South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

A Rejoinder to the ‘Friends of Bangladesh’
Momin Iftikhar

Thirteen ‘Friends of Bangladesh’ were recently honored in Dacca for raising their voice against the launch of military operations by Pakistan in March 71. An account published by one of the participants, a leading anchor who received the posthumous award conferred on his father, a veritable journalism icon, poignantly reflects the anti-Pakistan narrative that the Hasina Wajid Government has taken upon itself as a mission to proliferate. The honor was bestowed for leading a delegation of Punjab University Students Union to Dacca in Oct 71 followed by holding of a press conference to castigate the military action that was launched in March 71 to foil the Indian sponsored secessionist movement led by Bengali nationalists at the forefront of Mukti Bahini.

The award receiving visit coincided with a charged political environment which has taken hold of Bangladesh amidst bloody street violence triggered by conviction of Jamat-e-Islami leadership for perpetrating the crime of resisting the breakaway of East Pakistan. It is manifest that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister wants to consolidate the discredited legacy of his father and the questions which the honored guests were most frequently asked, as reported by the scribe, help comprehend the Zeitgeist obtaining in the host capital.
According to the anchor two questions topped the list of inquisitive Bangladeshi journalists; first regarding his and other honorees validation for the ongoing trial of supporters of Pak Army’s military operation of March 71 by the incumbent government and second, whether he thought that there was reason enough for the Jamaat-e-Islami to be banned in Bangladesh for its pro-Pakistan bent in 1971. While the sheepishly accommodating answers to these manifestly anti-Pakistan questions , obviously made under the compromising avatar of an obliging guest trying to humor his overbearing hosts, could be justifiable from perhaps the perspective of a cornered diplomat, yet for a media man of some repute, this buckling only served to bare his inadequate command and comprehension of facts related to the 1971 break up of Pakistan, during which worst kind of human rights excesses were committed by the Bengali nationalists under the camouflage of a liberation war. Though he doesn’t mention it in his piece yet he must have also been aware , if not specifically confronted with, unrelenting propaganda concerning the myths of genocide of three million Bengalis and rape of one hundred thousand ‘heroines of Bengal’ by Pakistani troops , which the vested Bangladeshi quarters keep projecting from time to time without even making a passing reference to any supporting proof or reference. A little research would have shown that Sheikh Mujeeb himself was the manipulative promoter of these baseless themes for which he or his daughter, the incumbent Prime Minister of Bangladesh, have never revealed any source to validate such staggering accusations. It would have been instructive for him, in the given context, if the learned journalist had had a glimpse of Oriana Fallaci’s , An Interview with Mujeebur Rahman, conducted on 24 Feb 1972, to stand his ground as a hard pressed Pakistani and avoid being embarrassed before a strident section of the Bangladeshi press. He is observant enough to have noticed that most of the Bangladeshi intelligentsia tend to accept the preposterous myths, hook, line and sinker without cross checking facts.
Such a hand wringing apologetic demeanor is not uncommon among most Pakistanis who generally tend to self-flagellate rather than challenge the vile accusations on ground of reasoned facts. There is also not much comprehension about the stellar role and a high standard of discipline and self sacrifice displayed by the Pakistan Army which was desperately trying to salvage the solidarity of Pakistan while confronted by unprecedented odds piled up by an unholy nexus of India and the Bengali nationalists. Army action, launched on 25 March 1971 came after a violent spell of three weeks of blood lust against non-Bengalis and unrestrained mayhem in rural and urban population centers following the postponement of national assembly session on 1March 1971.The announcement had forced a paralysis of the federal government leading to an open revolt in which armed Awami League cadres lynched non-Bengalis, particularly Biharis with an unrestrained abandon. The murder of the army officers caught in ones or two became a routine during this period even as the Army remained under orders not to use force on violations of curfew, which became rampant. As all this was happening Bengali renegade officers were freely passing sensitive information to Sheikh Mujeeb. It speaks volumes for the discipline of the Pakistan Army that its officers were able to keep the soldiers in check during what was to them a nightmare of 25 days.
While looking at the pain and trauma of secession, Pakistan as well as Bangladesh suffer from a crippling denial syndrome which has become a serious hindrance in objectively looking at the painful events and ascertain the truth. While in Pakistan there is an appeasing silence , the Bangladeshi bitter narrative plays melodramatically on the themes of Bengali victimhood and Pakistani villains, genocide, rape and mass graves ‘with scant regard for factual accuracy or analytical sophistication’. In Bangladesh there is a stunning oblivion on the widespread reign of terror and brutalities which were unleashed by Bengalis against West Pakistanis (all dubbed Punjabis), Biharis and others who were not willing enough to join the maelstrom of hatred and rage to rent asunder Quaid’s Pakistan. The accusations of atrocities come thick and fast in the run of a spate of vitriolic propaganda castigating Pakistan , yet despite all rancor Bangladesh has failed to produce a single well researched , documented and thoughtfully investigative history of the 1971 climactic events which should lend credence to their blood chilling claims in convincing the world of their victimhood. There have been no credible investigations as well during the last four decades. The alleged massacre on the premises of the Dacca university, which was visited by Professor Waris Mir in Oct 1971 to show solidarity with East Pakistanis students and the presence of a mass grave presumed to be containing a large number of students killed during the Army action in March 71, under international scrutiny, should be an appropriate place to start an objective search for truth which, till now, happens to be the most prominent casualty of the 1971 tragedy.