Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro; former British Prime Minister Lord Harold Wilson; and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu were among the 69 ‘foreign friends’ honoured by Bangladesh on Sunday for their contribution to the country’s liberation war in 1971.
This is the sixth phase of the awards, given out to ‘foreign friends’, a process that began during the current government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Friends from Cuba, United Kingdom, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Japan, the United States, Australia and Sweden have been awarded in two categories — ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ and ‘Liberation War Honour’.
Fidel Castro and Harold Wilson have been awarded ‘Liberation War Honour’. Representatives of Mr. Castro and two-time British Prime Minister Mr. Wilson received the honours. Jyoti Basu has been awarded ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’.
The highest honour was awarded to former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in July 25 last year. Her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi accepted the honour on her behalf. Indian President Pranab Mukherjee was awarded ‘Liberation War Honour’ on March 5 this year.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presented them with the citations and the awards in a ceremony at the capital’s Bangabandhu International Conference Centre on Sunday.
Ten prominent Pakistani nationals were honoured this time. They included: Begum Naseem Akhtar, Dr. Iqbal Ahmed, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, all politicians; Zafar Malik, a lawyer; Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a poet; and Begum Tahira Mazhar Ali, Human rights activist among others. Human rights activist Asma Jahangir, daughter of former politician and civil servant Malik Ghulam Jilani and journalist Hamid Mir, son of Waris Mir, another journalist, received the awards on behalf of their fathers.
Several prominent Indian military and civil personalities, including Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora; Lt Gen. Sagat Singh; Vice Admiral Swaraj Prakash; Major General Antony Harold Edward Michigan received ‘friends of liberation war awards’ this time.
So far, 206 individuals and organisations have been given the honour for their contributions to Bangladesh’s liberation war.