Remembering East Pakistan — I

Published: August 1, 2011
The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford

The writer is a historian at Keble College, University of Oxford

At this time forty years ago, our government was busy conducting, what some Western diplomats then termed, ‘selective genocide’ in its own country — in East Pakistan. Let alone that we should be collectively repenting and asking for forgiveness for what West Pakistan unleashed on the eastern wing, the events of 1971 are hardly ever mentioned in Pakistani textbooks, in academic discussions or the media. I had hoped that at least on March 26, the day the Bengalis declared their independence from Pakistan, there would be some indication of sorrow in the public sphere over the atrocities of 1971 — but that hope was in vain. The recognition, acceptance and repentance of those acts is not just an academic exercise, but also important for us if we want to develop into a mature and responsible country.

The roots of the civil war in 1971 are of course in the partition of 1947 and the establishment of Pakistan. Since Muhammad Ali Jinnah wanted a partition on the basis of religion alone, East and West Pakistan came into being, despite the thousand mile distance and different racial, cultural and political inheritances — the only common thread was the fact that both wings were a Muslim majority. In a way, the success or failure of this experiment was the practical test of the two-nation theory. From the beginning, however, there were clear tensions between the two wings. The first one was a clash over national language (to be clear, English was to remain the official language). The Bengalis, with thousands of years of culture behind them, obviously wanted their language recognised as coequal to Urdu, not least because they did not speak Urdu. Nevertheless, Jinnah categorically refused the Bengali demand in his speech at Dacca University in February 1948, igniting the flame of linguistic nationalism. It is, of course, an irony that Jinnah himself was never fluent in Urdu and spoke mostly in English to the Bengali crowd.

It is impossible to chart here the sad history of the unequal treatment of East Pakistan by the western wing, but it is important to note that the same democratic process through which Pakistan was created (the Muslim League had swept the Muslim seats in the 1946 elections in British India), was denied to the East Pakistanis repeatedly. Not only were national elections postponed due to fear of Bengali rule, the 1954 United Front victory in East Bengal was never accepted by the western wing, and the disregard of the 1970 elections led to the vivisection of the country.

The events of 1971 should have shaken us so much that a new polity based on equality, democracy and justice could have been established. However, while we were shocked by the debacle, we simply blamed it on India and the ‘treacherous’ Bengalis, and soon resumed our ways. Simply put, we learnt nothing from the 1971 experience, and therefore, we need to revisit and learn from it.

Out of the many lessons of the 1971 debacle, let me highlight just two issues here: First, we need to accept the fact that the East Bengalis did have a legitimate right to the acceptance of their culture within Pakistan. The Muslims of India spoke a wide variety of languages and were part of very different cultures, but a country which was formed as a ‘homeland for the Muslims’ had to recognise and celebrate such diversity within an overarching Muslim framework, rather than subsuming it within a north Indian, Urdu centric, cultural idiom. Our current reaction to Baloch, Sindhi and Pakhtun nationalism has much to learn from the Bengali experience.

Secondly, we need to accept and ask forgiveness for the atrocities of 1971 — categorically and without exception. From Operation Searchlight to the final surrender to the Indian and Bangla forces in December 1971, we, the Pakistanis, need to ask unequivocally for forgiveness for killing hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens. The wounds of 1971 will never heal if we do not recognise and repent for the horrors the West Pakistani forces unleashed on their East Pakistani brethren and how it finally hit the nails in the coffin of the two-nation theory.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (64)

  • AK
    Aug 1, 2011 - 10:52PM

    Excellent write-up


  • Well Done
    Aug 1, 2011 - 11:06PM

    Very well written article. I think Pakistan blames India for 1971 but the writer has come out very clearly with the cause of the separation of East Pakistan and how Bangladesh got independence. Good job Yaqoob !!


  • mohanK
    Aug 1, 2011 - 11:30PM

    Denying people their identity which is rooted in their past, culture and tradition is a punishment, which when topped with politically motivated imposition becomes a disaster. Religion alone is too thin a binding cord which can easily snap for man cannot live on religion alone.And when a few leaders decide the fate of a large folk ,a little democratic consideration
    would have helped a lot.


  • sundar
    Aug 2, 2011 - 12:00AM

    Well said. Even though Pakistanis have a long way to go, atleast make a start by telling the truth in the text books. Blaming everything on others is not going to do any good.


  • Mohan Ram
    Aug 2, 2011 - 12:36AM

    Until such time the Pakistani establishment rewrites the history books, there will be no change in the mindset of the younger generations of Pakistanies. The Bangolies were always considered as second class and never equated as equals. All the west saw was the $sign in regards the eastern part, raping them of their wealth to fill the western coffers. There has to be a drastic change in the thinking in the news media and tv to start the healing process, They, if they have a will can start the process, if they can be as vocal as after OBL was taken out by the Americans, about the establishment and the elected government.

