Space For Rent
Wednesday, May 11, 2016, Baishakh 28, 1423 BS, Shaban 3, 1437 Hijri

Pakistan again proves they are not our friends
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published :Wednesday, 11 May, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 110

Like some men, there are some countries which do not learn the lessons of history. This truth becomes obvious through an observation of the knee-jerk responses Pakistan has been coming forth in relation to the trials of war criminals in Bangladesh. Ever since Abdul Quader Mollah was hanged, it has been a particular preoccupation of not only Pakistan's government but also of large sections of its tenuous civil society to take umbrage at Bangladesh's bringing the collaborators of their 1971 occupation army to justice. They are being tried for the crimes they committed against humanity during Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971. That is the unvarnished truth.
The latest instance of Pakistani ire is to be noticed through Islamabad's expression of concern regarding the fate of the Jamaat-e-Islami chief and former al-Badr commander Motiur Rahman Nizami following the rejection of his review petition by Bangladesh's highest court. Pakistan's Foreign Office, in glib and absolutely unembarrassed manner, has complained that the trials have blocked the path, for South Asia, to the future as envisaged in the tripartite agreement reached by Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in 1974. By defending the war criminals who have been tried and hanged for their crimes, Pakistanis have once again proved they are not our true friends.
That is sophistry at its best. The path to the future, especially in terms of Dhaka-Islamabad cooperation, has been blocked by Pakistan, which has never been comfortable since the return of the Awami League to power in Bangladesh first in 1996 and then in 2009. Pakistan's discomfort, as made evident by the attempt of its prime ministerial advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz at the recent meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in London to argue the case for the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been palpable. That is a pointer to how Pakistan has prevented Islamabad and Dhaka from approaching the future. Countries do not stride into the future when one of them remains in a state of denial about the past.
In recent months, Pakistan has unwittingly found itself confronting its past again. Through its spirited and misplaced defence of the men who in 1971 were complicit with its army in the genocide and rape of Bengalis in erstwhile East Pakistan, today's Bangladesh, it has provided the strongest evidence of the criminally collaborationist nature of men like Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury, Ghulam Azam, Motiur Rahman Nizami and the like. For Pakistan, these men were loyal Pakistanis. And what was Pakistan in 1971? It was a state which had taken upon itself the odious job of massacring the unarmed people of a province who had chosen the option of seeking a sovereign status for themselves.
The evidence is all out there, in black and white and in documents in archives around the globe. But that has not impressed successive governments in Pakistan. For them, the lament has been for the defeat of their occupation army and the 'fall' of Dhaka. Carefully put aside has been a need to come to terms with the past. Pakistan, contrary to its pledge to Bangladesh in 1974 that it would place the 195 Pakistani military officers charged by Dhaka with committing genocide on trial if Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman agreed to let them go home, went back on its word. It has never initiated an open discussion of the trauma it went through in Bangladesh and has thereby prevented its people from learning the truth behind the cruelty and crimes committed by their soldiers in 1971. Pakistan's leaders have carefully and consistently papered over any public conversation on the results of the December 1970 election, of the chicanery employed in repudiating the results of the election, of the murder and mayhem its soldiers subjected Bengalis to over a period of nine months.
The results have been predictable. While Bangladesh has moved ahead with its forward-looking foreign policy with all other nations of South Asia and certainly with the rest of the world, Pakistan's inability to forget the humiliation of its army in Bangladesh has kept it confined to the past. Besides, its unabashed expression of sympathy for the local collaborators of its occupation army has only reinforced the notion in Bangladesh and elsewhere that it continues to refuse to engage meaningfully with its dark past.
Let it not be forgotten that Pakistan celebrated the assassinations of the Father of our nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and the four national leaders in 1975. The Bhutto government cheered the rise of what it mistakenly thought was an Islamic republic in Bangladesh. No Pakistani government has endeavoured to deal with the issue of the assets and liabilities of pre-1971 Pakistan. No Pakistani government has been serious about giving the Biharis, stranded in Bangladesh as Pakistanis, the homes they have sought in Pakistan since the end of the war. No Pakistani government, beginning with Z.A. Bhutto's and continuing till now, has ever considered it a moral, social and political necessity to exorcise the demons of the past through inquiring into the killing of Bengalis and the rape of Bengali women by the soldiers of the Pakistan army. Not a single Pakistani ruler, civilian or military, has ever called forth the courage to offer an apology to Bangladesh's people for the villainy of Pakistan's soldiers in occupied Bangladesh in 1971.
Pakistani politics since the founding of the country sixty nine years ago has been vitiated by the various scales of interference by its establishment in the internal affairs of other countries. It has traditionally interfered in Afghanistan, all the way from the times of Zahir Shah up to now. Its repeated interference in Indian affairs, coupled with armed incursions, has done its reputation grave damage. The sight of Islamist terrorists undermining life in Pakistan today is proof of how short-sighted leaders can leave their nations exposed to unmitigated danger.
It is in the fitness of things, therefore, that Pakistan should call an end to its interference in Bangladesh's affairs. It meddled with Bangladesh in 1971 and paid the price. We will be sorry if it has to suffer again.
The irony here is simple, patent and glaring. Pakistan has not settled its issues of the past. Unless it demonstrates the boldness to go for purposeful self-criticism, to atone for the sins of its soldiers in 1971 --- as the Germans have done about the Nazis, as the Japanese have done about Tojo and other militarists --- its future will elude it.
Pakistan may choose to remain hostage to its past. But Bangladesh has opted to go ahead with its achievements as a sovereign state. Pakistan could not defeat us in war. It should not then expect to stop Bangladesh from building its image as a role model in the global scheme of things.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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