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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Who Killed Bengali Intellectuals in 1971?

Sultan Hali, A prominent defense analyst and the author of "Tormented Truth 1971 & Beyond," provides a firsthand account of the horrors of the 1971 tragedy. In his interview with the GVS, Mr. Hali divulges hidden truths overshadowed by the myths surrounding the tragedy of 1971. He stresses that Pakistan and Bangladesh should pool their resources to live in harmony. Both must benefit from each other's strengths rather than raking up old wounds.

GVS: What inspired you to write on this topic?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Frankly speaking, it’s a very sensitive topic and a very touchy topic. The reason why I chose to write on this topic is that I was born in erstwhile East Pakistan and my father was a professor at Dhaka University.

Although we are Urdu speaking, my father had insisted that we learn the Bengali language and assimilate the Bengali culture, because according to him, this was our homeland. And we must be true to it. I fell in love with Bangladesh, which it is called now but then it was East-Pakistan.

Unfortunately, it was severed from us, but when it happened, I had already joined Pakistan Air Force as a cadet. What really spurred me to write on this topic is that in 2005, after my retirement from the Pakistan Air Force, since I belong to public school Sargodha and we have an organization called Sargodhian Old Boys Association, whose members are there, in now Bangladesh, and also here in Pakistan, as well as all over the world.

We have our get-togethers in different places. So our East Pakistani, now called the Bangladeshi chapter of the Sargodhian old boys association, invited us to visit Dhaka as well as tour the whole of East Pakistan. They met us with so much love, that I thought that probably the scars of the separation have healed but then, in 2012, I was in the city of Kunming, which is the capital of Yunnan in China.

I was invited to represent Pakistan at the Asian trade expo and on the very first day at lunchtime, I heard a group of young journalists sitting at a separate table all by themselves, and they were talking in Bengali.

Since I knew the language, my ears picked up because I heard the word Quaid-e-Azam and Pakistan Army, and I am sorry to say, there were some derogatory terms being used. So I got up, and I went to them, and I joined them. I spoke to them in Bengali; they were amazed that I was Pakistani who could speak Bengali. I sat down with them. I shared with them some facts, and I said to them that as good journalists and good analysts, they must know that there are always two sides to any topic or any issue, so they must be objective and look at both sides.

Then I explained to them some of the things which I had witnessed as a child and had been reading about during my service career and even later on. End of the day, we became very good friends, but that was the time I realized, and I asked them, Why were they talking so much with so much venom against Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Pakistan. They said that most of these things are included in our textbooks, and that really shook me up.

It meant that a wrong narrative is being spread so vehemently that youngsters in Bangladesh now accept it as the gospel of truth. So I felt it was my duty I must bring out a narrative, not my personal narrative, but a narrative which is based upon international opinion, on independent opinion, an unbiased opinion, and present it as the truth, however hurtful as it may be to some.

Read more: India created Pakistan & Pakistan created Bangladesh

GVS: You named your book Tormented truth. Is this truth a source of pain and suffering?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Frankly speaking, while I was writing many times, it brought tears to my eyes. It was tormenting for me. I know that it will be tormenting for the readers. It is tormenting for people who hear about it but, at the end of the day, in my opinion, it is the truth; however painful it must be, it must be told because the truth will triumph, and truth should prevail.

GVS: Your father was one of the last people to leave Dhaka University on 25th March. What did he witness there?

Mr. Sultan Hali: My father indeed was a professor at Dhaka University, and our residence was at the Dhaka University campus, which was surrounded by a number of student halls. It is ironic that some of the halls were named after the stalwarts of the Pakistan movement, Nawab Sir Saleem Ullah, A.K Fazl ul Haq, and the hall at which my own father was a provost was called Iqbal Hall after Allama Iqbal.

At that time, we could feel that the student’s halls were now accommodative of the Indian agents who were posing as Mukti Bahini, as students and arms and armament were being amassed.

In March, much before 25th, my father got a letter which said that my sister, who was 14 at the time, had been heard using derogatory terms against Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and that she must be handed over the Mukti Bahini so that appropriate action may be taken. My parents were aghast; they knew what would happen to my sister, so in the dead of night, they took her to the Dhaka airport, and she was put on a flight to Karachi where my mother’s sister and her husband received her, and they stayed with them.

