In an article, Hoodbhoy wrote, "The mega surrender of 1971 made West Pakistanis eat humble pie. But, even as the two-nation theory went out of the window, the overwhelming majority was loath to change its thinking. The west wing renamed itself Pakistan, many assuming this was temporary. They said Bangladesh could never survive economically and would humbly ask to be taken back." That wish of Pakistan, however, never met reality. While Bangladesh roars loud in its celebration of the 50th year of its independence, the entire world is observing that the country got past Pakistan in socio-economic-human indices with a remarkable stride.
Bangladesh, projected as the next Asian tiger, surpassed Pakistan in numerous parameters, including the foreign reserve, per capita external debt, average life span and female labour force participation rate, among others.
In March 2021, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to congratulate her country on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its independence. Dhaka reciprocated and reciprocated well. However, the “thorn” needs to be removed to improve relations. “Unconditional public apology from Pakistan is long overdue. No nation can move forward without confronting its dark past.
While Bangladesh roars loud in its celebration of the 50th year of
its independence, the entire world is observing that the country
got past Pakistan in socio-economic-human indices with a remarkable stride
Previous actions by Pakistan have seriously irritated Bangladesh. For example, the Pakistan parliament adopted resolutions against the war crimes trial of Bangladesh, in which major criminals, who committed crimes against humanity in 1971 were convicted and hanged. The Pakistan-Bangladesh relationship took a nosedive after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina resumed the trial of ‘war crimes’ after starting her second tenure as Prime Minister in 2009. Pakistan had always considered the bitter past of it’s 1971 dismemberment as a closed chapter. On one hand Pakistan pretends to want peace but on the other hand it continues its evil intentions through false propaganda by its Inter-Service Intelligence's (ISI). The actual truth about the conspiracy behind the killing of Bangabandhu, founder of Bangladesh is still wrapped in mystery until date. However, it is also certain that Pakistan Army-ISI and their collaborators in Bangladesh were behind the August 15 massacre that virtually wiped off Bangabandhu and almost his entire family. Earlier, there was an attempt by a certain Islamabad based Think-tank ‘Centre for Research and Security Studies’ to engage Bangladesh intellectuals through a policy dialogue with the end objective of forget the past.
Ostensibly to build bridges with Bangladesh, Pakistan ISI made another attempt by organizing the first edition of ‘Pakistan Bangladesh Friendship Conference’ on November 09 followed by its own narrative through a movie 'Khel Khel Mein' released on Nov 19. 2021. The film revolves around two Pakistani generations, the generation that witnessed and actively participated in the 1971 war and the younger generation, consisting mostly of university students, who are questioning the official state narrative and seeking to unearth the previously hidden horrors of the war.
ISI continued to maintain its aggressive propaganda through other failed attempts like Pakistan drama series ‘Jo Bichar Gaye’ premiered on Dec 12, that shamelessly depicts distorted accounts of 1971 liberation war, by showing protesting students as ‘uncouth bullies’ and Pakistani army men as ‘righteous gentlemen’. Playing with the sentiments of the common Bangladeshis during the month of victory, Pakistan fired another salvo in a documentary “Separation of East Pakistan: The Untold Story” premiered on Dec 16.
Forgetting their bitter defeat or what happened to the so called Pak fans during the recent cricket series in Chottogram, Pakistan is continuing their misplaced propaganda through the 2nd edition of ‘Pakistan Bangladesh Friendship Conference’, that was organized on January 02, 2022 in Lahore.
Most nations remember their moments of disaster more than their hours of glory. It helps in learning lessons and avoiding future catastrophes. As national calamities go, Pakistan’s failed misadventure in erstwhile East Pakistan features among the greatest tragedies to befall any country in recent times.
With the surrender of its army to the joint forces of Bangladesh and India on 16 December, 1971, Pakistan lost more than half its population, a third of its territory and above all it’s pride and prestige. But most Pakistanis would rather forget that tragic day than remember or learn from it.
Soon after the debacle, which surprised Pakistanis because every aspect of it had been hidden from them, a Commission was set up to inquire into the circumstances that led to the creation of Bangladesh. Headed by Supreme Court Chief Justice, Hamoodur Rahman, the Commission prepared a comprehensive report, which has not been officially released to this day. The Commission’s findings were leaked three decades later, only to be ignored once again. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report exposed Pakistan’s politicians at the time as selfish individuals willing to risk the country’s future for personal gains. But it was the army including President and Chief Martial Law Administrator at that time, General Yahya Khan and his closest aides, who got exposed the most.
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Pakistan cricket team’s practice hoisting their national flag in Dhaka during the November-December visit of Pakistan Cricket team to Bangladesh was a great blow to the national spirit at a time when Bangladesh was celebrating the golden jubilee of its independence from Pakistan and Mujib Borsho marking birth centenary of Bangabandhu. Civil society organizations of Bangladesh condemned the move and said it was ‘intentionally’ disrespectful towards Bangladesh as it celebrates the golden jubilee of its independence.
It is time that Pakistan accepts the fact that Bangladesh is now the independent country of the proud Bengali nation, who will never betray the blood of their three million martyrs and if they want to have the minimum working relationship with this emerging economy, they have to ask for unconditional apology for the crimes against humanity committed by them and their local collaborators in Bangladesh in 1971. At the same time, repatriation of the hundreds of thousands of Pakistani Biharis, trial of 193 Pakistani military men accused of war crimes and paying Bangladesh it’s rightful compensation are some of the other major issues that also must be sorted out before Pakis can expect even the ball to move and not roll.
Professor Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil) is Head, Interventional Hepatology Division, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University & Member Secretary, Sampritee Bangladesh