Dhaka: Bangladesh is set to honour 61 "foreign friends", including a retired Indian Colonel who rescued Premier Sheikh Hasina and some other members of her family from captivity of Pakistani troops in 1971, for their outstanding contribution to its Liberation War.

"Sixty one more foreigners are expected to receive the honour this time" on October 20, Additional Foreign Secretary Mostafa Kamal told. They will be conferred with "Muktijuddho Maitry Sanmanana" at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, he said.

Kamal said several of them are veterans of the 1971 Liberation War like Indian Colonel (Retd) Ashok Tara while the rest extended their wholehearted support to Bangladesh's cause as politicians, journalists, artistes, diplomats or civil society figures of different countries.

70-year-old Tara is a well-known veteran who took part in and survived several deadly battles with Pakistani troops. The retired Indian Colonel, who was a Major at that time, however, is more known for his role in rescuing Hasina, her mother Begum Fajilatunnesa Mujib, sister Sheikh Rehana and brother Sheikh Rasel from captivity of Pakistani troops at a house at the fag end of the 1971 Liberation War.

The list of 61 recipients who confirmed their arrival was not disclosed but officials familiar with the process said most of them were from India. In most cases their relatives or representatives would receive the honour as many of the foreign friends could not come because of old age and several of them had already passed away.

President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would ceremonially hand them over the awards at the third such ceremony. The government had earlier decided to gradually honour the foreign friends across the world in phases.

Late Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was the first "foreign friend" to be conferred with the honour. Her daughter-in-law and Congress President Sonia Gandhi received the honour on her behalf last year.


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