister IK Gujral and former prime minister of Nepal Late Girija Prasad Koirala — were awarded the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour while the rest 59 Friends of Liberation War Honour.

Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran and Sujata Koirala, daughter of Late Girija Prasad Koirala, received the awards on behalf of Gujral and Koirala respectively.

Renowned Indian actress Shabana Azmi received the award conferred posthumously on her father the noted Indian poet and lyricist Kaifi Azmi.

Recalling the recipients’ roles in 1971, President Zillur Rahman said, “Today, I remember with great respect the outstanding contribution of our foreign friends, who rendered wholehearted support and cooperation to our War of Liberation from their respective positions.”

“Your endless generosity will remain in our hearts forever. As our friends, I believe, you would continue your valuable support and cooperation in our development process in the years to come,” said the president.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina started her speech by recalling the contributions of national leaders like wartime president Syed Nazrul Islam and prime minister Tajuddin Ahmad.

She said, “As we honour our heroes today, we reaffirm our faith in the principles we stood for.”

“Your support reconfirmed that our cause was right and our struggle could not be trampled. You heard our yearning for justice, honour and dignity. You added to our voice and magnified it for the global community,” she said expressing her sincere gratitude to the foreign friends.

Terming the trial process of war criminals transparent and fair, the prime minister said it would open the path of national reconciliation by closing an unpleasant chapter of history, reports BSS.

“We are confident that the process would help us close an unpleasant chapter in our history and allow us to proceed with greater clarity on our respective roles and responsibilities. This would certainly help us all reconcile,” she said.

The Cabinet Division, Ministry of Liberation War Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly organised the colourful ceremony. This was the third phase of presenting awards to foreign nationals and organisations.

Sheikh Hasina announced in the function that the fourth phase of awarding the friends would take place in December this year.

In the first phase, the government on July 25, 2011 conferred Bangladesh Freedom Honour posthumously on former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

The on March 27 this year, the state accolades titled “Bangladesh Liberation War Honour” and “Friends of Liberation War Honour”, went to 82 — 74 individuals, six organisations, Mitra Bahini (allied forces) and the people of India.

According to the Foreign Ministry, a list of around 600 foreign friends was prepared to be gradually conferred with the honour. The list included 40 Pakistanis who defied the then Pak junta in supporting Bangladesh’s cause.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Capt (retd) AB Tajul Islam also addressed the function, while Joan A Dine, a social worker of the USA, spoke on behalf of the award recipients.

Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hussain Bhuiyan conducted the function and read out the citation dedicated to the individuals and institutions that were honoured.

Ministers, parliament members, sector commanders, freedom fighters, diplomats, judges, educationists, politicians, students of different schools as well as high civil and military officials were present at the gala function.