Healing the Wounds of the Past

May 22, 2009 § 38 Comments

On May 13, 2009, the Government of Bangladesh demanded an unconditional apology from the Government of Pakistan for war crimes committed during the 1971 army action in what was then East Pakistan. The Pakistani government’s response was to dismiss the demand, telling Bangladesh to ‘let bygones be bygones’. This was not the first time this demand was made, nor the first time it was dismissed with such flippancy by Pakistan.

Between 25/26th March 1971 – the start of the military offensive – and the signing of the instrument of surrender on 16th December, 1971, the Pakistani army engaged in what essentially amounted to genocide against its own citizens for daring to demand that their electoral writ be implemented. The army’s atrocities were both indiscriminate and targeted – the rape of countless Bengali women, the killing of hundreds of Bengali intellectuals and students, and the senseless murder of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Bengalis and indigenous people, besides looting and pillaging on an unprecedented scale. Nearly forty years on, even a reliable estimate of the number of people killed by the army isn’t possible because mass graves continue to be unearthed, a powerful testimony to the horror that was perpetrated on our people. This is the horror which the Pakistani army continues to cravenly refuse to acknoweldge. The sole recognition of these atrocities – the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report – which was an official Government of Pakistan panel – was ignominiously suppressed by then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and successive governments, and declassified only in December 2000.

The outrageous dismissal of Bangladesh’s demand by the Pakistani foreign office – “let bygones be bygones” – is a shameful reflection of Pakistan’s constructed amnesia over the horrific actions of its Army and its political leadership. Not only has there never been a move on the part of the Pakistani state to apologize to Bangladesh, there has not been any sustained effort by citizens’ groups to pressure the government to publicly acknowledge the truth.

As Pakistanis, we find this unconscionable. We find it unconscionable that the Pakistani army raped, killed and pillaged our brothers and sisters in East Pakistan in 1971. We find it unconscionable that the Pakistani state has steadfastly refused to acknowledge these atrocities for the past 38 years, leave alone hold those responsible for them accountable as suggested by its own Chief Justice in the State commissioned inquiry. We reject the Pakistani state and army’s claim that these atrocities were committed in our name.

Today, as we stand at the brink of yet another army action aimed at our own people, at the brink of another human catastrophe brought about by and for the same interests and institutions, namely the Pakistani military, we remember 1971. We demand that our state acknowledge and apologize for the actions of its army, punish those responsible for the atrocities (and named in the HR Commission’s report) and pay reparations for the extensive infrastructural damage and looting to Bangladesh. Only through such an expiation can we – as a people and a state – heal the wounds of the past and hope to build a new partnership with the people of Bangladesh.

On his return from his first and only trip to Dhaka following the establishment of Bangladesh, Faiz Ahmed Faiz asked in anguish ‘Kab nazar mein aaye gi, bedaagh sabze ki bahar, khoon ke dhabbe dhulen ge kitni barsaaton ke baad’. We must atone for the death and destruction visited upon our brothers and sisters in our name, and do it soon, lest these stains on our national conscience become permanent.

§ 38 Responses to Healing the Wounds of the Past

  • Le Mystique says:

    A well written post on a highly sensitive issue indeed.

    Two incidents before I post rhetorical question.

    1. I was amazed to see a PAF pilot sharing on his blog a colleague´s views that we should NUKE the whole FATA belt as all these people are evil because they not only brutally murder the innocent army jawans but also cut off their noses and limbs.

    2. A retired army general was recently asked on the TV whether he thinks those in the FATA region whose civilian relatives get killed by drone attacks become radicals and fight the army seeing them as puppets of America. The learned general replied, “Do you really think that those people (he meant pashtuns) who sell off their daughters really have the guts and the capacity to take revenge from us?”

    This is the kind of indifference, ignorance, sheer hatred, and utter bias which made our mighty army lose in East Pakistan and which may as well make us lose a lot more , if we don’t mend our ways…

    If people in our army from the top-ranking generals to the lower ranked jawans are so much ignorant of the pashtun culture, mentality, good and bad points how on earth could they do justice to my pashtun people?

