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Two Economies to Two Nations: Rehman Sobhan’s Journey to Bangladesh

2015-10-26T14:18:19+00:00 August 30th, 2015|Events, Featured Post, Non-CPD Publication, Rehman Sobhan, Special Events|
(left) Nazneen Ahmed, Gowher Rizvi, MM Akash, Anisuzzaman, Sultana Kamal, Rounaq Jahan, Rehman Sobhan, Rashed Khan Menon, Serajul Islam Choudhury, Kamal Hossain and M Syeduzzaman

(left) Nazneen Ahmed, Gowher Rizvi, MM Akash, Anisuzzaman, Sultana Kamal, Rounaq Jahan, Rehman Sobhan, Rashed Khan Menon, Serajul Islam Choudhury, Kamal Hossain and M Syeduzzaman


CPD Chairman Professor Rehman Sobhan’s book “From Two Economies to Two Nations: My Journey to Bangladesh” was launched on Saturday, 29 August 2015.


News Reports on the event, view more news reports

Published in Dhaka Tribune

Rehman Sobhan’s writings inspired liberation war leaders

Tribune Report

Speakers at a function yesterday laid emphasis on formulating policies to reduce gap between poor and rich, one of the goals which had inspired the Bangalis during the independence movement.

They were speaking at the launching of a book: “From Two Economies to Two Nations: My Journey to Bangladesh,” written by Prof Rehman Sobhan.

Economists and politicians who attended the function lamented that instead of easing economic inequality, the problem has deepened over the years in independent Bangladesh.

The launching was organised by The Daily Star, publisher of the book which was a selected compilation of the author’s publications during the turbulent years between 1961 and 1971.

The write-ups focused on deprivation and inequality in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, inflicted by the West Pakistani military rulers.

Discussants said Rehman Sobhan’s writings on economic disparity between East and West Pakistan helped the political leaders to formulate policy positions and pave the way for the liberation war.

“The logic on economic disparity between two parts of the then Pakistan, which was needed for the politicians came from his writings,” Civil Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon said.

His writings inspired and helped pave the way for the liberation war, Menon said.

During the celebration of first February 21, we under the leadership of Prof Sobhan presented the economic disparities between Pakistan and West Pakistan, he added.

There are two parts in the book – Nationalism and Bangabandhu – which would come in handy to those working on the current politics and history, said Dr Rounaq Jahan, distinguished fellow of Centre for Policy Dialogue.

“I do not know how much today’s political leaders appreciate his writings, which was done by the political leaders of 60s,” she said.

He was writing on disparity about two economies and regional disparity of economy, which reflected the real picture of deprivation, she added.

“When any national issue arose in the past half century, Prof Sobhan raised his voice and talked for justice and contributed invaluably to the national conversation,” said Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Prof Sobhan wrote against exploitation, communalism and corruption, eminent lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain said.

The book provides a sequential narrative which blends economic analysis with journalistic reportage of important historical events, and can be read both as a history of events as well as of ideas, which culminated in the emergence of an independent Bangladesh.

The book provides an intellectual history of Prof Sobhan’s participation in the debates on what was then defined as the two economies dividing Pakistan and the consequential economic deprivation of the Bengalis.

These writings of his were influential in shaping political debates of the time which culminated in the presentation of the 6 points agenda of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the ensuing movement for independence.

It also provides reportage on the historic political struggles which were proved by the denial of democratic rights to the Bengalis, and its culmination in the war of national liberation.

The concluding section retrospectively reviews the economic basis of Bangladeshi nationalism and the catalytic role of Bangabandhu in the birth of an independent Bangladesh.

MM Akash, professor of Dhaka University in the department of Economics, Advocate Sultana Kamal, Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, emeritus professor of Dhaka University, and Nazneen Ahmed of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies also spoke at the ceremony.


Published in The Daily Star

It was truly a people’s war
Prof Rehman Sobhan’s remarkable book launched

The departure from the spirit of liberation struggle means Bangladesh has failed to honour the blood debt to the common people who paid the real price for independence, said noted economist Prof Rehman Sobhan in his new book.

It was the ability of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to involve these people that gave the depth and strength to the Liberation War and enabled them to withstand the genocide of the Pakistan army, he wrote in the book — From Two Economies to Two Nations: My Journey to Bangladesh.

“This mass participation was the distinctive feature of Bangladesh’s liberation struggle and set it apart from most such struggles,” Prof Sobhan said.

