by Pathik Hasan
December 16, 2021 is knocking on the door. Bangladesh will celebrate its 50th victory day anniversary with full spirit. On December 16, 1971, almost 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered in Dhaka, leading to the creation of the sovereign nation-state of Bangladesh. On this day in 1971, some 93,000 Pakistani soldiers settled for unconditional surrender to India-Bangladesh joint forces in Dhaka that led to the emergence of a new nation state in South Asia and Bangladesh got its independence from Pakistan.
Prior to this, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan since 1947. Bangladesh had to separate itself from Pakistan due to various reasons. After the hardcore struggle of a prolonged independence movement, Bangladesh placed itself on the world map as a sovereign state. During this period of struggle, the people of Bangladesh faced serious exploitation and genocidal activities committed by the Pakistan army. Consequently, India had to stand a huge influx of refugees. According to the Bangladesh government, nearly 3 million people were martyred and 2.5 lakhs (1 lakh= 100,000) women were raped by the Pakistani military and its local associates.
After this long and bloody struggle of nine months, East Pakistan emerged on the world map as a completely independent state called Independent Bangladesh. Since then, throughout 50 long years, Bangladesh’s position and acceptance increased in every country in the world.
Everyone around the world is praising the sustainable development of Bangladesh. Bangladesh is being recognized as a rising star in South Asia. Bangladesh is improving so much today, said an economist in Pakistan. Abid Hassan said in an article in The News International, a Pakistani newspaper, that Pakistan may seek financial assistance from Bangladesh by 2030. The former World Bank economist has just predicted the future. If Bangladesh can pay 20 million US dollars to Sri Lanka, waive the IMF’s Bangladeshi share of money from Somalia and Sudan, help Indonesia with Covid-19 medical equipment, shelter a large number of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, it can also help Pakistan financially. Bangladesh is a humanitarian state in South Asia.
Its foreign policy is friendship to all, enmity with none. Pakistan, which exploited Bangladesh for 24 years, today lags far behind in socio-economic fields. In an interview, a Pakistani journalist asked Prime Minister Imran Khan to make Pakistan like Bangladesh. The Canada-based International Forum for Rights and Security, a think tank, recently published a report on Bangladesh and Pakistan. It has been shown there that Bangladesh is ahead in all areas of the index. Many Indian economists have called on all countries to follow the Bangladesh model in the development of South Asia. Former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Hossain Haqqani said that Pakistan carried out the worst genocide in Bangladesh in 1971.
But there is no indication of the Pakistani government seeking an apology for the genocide. The remarks were made at a webinar organized by the Bangladesh Embassy in Brussels in late March 2021.
The people of Pakistan should call on their government to apologize for all the atrocities that took place against Bangladesh in 1971. The people of Pakistan are also sympathetic to Bangladesh that had to bear the genocide during the liberation war. Although the government of Pakistan is distortedly presented in Pakistani textbooks and various publications, in this age of globalization, people are much more aware.
We can also know the views of Pakistani citizens through social media. They also want the government of Pakistan to formally apologize to Bangladesh for their brutal deeds in 1971. Pakistan should apologize to Bangladesh for the way in which Pakistan attacked innocent Bengalis in 1971 and killed them. Pakistan should understand everything and normalize relations with all the countries of South Asia.
Even in this coronavirus pandemic, leaders from all over South Asia came to Bangladesh in March on the occasion of the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence. But no Pakistani leader came. Pakistan just officially sent a congratulatory message. Pakistan’s highest sincerity was needed here.
On December 16, Bangladesh will celebrate the golden jubilee of her victory day. I think this is a golden opportunity for Pakistan. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan can visit Bangladesh on December 16 to mark Victory Day and formally apologize to Bangladesh. Pakistan’s leadership should give up its egoistic mindset. They have to remember that Pakistan committed genocide in Bangladesh at that time. They did misdeeds. I firmly believe that Bangladesh will accept a formal apology in a positive way because Bangladesh knows how to forgive. To some extent, a Pakistan apology could heal Bangladesh’s war wounds.
Bangladesh is going to be recognized as an emerging power in South Asia. Many senior citizens of Pakistan can put pressure on the government of Pakistan in this regard. The time has come to realize the heinous acts that Pakistan did. The government of Pakistan should understand why the burden of this past act of Pakistan will carry the future of Pakistan. Although Imran Khan used to talk a lot about this issue before he became the Prime Minister, Imran Khan is not able to do anything as the army has a big role in the politics of the country.
Yet it is not good for the military and the civilian government to ignore Pakistan’s public opinion and should realize this now. The time has come to formally apologize to Bangladesh. Because the souls of three million martyrs and the cries of losing the honor of about two and a half million mothers and sisters are still heard.
Seeking forgiveness from someone after doing wrong does not mean being small, but expressing oneself as a symbol of greatness and humility. If France and Germany can apologize to Rwanda after all this time, why can’t Pakistan apologize to Bangladesh?
If Europe’s two biggest former colonial powers – France and Germany – can do it, then no one else should have a problem doing it. Pakistan should realize this. Even if Bangladesh won independence on 16 December 1971, it is on 16 December that Pakistan could still formally apologize to Bangladesh on Dec 16, and Bangladesh will still get some consolation. Because they need Bangladesh’s help and support in reviving their fragile economy and in various international issues, the sooner the Pakistani government realizes this, the better for them. If Pakistan wants to take steps to improve relations with Bangladesh, it must apologize for the 1971 war crimes. Only then is it possible to advance diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries. It would be better for Pakistan to make a state apology to Bangladesh as soon as possible.
About the writer:
Pathik Hasan, Dhaka-based NGO activist and freelance writer on contemporary international issues whose work has been published in many local and international publications. Academic background: BSS and MSS in Peace and Conflict studies under the University of Dhaka. He can be reached at pathikhasan1141@gmail.