  • A rational patriot says:

    Pakistan doesnt need to apologise to Bangladesh. If there was an unfortunate genocide, it was against Pakistanis – there was no Bangladesh till then. Countries ask for apologies from other countries when the two countries have been at war and war crimes are committed, like Japanese crimes in China before the Second World War.

    Bangladesh should first prosecute its own terrorist outfit, the Mukti Bahini, who committed crimes against their own people, government and military officials. They indulged in these terrorist activities WHILE they were citizens of Pakistan. Which makes them traitors.

    The people who need to really get their bearings straight are those who write such articles. I am ashamed to call you Pakistanis. You support Bangladesh over Pakistan. You support Taliban barbarians over Pakistani sovereignty. What’s next? Asking Pakistan to apologies to India for partition?

    Someone needs to apologise to the patriotic people of Pakistan for having apologists like you amongst us who carry a Pakistani passport.

    • positivebangladesh says:

      Being a Bangladeshi we demand, You and your people must apologise to Bangladesh, there is no word “Should”. Mukti Bahini is the greatest hero in Bangladesh of all ages of history. No countries in the world who are civilized have never prosecuted their liberating force.

      We feel ashamed to be a part of pakistan once upon a time, which country has no moral.

    • mashroof hossain says:

      My dear Mr.Rational Patriot,

      I am quite ‘amazed’ to see the level of history knowledge as well as specializationon “Political identity”you have showed in your comment.You also ‘enlightened’ me by calling Mukti Bahini as a terrorist outfit.But when I saw you asking Bangladeshi government to prosecute Mukti Bahini for their crimes in 1971 , I really laughed out loud.Thank you very much for providing such a wonderful source of entertainment fully free of cost.

      Apart from being hysterically hilarious,your comments also shows that you have not read a single book except those written by the barbarik generals who denied their crime with lies or the biased historians from Pakistan who tried to cover up their shame.Goddamnit, read any history book apart from those sources-it does not have to be written by a Bangladeshi.Just to shorten your painstaking effort to find one,read the below article “Letter to a Pakistani Diplomat” written by Yale trained famous Pakistani scholar Eqbal Ahmed:

      http://www.nybooks.com/articles/10451

      Your oblivion towards 1971 history is so deep that I do not think it will help,but let me try to answer the questions you asked:

      1) Your claim “If there was an unfortunate genocide, it was against Pakistanis – there was no Bangladesh till then” shows that you have worse history knowledge than a 10 year old kid because even the kid from Bangladesh knows that Bangladesh declared her independence in 26th March, right after the then barbaric Pak army’s execution of operation searchlight where they killed thousands of sleeping civilians in the fateful night of 25th March.

      2)Your claim “Bangladesh should first prosecute its own terrorist outfit, the Mukti Bahini, who committed crimes against their own people, government and military officials.” needs no rebuttle because this clearly shows that you literally know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about what was done by the then Barbaric Pak army to the unarmed civilians of erstwhile East Pakistan.

      Fortunately enough, I am sure that most of our Pakistani brothers do not think like you because it is people like you who caused the disintegration of United Pakistan by your unjust oppression and suppression towards the eastern part.

    • Zubair says:

      Your comments suggest that you are more irrational than rational.

      Your first irrational comment out of the many: “If there was an unfortunate genocide”…you still think its hypothetical and is a myth? I urge you to take some time researching before making such ridiculous comments. Read the blood telegram.

      And you have missed the jist of this article. The author’s attempt was taking Pakistan’s side. He was trying to gain respect back for Pakistan that there are people with common sense and compassion.

      In my opinion you are disgracing to your own country by portraying how lowly your thinking pattern is and how shameful your comments are.

      I dont totally hold you responsible for your misleading comments though. As your education system and past generations have not passed on the truth to you. Now you have the internet, and if you do really have any shred of “patriotism” you should read facts and not from blogs but from proper websites.

