Maj Gen (Retd) Syed Muhammad Ibrahim Bir Protik :
Being grateful is a multi dimensional virtue; it is a requirement from the Almighty Allah also. The 55th chapter of the Holy Quran called Sura ArRahman has 78 Ayats or Verses. One Ayat has been repeated 31 times in this chapter, begining from the 13 th Ayat. An English translation of the said Ayat as in English version of Tafsir Ibn Kathir published by Darus Salam is like this: "Then which of the blessings of your Lord will you both deny." Famous English translator and commentator of the Holy Quran Abdullah Yusuf Ali translated the said Ayat: "Then which of the favors of your Lord will ye deny." In the quickest response, we are prone to pronounce: "Oh Allah! Oh the Almighty Creator! we are grateful for the life on this earth you gave us, we are grateful for the honour you gave us and we are grateful for the wealth and happiness you gave us." But this response is not enough. Given a deeper thought, there are more reasons to be grateful. Let me go for these, as an individual, as a believer and as a citizen of my country Bangladesh.
I was born in a village, well away from the noise and pomp of the porttown called Chittagong. Our village was on the bank of river called Halda. Pakistan had just been born. The new country called Pakistan was starting its own way forward. The country had a President, reasonable forward looking; his name was Ayub Khan. Ayub Khan established residential public schools, on the pattern of the Rugby School or the Eton in England. President Ayub Khan of Pakistan had thought in mid-fifties that at least some young gentlemen must be brought up in a planned environment so that they can take upon themselves the responsibility of leading the society. Ayub Khan of course had Pakistan's military in mind but he also envisaged other fields of developmental and administrative activity. The first cadet college was established in the-then West Pakistan. Ayub Khan ordered the first cadet college in the-then East Pakistan to be located at a place called Faujdarhat, about 11 miles north of Chittagong town as in 1958. For such project to be successful, a very dynamic and farsighted team leader is a compulsion. Ayub Khan selected William Maurice Brown to be the first principal of the first cadet college of East Pakistan. Brown was a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the British Army and a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. When Lt Col Brown was serving as a member of the United Nations Military Observer Group in Kashmir, he was spotted by the first Pakistani Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army General Muhammad Ayub Khan as early as 1952. Colonel Brown served as the Principal from 1958 till end of 1965; I found him as my Principal for nearly 4 years. I am grateful to Almighty Allah that he gave me an opportunity to enter the Cadet College at Faujdarhat. The College was replicated within two years and three more similar colleges had come up at Jhenaida, Mirzapur and Rajshahi. When, General Ziaur Rahman was the President of Bangladesh, he decided to increase the number of Cadet Colleges. To avoid the delay and expenditure in developing the infrastructure fresh, Ziaur Rahman converted six residential model schools in six different districts headquarters, to Cadet Colleges like the ones in Comilla, Barisal, Rangpur, Sylhet, Pabna. The Cadet Colleges have produced thousands of young boys who are now in the mainstream of the society at home or ahroad. There have been outstanding scientists, administrators, generals, professors, businessmen and many more. They carry in their blood, fellow feeling, sociability, pro-activity and personal discipline. I must therefore being thankful to those farsighted leaders who patronized the Cadet College education. It was under threat in 1972, but General Osmani the legendary Commander-in-Chief of the Bangladesh liberation forces in 1971, stood by the young boys in ensuring continuity of the system. I have spoken at length about Cadet College education only to support a view that, there are more examples asking for gratefulness then we can think of.
I myself have been a freedom fighter in the battlefields in 1971. Freedom fighters have gone neglected for the early decades of the life of Bangladesh. Freedom Fighters have been a savory subject to discuss; bulk of the discussion are only lip service. To say, we are grateful to the freedom fighters, is but a quick service. In the War Cemetery in Kohima which is the capital of present-day Indian province of Nagaland, there is a monument to commemorate the fallen of the Battle of Kohima of 1944, fought between the British Indian Forces on the one side and the aggressor, Japanees forces. Two lines authored by John Maxwell Edmonds, were engraved in that monument. The two lines are "When you go home, tell them of us and say: For their tomorrow, we gave our today."
Our nation has failed to make a list of the fallen, Nay the martyrs of the War of Liberation. Out governments have mismanaged the simple task of making an uptodate list of the freedom fighters. So when we say, we are grateful, we refer generically. Be what it may, the freedom fighters whether living or martyred, deserve gratitude from the nation. They gave their today, which was 1971, which was their youth, which was their hours of dreaming, for our today. But what have we made of our days. We have had shining side and dark side simultaneously. We faced famine in 1974, we saw the demise of multiparty democracy in 1975, we saw the assassination of two Presidents in 1975 and 1981 respectively. We saw the violation of the Constitution and the arrival of Martial law in 1982. We saw return of democracy in 1991. We are a continuous witness to immorality in election politics. We are trapped in democracy of the corrupt, of the dishonest, of the mediocre and in the pollution of money and muscle in politics.
Bangladeshis have been resilient. The farmers have continuously been enhancing the par-acre yield. The millions of female garments workers have taken our readymade garments industry to an enviable height. Expatriate Bangladeshis have been remitting dollars to the vault of the Bangladesh Bank. Our roads have become wider and smoother. We have more number of banks in private sector than we need. We have more number of private universities than we can handle. There are more robbery and rape cases than the police can handle. New port is coming up at Paira in Southern Bangladesh; the Sundarban is in danger. Our boys and girls have gone to the Everest, our girls have been an integral part of our peacekeeping forces, our girls are now everywhere, but torture on women have not abated either. We are continuously combating militancy, extremism at home; we have joined hands with other Muslims to fight terrorism. Number of cars are increasing in the roads in an uncontrolled speed, number of air conditioners being used are increasing, number of multistoried shopping malls are increasing-these are all true. Also true, wealth is accumulating in the hands of few and they control the powerful; the number of poor or men below the poverty line are not being reduced. At the end of the day we might as well say, what has happened to the dreams of the martyrs of the war of liberation? Answer will not be forth coming. Thus shall we be ungrateful. No; we will be grateful. We still have sunshine, we still have our parents, we still have smiling children-for these we remain grateful to our Lord, to our Almighty Creator, to Allah, the Merciful.
(The writer is a Liberation War veteran and columnist)