Justice served

Published: December 18, 2013
The writer is the Chairperson of the Department of History, Forman Christian College, and tweets at @BangashYK

The writer is the Chairperson of the Department of History, Forman Christian College, and tweets at @BangashYK

On December 12, 2013, at exactly 2201 hours Bangladesh time, a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, Abdul Quader Molla, was hanged for ‘war crimes’ perpetrated during the 1971 civil war. The execution brought violence to the already tense Bangladesh, with Jamaat supporters going on a rampage killing innocent civilians — reminiscent of the days of 1971 when Jamaat supporters went on a similar rampage. The future of a democratic Pakistan was at stake in 1970-1, just as the future of a democratic and secular Bangladesh is at stake now. This execution, coming days before the anniversary of ‘Victory Day’ — December 16 — in Bangladesh, and ‘Surrender day’ in Pakistan, shows how the wounds of yesteryears are still fresh and need to be addressed with honesty, humility and justice.

Recently, a visitor to Lahore remarked how, remarkably, the 1947 Partition is still a topic of conversation in the city. It is as if the event took place just a few years ago, and that people are still trying to come to terms with it. Indeed, Lahore, and Punjab in general, on both sides, has only recently begun to grapple with the cataclysmic events of 1947 which rent asunder this land. While we have begun to understand and unpack 1947, the events of 1971 have yet to be understood, accepted and atoned for. Since Pakistan suffered a humiliating military defeat, resulting in the dismemberment of the country, and the resultant questions it raised about the ‘Two-Nation’ theory and its implications for the initial rationale of the country, Pakistan has always shrugged from even talking about the tragedy. However, the recent war crimes trials in Bangladesh, while being partially politically motivated, do show that the Bangladeshi nation still reels from the pains of 1971 and our consistent state of denial about it only makes it worse.

As expected, the reaction to the execution of Molla has been shameful in Pakistan. While the Foreign Office, rightly, gave a very subdued statement, other sections were appalling in their self-deception. The Pakistan branch of the Jamaat-e-Islami, shamelessly protested the execution of the criminal and, in fact, the Jamaat’s posters have Molla as ‘Rehmat ullah Alai,’ and ‘Shaheed’. Such glorified portrayal of a criminal should be condemned at every opportunity and deserves no further comment.

However, what was really saddening was that our usually sensible federal minister of the interior also made unfortunate remarks. According to news reports, Chaudhry Nisar stated that “Till the very end, before (the) creation of Bangladesh, he (Molla) remained (a) supporter of a united Pakistan and today every Pakistani is saddened and grieved on his death”. While Molla might have supported a united Pakistan, something Sheikh Mujib also supported till it became impossible to keep the country together, the killing of scores of fellow countrymen and women can never, ever, be justified in the name of the country. I am sure that there are millions of my fellow citizens of Pakistan who would never condone the killing of innocent people in the name of the country, and would in fact be glad that a heinous criminal has received the just reward for his actions. As a Pakistani, I am neither ‘saddened’ nor ‘grieved’ by Molla’s death.

Chaudhry Nisar also said that “with this unfortunate incident, an effort is made to revive old wounds of the past”. While it is sensible to move past an incident after some time, it is not easy to do so when there has been no justice, no reconciliation. Just imagine if we ask the same of the Kashmiri people? Surely after 65 years they should also ‘forget’ the wounds of the past? The ‘wounds of the past’ will only fully heal if we honestly accept them and atone for them.

The Hamoodur Rahman Commission report gave numerous instances where Pakistani officers and civil servants admitted that scores of Bengalis had been killed indiscriminately. Military officers noted that “there were verbal instructions to kill Hindus,” that, “army personnel acted under the influence of revenge and anger during the military operation,” and that “Many junior and other officers took the law into their own hands to deal with the so-called miscreants”. The Additional Deputy Commissioner of Dacca noted: “after the military action the Bengalis were made aliens in their own homeland. People were picked up from their homes on suspicion and dispatched to Bangladesh, a term used to describe summary executions…” With this, and more, admitted by our own men, we should apologise to Bangladesh and set up a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to finally deal with the events of 1971—our religion demands it, our country demands it, humanity demands it.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • Hanif
    Dec 19, 2013 - 12:16AM

    There is no mention of PTI in the article who mindlessly supported the Jamaat even on this issue.

    Voted for them. Now ashamed!