Before the 25th, a number of students, or rather Mukti Bahini posing as students would come and mock my parents. They would say that we can kill you anytime, but since you are in our midst, we’ll take care of you. We were living in an apartment on the Dhaka University campus; our next-door neighbor used to every day show a big dagger which he used to sharpen and say, this is the dagger that I’m going to slaughter you with. Yet my parents continued there.

On the night of the 25th, when the military action took place, the army came, and they had a list of people. The ISI knew who the leaders were, and they only pinpointed those and picked them up. Following the event, thirty-two families took refuge in our house, and my father gave them refuge because, after all, they were their friends, and they stayed with us. But on the night of the 25th, there was military action; there was gunfire, and some of these leaders were killed.

On the morning of the 26th, an uncle of mine who used to live in Muhammadpur came on a jeep and asked my parents to leave and come to his house. My parents left everything there and their friends, of course, also had to find refuge elsewhere.

My father also sent away my mother and other siblings to Karachi, but he stayed on because he wanted to continue his duty. In fact, he was there until the last flight of PIA took off at the end of November, and that too he was afforded a seat because one of my instructors in the Pakistan Air Force who had been my father’s student at the Dhaka University put him onboard that, and he just escaped there with clothes on his back leaving behind everything.

Read more: Pakistan Embassy London Fooled us! 1971 War

GVS: Do you think that there was some way we could have avoided the military crackdown on 25th March 1971?

Mr. Sultan Hali: A lot of emphasis is put upon the 25th March military action as if this was the last nail in the coffin. Yes, it could’ve been avoided but students of history should know that things were simmering. In fact, India had been planning and plotting this, and many people think that this was in retaliation to the operation Gibraltar in 1965. That’s not true.

My book and my research, and of course, it’s not based on my personal research. I have read the books of many of my seniors who wrote some fantastic accounts, people like general Kamal Mateen-Ud-Din, The Tragedy of Errors, and so many other writers; they point out that the conspiracy to dismember Pakistan had been hatched much earlier, in fact, it was as early as 1961, that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had visited Agartala, and he had met with people, Indian intelligence agents who were already in the position of planting seeds of separation. So the things were simmering.

There are a number of causes to why this final backlash started but 25th March action was taken because of the killing of the Biharis and the massacre of the Pakistani army personnel that had begun way before 25th March. In fact, on 7th March, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, announced that Bangladesh is a reality and the people must now stand up for their rights.

25th March, military action was actually in retaliation to these atrocities. It was launched to stop the massacre of the Biharis, the Pakistan army personnel, the non-Bengalis and the West Pakistanis who were there in East Pakistan. Could it have been avoided? That is another debate.

GVS: You have a very different theory with respect to who was conducting the killings in Dhaka. Do you think that there were some foreign powers involved in it?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Indeed, one of the myths that have been created is that the Pakistan army on 25th March carried out a massacre of the Bengali intellectuals. I know a number of intellectuals were killed because my father is a witness to it, but the question is, who killed them? Was it the Pakistan Army, that out of spite, it would kill the Bengali intellectual? No, I have researched this question, and I have come across a very interesting fact, and this came about through the statement on a television interview of Yuri Beneznov, who was a KGB agent and who was posted to India at that time, in fact, he was in Calcutta.

He presented facts and figures stating that the Bengali intellectuals were actually harbored as KGB agents, and if you are aware of the two-step flow of communication, theory of mass communication, you should know that one of the ways of carrying out subversion and bringing down a state to its knees is that you corrupt the minds of the intellectuals and the opinion builders and plant either through subliminal programming or through propaganda or through brainwashing the loss of confidence in the state, in the leadership and in the armed forces.

Since these opinion builders have this sway over opinion, they carry out the brainwashing of the masses. If you have followed the novel of George Orwell, Animal Farm, in which he says that the masses are like sheep, and the sheep are given various slogans, and the Bengalis were given slogans by the same intellectuals.

Yuri Beneznov confesses that once that deed was done, that is when Bangladesh was created when it was severed from Pakistan since these intellectuals knew too much, and they were going to be a real liability, they were eliminated by the agents of KGB and RAW, so that the truth doesn’t come out, that is why they were eliminated. Now who were the minds behind it, and who were the operators who had swayed the minds of the Bengalis?