    I am still at a loss at the cruelity inflicted by the west on the east, at the slaughter, rapes of women and female children, murders by the western establishment on its own people to supress their asperations, culture, language and social norms. I still blame the British for the division of India into three parts based on religion and the wims of the mighty Jonah.

    I see a lot of retoric from Pakistani contributors about overwelming number of Indians contributors.I was born in undivided India to hindu parents and as such was considered an Indian. My parents saw the writings on the wall and got out of the country just before the slaughter started and resettled out of the subcontinent. In my working life,I have carried out projects in Pakistan to improve their economy but not so in India. So am I an ex Indian or Pakistani?


  • muhlik
    Aug 2, 2011 - 3:35AM

    The author fails to mention, how he knows about so many attrocities. Winners write the history, and india won the war, and has written a history that seems to justify their illegal action on Pakistan. Every country crushes armed mutiny by military means, so that was a fair dealon part of Pakistan army to do what they were asked to do. What is not fair was that we even reached the point of a armed mutiny by bangalis.


  • naeem khan
    Aug 2, 2011 - 5:12AM

    Are you kidding Yaqoob, apology from Pakistan Military Establishment, we all know that the Army is quick to conquer it’s own people but could not stand up to the outsiders.Yes, lets not forget what kind of role Mr.Bhutto played for acquiring power right after the 1971 elections.I recall when Pakistan’s ambassador to US Sultan Khan came to deliver a speech at Kansas State University and he categorically said to us privately that the Army has committed genocide in East Pakistan and after all they were our Moselem brothers, sisters and countrymen.Mush has said not very long ago about Balochistan that they won’t know what hit them. Pakistan Army only knows how to hit and torture their own people, lets see how many Pakistanis are still missing with the compliment of Pakistan Army.Mr.Bangash don’t hold your breath and expect this lot to learn any lesson from the East Pakistan’s debacle.All I wish is that the Army Generals start accumulating wealth( some say they already do) like their counterparts in the politics and leave the politics to the disgraced Pakistani Politicians.May be and may be our country may reach some understanding with the Baloch,Pukhtuns and Sindhis nationalist.


  • Aug 2, 2011 - 7:14AM

    It’s not the first time that a Pakistani author has been candid enough to accept the truth regarding the 1972 debacle. But the point is that most Pakistanis, including reputed intellectuals still blame India fair and square for the 1971 events. These intellectuals argue that East Pakistan was an internal matter of Pakistan and that India had no business interfering in the affairs of a sovereign nation. On the face of it, this argument holds some water but I think the Pakistanis need to go deep to understand India’s predicament. Remember the virtual civil war which was going on in East Pakistan and the genocide of Bengalis committed by Pakistan army is unparalleled in the world. The Pakistani army’s killing of Bengalis was perhaps as bad as Hitler’s genocide of Jews in Germany. Bengali intellectuals, teachers, artists etc were carefully targeted to destroy their culture. Hindus were specifically targeted and the leaked Hamood-ur-Rehman commission report highlights as to how the Pakistani Generals in East Pakistan used to ask their men about the number of Hindus being slaughtered. The result was lakhs of refugees poured in to India and it became a humanitarian crisis of monumental proportions. Remember that then PM Mrs.Indira Gandhi had traveled all across the world to highlight the refugee problem faced by India and requested the major powers to rein in the belligerent Pakistani Generals, but to no avail. Even the debatable Indian ploy of training the ‘Mukti Bahini” fell flat as the Bengali freedom fighters (terrorists according to Pakistan), were no match to the powerful Pakistan army. With backs to the wall, India had no option but to launch a military operation and free Bengalis from the marauding Pakistani army. The author is right that internal soul searching on the part of Pakistan is a must and aspirations of other ethnic groups like the Baluch should have an honorable expression within the Pakistani state. If 1971 debacle ever taught anything to the world and Pakistan in particular is that “Religion” alone can not keep a nation together. Ethnicity, language and culture along with religion, make a nation state. Pakistanis, especially the army, should understand this truth to avoid further possible disintegration of the country.


  • Aug 2, 2011 - 7:40AM

    What has he added to our knowledge?


  • bevivek
    Aug 2, 2011 - 9:11AM

    @naeem khan – Good points.

    I was thinking that it would have been good if Mr. Sultan Khan had instead of saying, “… after all they were our Moselem brothers, sisters and countrymen” would instead have just said, “…. after all they are our countrymen” because both West and East Pakistan were not just Moslem but had other religions in substantial numbers. Is it ok to commit genocide if the East Pakistani is a Hindu or a Christian or a Sikh? Obviously not and I’m sure Mr. Sultan Khan also did not mean that.

    But for all that his comment is educative.