For the same reason, he said, it remained essential to build a society where the common people are given a sufficient material stake in the rewards of independence and a commensurate democratic stake in shaping a modern Bangladesh.

“Instead, we have built a more inegalitarian society than we inherited, where the fruits of independence have been appropriated by a narrow elite who have come to dominate the economic and political life of contemporary Bangladesh.

“For such acts of betrayal to the ethos of the liberation struggle, we remain condemned to an era of political divisiveness and social unrest which has compromised the sustainability of the democratic process in contemporary Bangladesh,” Sobhan wrote.

The 292-page book was unveiled yesterday at a programme at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka. Daily Star Books, a wing of the English newspaper, brought out the book, which is now available at Tk 600.

A collection of essays, the book records the long intellectual journey of one of the most distinguished Bangladeshis.

It dates back to 1961 and extends up to December 1971 when Sobhan was campaigning for Bangladesh during the Liberation War.  The writings include academic papers, articles for newspapers and other written inputs which were designed to both inform and influence public opinion in support of self-rule for Bangladesh.

The book provides an intellectual history of Sobhan’s participation in the debates on what was then defined as the two economies dividing Pakistan and the consequential economic deprivation of the Bangalees.

It encompasses the early years of Ayub Khan’s military rule, the struggle for East Pakistan’s autonomy during the 1960s, the War of Independence in 1971 and the birth of Bangladesh.

Sobhan was one of the first Bangladeshis to have irked the former West Pakistan rulers by pointing fingers at the regional economic disparity existing then between the two sides.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, he said: “Whatever I wrote I wrote with a purpose — to contribute to a wider struggle.

“When I look back on it, I get amazed we could say the things we said. We could say it — looking neither to left nor to right. We could say it because it was inside us and we wrote it.

“Today when I write an article, it takes me one week and five readings of censorship before I am ready to publish it. I have to think of every word I write today as everyone else in independent Bangladesh. But when we were fighting the martial law we could sit on the desk and write in two hours.”

The economist dedicated the book to rights activist Hameeda Hossain and noted jurist Kamal Hossain.

In his written comments, Azizur Rahman Khan, professor emeritus of economics at the University of California, Riverside, praised Sobhan as a rare voice of dissent in those days of pervasive fear and repression under the then Pakistani military dictator Ayub Khan.

Serajul Islam Choudhury, professor emeritus at Dhaka University, said Sobhan is unique in many respects. “I admire him and also envy him.”

“He has been on a patriotic journey encountering the antagonistic forces with courage, conviction and commitment. His courage and conviction did not fail him during the fearful genocide,” Choudhury said.

MM Akash, a professor of economics at Dhaka University, said there is a saying that Ayub Khan enquired about Sobhan.

Sobhan’s book is a collection of reflections during the 1960s.

“That’s why it is not a grand narrative. But he has chosen and arranged chapters in a way that helps us find a narrative. It gives us an idea of how Bangladesh was born.”

Sultana Kamal, executive director of Ain O Salish Kendra, said, “The book is a gift to all of us — this is a gift to the nation.”

Gowher Rizvi, prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, said justice has been the central concern of Sobhan’s writings in the past and now. The book is all about justice of Bangladesh, he added.

Rashed Khan Menon, minister for civil aviation and tourism and one of Sobhan’s students, said the issue of economic disparity contributed to the shaping of the six-point demand in 1966.

Rounaq Jahan, a senior research scholar and adjunct professor of Columbia University’s Southern Asian Institute, said Sobhan’s writings on Ayub’s Basic Democracies had completely changed her perspective.

His writings made disparity a household word in the 1960s, she said.

Sobhan, currently the chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said economic deprivation lay at the root of the Bangalee nationalist movement as West Pakistan denied the East the political power needed to forge its own economic destiny.

He showed in his writings how deprivation deepened anger among Bangalees.

The book says it was widely believed in East Pakistan that the growth in disparity between the east and west originated in the inequitable policies and allocative decisions of the central government.

At the end of 20 years of state-directed economic development in Pakistan, economic disparities were seen to have nearly trebled from 21.9 percent of per capita income in 1949-50 to 61.5 percent in 1969/70.

It said the Bangalees throughout the history of Pakistan felt and, indeed, were excluded from the main source of power, namely the executive presidency, the bureaucracy and the army.