Read more: Hasina Sheikh’s Politics: Where the fantastic Fig of Three Million came from?

GVS: There exist many myths regarding what happened in 1971. Do you think that it is because Pakistan remained unable to create and spread its narrative?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Yeah, this is a very sad fact. I find it sad that we Pakistani’s, or I should say West-Pakistani’s, lack the art of telling the truth as a narrative whereas the Indians are following the Chanakian dictum of “tell a lie so often that it becomes the truth.” It is important to remember that whenever a war is lost, the vanquishers have their own opinion. They narrate tales of swelled bravery, and they look down upon the vanquished, they call them cowards and losers and whatnot. Yes, we lost East Pakistan, but we had a story to tell.

Unfortunately, we did not tell it on time. As I mentioned, a few of my seniors and superiors people like Siddique Salik people like Kamal Mateen-Ud-Din, and then international opinion builders like Miss Bose, have come out with truth, a counter-narrative but it is not enough. Junaid Ahmed, in recent years, has come out, but again it is not enough. In these five decades, the Indians have spread much propaganda, so much venom, and so much falsehood that people have started accepting it as the truth.

Even Bengalis have started believing in it because the Bengalis do not want it to be known that it was the Indians who were the ones who got them their freedom. They like to take pride in the fact that they won their freedom themselves. But why did they rise against Pakistan, especially a nation where Muslim League was born? Muslim League was born in the streets of Dhaka. It was Fazl-ul-Haq, who presented the Lahore resolution on 23rd March 1940s. It was Nawab Sir Saleem Ullah; it was Suharwardy, the first four prime ministers of Pakistan after Liaqat Ali Khan happened to be Bengalis. These were people who were at the forefront of the Pakistan movement, so now they have to justify that why Bangladesh was needed.

Yes, West Pakistan has been looking down upon East-Pakistani’s. There was a sense of superiority even in the armed forces, and so on but it wasn’t to the extent as it was blown out of proportion by the seditionists, and their narrative has prevailed. If these false accusations are narrated in the textbooks of Bengali children, they are going to believe their own textbooks, and on the other side, we never came in a massive way to counter these propagandas.

Today, we are making an effort, but I’m sorry to say even my book, tormented truth, is a feeble attempt. We need to do much more. We need to go out on the electronic media. Make movies. I just saw a movie, “Khel Khel Mein,” which is a very bold attempt; I must appreciate it but much more has to be done and I’m glad you guys have taken up the cudgel, and please spread the word not because I’m saying it. You can do your own research and follow it and see what the truth is.

President of Turkey have started a series of Turkish dramas and when he was asked that why is he narrating the Turkish heroism of the past, especially of the Ottomans. His words ring in my ears. He said that it is time that the lions come out with their own narrative. Until they do that, the hunters will continue to be the heroes.

Read more: What happened to those who broke up Pakistan in 1971?

GVS: Why Bangladesh does not celebrate 14th August as Independence Day from the British?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Actually, we should know that we got Pakistan because of the Bengalis. The people, the Muslims who were residing in Northern India like U.P (United Provinces) C.P (Central Provinces), now West-Pakistan that is Punjab and so on; they were not so much in favor of an independent Pakistan. NWFP, which is now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was at that time led by Bacha Khan, who was a member of Congress.

Bengalis raised the slogan of Pakistan. It was the Bengalis who fought for it because they knew that we had to wrest our independence from the British, but you see why the Bengalis no longer celebrate 14th August is because it will be a negation of the raison d’etre of Bangladesh. Bangladesh was created after denying Pakistan, after denouncing Pakistan, after stating that Pakistan is no longer capable of looking after the interests of the Bengalis, but that was the propaganda then.

Now, if they do that, it will be accepting what they stood for, in the earlier stages, what their forefathers did, but they can no longer celebrate 14th August. Actually, If you read Maulana Abul Kalam Azad way before the formation or the independence coming about in an interview with Shoresh Kashmiri, who then went on to publish the words of Maulana Azad, in a book called “The Man Who Saw The Future of Pakistan” had predicted that East-Pakistan is not going to last more than 25 years. Moreover, you should remember a few facts.

