World Politics

Instead of tendering apology to Bangladesh

Instead of tendering apology to Bangladesh…

“This is enemy territory. Get what you want,” roared Lt. General Niazi on his first day in Dhaka after he assumed command from Lt. General Tikka Khan in 9171. The supplementary part of the report presented by Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission states:

“…after the military action the Bengalis were made aliens in their own homeland. The life, property, and honour of even the most highly placed among them were not safe. People were picked up from their homes on suspicion and dispatched to Bangladesh, a term used to describe summary executions…”

The report also noted that all Bengalis were treated as enemies, even the loyalties of officers who served in the Army were viewed with suspicion and their arrests were ordered without taking their superiors or Government of East Pakistan on board. Bangladesh Authorities alleged Pakistanis killed three million, sparing none, and raped 200,000 of Bengali women. Pakistan disputed the figures while conceding to “excesses” of a few who were duly punished. The Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission with no plausible explanation to the contrary; rebuffed the claims of Bengalis as “fantastic” and “fanciful”. Indeed the blessed were those who departed and the wretched survived—all but statistics for us.

“How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?” asked Harold Pinter in his Noble Lecture. Never mind our sloppy obsession with numbers, they can never convey harrowing tales of Dhaka. And there is only so much we know about it because the report has been shelved by Pakistan authorities for decades- except the supplementary part leaked to our friends across the iron border.

The response in Pakistan on the execution of Abdul Quader Molla was outrageous. Tributes were paid from all over the country. The National Assembly passed resolution expressing concern and condolences over the execution of Molla for his loyalty to Pakistan. One wonders how Adam Smith’s impartial spectator would have reacted to our theatrics. The impartial spectator from a distance; immuned from vested interests, parochial values and social conditioning, would have broadened the localize events and might asked us: how would we feel if the verdict of our apex court triggered such outcry in another country?

Our reaction had nothing to do with the issues of Prosecution or evidence nor did we fret about the opportune political scheduling of the case. It was only grounded in false, nay xenophobic, sense of history that continues to dominate our national psyche.

Our jingoistic patriotism once again trumped Bengali sensitivities. Instead we should have introspected and asked: why an active member of Pakistan Movement and the chief polling agent of Ms Fatima Jinnah became disillusioned. Sirs, it did not happen overnight. A steady accumulation of thousand slights, inflicted over a period of time, ensued in Mujib-ur-Rehman an anger and resentment; one shared by most if not all Bengalis, which led him and Bengalis adrift. Our antics on the streets and oddly naive resolution in the National Assembly only vindicated their struggle.

Berlusconi when he visited Benghazi in 2008 said: "It is my duty as a head of government, to express to you in the name of the Italian people our regret and apologies for the deep wounds that we have caused you [Libyans]”. Apology, to the people of Bangladesh, for not just the war crimes but also the discriminatory policies right from the independence, might be far-fetched. But we must at the very least acknowledge the wrongs done in our brief and inglorious history. Its time we introduced Al-Shams and Al-Badr into our curricula. Our children should be taught about all the circumstances that led to the Fall of Dhaka.

Kenzaburo Oe, the famous Japanese writer, hoped his nation shall remain committed to “idea of democracy and determination never to wage war again” aided by an understanding of its own “history of territorial invasion.” In Pakistan we must develop such understanding from our history if we wish to avoid another tragic partition. Those who fail to learn from history, they say, are doomed to repeat it.