  • BnalgaBabu
    Dec 19, 2013 - 12:18AM



  • Parvez
    Dec 19, 2013 - 12:50AM

    Brave….honest….and mature write up.
    The correct stand should have been to keep quiet and downplay the incident………but doing the wrong thing is what we are good at.


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Dec 19, 2013 - 1:01AM

    Excuse me. Jamat e Islami, did not go on a killing rampage. It was the mukti bayani,
    trained Indian insurgents, who in Pakistan army uniforms killed majority of the people.
    Read Sharmeela Bose, and some interviews of former Indian generals, have confirmed
    this truth. You need to write the truth, rather than the hidden hatred you wish to vent
    against us Muslims, from Pakistan, from time to time.


  • Indignant
    Dec 19, 2013 - 1:28AM

    With this, and more, admitted by our own men, we should apologise to Bangladesh and set up a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to finally deal with the events of 1971—our religion demands it, our country demands it, humanity demands it.

    Thank you for your brave words. At least one man in Pakistan has a conscience.


  • water bottle
    Dec 19, 2013 - 3:52AM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:

    Well sir, there are hundreds of books, records, journals, papers, reports, diplomatic cables and news paper articles that have been written…yet you suggest us to make our minds based on one book by one author.

    I think, it’s about time that you stopped hinging your actions and thoughts on one book that has no great sanctions of the historians of the world.

    She is kind of a celebrity in Pakistan. I understand. But many more books.


  • Hanif
    Dec 19, 2013 - 4:56AM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir – What kind of a joke is that? Maybe you have lost your conscience and it’s nothing funny about it for you anymore.


  • F
    Dec 19, 2013 - 6:12AM

    Bigotry and superiority were in abundance then as they are today. They made the killings possible then as they make an apology impossible now.


  • polpot
    Dec 19, 2013 - 7:31AM

    ” With this, and more, admitted by our own men, we should apologise to Bangladesh and set up a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’
    Nice copy. Now pls estimate the probability that this would ever happen in todays Pakistan.


  • polpot
    Dec 19, 2013 - 7:38AM

    “Since Pakistan suffered a humiliating military defeat, resulting in the dismemberment of the country”
    It was merely a military defeat no humiliation…..no remorse….no responsibility…hey maybe it was not even defeat just strategic withdrawal.


  • Feroz
    Dec 19, 2013 - 9:41AM

    Such an honest article calling for introspection needs courage in an era of maddening religious fanatism which has doped the conscience and degraded human values. Salutes to you !


  • wonderer
    Dec 19, 2013 - 10:43AM

    “….With this, and more, admitted by our own men, we should apologise to Bangladesh and set up a ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ to finally deal with the events of 1971—our religion demands it, our country demands it, humanity demands it…. “

    Exactly! This is what we should do. But have we ever in the past done what we should have? I am sure nothing of the sort will ever happen, because this kind of act requires a certain strength of character which we lack. We are most likely going to follow Ch. Nisar and IK. Is it any wonder that we are not counted among the civilised nations of this world???


  • Ammar
    Dec 19, 2013 - 11:23AM


    There are people like the author in Pakistan but I don’t know the number. Plenty I suppose. We are sorry for the atrocities in the name of a country and we are grieved and saddened for that not for Molla. But at the same time is there any justice for the innocents who were mercilessly slaughtered by Separatists?


  • Faraz Kakar
    Dec 19, 2013 - 11:46AM

    Bangladesh should have followed the example of post-apartheid South Africa. No amount of executions can heal the wounds of 1971. Jumat e Islami indeed played a very shameful role in 1971 but the fact that JI’s leaders won seats in post 1971 elections, were in the forefront of struggle against dictatorship in 1980s and were part of many assemblies is evidence of the fact that JI continued to have followers in Bangladesh. Violent repression of such political force especially through not-so-transparent and politically motivated trials and judicial executions, such as that of Qadir Mullah, is no justice. It might be profitable to the ruling elite but it will further polarize and divide the Bangladeshi society.


  • Fahad
    Dec 19, 2013 - 3:15PM

    Pakistan could have apologized for 1971, But we give really dont a rat’s bottom. And since the bangladeshis have showed their true pathetic faces by hanging one of their own. Pakistan should no longer consider Bangladesh a friendly country. Mind you, Bangladesh is the only country which voted against Pakistan’s entry into WTO. Bangladesh is just like every other pathetic country in the region.


