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.
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