    In that perhaps part of the problem that needs to be addressed apart from the linguistic one so clearly articulated by Mr. Bangash is the conflation of being Pakistani and being Muslim to the exclusion of other religious identities.


  • Vicram Singh
    Aug 2, 2011 - 9:27AM

    @Sonam Shyam: ” Hindus were specifically targeted and the leaked Hamood-ur-Rehman commission report highlights as to how the Pakistani Generals in East Pakistan used to ask their men about the number of Hindus being slaughtered.

    And there is your justification for 1971.


  • observer
    Aug 2, 2011 - 9:38AM


    Winners write the history, and india won the war, and has written a history that seems to justify their illegal action on Pakistan.

    The other side i.e. Pakistan also has attempted an honest appraisal of the events of East Pakistan. This document known as the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report echoes much of what has been said by the writer.

    There were several cpuntries sympathetic to the Pakistani cause, most notably the US, which despatched the 7th fleet to intimidate India.Read the version of US writers and reporters. Again you will find Mr Bangash vindicated.


  • malik
    Aug 2, 2011 - 10:47AM

    @Sajjad Ashraf:
    Truth and common sense perhaps?


  • anil
    Aug 2, 2011 - 10:52AM

    From the words of the writer,I came to a conclusion that two nation theory was a foolish idea.How could Mr.Jinnah think about it ?Recommend

  • abhi
    Aug 2, 2011 - 11:31AM

    This superiority complex is still there in Pakistani elite.Recommend

  • Rafiq Ahmed
    Aug 2, 2011 - 12:18PM

    @Sajjad Ashraf:
    Sajjadsaab. You asked, “What has he added to our knowledge?”
    The answer is, “Conscience and conciliation.”
    Let us reflect, realise, remorse, repent and resolve.
    It’s the least we can do.


  • cefspan
    Aug 2, 2011 - 12:44PM

    Well , Excellent . I am myself 19 years old . Since I was in 8th , I had questions in my mind regarding fall of dhaka . I was in seventh grade when I first read of fall of dhaka , in a book written by Peter Moss. I really used to think how gruesome Mujib must have been and things like that .
    I had never read of the attrocities , our Political and Armed Forces Elite did.

    I started researching then , and what history states is the ultimate reality.

    Only 5 % of Pakistan Army comprised of Bengalis , back in 1960s . Bengalis were not allowed in airforce .Even Rtd Air Marshal Asghar Khan states about this all in his book.
    Bengalis were not allowed in Air force . It was due their short stature and weak eyesight. It was really mutilated fact , other wise , tell me , had the Japenese fighter pilots , with thier short stature and weak eyesights , not ubleashed hell on Americans when they air raided Pearl Harbour?

    It was Asghar Khan who promoted Bengali recruitment in Air force. Bythe way , one of the most brilliant PAF pilots , Mohamad Mehmood Alam, whose name needs no introduction , was also a Bengali .

    What did we give him in return? Despite of the fact that he was most loyal to Paksitan ,along with other Bengalis , were grounded them ?

    If you ever research regarding Mujeeb ur Rehman , you will come to know that Mujeeb travelled all the waty to Lahore , with flag of PAKISTAN on his shoulder , just to attend the lahore resolution . Where was Z.Q Bhutto then? Our politics is full of filth . I am a punjabi , but I am of the opinion that it was the right of Bengalis to goervn . Literacy rate of East Pakistan far exceeded West Pakistan’s literacy rate.
    It is a historical fact , Yahya had told Mujeeb while his visit to Dhaka , that Mujeeb would be next PM . But a fortnight stay at Larkana hosted by Bhutto changed his mind.

    On one side , we had Mujeeb , alone , blamed for racism , and on the other Yahya , Bhutto and General Rani……………………..

    Even today , what else has changed ? Same is happening in Balochistan . Our current government has got much to vanquish. More corruption is ahead . Opposition is trying to be friendly , and Pakistan Dangles on sharp knives……….

    Even today , the honest and poor are getting poorer , the rich , corrupt is getting richer . If you cannot provide poor with food , shelter and education , then poor doesn’t care a damn dime wether its democracy of dictatorship.


  • Aug 2, 2011 - 1:13PM

    a. Didn’t understand the point of writing this article at this time.

    b. The guy’s a historian at Oxford. Oxford is a biased institution. Blaming what happened in Bengal on Pakistan is an easy thing to do. Nevertheless, the writer, despite being a Pakistani, does not acknowledge that India illegally entered its forces into East Pakistan to further aggravate the situation.

    c. Whatever the Pakistan Army did in the then Eastern Pakistan was an internal matter of Pakistan, India had no right to intervene. But no, India was the instigator of the events and it had ulterior motives of splitting Pakistan, and so it intervened. The US and UK remained quiet over it. Hell the Oxford Historians didn’t teach that to the writer!