  • […] more here: Healing the Wounds of the Past « Action for a Progressive Pakistan Tags: army, bangladesh, dangerous-place, military, pakistan, pakistani, people, politics, press, […]

  • sudip mukherjee says:

    I agree.There should be monetary reparations and apology for the genocide.

  • Sohaib says:

    This is very moving and relevant. I fully agree with every word you have written.

  • putool says:

    whats a fail state supposed to mean??? killing its own taxpayers with the taxpayers’purchased arms/ammos e.g.rapes,killings & lootings in erstwhile e.pak in 1971 or in swat the birth-place of the great khans late ayub khan etc.,perhaps once operations swat ceases the entire callous, disgraceful scouge of punjabis going berserk in swat will be nakedly exposed to the comity of nations!!!

    by suppressing the chief justice hamoodur rahman commission’s report of; rapes,killings, lootings in east pakistan the late pak p.m. paid with his life, undoubtedly meeting poetic justice for his 1971 conspiracy against east pak. and deliberate insensitivities!!!

    by recently sending special pak envoy to bangladesh zia ispahani mr.10% whimsically says we shud let by gones be by gones??? as if the well calculated,pre-planned,cold blooded; rapes, killings,lootings of millions for 09(nine) long months were cats & dogs??? flippantly indulging in the blame game by accusing india who fed,clothed and sheltered millions of our unfortunate people for months together against the marauding pak forces!!! this guy ispahani had the audacity to claim that, president musharraf had done so equating regret to apologise!!!

    take care!

    sincerely :: Rokeya J Putool : eugrm_2008@yahoo.com

  • Amsa Amin says:

    I am a Bangladeshi living in Dhaka. I do appreciate your approach of healing the past wounds inflicted on the Bengalee people in 1971: a national apology, trial for crime against humanity and reparations.

    I wonder if you have networked with any group/s in Bangladesh to exchange views in this regards. It remains a major emotive issue here.

    I note your secular democratic credentials. I firmly believe in it as well. I had spent 8 formative years of my working life in Pakistan. And from what little I understand of Pakistani society, I feel: It is a himalayan task, verging on impossibility, to bring about such a total change of direction of Pakistan politics. Global players are active, too, albeit in their own interest, compounding the challenges.

    Yet I do believe , “It takes a committed few to change the world”. May be “failed state” conditions afford a rare opportunity. However, it will need total dedication to the cause, great organisational effort and tremendous social mobilisation to succeed. I wish you, the Action Group, God speed.

  • progpak says:

    Dear Asma: We are always looking to grow our network and work with folks in Bangladesh or in India. Please send us an email with the names of groups or people you think we should reach out to > progpak@gmail.com

    Thank you for your comment.

  • […] Pakistan apologizes to Bangladeshis for the atrocities committed by Pakistan army in 1971 and criticizes the Pakistan government: “We find it unconscionable that the Pakistani state has steadfastly refused to acknowledge […]

  • sal y jamal says:

    Hi rational patriot,
    What about germans repeatedly seeking apologies from the jews, for sending them to the gas chambers etc.,were those diaspora jews living in germany for around 2000 years or more, not german citizens?

    Strange how you still doubt 38 years after the scourge & callous surrender of more then 93,000 Pak soldiers in broad daylight in Dhaka, that genocide didn’t happen!!!Having pre-planned, cold bloodedly; killed,raped & looted our unarmed millions of Bangalis deliberately for 09 long months in Bangladesh at the first opportunity, these scourges licked the dust. Banghabandhu Sk. Mujibur Rahman, father of the Nation having secured 158 out of 300 parliament seats in the Elections of 1971 declared independence of Bangladesh on March 26, 1971 hence, effective 25-03-1971 E.Pak became erstwhile & our sacred soil for perpetuity became independent Bangladesh!!!

