It’s been 50 years now. 16th December 1971 and now past 16th December 2021. All the principal actors in the tragedy of East Pakistan Shaikh Mujibur Rahman, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi are dead. It’s strange that all of them die violently. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged by a military regime that took over Pakistan. It’s known as judicial murder. Indira Gandhi after violating the sanctity of the Sikh’s Golden Temple was assassinated by her Sikh guards.
Shaikh Mujibur Rahman the father of the nation of Bangladesh was killed during a military coup that took place. Shaikh Mujib who was known as Bangabandhu (the friend of Bengal) was killed with all his family members, the only one to survive was his daughter Shaikh Haseena Wajid who was outside the country at that time. Shaikh Haseena is now the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Most of the people who were young between 20 to 30 years old must be dead now. A lot of water has flowed down the river. Sometimes the passage of time clears the cobweb in the mind & the mist surrounding an event so that in retrospect we can see better.
What is the change that we’re witnessing?
Fifty years after the event the one thing that really discredited Pakistan & is a humiliating thing to comprehend is Pakistan’s abandonment of the non-Bengalis in Bangladesh. Though when we look at it in the prism of a power-hungry sycophant Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s eye then we understand that he could not have dared to offend his only power base in Pakistan, the Sindhis. So, for the sake of political expediency Pakistan abandoned their loyal group of patriots who sacrificed literally families for Pakistan.
World history has very few parallels to show as such a dehumanizing act. Later it became even more impossible to settle the non-Bengalis as the region-based political party of Bhutto became restricted to a few districts of rural Sindh and for their “raisen de etre” had to use the scarecrow of Muhajirs to retain support. This abhorrent act of abandonment is decried in history & must be a precedent to teach settlers to go with the native people & betray their own country in future. But patriotism runs in blood, and I feel given a repeat the non-Bengalis will do exactly the same.
It’s a bit strange that the so-called genocide or the killing of insurgents or the blood bath that was alleged against the Pakistani regime isn’t quoted as the most shameful act. It’s not that it did not happen, but it was one, not in the scale that it was projected, two it was a two-way street. Bengalis did the same to the non-Bengalis what they allege the army did to them. Every story has a different hue and different pattern and subplots attached to it but all the atrocities were committed by all the sides in the conflict. Who is to blame? Of course, the political class created hatred on the basis of language, race and political beliefs. If anyone deserved to be hanged for this then all the political leaders should have been.
The perception of the hanging burden or the albatross around the neck as East Pakistan was perceived for the West is removed. East which had a sense of discrimination, a sense of not being given their due got the chance to realize their potential and progress. So, both the parties actually felt vindicated. The way Bangladesh has developed now would never have been possible if they remained related to the West as the scale of progress would have been much lower. Pakistan got embroiled in the Afghan war and the proxy war against the Soviet Union and that would have pulled down East Pakistan as well.
Was the two-nation theory was disproved due to the creation of Bangladesh?
. However, take a deep look at the situation. There could not have been a more emphatic, more concrete, more strong proof of two-nation theory than the creation of Bangladesh. The culture, language way of living everything about west Bengal and East Bengal are the same. It feels like the same country. The literature overlaps, even the heroes and villains do. So much so that after 1971 there were some talks alluding to the fact of Bengal rather than Bangladesh or West Bengal.
Nothing like that materialized. No confederation no federation nothing. In fact, after the initial period of gratitude to the Indians for helping them, the two countries or regions grew apart as two nations should. Bangladesh, after disproving the two-nation theory should have become a satellite of India but that did not happen. It confirms that even with some dissimilarities removed two-nation theory did apply to East Bengal and West Bengal as it does for East Punjab and West Punjab. Historians record it as a vindication of the two-nation theory.
India in their madness to dismember Pakistan did a great disservice to themselves. Bangladesh to retain their nucleus and to remain a disparate set for even East Bengal highlights the fact that India has so many nationalities totally dissimilar and different to each other. India had no rationale or logical riposte to the Kashmir problem now they have no reasonings to counter Khalistan, or stop China from talking about Mizoram or Nagaland or Ladakh for that matter.
The Indians validated with their aggression that attacking and dismembering a country by supporting a separatist movement is logical and just. Maybe in 1971, India had sown the seeds of dismemberment of their own country. They have invited a storm that will in future rip their country apart. Fifty years in the history of a country is insignificant but the ripple of separatism is evident, further exacerbated by extremists of RSS and Narender Modi.
Bangladesh’s internal politics has ensured virtually two political parties one totally opposed to Pakistan even as a friend and the second somewhat sympathetic to Pakistan. By the fact that she is Shaikh Mujibur Rahman’s daughter Prime minister Haseena Wajid needs to oppose Pakistan for her own survival. That also necessitates for the Bangladeshi regime to drag on the stories of Pakistani atrocities to keep the sense of alienation, indifference and hate to continue. They do it at all levels to ensure their own political survival. Hats a saving grace for India as with another political party at the helm of affairs India will face the daunting uncomfortable situation of having hostile countries at western as well as eastern borders.
Pakistan and Bangladesh: What happened next?
It’s a bit of a paradox that with intense government propaganda, print stories, TV dramas, movies and the fact that atrocities took place Bangladeshi masses no longer hate Pakistanis. That is evident by the support Pakistani sporting teams get in Bangladesh (when playing against India Pakistan gets the same support in Bangladesh they would get in Pakistan).
Bangladesh applauds Pakistani success in other sectors of life (not so much on the government level but on mass level), the lack of animosity in the general public of Bangladesh conveys the fact that the wound of 1971 is beginning to heal. On the Pakistan side, there is an increasing realization that we wronged the Bengalis in 1971. It’s no longer a debatable point in Pakistan, it’s now a recognized fact that we wronged the Bengalis and after “Operation Searchlight” we committed further excesses by not correcting the mistakes. This realization and the sickening story from 1972 to 2018 has made Pakistanis realize that their politicians are the one who created Bangladesh.
The lack of animosity, the feeling of brotherhood, the healing of old wounds, the taking pride in each other’s achievement, what does that mean? Does that mean that Bangladesh will become East Pakistan, or we will become a federation again or we will become a country again? No, that’s not going to happen. Pakistan and Bangladesh are two countries and will remain as such. There is no going back. Bengalis are a different nation, and the Pakistanis are different.
However, if we can’t be allies we can be friends. We share a past. We are brothers and will remain brothers. The first step should be to apologize for the excesses done to each other. More by the Pakistanis as they had the armed forces at that time and also by the Bengalis as they had the Muki Bahini after December 16th, 1971. That’s the only way we can wipe off the shameful chapter from each other’s history.
The author has worked for Unilever for 25 years. He is a professional translator/interpreter of five languages and is also a certified computer trainer. He is currently living in Virginia, USA. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.