    d. From the comments on the article, I can see the writer has merely written the article to appease the Hindu / Indian readers of the tribune paper.Recommend

  • myja
    Aug 2, 2011 - 1:20PM

    some excerpts from Ms. Sarmila Bose article;

    “This must be the only country in the world where there are two views on the independence of the country”.(Iqbal, former Muktijoddha, Dhaka)

    ‘…..The civil war was not merely between the two wings of Pakistan, but also within the territory of East Pakistan, between Bengalis and non-Bengalis, and among Bengalis themselves, who were bitterly divided betweenthose who favoured independence for Bangladesh and those who supported the unity and integrity ofPakistan…’

    “…..In addition, many Bengalis who voted
    for Sheikh Mujib out of a long-standing sense of alienation and a desire for provincial autonomy, may not have been in favour of outright secession. The profound polarisation of politics reached even into individual Bengali families, dividing some of them horizontally – for example the father, who had experienced the creation of Pakistan, supported united Pakistan, while the son, swayed by the oratory of Sheikh Mujib, joined the fight for
    an independent Bangladesh. The internal battles among Bengalis in East Pakistan in 1971 are still playing out in the current politics of Bangladesh..”


  • Suresh
    Aug 2, 2011 - 1:58PM

    Is there at least any plan for repatriating stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh?


  • abhi
    Aug 2, 2011 - 2:15PM

    What! I thought India lost all 4 wars to Pakistan.


  • G. Din
    Aug 2, 2011 - 4:14PM

    @Rafiq Ahmed:
    “Let us reflect, realise, remorse, repent and resolve.”
    “Remorse” and “repent” are fallow actions. Better to be positive and do a little more of those other three and more often than we do! Thank you!


  • Alsahdiq
    Aug 2, 2011 - 4:37PM

    Did the people of Bangladaysh achieve anything yet? Did we achieve Pakistan as yet?
    No they did not achieve what they had set out to achieve, we did not achieve what we set out to achieve. No matter what people do i.e. cause armed conflict, violent revolution, cecede to make another country or peacefully go to elections, people will not achieve any of their goals.
    What people need to do really, they are not doing. What people not need to do, they are doing.
    People all people need to organise. Come together to unite and organise then work for the common good of all. People do not need any leader or any political party to be their agent. People on the other hand need to come together to organise a party of the people, representative of the people and most important in control of the people.
    Failing the above nothing will change for the people, all people.


  • mazen
    Aug 2, 2011 - 4:40PM

    The reasons of fall of Dhaka were several: writer only emphasize that the denial of Bengali language was the sole reason, as depict by his article, is itself appalling. By ignoring the role of India’s clandestine support to the tehrik MUKTI BAHNI, writer seems like in denial mode. This was the mistake at the time of independence to absorb west Pakistan into east Pakistan. I am saying this because the distance between east Pakistan and west Pakistan was too much. And in between there is hostile India, which never wanted cohesiveness between these culturally distinguished people. Anyhow, Pakistan was a unique country at that time, consist of two largely distanced parts. This was very difficult for both of these parts to increase cohesiveness, but on the other hand the role of politicians and military added fuel to fire. The situation in Baluchistan is rather much worse than east Pakistan of 1971, but Baluchistan is still part of Pakistan and there is no chance that it disintegrate from Pakistan and declare itself a new country like east Pakistan did in 1971. Had east Pakistan not that far from west Pakistan then it would have been possible that east Pakistan still be a part of Pakistan. The other factor of India, Baluchistan is in south-west of Pakistan, not in east of Pakistan where India-Pakistan border lies. From this I am not exonerating politicians and military for their role in this debacle, but holding also responsible for the fall of Dhaka to the long distance and India. This is my opinion and the purpose is not to hurt the feeling of anyone.


  • N
    Aug 2, 2011 - 5:09PM

    Admire your points about the role ZAB played in the tragedy. You seem very well read. Thanks.


  • Hasan Abidi
    Aug 2, 2011 - 5:44PM

    “Those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it”

    I guess the author of the above quote had us in mind.

    Eli weisel once famously remarked,
    ” There may be times when we r powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”.

    Its immaterial now, whether we offer our uconditional apologies to our Bengali brothers or not. The histroy has long written its damning verdict.