    I avail the liberty to assume that, you are still unaware of the Pakistan Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman’s post 1971 genocide Report on Bangladesh & also the whimsical,flippant parroting of successive Pak regimes to let bygones be bygones!!!

    The bottom line is I do hope against hope that you aren’t asleep being, wide awake!!!

    jamal

  • positivebangladesh says:

    I really hope everyone in Pakistan would be enough civilized to recognize their shameful past of 1971. Pakistani people should try win the heart of Bangladeshi people.

  • Arif Ishaq says:

    Pakistan should not simply apologize for what it did in Bangladesh.
    If Pakistan had any morality, it would go down on its kness, cover its head with ashes and BEG the forgiveness of the people of Bangladesh!
    I’m glad for the people of Bangladesh that they managed to get rid of us!
    I was a kid when this happened, but I remember very well, and no one is going to tell me I got it wrong because I was a kid then, that our society, at the time, considered the people of Bangladesh as inferior beings, all the more so because they were black!

    • mashroof hossain says:

      Dear Arif,

      It takes guts to admit the mistakes done by the predecessors the way you just did.Because of people like you there is still rays of hope for the humanity.

      And I welcome you to visit Bangladesh….if I ever come to Pakistan I will surely visit your place if you are there!

  • sl y jamal says:

    hi asif,

    why don’t you visit bangladesh now, walking down any city you will find a boisterous crowd creating waves & i bet my right arm that,amazing but a fact you are bound to find very few black guys. in fact fewer then say in karachi &/or even in lahore bcoz, this is what an independent & free nation can bless the people – like magic!!!

    have a great day, take care!!!

  • sl y jamal says:

    hi guys,

    why this “moderation syndrome” i have not used any; abusive,insulting &/or un-civilized lingo whatsoever!!!

    rgds,

    jamal

  • ashik says:

    Pakistan failed because it abolished the islamic principles for which people once supported it.

    The real problem is not abundance of islam, but real lack of it.

  • Zubair says:

    Finding a Pakistani who knows the truth behind the 1971 genocide is very rare.

    From my understanding from various Pakistanis I have met (fairly educated) have been misinformed or hold a common fallacy about the genocide that the Pakistani army had committed. They think it was not their leaders’ or army’s fault and have mentally shifted blame on others ie the Bangladeshi people for their uprising and India.

    This article provides proof that there exists people in Pakistan who have the courage and intellect to face the facts of those crimes.

    In my opinion from where it stands, Pakistan’s current stance of not providing an apology confirms that they are not ready to portray the truth to their people.

  • sl y jamal says:

    i must admit that, this blog is a boon from where at least we can learn that considerable numbers of pakistanis have become vocal and gradually commenced questioning the credentials of their leadership. they have paid a heavy price for such hero worship over the ages perhaps, conclusion of military operations in swat will be the turning point in opening the eyes of the pathans when on returning to their homes. finding their dwellings built by efforts of generations together, lying in ruins with no hope for reconstruction before the on-set of snow storms can lead to dire consequences.

    the blame game will commence with pak army blaming the americans and both; afghans & american blaming the pak army which can cause immense public anger and lead to monstous turbulences all over the region.

    this deafening silence of above “rational patriot” and his accurate spelling of our sacred “FFs as Mukti Bahini” sounds quite ominous. this guy must be one of the architects of committing the genocidal killings,in our 1971 sacred war of liberation.

    have a great day, take care.

  • sl y jamal says:

    Dear Progpak Founders,

    thank you very much, pls do accept my gratitudes for drawing the attention of my above june 02, 2009 write-up to my friends, who were flabbergasted to see my name therein as, sent to their e-mail/s by your great organization!!!

    this is an absolutely incredible grand style of operation which your goodselves veritably chose to highlight. pertaining, especially to our sacred 1971 fire storm war of liberation involving the lives and properties of millions of our un-armed shaheed bangali brethren, may allah pak rest their souls in eternal peace!!!

    may allah pak’s blessings also be showered on each & every founder member of your esteemed blog!!!

    have a great day, take care.

