Penchant for self-condemnation
In a front page comment in yesterday’s The Frontier Post, Mst Kamila Hyat referred to the sequence of events taking place in Bangladesh some 40 years after the 1971 civil war as extremely significant. “This is hardly surprising given the scale of the atrocities committed by West Pakistani troops, including the murder of students, the rape of women and plunder of entire villages”, she wrote.
The learned columnist and human rights activist suggested that Pakistan should make an apology for acts in former East Pakistan, which is also the demand of Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina Wajid. In November 2013, Hasina Wajid had refused to attend the D-8 conference in Pakistan unless Pakistan tendered apology for, what she said, Genocide of Bengalis. The problem is that our intellectual lights, analysts and panelists have the penchant for self-flagellation, and are ready to condemn Pakistan’s institutions more than the detractors of Pakistan do.
In Pakistan, right thinking persons have always criticized various Pakistani governments for their flawed foreign policy, wrong decisions made over a period of two decades and lack of socio-economic justice that had resulted in contradictions between the people of the federating units. India had taken full advantage of the disharmony that existed, which could have been resolved if Pakistan had visionary leadership at that time. Secondly, Pakistan had constituted Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission to examine the causes for the disintegration of Pakistan, and also the excesses committed during the civil war. Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission Report observed that formation of One-unit, principle of parity, unitary form of government and system of basic democracies were the reasons for alienating the people of smaller provinces that led to disintegration of Pakistan.
The Commission in its report, among other causes, described failure of then military and political leadership in resolving the crisis. At the same time, it had debunked the propaganda by India that two to three million Bengalis had been killed by the Pakistan army. The commission also made a pointed reference to killings of West Pakistanis, members of Pakistan’s security personnel and Biharis that were butchered by Mukti Bahini guerillas. It has to be mentioned that people have not forgotten the genocide of non-Bengalis during the civil war and afterwards at the hands of Bengali nationalists. However, Pakistan considered the matter settled, as Sheikh Mujib had made no demand for apology when he visited Lahore to attend Islamic Summit. It is incomprehensible that after 4o years, Sheikh Hasina Wajid deemed it important to seek apology from Pakistan and form the tribunal to hold trial against those who had aided and abetted Pakistan.
It is true that Awami League activists are gathering at Shahbag Square Dhaka and demanding justice and punishment for the war criminals. But the fact of the matter is that activists of the popular Jamat-e-Islami are also on the roads and protesting the death sentence to Delwar Hossein Sayedee.
The learned columnist should also look at the report carried by the Economist, which questioned the formation of one-man tribunal, and ridiculed it for seeking advice from Bangladeshi diaspora instead of focusing on Bangladeshis in Bangladesh. Many books have been published during the last 40 years, which question the exaggerated figures of 3 million people killed in the civil war. A few books have been written by the Indian military generals and officers in which they acknowledged that Pakistani soldiers and officers had bravely fought the Mukti Bahini, and of course Bengali speaking Indian soldiers were jointly operating in former East Pakistan with the Mukti Bahini guerrillas. One of them is Subhash Singh who was Brigadier at that time and admitted having trained the Mukti Bahini guerrillas.
In her book titled ‘Dead Reckoning: Memories of the Bangladesh war’, Sarmila Bose, neice of Subash Chandar Bose, and Senior Research Fellow in the politics of South Asia, University of Oxford, wrote that Pakistan should not degrade its soldiers and officers that were killed in Bangladesh. It should rather honor them as they had valiantly fought against heavy odds. Many neutral observers are questioning the awards given to individuals and organizations on Victory Day for having extended their wholehearted support to Bangladeshi people during the so-called war of independence in 1971.
The question can be asked as to why it is being done so belatedly i.e. after 40 years of its independence. Though the independent observers are questioning the figure of 3 million killed in the civil war, Pakistani human rights activists would say things what their donors want them to say.
It is more than 42 years that Bangladesh came into being that a war crimes tribunal has been set up to try the people found involved in crimes perpetrated by the Jamaat-i-Islami whose Abul Kalam Azad was the first person to be sentenced to death in absentia on January 21.The tribunal was, in fact, established in 2010 to consider accusations of war crimes committed in 1971 and it started working late by another three years. That Jamaat retaliated by giving a call for two days shut down of the country and ensuing clashes have led to the death of 83 people on the strike’s second day on Monday while violence continues unabated. Fresh clashes killed three people, including a teenage boy, and at least 18 injured in Satkhira and Sirajganj after police opened fire on unruly pickets during the strike called by Jamaat. Three compartments of a train were burnt when alleged Jamaat-Shibir men hurled a bomb at the train at Kamalapur Railway Station, police said. Violence in the country escalated on Thursday when a death sentence was handed down to 73-year-old Delwar Hossain Sayedee, vice-president of the Jamaat-i-Islami, by the tribunal. The 48-hour strike called by Jamaat coincided with President Pranab Mukherjee’s maiden visit to the troubled country. Another shutdown was called by Jamaat’s alliance partner and main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Khaleda Zia on the last day of the visit by Mukherjee. Earlier in the day, a low intensity crude cocktail bomb exploded outside a hotel here where Mukherjee was staying.