    In my individual capacity, I have the courage to say, I M SORRY”

    Hasan Abidi
    [email protected]Recommend

  • Abbas from the US
    Aug 2, 2011 - 6:01PM

    Having lived in Pakistan till a little after that time when that part of Pakistani and Bangladeshi history was being written. It was a deeply emotional time considering that although it was not common knowledge of the attrocities being committed by the Pakistan Army, yet those of us who thought they could make an independent appraisal, pretty much knew that a genocide was in the making. The saddest part that comes to my memory is that neither the Pakistani politicians at that time nor the people in West Pakistan could find it in their hearts to be able to empahize with the East Pakistani Bengalis that were being subjected to such outright cruelty. The bullet that took away life indiscriminately may have come from the gun of the Pakistani soldier, but ultimately all of the Pakistani people shared responsiblity.
    The explanation widely given to the people in West Pakistan that was used consistently was the argument that it was a Hindu Bengali instigated rebellion, and as such it was not morally reprehensible to make East Pakistan a better place, much like what had already taken place in the Sindh and Punjab in terms of ethnic cleansing. No matter that in the process about three million Bengalis lost their lives. In fact the right wing political parties like the Jamaat e Islami and the Nizam e Islam party that had a following with the Islamist forces in East Pakistan, actually actively participated in the genocide and controlled the political narrative in West Pakistan, that all of this was in the cause of creating the fantasy like Islamic state. Even the miniscule but committed left did not rise to the moral occaision and organize protests to draw the attention of the West Pakistani people.
    There was one small rally orgainzed in Karachi by the left in which the National Awami Party which spearheaded the organized left and its student wing the National Students Federation made a conscious effort to highlight the killings.
    It is unbelievable painful to distant observers like me that even today most people in Pakistan focus on the illegality of the Indian intervention, as they painfully recall the most difficult time in the history of Pakistan, the dismemberment of Pakistan. While completely dismissing their national culpablity in what was clearly war crimes being committed.

    Pakistani commentrators even today find and welcome the argument made by Sarmila Bose as more of use in downplaying what actuually happened, rather then the admission of guilt and wider responsiblity to crimes against humanity that may have been committed.
    Those of us who experienced the pain first hand of this seperation and yet had a sense of moral outrage then as witnesses to the events, can still feel the emotional guilt of not having spoken out vocally and having stayed silent to genocide forty years down the road.


  • Tanoli
    Aug 2, 2011 - 6:13PM

    @ To the writer
    i think mushref govt one appolized it for what happend in 1971 and also give
    some alkhalid war tank just for free but u know bangalis are just big mouth there were
    some nice bangalis too but india terrorism in bangal got east pakistan seprated in sane
    way sorry for all those bangalise died.


  • Tanoli
    Aug 2, 2011 - 6:19PM

    z a bhutto was a great leader and what he did it was right he was the one brought back our army man from indian prison and then give pakistan a WMD is there any body else has that kind of broad thinking i dont think so whole family of bhutto shaheed got killed
    for this country.Recommend

  • Menon
    Aug 2, 2011 - 7:01PM

    @Sonam Shyam:

    The term reputed intellectuals is very loose today. Most we assign the reputed intellectual tag is no where close. All trying to make buck by whipping up ludicrous senasational attention grabbing book titles and headlines. When you read it, it is completely hollow.


  • Menon
    Aug 2, 2011 - 7:02PM


    Because he has not buried his head in the sand like an Ostrich as you have, that is how.


  • Menon
    Aug 2, 2011 - 7:09PM


    Everything you don’t agree with are not biased. On the other hand it is called myopia by some and hiding your head in the sand by some and some say you need pull your head out from your behind where the Sun doesn’t shine. It is up to you.


  • Feroz
    Aug 2, 2011 - 7:10PM

    What is forgotten is that the 1971 conflict drove 10 million Bengali’s into India as refugees placing a huge burden on the people and state Governments of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. To blame India is easy but only a country without a conscience would watch helplessly the genocide of over a million people.
    The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report was a painstaking exercise to ascertain and disseminate the Truth. What is most shocking is that no citizen has ever asked the Government to release the report because they would prefer to live in denial rather than acknowledge the truth. No wonder everything in life seems a conspiracy, even the killing of one muslim citizen by another. Recommend

  • Menon
    Aug 2, 2011 - 7:12PM


    and it is going to be your doom one day.


  • Usman Hassan
    Aug 2, 2011 - 7:35PM

    @ Observer and @ Sonam Shyam

    No, the US writers don’t endorse Mr. Bangish. Read the chapter on Indo Pakistan crisis of 1971 in Henry Kessinger’s book “The White House Years”.

    He highlights how wickedly Mrs. Gandhi had been exaggerating in her highlighting the “refugee problem”.


  • Tanoli
    Aug 2, 2011 - 8:49PM

    @ Menon
    world bank called bangladesh a cancer on earth in 2005 report means not treatable
    desease of world thank god we got seprated and india allready is in doom days by po
    pulation and injustice of system.


  • hassan
    Aug 2, 2011 - 9:01PM

    @Usman Hassan:

    Nice to see you quoting Kissinger. Obviously, even among Secretaries of State, there is a Good one and Bad one (like Good Taliban and Bad Taliban).

    By the way, he was the guy who started to dig the grave …and now Hillary Clinton is close to completing it. Her memoirs will be far more interesting, I can guarantee it.