The rise of the business elite as partners in the national power structure also provided no scope for Bangalees to assert their presence. Of the 43 families that dominated the Pakistan economy, only one was a Bangalee, AK Khan.

The allocative biases of public development expenditure remained at the root of the political conflict between East and West Pakistan.

As East Pakistan was receiving less than its due share of public expenditures, the rationale for such biases was never made clear.

Because of low public expenditure, infrastructure in terms of roads, power and telecoms in the East remained weak, whereas they were developed in the West.

On revenue account, East Pakistan received only 23 percent of all expenditure in the 1950-70 period.

The government provided direct and indirect employment mostly to West Pakistanis and stimulated private economic activities by generating demand for goods and services in the West.

West Pakistan had a population density of 140 per square mile compared to the East’s 930. This called for considerable variations in the techniques of production in both agricultural and industrial between the two wings, and these very strategic factors had to be taken into consideration during planning.

Perhaps more important, the book says, was the issue of disparity in living standards of the people of the two wings.

He said the genocide inflicted by the Pakistan army on the people of Bangladesh was the final recognition of Pakistan’s failure to accommodate the demands of Bangalee nationalism within the framework of One Pakistan.

Dr Kamal Hossain, an eminent lawyer, said the spirit of the Liberation War was to build a Bangladesh free from exploitation, repression and discrimination, corruption and religious extremism.

The constitution aims to establish an exploitation-free society. “But disparity still remains between rural and urban areas. Many people live in slums,” he said.

Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said: “I was thinking how it was possible to write such sharp and logical pieces at 26. We can’t write so boldly even as we are living in a sovereign country.”

Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, and one of Sobhan’s students, said he gave intellectual vision to students.


Published in The Financial Express

Praises heaped on Rehman Sobhan as book launched

FE Report

Intellectuals, economists and members of the civil society at a publication ceremony on Saturday highly praised Professor Rehman Sobhan for his exceptional write-ups projecting the economic disparity between the two parts of Pakistan that inspired the young generation to stand up against the inequality and wage a struggle for an independent Bangladesh.

The words of appreciation came at the launching ceremony of his book, titled “From Two Economies to Two Nations: My Journey to Bangladesh.”

The speakers at the function urged the eminent economist to continue his relentless efforts to free the society from hunger, poverty and inequality.

The country’s leading English newspaper The Daily Star organised the launching ceremony of the book at its conference room. It was attended by a large number of his former students, colleagues, friends and family members. Most of them recalled the seminal contribution of Professor Sobhan as a young university professor who inspired his students through his writings.

Dr. Kamal Hossain, a close associate of Professor Sobhan, narrated the story of how he became well known for his writings in newspapers on the economic disparity between the eastern and western parts of Pakistan in early 1960s. Prof. Sobhan that time made a presentation on the two economies of Pakistan which made headlines in the then Pakistan Observer.

“He inspired students to build a nation free from poverty, exploitation and inequality,” said the eminent lawyer urging Prof. Sobhan to complete the second part of his book.

The first part of the book provides an intellectual history of Sobhan’s participation in the debates on what was then defined as the two economies dividing Pakistan and the consequential economic deprivation of the Bengalis.

His writings were influential in shaping up the political debates of the time which culminated in making the Six-Point Demand by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The second part of this volume will include reportage of the historic political struggles caused by the denial of democratic rights of the Bengalis and its culmination in the War of Liberation.

The concluding section, the “Idea of Bangladesh,” reviews the economic basis of Bangladeshi nationalism and the catalytic role of Bangabandhu in the birth of an independent Bangladesh.

The meeting was addressed, among others, by Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Dr. Gowher Rizvi, Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Chowdhury, eminent political scientist Professor Rounaq Jahan, former caretaker government adviser Sultana Kamal, Prof M M Akash and BIDS senior fellow Dr. Naznin Ahmed.

Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu, former Finance Minister M Syeduzzaman, former minister Dr. Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and Professor Emeritus Anisuzzaman also attended the programme. It was moderated by Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam.

“Sir, we the students during 60s were highly inspired by you. We could liberate the country as you were able to inspire us,” said Aviation Minister Rashed Khan Menon, who was also a student of Prof. Sobhan.

“I would not be a politician unless inspired by you,” he added.

“We always found him sticking to principle, standing against injustice and taking up the fight whatever the issues were,” said Dr. Rizvi terming Prof. Sobhan as his role model.


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