Bangladesh and Pakistan
The creation of Bangladesh is now a historical fact and calls for the effort to achieve a common good for its people. Exactly the same is true of Pakistan. Overshadowed by the events of 1971, it has been an uphill task for Bangladesh and Pakistan to overcome the unpleasantness of the past and move towards a better future. But the question is how one should proceed to achieve that objective? A true reconciliation can only emerge if both countries boldly face the true or imaginary demons of the past, forgive the perpetrators on both sides and then bury the rancour and unpleasantness forever.
The historical bitterness still pervades the minds of people in both countries. For Bangladesh the bitterness is that of politico-economic exploitation, domination by West Pakistan, lack of apology for the tragic events of 1971, repatriation of stranded Pakistanis and division of assets and liabilities. For Pakistan the bitterness exists because of the Bengalis’ connivance with the enemy, Mukti Bahini killings and the humiliating defeat in 1971. It is refuelled on occasions which are celebrated with anti-Pakistan undertones. While one cannot disagree with the merit of these issues, there exists in Pakistan a perception that the relevance of these issues has become marginal and that, to a large extent, Dhaka’s approach to these issues has been emotional and rhetorical rather than pragmatic. The question of official apology from Pakistan, as demanded by some segments of Bangladeshi society, has somewhat been diluted because of the expression of regrets made by the Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf when he visited Bangladesh in 2002. But the issue of apology is far from over. It has been argued by certain circles in Bangladesh that if Japan could offer an official apology to the people of Korea for the atrocities it had committed and if Germany can apologize for the Nazi acts during the Second World War, why cannot Pakistan follow these examples?