    Next Secretary of State will be dancing on the grave…


  • sanjithmenon
    Aug 2, 2011 - 9:14PM

    India is no angel. Pakistan miffed us in 48 and 65. India wanted revenge and when it saw a right opening in 71 it struck. Indira wanted an action in 71 may! manekshaw said no, he wanted monsoons to be over and the Chinese passes to be covered by snow. indira spent time travelling across the globe, meeting ppl like Nixon, to stop that action. she was rebuffed And then we struck, with speed and guile that made our neighbor surrender. Cry , u can, win we did. natural to any conflict.Recommend

  • Tanoli
    Aug 2, 2011 - 9:32PM

    @ Hassan
    Deep meaning man good one.


  • mind control
    Aug 2, 2011 - 10:22PM

    @Usman Hassan

    Did you check Homoodur Rahman Report as well, as it is closer home.
    And did you notice the issue here is not whether Mrs Gandhi exaggerated the number of refugees. The issue here is whether Pakistan Army killed East Pakistanis wholesdale or not. Any gems of wisdom from Mr Kissinger on that count?Any views from NYT,Time, News Week, The Economist , any one?

    Here is help.

    On 16 December 2002, the George Washington University’s National Security Archive published a collection of declassified documents, consisting mostly of communications between US embassy officials and United States Information Service centres in Dhaka and India, and officials in Washington DC.[69] These documents show that US officials working in diplomatic institutions within Bangladesh used the terms selective genocide[70] and genocide (see The Blood Telegram) to describe events they had knowledge of at the time. Genocide is the term that is still used to describe the event in almost every major publication and newspaper in Bangladesh


  • muhlik
    Aug 2, 2011 - 10:34PM

    India trained muktis and launched armed agression against Paksitan. You in india will tend to beleive what your government tells you. While Pakistan has a lot of problems of its own, there are three things that Pakistan will never forget
    1. merciless killing of immigrants at the time of partition by indian mobs
    2. annexation by india of large number of princely states by force Including junagarh, kashmir and hyderabad
    3. Separation of East pakistan by illegal use of force.

    The net result is that Pakistan tends to over react when india messes with us. Thats the challenge of a smaller country who has to constantly watch over its shoulder.

    My head is not in the sand. I fully recognize and realize the shortcomings of Paksitan, but I do not want to be a self serving moderate who can criticize his own people and armed forces for some 5 minute fame. War is war, and Pakistan lost it, but we did what every nation under immense attack would do. I respect and salute thousands of west pakistani soldiers who sacrificed their lives to defend east pakistan under tremendous odds.


  • Vicram Singh
    Aug 2, 2011 - 10:58PM

    @Tanoli: ” … z a bhutto was a great leader and what he did it was right he was the one brought back our army man from indian prison and then give pakistan a WMD ….

    That is a nice attitude to have – see victory in a defeat.


  • Linga0123
    Aug 3, 2011 - 1:04AM

    I agree with you that winners write the history but I would emphasize that, the losers, if they are spared total annihilation, suppress history. It is rumoured that only one copy of the preliminary report of the ‘Hamoodur Rahman Commission’ survives. Try to get a copy of the same. Parts of the supplementary report of Hamoodur Rahman Commission, submitted on October 23, 1974, was published in Indian magazine India Today in August 2000. The following day Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper Dawn Newspapers also published the supplementary report. Please read it. It will enlighten you. Alternatively ‘Google’ ‘Hamoodur Rahman Commission’ you will get approximately 21200 matches. Read a few of them.

  • vasan
    Aug 3, 2011 - 6:05AM

    ET periodically publishes these kind of articles and we and our friends get into a frenzy. ET gets its record hits. Whatever happened has happened. But finally Pakistan got butchered into 2. Its army surrrendered to its arch enemy India. That is a shame Pakistan and its ghairat brigade have to live with for generations. And the worst part is Pakistan has neither remorse for the sins committed nor has the guts to publish and face the facts and book the culprits. Mistakes not learnt from history will repeat itself.


  • Tony Singh
    Aug 3, 2011 - 1:19PM

    The sentiment is reciprocated. We too will never forget how our grandparents and parents were driven out from what is now Pakistan.


  • Aug 3, 2011 - 6:43PM

    A very honest piece. Coming from a family who has lost the most significant person and one of the most important person in Bengali culture on 16th December 1971 by the Pakistani army, I have to say, I have never experienced a parson from Pakistan or UK born Pakistani showing any remorse over 1971. In fact many Pakistanis have told me that Bangladesh is poor because it us Allah’s wish because they fought the 71 war. No no, it wasn’t because of years of exploitation and negligence by the British Empire when it left or the very illogical reason of constructing a whole new nation and a country based on religion only. Some Pakistanis still believe that Bengalis should be ashamed of the language or heritage forgetting it dates back to 3000 years and it is the ignorant extremists who are out there to murder heritages in the name of religion. It would be nice to hear “Yes, we are racist and we have a problem” admission. However racism against Bengalis is justified by the same person who is complaining about the white supremacy on Asians. How bizarre!