  • Saqib Haroon
    Dec 19, 2013 - 5:12PM

    The figures are grossly inaacurate most sad part of the BANGLADESH story was the scenes of BANGALIS MUslims Welcoming Non-Muslims Hindus Army on the way to Capital with Joy, Dance and welcome. Bangali Soliders once serves with pakistanis fellows, defected to Hindus and went to India to be participate in INDIANS Assistance.

    Bangalis brutally killed those muslims majority BEHARIS who migrated from INDIA to EAST Pakistan. BANGALIS Killed those Indpendence immigrants for freedom.

    And Later we all have seen how the KEY role Players like MUJEEB, BHUTTO and INDRA GANDHI, all three were brutally killed and their spouse too. This is what they get for sheeding so much Muslims bloods.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 19, 2013 - 6:40PM

    Benalis were seprate country even in 1947 when pakistan was created and there NO to any thing which unite muslims of india like Urdu, Dress shalwar, kameez, and food they were diffrent peoples indeed and we tries to make them our….


  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 19, 2013 - 7:33PM

    But the truth is bengali muslim A,K Haque was created Muslim leaque in Bengal In Dec 1906,
    there strugle for seprate country and Two nation theory that we have pakistan today but sadlly
    with out whole Bengal, Punjab, and Kashmir……


  • Umer
    Dec 19, 2013 - 8:06PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:

    Excuse me. Jamat e Islami, did not go on a killing rampage.

    They did. Why are you denying recorded facts?


  • Murthy
    Dec 19, 2013 - 8:38PM

    A very good and very sensible article. The problem with Pakistan is that it refuses to march on leaving the past behind. If it goes on stirring the embers of the bitter past there will be no end.


  • Exsorcist
    Dec 19, 2013 - 11:23PM

    Wow Mr. Bangash, my hats off to you. What a breath of fresh air to read something so sensible in a Pakistani newspaper. You are an honest, brave man. I salute you.


  • NotSoCommon
    Dec 20, 2013 - 4:41AM

    @Ali Tanoli

    Actually Jinnah tried to make all the muslims of the Indian sub continent as one, which was impossible. Urdu is spoken only in north India, compare it with Muslims from East, West and South of India and there is simply no similarity between them. Muslims form these regions would feel closer to people of other religion from the same area. What Jinnah did was tried to break that assimilation of people. He succeed with the regions in North and parts of central and east India but failed with others. You are absolutely correct in saying that Pakistani’s failed in making Bengali’s as their own, and their in lies the biggest flaw of the 2 nation theory.


    A very well written article. Your introspection is spot on. Pakistanis need to understand that just because someone is pro-pakistan or a muslim doesn’t make them automatically right or their actions justified. In this world there are more grey areas than Black and White


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Dec 20, 2013 - 5:00PM

    @Shahbaz Asif Tahir:
    Sharmila Bose was a young lady living in my city Calcutta at that time. I would trust a person who lived and wrote about it from Dhaka at that time. Please read “the blood telegram” written by a American diplomat living in Dhaka American consulate at that time and what messages he gave to Nixon and kessinger. Rab rakha


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Dec 20, 2013 - 5:08PM

    Please cut off links from Bangladesh, we indians would love it. ” losing friends by a day” . Enjoy with the north Koreans. Rab rakha


  • Prabhjyot Singh Madan
    Dec 20, 2013 - 5:18PM

    @Saqib Haroon:
    “Muslim bengalus welcoming a Hindu army” lol. Indian army is secular with muslims in it. A Sikh is the commander in chief right now. JFK Jacob, was a Jew, manekshaw was a parsi.
    When you kill your own people and massacre them then any help is welcome. Only a common faith does not unite people otherwise why is there a need for Saudi Arabia, Syria, Morocco etc.
    Human instinct is to save themself and our army was welcomed there. Please refrain from bringing religion into a topic. It does not bring into concern other factors like ethnicity….race…language….aspirations. rab rakha


  • Shahbaz Asif Tahir
    Dec 20, 2013 - 7:06PM

    @Prabhjyot Singh Madan:

    You Indians, have no business in our matters. Might as well lay off,
    and mind your own business.


  • Ali Tanoli
    Dec 21, 2013 - 8:02PM

    we should have make them seprate country in 1947 it was better for Pakistan because they are choo choo ka muraba peoples look at history what maulvi Abdul huqe did after very few years of muslim leaque he made it another party and what they did when quaid azam said Urdu will be national language they are peoples of mey naa manoo….


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