  • Arif Ishaq says:

    (Sealed off as ‘Top Secret’ by the State Department and CIA, now after three decades, 46 declassified documents – some ‘sanitized’ – and a audio clip of Nixon-Kissinger offer a compelling peek at President Nixon and his security advisor Henry Kissinger giving a sly wink to the Pakistan army to kill, rape and terrorize innocent East Pakistanis during the 1971 India-Pakistan crisis)

    see http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/11201 for the full article by Anjum Niaz

  • Dear Progpak,

    Heartiest congrats!!! for this blog which I must admit has removed my immense confusion pertaining to the brotherly people of Pakistan!!!
    History apparently repeats itself tragically more frequently with the Islamic Ummah perhaps, ever since the battle on the banks of the Euphrates River, in Iraq.

    Lets hope for the worst in Swat and pray for the best, as predicted by our brother Jamal in his above write-up!!!

    Mr. Arif Ishaq RIC, hope you will take-up the challenge to visit Dhaka, Bangladesh & other cities wherein you will rarely find any Black men. Veritably said, fewer then say in Karachi/Lahore as, freedom & sovereign water and air can change people into Angels within a Generation or two, at the most!!!

    May Allah Pak’s blessing be on the Ummah!!!

    Mithu

  • Jaglul Islam says:

    Dear Progpak,

    Heartiest congratulations that your blog apparently is progressing leaps and bounds, an incredible feat indeed! Heart to heart I invaria-bly thought Pp will be shut or shot down by the junta if not by President Zardari. So, even these guys IQs have much improved knowing well such outlets are essential to let-out steam thanks to Allah.

    I both hope and pray that, thru your esteemed blog and our blogger brethrens those 1971 War Criminal scourges whereabouts, within Pakistan will be identified, exposed and Interpol informed for n/a.

    Wishing all the best to the valued authorities in Progpak!!!

  • sal y jamal says:

    Yo Mr. Ashik,

    How cud you say such things as lack of Islam in Pakistan??? Perhaps the next thing you may want to hv our Brain Scan or what???

    Pakistan abandoned the principle of Islam?? Was that when they invaded Kashmir on a looting, killing spree & returned back grabing the sisters & daughters of Kashmir??? Or in 1960s when they committed the orgy of; rapes, killings & lootings of Millions of Baluchis by claiming “Loha say loha cut ta hey???”in Baluchistan or in 1971 in erstwhile East Pakistan’s Bangalis saying “Iman Taza Ho Gya” by Roadad Khan or in the on-going operations in Swat???

    Men like you blaming Islam for allowing to be abolished, don’t you think is equivalent to blaming Allah??? Don’t you have the guts &/or the IQ to travel down to Swat & see for yourself the mindless, collective punishment leveling not only dwelling houses but not even sparing Masjids by Aerial Bombardments??? Is this bcoz of Talibans in Swat that, the entire population of around 03 Million Pathans will remain homeless for how many months/years??? This war will finsih the Talibans or will create more Talibans & more destructions??? May Allah Pak forbid sooner rather than later you will realize the folly of such petty & malicious consequences to Pakistan!!!

  • Arif Ishaq says:

    Before someone decides to paint an imagined picture of me, let me calrify a couple of things:

    I stand for equity and justice. To me, being white or black doesn’t make an ounce of difference. I just said I remember people in Pakistan used to consider the people of Bangladesh as “blacks” and thus inferiors, not that it makes any difference to me if they are or not. I’m totally indifferent to whether there are no more, or lot less “blacks” in Bangladesh now. Why should anyone even bother to think about it?? Hopefully I will go to Bangladesh one day, but it will probably be to meet my friends or to just visit the place, not to count how many “blacks” or “whites” there are, or to marvel at whether this is some miracle! Thanks for the invitation, though.

    By the same token, I don’t give a damn about religion and I don’t see why we should be bringing Islam, or any other religion for that matter, into this discussion. There is something called decency and there is something called human rights. There are no excuses for not standing by them.