  • Ravindra
    Aug 3, 2011 - 8:57PM

    i was reading one article in times of india 2day(3.8.2011) on same topic, i found that pakistan has disagreed to take urdu speaking bihari muslim from bangladesh( east pakistan ) in 1971.
    Most of these people r leaving in migration camps provided by redcross and they r in so poor condition even 2day.they r not loved by bagladshis.

    Then tell me what is point of 2 nations theory – muslims and hindu cant live together.- when pakistan itself dislodge muslim people who prefer pakistan over india leave alone hindus.


  • MK
    Aug 3, 2011 - 9:07PM

    Creation of Bangladesh was not as much of a linguistic issue as described here. I have yet to meet a Bengali (Bangladesh or West Bengal of India) who cannot understand Urdu/Hindi. Urdu was not language of West Pakistan. Punjabi was and is biggest language there. So Urdu was a neutral choice. Even today it is first language for only about 8% of Pakistanis. Main issue was denial of political rights and development in East Pakistan.


    Aug 3, 2011 - 9:19PM

    Lets admit one thing openly and that is the inefficiency and lethargy of civil establishment of pakistan .Recommend

  • Aug 3, 2011 - 9:20PM

    It is sad how racism just evolves and evolves into new categories. Due to tremendous bad memories the Bangladeshis freeze with the sound of Urdu at present. Yet my grand parents spoke Urdu with affection. Naturally the Bihari population in Bangladesh live under severe racism and anyone who wants to help them become isolated. In a poor country a hated community lives under unimaginable condition and although Pakistanis are very proud of accommodating all Muslims, they don’t want to accommodate this community. So what’s the solution? keep hating each other?

    Muslims should understand that religion itself doesn’t have the power to hold a community together and stop blabbering about the “brother and sisterhood2”. Stop referring each other as brother or sister and recognise each other’s names. So that the extremists and the newly converted ‘I am a Muslim’ group get educated and understand that we are all individuals with our own way of looking at lives. This part of South Asia will never find piece and economical Independence until it learns to do that, and also see women as human beings and a part of the work force.

    Shame that Pakistan and Bangladesh together could shine in the creative industry.


  • My Name is Khan
    Aug 3, 2011 - 9:22PM

    We Pakistanis should be ashamed of what we did in 1971. Our failure to accept how awfully we treated the Bengalis should be in our textbooks but instead we ignore it. The author does a great service by writing this article. I hope it is translated into Urdu and other local languages so that the masses learn the truth. We have continually fed lies to ourselves and our children to make up for our shortcomings.

    @ muhlik – Indians can say the same about Partition. It was an awful time. We must move beyond that. Indians mostly accept Pakistan. Why can’t we accept India rather than squabbling about Partition all the time?

    Should we fail to educate the country properly about 1971 and offer a mea culpa to Bangladesh for our mistakes, we should be prepared to repeat this history in Balochistan, K-P, G-B, and so on. Say all you want about how I’m a Pakstani “liberal”. I’m not. I’m just an open-minded Pakistani patriot who is tired of seeing my countrymen bring the nation down in flames through their radical Islamization of the nation under Zia and the madmen we protect and support like Zaid Hamid. If we don’t get our heads out of the sand and don’t stop blaming everything on the rest of the world, we are doomed.


  • MK
    Aug 3, 2011 - 11:50PM

    Pakistan’s argument is that people born and raised there are now citizens of Bangladesh and only ones who migrated from Bihar can come to Pakistan. Although considering number of illegal Bengalis, Sri Lankans and Afghans living in Pakistan, all of them can be accommodated.


  • MK
    Aug 3, 2011 - 11:51PM

    Pakistan’s argument is that people born and raised there are now citizens of Bangladesh and only ones who migrated from Bihar can come to Pakistan. Although considering number of illegal Bengalis, Sri Lankans and Afghans living in Pakistan, all of them can be accommodated.


  • muhlik
    Aug 3, 2011 - 11:58PM

    When I am saying that we will never forget attrocities of partition, then that does not automatically mean perpetual enimity with India. It only means that we have to perpetually watch over our shoulders to make sure we are not stabbed in back. We can of course have good relations with india. But lets be honest, India is not prepared to have good relations with us. Any lowering of guard by Pakistan and we’ll be eaten alive.
    Think folks how would muslims feel if people of another religion were to occupy Makkah and Madina. From Brahmin and later Sikh point of view Pakistanis (call muslims) are sitting in the cradle of Hindu civilization. India is called india because of Indus, and Gandhara civilization gave birth to Hinduism, and yet present day India has neither any relation to gandhara nor any relation to indus, on the contrary to gain some legitmacy as a champion of hindu religion it has chosen itself to be a reincarnation of maratha empire. So lets not forget the past, but obviously if we see change of heart in india, then lets not hold it against them


  • Abbas from the USA
    Aug 4, 2011 - 4:14AM


    Sri Lankans? Can someone explain this one to me- thanks


  • Adil Shah
    Aug 4, 2011 - 5:48AM

    I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but here is a comment by Pakistani admitting something interesting “how it (i.e. 1971) finally hit the nails in the coffin of the two-nation theory.”


