Speaking at the virtual launch of policy magazine WhiteBoard on Sunday, the grandson of the founding father said Bangladesh has really gone back to some of its founding principles and ideologies under the leadership of Hasina in the last 10 years.
The Centre for Research and Information or CRI , the ruling Awami League’s research wing, has published the magazine’s first issue representing the visions and economic policies developed by Bangabandhu for the new-born Bangladesh, ravaged by the 1971 Liberation War.
Radwan, a CRI trustee and editor-in-chief of the magazine, shined light on the relevance of Bangabandhu’s policies in the modern Bangladesh. as detailed in the magazine’s ‘Mujib issue’.
The CRI was set to publish WhiteBoard during Bangabandhu’s birth anniversary in March until the coronavirus outbreak pushed the launch back.
“In the course of the pandemic as well, if we look at the government’s response, stimulus packages, and look at our economy, we’ve recently welcomed cautiously some reports and projections that say Bangladesh’s economy might be looking up and it might not be as badly affected as we were expecting,” Radwan said.
He said the United Nations might have adopted the policy of ‘leaving no one behind’ recently in its development goals, but Bangladesh had begun following the same path since its independence from Pakistan.
“If we talk about the UN, the SDGs, and ‘Leave No One Behind’ – one of Bangladesh’s core founding principles was ‘Leave No One Behind’. And if you look at the way the government has reacted now, there’s very much that spirit in it,” he said.
In its previous initiatives like graphic novel ‘Mujib’ or docudrama ‘Hasina – A Daughter’s Tale’, CRI focused on the political and personal life of Bangabandhu.
Later, the centre began thinking about WhiteBoard to look back on the new government after independence, it policies, and the challenges it faced, said Radwan, son of Hasina’s younger sister Sheikh Rehana.
It worked on how Bangabandhu and his colleagues at the time used the ideology that drove Bangladesh to independence to try and shape how the country would chart a future for itself.
“That’s why in our issue we talk about the constitution, a document that was perhaps ahead of its time, and the kind of courage and bravery that took our newly independent government to put forward something like this,” said the CRI trustee.
“The other thing is (that) Bangladesh was being born at the height of the Cold War. Recently from the West as well, excellent academic works like the [ones on Blood Telegram] and all that actually show how much the Cold War impacted the [Liberation War] and the post-war period for Bangladesh,” he said.
CRI brought out the magazine to give people an appreciation of the “really, really immense challenges” faced by the administration at the time, how it shaped foreign policy and reconstruction in a country devastated by war, he said.
WhiteBoard also sheds light on how the answers that the Sheikh Mujib administration came up with on the path they chose really never deviated from the ideologies of Bangladesh, which were socialism, secularism, democratic principles, and nationalism, according to Radwan.
“If you look at Bangladesh over the last 10 years, Bangladesh has really started to reach new heights. But we still have a long way to go. So, it’s not time to rest on our laurels.
“And I don’t think anyone is resting on the laurels. We have been led by the prime minister and everyone can see that this is someone who is constantly working to push the country forward,” he said.
”And it’s no coincidence that in the last 10 years Bangladesh has really gone back to some of its founding principles, and ideologies,” he added.
The magazine describes Bangabandhu’s foreign policy that is now helping Bangladesh secure investments from its key economic partners such as India, China and Japan, according to his grandson.
“People might have said there’s no way a country like Bangladesh can balance its own interest while also inviting investments from countries like these. It’s because we go back to that core – ‘friendship towards all, malice towards none’ – where the Bangladeshi foreign policy is set for what is really good for Bangladesh,” he said.
“So I think the relevance is hiding in plain sight, as they say, and that’s why we hope that through this issue and through some of these articles we can kind of make those links clear in the minds of not only the young people, but also policymakers,” Radwan added.
The CRI was considering COVID-19 response as the subject of the magazine’s next issue while there will be a special issue on the golden jubilee of independence, according to him.
Samia Huq, an editorial adviser, also joined the event moderated by Co-Editor Syed Mafiz Kamal.
Radwan has penned the editorial titled ‘A Step Towards Bangladesh at 50’ while Kamal wrote about Bangabandhu’s life.
Parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury has written an article – ‘Bangladesh’s Constitution of 1972: An Exposition of Mujib’s Political Philosophy’.
The article ‘Mujib’s Economic Policies and Their Relevance Today’ has been co-authored by economist Rehman Sobhan and political scientist Rounaq Jahan.
Journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan has written about Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League or BKSAL – a party formed by Bangabandhu in a desperate effort to pull the country out of chaos. The title is: ‘Just Like Today’s Progressive Politics, BKSAL was Social-Democratic in Nature’.
‘Economic Development Through Political Stability’ is the title of the article by Professor Shams Rahman of RMIT University in Australia.
Julian Francis, Bangladesh’s ‘Friend of Liberation War’, has written ‘How Mujib Co-managed One of The Largest Relief Operations in The World’.
The title of former foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali is ‘Friendship Towards All Was a Masterstroke’.