Will Pakistan ever apologise for the 1971 genocide?

Published : 15 Dec 2022 09:56 PM | Updated : 15 Dec 2022 09:56 PM

Genocide is one of the most disgraceful chapters in human civilization’s history. Just like people have enriched themselves with intelligence and excellence by following the path of civilization, in the same way they did not hesitate in choosing the path of brutality out of hate or envy for the sake of their own benefit.  If we examine the history of human civilization, we will see how humans throughout time have engaged in genocide; these human hyenas chose the road of barbarism over civilization.

However, it is a relief that individuals have understood the folly of the genocidal path. They have realized that just as war can never lead to peace, a civilized state cannot sanction genocide. In this continuum of world politics, there have been three notable events. 

The first is that Britain, although after so many years, has acknowledged the horrible atrocity known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. They have understood that killing innocent individuals can never be a marker of civilization. That's why, three days before the centenary of that massacre the then Prime Minister Theresa May stated in the British Parliament," We deeply regret what happened that day and the loss people had to bear because of that." Britain's former Foreign Secretary Mark Field in the House of Commons also apologised for the "past's shameful incidents." He said a formal apology was correlated with some economic issues.

The second event is the German government's official recognition of the genocide that occurred in Namibia during colonial rule. The German government even issued an apology to the citizens of Namibia and the victims of the genocide. The killings began in 1894 and lasted until 1915 during the German occupation of what was then known as German South West Africa. Many have referred to the genocide committed during that period as the "forgotten genocide" of the 20th century. For quite some time, Germany has been under pressure to acknowledge its role in the genocide in Namibia. After five years of dispute between the two countries, then German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas eventually admitted that genocide occurred in Namibia and apologized to the inhabitants of Namibia and the victims. The statement said, "Germany is accepting their moral responsibility towards the people of Namibia and is apologizing to the descendants of the victims of the crime." They not only apologized but even agreed to compensate 110 billion euros ($1.34 billion). This amount will be spent on education, health and other infrastructure developmental works in Namibia.

The third event was the apology of France to its former colony Rwanda. During this civil war, at least 8-10 million people died, the majority of whom belonged to the Tutsi ethnic group. Since 1987, no French administration has publicly acknowledged France's role in the Rwandan massacre. After nearly 27 years, French President Emmanuel Macron travelled to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, to acknowledge responsibility, express regret, and apologize to the Rwandan people. Macron, at an event held at Kigali, at the mausoleum that commemorates where 250,000 Tutsi victims of the genocide were buried, said, "I am here to accept our responsibility... forgive us".Despite the passage of so many years, Britain, Germany, and France have realized that killing innocent people is never a sign of civilization. Their apologies demonstrated once again that the slaughter of innocent, defenseless individuals is never acceptable in a civilised society.

It is extremely regrettable that the state of Pakistan has not yet apologised for the horrific crimes of 1971; in fact, they have been displaying a certain arrogance about it. If we observe closely, we will find that the genocide perpetrated by Pakistan in 1971 was far more severe due to its political context. Pakistan's barbarous onslaught on the then East Pakistan, what is now Bangladesh, in 1971 was in no manner the result of separatist repression. Rather it was an attack on democracy in order to suspend the mandate given by the people of Pakistan at large.

Indeed, Pakistan initiated that attack in order to bury democracy. According to a report published by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1981, the Bangladesh genocide of 1971 was the most violent genocide in the history of human civilization. During this genocide, the largest number of people were slaughtered in the shortest amount of time. In Bangladesh, 6,000-12,000 people were slaughtered daily on average. This is the largest massacre in recorded history. On the first night of "Operation Searchlight", around 35,000 people were killed, while the Chuknagar Massacre claimed the lives of over 10,000 individuals.

According to the report published by New York Times on 28 March 1971, the death toll of 27 March was 10,000. And, according to the report in Sydney Morning Herald, from 25th to 29th March (in five days) the number of people killed was almost a lakh (100,000).  Then Soviet daily Pravda published a story of three million killings in Bangladesh in December 1971. The title of the Pravda newspaper’s Bengali edition published on 5 January 1972 was "Occupying forces kill more than 3 million people in Bangladesh.

It is abundantly obvious that the 1971 massacre was one of the most terrible and cruel in the history of mankind committed by Pakistan.  However, they remain silent about this massacre. In addition, Pakistan's domestic and international paid operatives continue to spread misinformation about it. The moment has come to compel an apology from Pakistan, a nation steeped in fundamentalism and violence.  The violence of the Pakistanis must be addressed in government, non-government, and personal forums and media outlets worldwide. Until Pakistan apologizes for the genocide of 1971, it will remain a disgraced nation in the annals of human civilization. 

Farabi Bin Zahir is a columnist and activist. (Views are personal)