  • observer
    Aug 4, 2011 - 10:49AM


    Pakistanis (call muslims) are sitting in the cradle of Hindu civilization. India is called india because of Indus, and Gandhara civilization gave birth to Hinduism, and yet present day India has neither any relation to gandhara nor any relation to indus, …… So lets not forget the past, but obviously if we see change of heart in india, then lets not hold it against them

    So even though Muslims are occupying Hindu heartland, you would like to wait for a change of heart in the Hindus before you decide to ‘not hold it against them’. I am floored by your generosity.

    Now, tell me, will this ‘change of heart’ on the part of the Hindus involve allowing the Sabj Parcham atop the Red Fort? Zaid Hamid, anyone?


  • muhlik
    Aug 7, 2011 - 10:45AM

    Precisely we know that you will not forget, and thats the reason we in pakistan cant lower the guard. The problem is that Pakistanis are as native to Indus valley as Brahmins are to india. So you really have no claim, but of course if one wants to pick up a fight then nothing cant be done.


  • Usman Hassan
    Aug 7, 2011 - 7:10PM

    @ Hassan, I could not get you, sorry. Whose grave did Mr. Kessinger dig and how?


  • Bahadur
    Aug 8, 2011 - 5:37AM

    There was a lot of Indian espionage that contributed to the split of East Pakistan. There were incidences when Indian forces dressed in Pakistani uniforms (acquired by killing the Pakistani forces) caused mahem to the muslim Bengalis. This is a fact that was later exposed by the Pakistani forces and was a little late as by this time the Bengalis were already brain washed. Also many innocent Pakistani civillians working in East Pakistan were mutilated with limbs cut off and thrown on the side walks of the streets, so they could not escape. Let us not forget the main reason. The main reason was in India’s interest to get rid of East Pakistan for India’s security. India did not want to be in the middle of two wings East and West of Pakistan. In reality India exploited East Pakistan for its only selfish reasons! Even today Indian espionage is a hot bed against Pakistan and its people and provinces. But this time it will backfire on India and will not be in its best interest. Times have changed and Pakistani people have sacrifed tremendously and gained a lot of wisdom in being alert to foreign espionage.


  • Billo
    Aug 8, 2011 - 8:44AM

    The writer of this article is not potraying a real picture as to what let to the splitting of East Pakistan. I suppose the writer must have been quite young to actually experience the political condition Pakistan was facing with India and that India was the Big instigator of splitting the East wing of Pakistan. The East Wing of Pakistan was a distance away with India in the middle and India felt threatened. The East Wing also had a huge Hindu population which played a great role in the sabotage. The Indian army with the cooperation of the Hindu Bengalis and its great propaganda was able to invade the East Wing with a surprise attack on Pakistan. Pakistani solders fought bravely and sacrificed their lives in trying to save their country from the Indian attack. The civillian population from West Pakistan working in East Pakistan was slaughtered. If it was not for the long term Indian espionage coupled with energetic cooperation of mainly the Hindu Bengalis, both East and West Pakistan would have stayed and prospered today as one. The Bengalis living in West Pakistan, enjoyed a great life, enjoyed best friends and a lot of them served in the Arm Forces of Pakistan and lived like one big family and many of them were grieved and saddened tremendously to see the two wings split. Hope this throws some light of the reality that existed then.
    Best of wishes to Bengladesh for a bright future!


  • Cosmo
    Aug 8, 2011 - 9:56PM

    @Sajjad Ashraf:
    You very well know that, deep in your heart. The guilt- that you are trying to hide with an indifferent comment.


  • Cynical
    Aug 9, 2011 - 2:22AM

    Going by some of the comments above,
    it’s amazing that so many Pakistani still don’t understand the enormity of injustice that was metted out to the East Pakistan.
    I am not so sure how much of this can be ascribed to doctored and/or manufactured history peddled by the state.


  • Roey
    Aug 13, 2011 - 2:13AM

    @Shanta Sultana:
    I love the part about ” the brother and sister name calling thing”. Indeed we Muslims of the world must understand that always propagandizing about unity is not exactly healthy. Sometimes peace results out of respect in diversity. This is what perhaps West Pakistan failed to understand back in 71, along with a host of other reasons.


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