Of late German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier vowed his country would never forget the atrocities of the Nazi period as he asked forgiveness from Poland during a series of commemorative events to mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. Speaking at the ceremony in Warsaw, Steinmeier recalled World War II as a "German crime" that his nation will never forget. Also the German president expressed gratitude to Poles for the gestures of forgiveness Poland has bestowed in return.
See how Germany asked for forgiveness even after 80 years since the World War II took place. It has been 80 years, but still neither Poland nor Germany has forgotten the atrocity they witnessed and committed respectively. The super generous rhetoric of Steinmeier should be perceived as an ideal lesson for Pakistan’s president Imran Khan and his fellow politicians to learn and adhere.
Imagine Imran Khan asking for forgiveness for the violence Pakistan committed to oppress their eastern counterparts. Perhaps it will never happen and the silent tension and hatred between Bangladesh and Pakistan will never be diminished. Never ever any Pakistani leader asked for apology or expressed their concern over the barbaric genocide they committed in erstwhile East Pakistan. They greeted the dawn of our freedom with mean-spirited 140-characters spurts of pure venom in reaction to the erstwhile latest perceived slight. Till date, most of the people in Pakistan do not accept the violence they committed to oppress their eastern counterparts.
Pakistan has long been practising its own version of holocaust denial and continues to behave like impenitent Nazis. They never admitted to the crimes their soldiers committed against their eastern counterparts in 1971. In textbooks, Pakistanis have been lying to their children about what really happened in 1971. They teach their children that it was all India's fault, and that the rather 'naïve' Bangladeshis were completely hoodwinked by India's machinations!
Since the birth of Pakistan, evidently their leaders had never allowed the notion and doctrines of secularism to triumph in their country, though this part of the Indian subcontinent has had been known for the heterogeneity of its people. Certainly here comes the obscurity of Pakistan’s founding father Mohammed Ali Zinnah who divided India and Pakistan floating his two nation theory. We know that the emergence of Pakistan is the consequences of Zinnah’s two nation theory. Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah was ignorant as well as sceptic enough to realize the fact that Nations cannot be formed based simply on religion. If that was possible all Muslim countries of the Arab world would be one country and so would be the Christian continent of Europe or Americas. When Jinnah floated his two nation theory which itself was profoundly grounded on the notion of religious extremism, Jinnah did not realise that such an absurd theory would not be practicable in the long run in such a heterogeneous region like India. It was Jinnah who put the first nail in the coffin in his own Pakistan when he announced in Dhaka that Urdu, the language of 6 percent of the people of Pakistan shall be the state language of Pakistan.
Jinnah’s story as the Governor General of Pakistan is full military violence. During his short spell as the Governor General of Pakistan, Jinnah not only made the Prime Minister and his cabinet ineffective, he also encouraged the bureaucracy and the army to bypass the ministers and report directly to him on various national issues. These precedents established the pattern of an expanding dictatorship and subsequently proved disastrous for Pakistan.
After Jinnah’s death in 1948, his followers did not hesitate to impose the same autocratic authority, politically and administratively. For the next 11 years of the so-called parliamentary government, Prime Ministers were removed through military occupation. The opportunity for shifting power to a properly elected government came in 1970 when under public pressure Pakistan's new dictator General Yahya Khan arranged for constituent and provincial assembly elections in December 1970.
However, Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Mujib swayed the elections as AL was the only party that spoke for the deprived people of East Bengal and accepted Mujib as their undisputed leader. Although Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Pakistan's People's Party won only 81 seats, he still declared: “There are two majorities; one in West Pakistan (81), one in East Pakistan (160).” Bhutto should have been imprisoned for treason for that utterance. Instead, West Pakistanis rallied around him. At the pretext of negotiating with Mujib in Dhaka, Yahya and Bhutto flew in military reinforcements and unleashed them on unarmed Bangladeshi civilians on the night of March 25, 1971.
With the launching of 'Operation Search Light' on the night of March 25/26, 1971 the last nail in the coffin of Jinnah's Pakistan was struck and the next nine months were months of mayhem, atrocities, rape and genocide jointly executed by the Pakistan Army, the non-Bengali Biharis, the Al-Badars, Al-Shams. Three million innocent, unarmed Bengalis were killed, four hundred thousand women raped and the country devastated. Ten million people fled to neighbouring India and the world witnessed one of the worst human tragedies since the Second World War. While Pakistani soldiers were the rapists and the murderers, the local Jamaat-e-Islami party and Razakars collaborated with the Pakistan army in their genocide and rape of Bangladeshis. Not a single demonstration was staged in West Pakistan protesting the genocide of East Pakistanis! To the Pakistanis, Bangali Muslims were “more Hindu than Muslim”.
However, reiterating the demonic genocide again and again after 49 years of independence is not my purpose of writing this article. But what I must mention is that it is high time for Pakistan to come out of shell of Islamic extremism accepting their deeds as crime following the Germen President Steinmeier. Every time Bangladeshi citizens convicted of war criminals of 1971were executed, Pakistan has been one of the only nations to protest. When it came to the execution of war criminals, Pakistan had breached their diplomatic protocol for several times.
When Bangladesh re-executed Motiur Rahman Nizami for genocide, rape and massacre committed during Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971, Pakistan's foreign ministry immediately and stridently expressed its protest. Pakistan's National Assembly unanimously condemned Nizami's execution, as if to remind the world that the real perpetrators of the 1971 genocide of Bangladeshis were not lackeys like Nizami, but their Pakistani masters. Bangladesh was rightfully angered by what it viewed as an unnecessary intervention in its internal affairs. However, by not attending the SAARC summit in September 2016, Bangladesh responded to Pakistan’s outrageous stance of supporting war criminals guilty of committing atrocities in 1971 Relations between both nations had hit rock bottom.
It is high time that Pakistan leaves their barbaric ideology associated with Islamic extremism. Following Steinmeier, Pakistan should offer Bangladesh an unconditional apology – this is something that Bangladesh and its people have rightfully demanded for decades. The moral imperative is also accompanied by a strategic need to change course. Pakistan has become almost an isolated nation in the region because of its inability to take pragmatic actions toward reconciling differences with its neighbours and traditional allies. Iran views Pakistan with suspicion, Afghanistan holds Pakistan in very low regard, India has largely won the public relations battle in painting Pakistan in a negative light, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, two historic allies, have cooled off on Pakistan and drawn closer to India. This leaves China as the only reliable partner in the region and the basket in which Pakistan has put all its eggs. While China is truly a strategic ally for Pakistan, it too has its own economic and geopolitical interests with other countries in the region, countries with which Pakistan has frosty relations at best.
Given Pakistan’s standing in the region, maintaining the status quo in its foreign policy simply to appease hardliners at home will not be pertinent. Pakistan should break the ice with Bangladesh offering an unconditional apology. Indeed, it will be a bold policy shift that would signal to the region that Pakistan, as a responsible country, is owning up to its past mistakes and trying to find common ground with other nations. The most important fact, however, is that apologizing to Bangladesh is the right thing to do and something that is long overdue.
Sayeed Hossain Shuvro is a member of the Editorial Team of Bangladesh Post