Remembering 1971

Published: December 16, 2011
We continue to hurt Bangladesh by writing false textbooks on how we lost it.

We continue to hurt Bangladesh by writing false textbooks on how we lost it.

The dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971 and the creation of Bangladesh are mourned here as routine every December 16, during which most of the blame for what happened, is placed on external factors. The habit is well formed because in 2011, too, we are externalising our essentially intra-state conflict and blaming it on others. The two-nation theory, which should have died with East Pakistan, is alive and well and is taking revenge on non-Muslim Pakistanis through the Blasphemy Law. The common denominator in the military defeats suffered by Pakistan, is dominance of the Pakistan Army and a succession of martial laws. This dominance still continues. Therefore, the crisis of the state continues.

The first blunder in East Pakistan was the failure to understand Bengali nationalism, which was language-based, and impose Urdu on the province using the ‘national language’ as the basis of ‘separation’ from India. Hassan Zaheer’s book The Separation of East Pakistan (OUP 1994) notes that the All India Muslim League had run into trouble in 1937, when it proposed Urdu as the national language of the league. It was opposed by the Bengali Muslim Leaguers who got Jinnah to water down the resolution to read that Urdu should be encouraged in areas where it was spoken. The same kind of mistake was made in Sindh, where, too, nationalism was language-based and we have the issue of Sindhi nationalism even today.

Military rule and the strategy of defence it created for East Pakistan was deeply flawed. An army officer has written a book titled The 1971 Indo-Pak War: A Soldier’s Narrative (OUP 2002), which touches upon some very important issues. The author, Major-General (retd) Hakeem Arshad Qureshi, commanded the SSG (commandos) and an infantry battalion in East Pakistan in 1970-71, was a POW in India and later commanded Pakistan Rangers as director-general before retiring in 1990. He criticises the military’s strategy that the defence of West Pakistan should lie in West Pakistan: “Despite the deliberate strategic conclusion that the defence of East Pakistan lay in West Pakistan, no effort was made to augment the defence of East Pakistan to gain time before the counter offensive against the enemy could begin from West Pakistan. It was not taken into account that the Bengali component of the army in East Pakistan was not sympathetic given long years of dissent in the eastern wing and protest against inequality of treatment.”

The war in East Pakistan was an intra-state conflict that has once again become familiar in Pakistan: unequal development. That no lesson has been learned is proved by the Baloch insurgency, which Pakistan blames on India just as it did in 1970. The use of religion to paper over reality continues in Pakistan. Hassan Zaheer writes: “Such was the insensitivity of the ruling party to popular issues that the East Pakistan Muslim League Council recommended Arabic as the state language. This was not acceptable even to the West Pakistan intelligentsia.”

Pakistan has taken on America today because of its flawed view of India as an eternal enemy. Without a strategy that could be understood and supported by the world, Pakistan wants Afghanistan left open to a repetition of what it did there after the exit of Soviet Union in 1991. Its argument is that no solution in Afghanistan is possible without its consent, but it has no credible policy that the neighbours of Afghanistan could accept as viable: it has no influence on the Afghan Taliban of Mullah Omar; it negotiates from a position of weakness with its own Taliban.

Major-General (retd) Qureshi says national strategy is conceived by the civilian mind based on the country’s resource base. When the state will go to war is never a determination made by the army. As a small state situated next to a big neighbour, Pakistan must devote its energy to becoming economically strong. Another defeat is looming because of the unlearnt lessons from the loss of East Pakistan. We continue to hurt Bangladesh by writing false textbooks on how we lost it. In 2011, Pakistan is all set for an implosion since the world is gradually abandoning it even at the risk of letting al Qaeda get at our nuclear weapons.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 16th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (30)

  • ProudPakistani
    Dec 16, 2011 - 12:42AM

    Forgetting 1971…
    Everything happens for a good…& perhaps that was good for Pakistan


  • You Said It
    Dec 16, 2011 - 1:24AM

    So long as the nation keeps denying the truth, it cannot frame a strategic response to its weaknesses that takes into account the ground realities. It is high time that the Hamoodur Rahman Commission report was made public. If our public and our armed forces cannot face the truth, then what chance do they have of successfully facing India, let alone the United States or even Afghanistan.


