Bangladesh marks national day amid COVID-19 lockdown

– Country observes occasion with simplicity as public gatherings are banned due to outbreak

By SM Najmus Sakib and Md. Kamruzzaman

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Bangladesh on Thursday marked 49 years of its independence from Pakistan with simplicity as celebrations were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has imposed a countrywide lockdown and deployed military personnel to maintain social distancing and restrict all sorts of public gatherings.

President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued special messages, and greeted Bangladeshis at home and abroad.

While newspapers brought out special supplements, both state-run and private TV channels and radio stations aired programs highlighting the significance of the day.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday extended greetings to his Bangladeshi counterpart on the occasion of the day.

“On behalf of the people and government of Pakistan, and on my own behalf, I wish to convey sincere felicitations on the occasion of the Independence and National Day of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,” he said in a letter to Hasina, according to state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency.

Pakistani High Commissioner in Bangladesh Imran Ahmed Siddiqui also conveyed their "warm felicitations" on the day and added: "We pray for continued progress and prosperity of brotherly Bangladesh."

March 26 is a public holiday in Bangladesh.

On March 25, 1971, Pakistani forces initiated a crackdown in East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh, to quell dissent and armed rebellion.

A day later, the country's first president and founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman declared independence.

This was followed by a nine-month-long war, resulting in Bangladesh formally attaining sovereignty on Dec. 16, 1971.

The novel virus that first appeared in Wuhan, China last December has spread to 175 countries and regions, killing more than 21,000 people and infecting 472,000 others, according to latest figures by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

In Bangladesh, COVID-19 has so far claimed five lives, while 39 have tested positive.