    It’s quite another thing to analyse what happened, to understand why it happened. And that means you have to sieve through history, global politics, corporate capitalism, fedualism in Pakistan, control of resources (including water in Kashmir!), sexism, authoritarian family values, religious fanatism, neo-colonialism and what have you. Human affairs are obviously no simple matter. Let’s leave God out of them!

  • hi a.ishaq,

    thank you very much for your above excellent write-up. hope you don’t blame us all as i can now crystal clearly note your view point since you have clarified. well said & noted with my best attention pl accept my regrets if i have offended you in any manner. welcome back to b’desh and also for getting rid…

    have a great day, take care!!!

  • hamza kamal says:

    WEL WILL NEVER APOLOGIZE, ALL THOSE SEEKING AN APOLOGY SHOULD GHT, IN CASE U DIDNT KNOW THAT IT MEANS GO TO HELL TO THOSE WHO WANT AN APOLOGY

    THANKYOU

    hamzabbfan@yahoo.com

    • Arif Ishaq says:

      When I saw this comment by “hamza” I asked myself if there was no pruning of hate messages in this forum. But then I saw how he had managed to insult only himself and that it was perfectly alright to let this ignominy live in eternity on this forum as a reminder to himself and to those who have a like mindset.

      We don’t need to have a degree in psychology to understand “hamza”; a look at his “thankyou” after the insults, “sorry” for his typing error of “ght”, blindness to the typo in the very first word, “hamzabbfan” for a mail alias, is more than enough. Grow up, hamza!

      @Tanvir: I was never offended by your comments; no need for any regrets. Regards.

  • hamza kamal says:

    GTH, SORRY THAT MEANS GO TO HELL U APOLOGY SEEKERS

    • Zubair says:

      I am sure you have already booked your ticket to hell with illegitimates like yourself who shame Pakistan

  • Arif Ishaq Bhai,

    veritably said, pruning under prevailing circumstances in this blog, i personally feel shud be mandatory especially when such; callous, arrogant, scourges unfortunately resorts to wielding the pen like the day to day ak47 culture!!!

    take care!

    cheers.

  • Hi Progpak Founders,

    heartiest felicitations!!! for introducing this exciting blog which, i find so richly adorned with diverse and robust view points of particpants, apparently from several countries. especially your interactions for this blog by sending e-mails to all & sundry in promotion of this excellent venture is also an extraordinary unique feature. I shall be failing in my duties for not thanking you for such e-mails messages read by my friends who were caught dumb founded to see my name therein. pls do work-out a mechanism to moderate some of the militant view points e.g. mr. hamza kamal’s.

    this i must admit is an absolutely incredible grand style of operation which your goodselves veritably chose to so courageously highlight our sacred 1971 fire storm war of liberation costing lives of more then three millions shaheed bangalis, may allah pak rest their souls in eternal peace!!!

    thanking you once again,

    have a great day, take care.

  • sl y jamal says:

    Hon\’ble Progpak Founders,

    I also avail the opportunity to convey my heartiest congrats for this unique venture and offer my flwg un-solicited opinion.

    I wonder if you will consider providing a Margin on the vacant space on the Right hand side of the Screen. Any comment/blog you received from the bloggers is flashed on the Screen with the Title of the Post.

    As an example if you visit the Website of \”www.unheardvoice.net\” this will be crystal clear to you. Pls do feel free to ignore this matter altogether, your valued decision stands supreme.

    Do have a nice day, take care!

    cheers.

  • sl y jamal says:

    Hi Progpak Founders,

    Pls do accept my thanks & gratitudes for your kind co-operation and action in godspeed.

    I personally find this blog style very convenient for me in fact for any blogger to get status of his/their comment/s at a glance instead of clicking into the Post.

    While thanking you for your kind & continued co-operation, I remain,

    Sincerely,
    salahuddin y jamal.

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