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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Bangladesh Independence Day Observes

 

Our correspondents:

Bangladesh celebrated 37 years of independence Wednesday with ceremonies and military parades, as protesters urged the government to prosecute those who collaborated with Pakistan during the war of independence.

Just after midnight, war veterans, victims' families and supporters across Bangladesh switched off their lights for a minute of remembrance for the millions of Bangladeshis killed in the 1971 war and to demand the punishment of war criminals and collaborators.

 A 31-gun salute at dawn heralded the day. President Professor Iajuddin Ahmed and caretaker government Chief Advisor Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed led the nation in paying tributes to the martyrs of the Liberation War by placing wreaths at the National Monument at Savar, 30 km north of capital Dhaka, at sunrise.

    Thousands of people from all walks of life paid glowing tributes to the millions of martyrs by placing wreaths at the altar of the monument.

Thousands also gathered at the Shahid Minar, a memorial for soldiers in downtown Dhaka, lighting candles and shouting for war criminals to be prosecuted.

On March 26, 1971, Bangladesh, then the eastern flank of Pakistan, declared its independence from Islamabad following years of political and economic discrimination by West Pakistan. Official figures say about 3 million people were killed and millions more displaced during an ensuing nine-month war.

East Pakistan officially became the nation of Bangladesh on Dec. 16, 1971.

While the majority of East Pakistanis supported the 1971 war, a few sided with Pakistan, assisting in the killing, torture and rape of their compatriots. Most collaborators were not punished because of a general amnesty in 1973. Others avoided prosecution when a law against collaborators was repealed in 1975.

Subsequent governments have not addressed the issue, despite repeated calls for justice.

The Sector Commanders' Forum, made up of guerrilla leaders from the 1971 war, organized the blackout early Wednesday.

The forum said it hoped the demonstration would highlight its demands for the establishment of a special war crimes tribunal, and the barring of known war criminals and collaborators from political office, according to The Independent newspaper.

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