The verdict is being seen as a personal victory for prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League who have made the tribunal an important part of her term in office.
Bangladeshis have waited decades for justice and the aims of the tribunal are broadly being criticized as a political ploy to target allies of Sheikh Hasina’s main opponent, former prime minister Khaleda Zia, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party which has an alliance with the Jamaat against the pro-Indian government of Sheikh Hasina who hopes that the taint of 1971 will make the BNP-Jamaat alliance so toxic to voters that she will be returned to power. But she wants the entire Jamaat leadership to be exterminated before the next parliamentary elections because the BNP-Jamaat alliance is the most popular political grouping in the country because of its stance of a foreign policy not dependent of any power including the mighty neighborhood from where all the policies are apparently dictated. And this can be not mere coincidence that President Parnab Mukherji chose this conflict period for his first ever visit to Bangladesh.
The way the state repression has been let loose on political dissidents who are being intimidated to the hilt, warrants the attention of international human rights organizations to not only interfere in a tormented time but also make public Dhaka’s state vandalism for the consumption and possible intervention of the conscientious world to save Sheikh Hasina’s political opponents from her wrath.
Just bear with for another 12 days
Thousands of mourners including men, women and children, many of them wearing black headbands, beating their chests & heads with tears running down gave an emotional send-off to the victims of a bombing on Monday that killed 48 people in Abbas Town. Following the burial of the dead, the grief-stricken mourners lost their cool thus resorted to furious protests and the evening saw exchange of firing that has left two more dead and another 22 injured. To the utmost surprise, none of the terrorist organizations has accepted the responsibility of the attack so far. Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik, however, sees the Punjabi Taliban behind the attack in Abbas Town. The vocal minister minced no words in saying that the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) had its headquarters in Punjab and the provincial rulers are in an electoral alliance with the banned organization—a charge that PML-N denies. Rehman Malik claims terrorism in the country can be eliminated only if action was taken against terrorists in Punjab. Regardless he is right or wrong; the people of Pakistan know nothing but deserve security to their lives and property should that come from the PPP or PML-N. The useless rhetoric of Rehman Malik doesn’t sooth the injured souls of the people.
On the other hand, Afghan President Hamid Karzai says Afghanistan wants the Pakistani government to realize that both our nations are burning in the same fire and adds that the Pakistani government has an essential and important role in putting out this fire but practical steps are not being taken to fight terrorism. Is not it a slap on the face of the Interior Ministry? The man responsible for security of the country—the interior minister—does not agree or deliberately ignoring the notion that Pakistan is falling into serious chaos, he is recklessly pursuing a rat-race of point-scoring over the bodies by shifting the responsibility to PML-N that strengthens suspicion that the government is either unable or unwilling to go after the militants. After years of unabated terrorism, the mourners are losing patience over the repeated killings they mean action no matter whether it comes from the PML-N or the PPP. Pakistan has to do something more serious to rein in the extremist militants to ensure much-needed long-term peace in the country and in Karachi particularly. Bomb blasts and incidents of firing on mourners and funerals heading for burial is an eye-opener for the rulers who are still not willing to call in army, by invoking the Article 245 of the Constitution, to stem the tide of ruthless killings. Rehman Malik must not forget— be it a failure of police, Rangers or the intelligence agencies—the federal government is solely responsible for the security of the people across Pakistan and if the government is banking on the worsening law and order situation to prolong its rule after March 16. This is not going to work. It is grossly mistaken. Today, the innocent people are dying and buried under the rain of bullets. Even if the rulers survive the onslaught of terrorists, tomorrow, they would not be able to escape wrath of the people.
After all, the history repeats itself. Police and Rangers failing to rescue Abbas Town victims for hours on the flimsy excuse of extending security to the special guests, including the premier, the CM and other government functionaries and the political leadership, gathered there in the neighborhood of the blast site to attend the engagement of Sharmila Farooqi deserves worst condemnation, and demands immediate removal of all those who are responsible for the negligence—be he is DG Rangers, IG police or political heads of the Sindh Government. After each terrorist strike, Rehman Malik, who starts reading news like news caster, also needs to be careful. He is the worst Interior Minister that this country has in the living memory. His fouled-mouth revelations rub salt on the wounds of bereaved families and the victims alike. He must stop his ‘prophecies’ based on blame-game especially if he cannot offer any solution. Come March 16, the life will not remain the same. The nation has put up a brave face to all tragedies it had faced during last five years. It should expect any good from the rulers. The people have to bear with the apathy of the state machinery for another 12 days, and those dreaming about seeking the extension to their misrule are living in fools’ paradise.