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Bangabandhu was architect of policies in newly emerged Bangladesh: Rehman Sobhan

Professor Rehman Sobhan’s second volume of memoirs titled “Untranquil Recollections: Political Economy of Nation Building in Post-Liberation Bangladesh” was launched on Saturday.

Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and the University Press Limited (UPL) jointly organised a publication ceremony on the occasion.

Professor Sobhan said in the function that the key challenge was putting policies into practice.

He recalled some of his practical experiences involving obstacles that he and the Planning Commission faced, and how Bangabandhu guided them and provided them with political support, and also how some in the bureaucracy often put roadblocks on the way.

He stated that Bangabandhu was the architect of the policies in the newly emerged country, and they tried to implement his directives.

Professor Sobhan also said the new generation needs to understand what Bangladesh was like back then and what the philosophies and values were in that period.

He said that he tried to capture reality as objectively as possible in his book.

Professor Rounaq Jahan, Distinguished Fellow, CPD, moderated the launching event.

Dr Kamal Hossain, former Law and Foreign Minister, joined the event as the special guest.

Congratulating Professor Rehman Sobhan on the occasion, Dr Kamal Hossain said that the memoir does not limit itself to economic dimensions only, rather it also reflects on the political challenges in building a war-ravaged economy.

M Syeduzzaman, former Finance Minister and Planning Secretary, and Member, CPD Board of Trustees, chaired the event. He shared some of his experiences of working with Professor Rehman Sobhan.

“What this book offers to its readers can be demonstrated through multiple lenses—as a document of history, as a lesson in political economy, and as a source of economic analysis,” said Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD.

Professor Abdul Bayes, former Vice-Chancellor and Professor, Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, felt that the 16 chapters in this volume are like 16 eloquent stories, that transmit a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and insights beneficial for both old and new generations.

Dr Ahrar Ahmad, Director General of Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Bidyapeeth, remarked that the present volume is a brave reflection of many critical and controversial issues making the chronicle a “risk-prone” enterprise.

Habibul Haque Khondker, Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Al Zayed University, shared how Bangladesh moved ahead during its early years despite the difficulties and very limited policy options and policy choices.

Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, Executive Director, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB), said that this book perfectly depicts the uncertainties of the post-independence period.

“Each page gripped me so much that I could not skip a page of the book,” she said.

Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star, focused on a number of issues covered by the author in the book.

He noted the tension between political leadership and academic leadership, and the difference in understanding between the political concept of socialism and Planning Commission’s concept of socialism.

Mahrukh Mohiuddin, Managing Director, UPL, said that the volume with its subtitle “From Dawn to Darkness” contains many unknown facts as seen by someone who was an important player in policymaking as a member of the first Planning Commission.

The author mentions in the Preface that this volume is “a memoir of an activist who was himself a part of the historical process”.

This volume captures the unique challenges facing Bangladesh in the years immediately after liberation when Bangabandhu on his return assumed the responsibility as the head of the government.

Professor Sobhan sheds light on many challenges that the war-devastated country was confronted with while establishing new institutions from the ground up.

The newly set up Planning Commission of Bangladesh, of which Professor Sobhan was an integral part and a key member, was vested with the responsibilities of providing guidelines to Bangabandhu in laying the foundations of a socialist economy in Bangladesh.

The book provides a framework narrative as to how the Planning Commission dealt with policy issues, how the political economy played the cut, how the first Five-Year Plan was formulated, and how foreign relationships were built, till the time of the tragedy of 15 August 1975.

The book is divided into 16 chapters featuring various phases of Professor Sobhan’s life till 1975.