  • G. Din
    Dec 16, 2011 - 1:36AM

    “Forgetting 1971…
    Everything happens for a good…& perhaps that was good for Pakistan”

    “Those who forget history, are condemned to repeat it”.
    Make 2012 a “better” year; let Bulochistan and Sindh go!


  • Nadia
    Dec 16, 2011 - 2:27AM

    yes, it was good for pakistan, that’s why the generals who planned and executed the genocide got reward after they lost the war.


  • umair
    Dec 16, 2011 - 3:54AM

    @ProudPakistani: yeah every thing happens for good that is why today Pakistan is less then Half of what it was in 1947. Let some more good happen so that it becomes even more half then of what is remaining because stupid mind set which you are also reflecting, has made Baloch to demand you know very well what they want. THEY DO NOT WANT TO LIVE WITH YOU.


  • Hassan
    Dec 16, 2011 - 4:59AM

    whenever we read history written by someone who was/is not under the influence of 2nation theory, we– the youth, fell into the deep ocean of mistrust on our state pillars, the military and politi’s. our nationalism and patriotism back fires and we lose everything. We need to demand the trial of those who were responsible for the genocide of Bangalis and the disintegration of the country.


  • Pakistani in US
    Dec 16, 2011 - 5:37AM

    I have a love-hate relationship with Pakistan. There are days when I curse my nationality but then I am reminded of all the good things about our homeland. All these wars and propaganda is due to jihadi-fundamentalist mindset that hijacked Pakistan movement in it’s infancy and 60 years later (and after losing our eastern wing), the phenomena has almost taken over the country. No wonder rest of the world hates us on the basis of our national fabric/ideology – which is overwhelmingly dangerous/ psychotic and has the potential to take the country and it’s people to the point of no return.


  • defproudpakistani
    Dec 16, 2011 - 5:53AM

    Good riddance. It happened for good. No country can remain united when half of its province is thousands of miles away and an enemy stood in the middle. It would have happened sooner or later. Also what similarities do we share with ethnic bengalies besides Islam? We have more in common with Northern Hindu India than them. Our lifestyle, food, clothing, language, and not to mention the customs are way too different.


  • vasan
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:11AM

    Excellent editorial. Hope the powers up in the army heeds to this kind of writing


  • bunty
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:44AM

    @proudpakistand and defproudpakistan. Will you be prouder when we lose Balochistan ?. Accept our loss, learn from it and not repeat it.


  • Shia Pakistani
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:03AM

    Sidestepping our emotions, independence of Bangladesh was very good for Pakistan and BANGLADESH as that country was prone to floods and could have been a bigger burden on West Pakistan’s fragile economy in the latter years than the war on terrorism. The sheer distance between the two parts, the huge difference between languages and customs and the presence of India between the two parts and the poverty in both east and west made it inevitable the outcome of 1972.


  • Devils advice
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:35AM

    since the world is gradually abandoning it even at the risk of letting al Qaeda get at our NUCLEAR WEAPONS

    Is it a threat to the world?
    Stop pointing gun at your head,Be little responsible in understanding concern of the world community


  • Aminul Haque
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:47AM

    Very neutral and thought-provoking editorial. The managers of the state should learn from it so as to prevent further disintegration of Pakistan


  • Anwar Khan
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:54AM

    Unless we are careful, we may lose both Waziristan and Baluchistan.Those who say we have nothing in common with Bangladesh except religion and so good riddance, the same narrative applies to these two areas. Will you rejoice and say good riddance when we lose them? It seems our national leaders and elitists are following the script that led to loss of East Pakistan.


  • Mir Agha
    Dec 16, 2011 - 9:28AM

    Lvel-headed analysis is needed instead of an alarmist (and patently false) narrative pushed by ET. No wonder none of the stuff written in ET ever comes about. Dissapointed in ET, again.


  • Malatesh
    Dec 16, 2011 - 9:55AM


    No country can remain united when half
    of its province is thousands of miles
    away and an enemy stood in the middle

    You are wrong, How do you control territory depends very much on your State policy matters. Andaman&Nicobar is an example. Like that I can give dozens of expamples in West.

    If the province is near and no enemy stood in between then it doesnt mean that you can fully control that province. You know the example here.


