An open letter to Dhaka

Bengalis have always been acknowledged as the greatest proponents of the Pakistan movement.

Basil Nabi Malik December 20, 2010

I was not a witness to the events of 1971, nor is the same widely discussed in Pakistan, my homeland. However, my Pakistani university education and my interest in the subject have compelled me to write this piece.

December 16 is remembered in Pakistan as a black day — a day when Jinnah's dream was vanquished. Countless Pakistanis cried that day, unaware of the atrocities that had been committed against their Bengali brothers and sisters in the then East Pakistan.

In a number of discussions on the subject, one can decipher two trains of thought in Pakistan. The first considers India as responsible for the separation or considered the separation as inevitable, as East Pakistan was a territory separated by thousands of miles of enemy land. They ignore the human element in it and gloss over the atrocities committed, and all the legitimate reasons for the growing resentment within the people of the then eastern wing. The second type of thought, which seems to be more predominant, and to which I belong, acknowledges the great number of injustices committed against the Bengali people, and the fact that they were forced into a situation whereby they had no option but to fight for an independent Bangladesh. There is a tinge of guilt in our discussions, and a great deal of remorse for what our elders did.

The systematic marginalisation of the majority province of the country, the lack of attention paid to its problems, coupled with the attempt to suppress their linguistic and cultural realities were the seeds from which grew the seeds of secession. And this despite the fact that the Bengalis have always been acknowledged in Pakistan as the greatest proponents of the Pakistan movement in the days leading up to the division of the subcontinent.

On December 16, every major newspaper in Pakistan carried articles of varying content about the events of the time. Most of these articles recount the patriotism of the Bengalis in creating Pakistan, their resolve to contribute to its development, pinpointing the barbarity and brutality with which they were repressed and neglected. If they are looked at closely, one will notice the collective guilt and remorse of the people of Pakistan for the actions of yesteryear.

Frankly, I must admit that to this day I wonder how different my country would have been had the Bengalis been given their rights, and Mujeebur Rehman had been handed over the government as per his electoral mandate in 1970. Unfortunately, the wrongs of the past cannot be eradicated or forgotten. However, although those wrongs cannot be erased, they can certainly be atoned for.

Each and every individual involved in the said events ought to be taken to task in Pakistan as per the findings of the Hamoodur Rehman Commission report, even if symbolically. In a nutshell, we may have lost a united Pakistan on December 16, 1971, but I would like to think that by putting to trial those responsible for the atrocities, we could, at least, salvage our common brotherhood and struggle, as had been undertaken in 1947 under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Last but not least, a belated congratulations to all Bangladeshis on the occasion of 'Victory Day'. Please accept my sincere apologies for the shameful actions of my elders and the criminal silence of my compatriots. May God bless you all.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2010.


আনন্দ(Anondo) | 10 years ago | Reply Simply awesome writing! I am rellay hopefull that the new generation of Pakistan is rising. We the Bengalis are always proud of our origin and language like any other ethnic races in the world. So history proves that we've never surrendared or even negotiated regarding these life and death issues. Those who don't like nationality based identity for them, Jinnah was never an Islamic man, read the history please, he was a secular man. Religion is for your personal connection between you and god. If you want to imply that in your country affairs(like both your and our Zia did) then see what is the outcome! Shia-Sunni facade, Al-Quyeda, JMB, Jamt e ISlami, Khilafat, blood, blood and blood. So please don't pretend all the injustice is nothing under the veil of so called unity and Islam. Look what's happening in your Baluchistan! Some are asking about the apologising of Bangladeshis for what they've done in 1971. Really? are you kidding me? Read the history first man, don't worry- the author is one of you guys. Then you decide by your own self and reasoning- Is it comparable that an army aided riot and civilian payback is equal? Do you know that after 16th december infront of the open crowd in the Dhaka stadium several Rajakars(Pakistai Collaborators) were killed because of their misdoings towards the biharis? I am not saying Bengalis were saints at that time. But apologising? No country is itself perfect, we have to make it perfect. Let's do that, shall we?
Soumitra Roy | 10 years ago | Reply Dear Malik Please take my heartiest thanks and honor for the truth you dare to speak unequivocally. Of late, I came across a photograph depicting a number of Pakistani Lawyers and Journalists are holding a banner that reads "Dear Bangladeshis, Sorry for 71 genocide". But I am sorry to let u know that, in some of the history books of Honors syllabus in your country, the seperation of Bangladesh is still claimed to be the child of the conspriracy of India and some "India-agents in Bangladesh". Please save the younger generation of Pakistan from believing such blatant lie. There is no disgrace in confession of truth of History. Best Regards
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