  • Scorpio
    Dec 16, 2011 - 10:48AM

    @ defproud Pakistani: Obviously you or your family have not suffered any losses because of the separation of Bangladesh and can use phrases like ‘ Good riddance’! I wish you had been around to giveyour sound advice to Mr. Jinnah. My family would not have uprooted ourselves to East Pakistan in 1947 and lost everything again in 1971!


  • Scorpio
    Dec 16, 2011 - 10:53AM

    @ Shia Pakistani! ‘ bangladesh i prone to floods’: Considering Pakistan has been struck by floods two years running, it is they who must be thankful that they are not part of us!! incidentally do check our the Ruppe/ Taka exchange rate and also their literacy figures.


  • UFF
    Dec 16, 2011 - 11:12AM

    When a family grows it spread all over……
    But behave like family………..



  • Shia Pakistani
    Dec 16, 2011 - 12:37PM

    I never said only east Pak was flood prone. What i mean’t was that having two parts both flood prone could have costed a lot for west Pakistan.
    And i know their literacy figures and i have also been to Dhaka so you can’t argue with me which part is developed more. Literacy rates don’t count


    Dec 16, 2011 - 3:51PM

    Your thinking reflects the logic of Pakistan itself, which is that people who are not similar cannot live as one. I wonder when the majority of you people will accept that all humans can live together irrespective of religion,caste, colour etc. May help. Till then keep blaming India Usa, piped water etc.


  • Cautious
    Dec 16, 2011 - 4:03PM

    but it has no credible policy that the neighbours of Afghanistan could accept as viable: it has no influence on the Afghan Taliban of Mullah Omar; it negotiates from a position of weakness with its own Taliban.
    Worth repeating — it took a while but your allies finally figured this out


  • Ali
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:00PM


    I am not supporting politicians, but why Accountability is for them Just for them. One elected PM was hanged other kicked out of country for 10 years. Now again PM or President will be……. Hamood Ur Rehman Commission’s report suggested a trial of TREASON on Gen. Gul Hassa, but he was made the Com in Cheif just after 4 days of Dhaka Fall. and when Gen. Niazi and Gen. Yahaya died. Their dead bodies were in our Holy flag. WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYRecommend

  • Bigboy
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:07PM

    @Shia Pakistani “Literacy rates don’t count”.

    Wow. Pearls of wisdom. What next, a petition to the govt. to close down schools? No wonder education is not a priority in Pakistan and I thought it was only a few misguided souls blowing up schools.


  • Green eyed Pakistani
    Dec 16, 2011 - 6:08PM

    Happy Independence for Bangladesh!, We must admit whole heartedly that , we are responsible for this , and should cooperate fully with Bangladesh in socio economic sectors


  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 16, 2011 - 7:04PM

    I am allways thinking why they got it bangalis in first hand 1947 they should be a seprate country that time like Hussain shaheed suhaverdy said to Mr Jinnah in 1946 and he accepted it.


  • Cynical
    Dec 16, 2011 - 8:46PM

    For all practical purpose East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was a Pakistani colony.
    During partition numerically there were more supporters of Partition in East Bengal than in Punjab,Sindh,Balochistan all put together.
    But it didn’t take them long to call the bluff of their brothers from the west.


  • Mansoor Ahmed Noon
    Dec 17, 2011 - 1:20AM

    We lost East Pakistan now Bangladesh, because of strategic blunders committed by our political as well as military leaders, anti provincialism attitude, imposition of Urdu as national language, denial of regional languages, misallocation of resources and military interventions have led Pakistani society, to division and political destability. Same policies are repeated in the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan, which may possibly make other Bangladeshs.


  • Chander
    Dec 17, 2011 - 2:19AM

    Don’t underestimate the “Strategic Depth” policy of Pak army. They had this policy since 1948. They were able to capture Gilgit Baltistan from India and cut off India’s access to Afghanistan via land route. They eventually plan is to capture the whole of Afghanistan and give up the restive Balochistan, if required. This is to insure Arabization the whole of Pakistan and form a new South Saudi Arabia.


  • Mansoor Ahmed Noon
    Dec 17, 2011 - 7:01PM

    hahahahaha it amsusing, u should go through the history of Pakistan, we (pak army) dont have interest in capturing Afghanistan, because history proves tht, no invader could occupied ths country for long time, for instance took the example UUSR, USA, Uk @Chander:


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