First of all, that Sir Cyril Radcliffe was the head of the Boundary Commission for determining the boundaries of the states of Pakistan and India after partition. He was swayed by Lord Mountbatten. Lord Mountbatten was a very close friend of Nehru; in fact, Bollywood is even making a movie about it. Mountbatten’s wife Edwina was having an affair with Jawaharlal Nehru, and through Edwina and through Mountbatten, Sir Cyril Radcliffe was swayed to create the boundaries in such a fashion that Pakistan will cease to exist in a few years, and that is why Kashmir and so many other instances were created as flashpoints, which would trouble Pakistan.

Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was given the understanding that there is going to be a corridor through India, joining Pakistan, the East, and West Pakistan, but that never took place. In the final years of his life, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was fatally ill; he had a terminal disease, and he hid it from his detractors. He hid it even from his friends; the only two people, who knew about it, were Fatima Jinnah, his sister, and his personal physician. So Quaid-e-Azam was too frail at that time to fight this.

Yes, it is true that 1000 miles or 1600 kilometers of hostile territory dividing East and West Pakistan was bound to create problems but you see our leaders in the initial stages, especially the ones who came after Liaqat Ali Khan and after the Quaid did not have the foresight of the vision; our enemy did. I mean, K.M Panikkar, who happens to be an Indian naval strategist in his 1951 book, India and the Indian Ocean and the influence of sea power, writes and predicts that Pakistan is going to have two navies, one for the protection of West-Pakistan and one for the protection of East Pakistan.

It is sad that we did not pay heed even to the words of our enemy. In fact, what is more tragic is that we were ruled from 1958 to nearly 1969 by Ayub Khan, who did not like the concept of having a proper Navy for Pakistan, what to talk about two navies.

At one stage, he was considering disbanding Pakistan Navy, but some of the senior naval officers, like A.R Khan and others, prevailed upon him and asked him to continue. But if we had two navies, India would never have been able to blockade East-Pakistan, and our line of logistics would have remained open. Even after the Ganga incident, we would have continued to defend East-Pakistan, and the secession of East-Pakistan could have been avoided. But the fault lies in our stars that we were bestowed upon by leaders who lacked the vision and the will to protect East-Pakistan.

Read more: From East Pakistan to Bangladesh: What went wrong?

GVS: Do you assign responsibility to any particular person or event for losing Pakistan?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Frankly speaking, it is so simple to say that India was responsible for it; it was Indian machination, it was Indian planning, but the fact remains that the enemy will always be the enemy. The enemy will always plot and plan to dismember you, which it had. Actually, the Brahmins of India were aghast at the thought of their motherland, which they consider sacred like a mother to be divided into two parts, and they had sworn, at the time when the partition was announced, that they are going to get back the entire territory and merge it into Mother India. People like Savarkar and so on have talked about greater India and Akhand Bharat.

But if you talk about a single personality, first of all, we should have been aware of the Indian machination; we should have been aware of what is happening. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was used by the Indians, but I am told that even he was aghast. He did not actually want to go the whole hog. He only wanted to get more facilities for East-Pakistan to be at parity with West-Pakistan, as far as finances are concerned as far as resources are concerned. Some of these were given, but then it was rather late, and it was being exploited.

I mean, it was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who when he came to Islamabad, he said that from the roads of Islamabad, I can smell the jute which is being the major issuer of finances for the exchequer, and that is being used to build a beautiful capital like Islamabad. It was indeed taken cognizance of, and a second capital at Dhaka was created, which I’d seen even before the fall of Pakistan, and which, if you go now, is still there.

At the same time, there were people who were creating this propaganda. No, there wasn’t one single person. Yahya Khan, who was at the helm of affairs he should be held responsible for taking a decision because even way before the 25th March action, there were three eminent personalities who were there on the ground who had their ears to the ground who could foresee what’s coming up.

And they could also foresee the machinations of the enemy, and they were Vice-Admiral SM Ahsan, who happened to be the governor of East Pakistan. It was Lt. Gen Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan, who was the senior-most military officer, The General Officer Commanding, and the Air Officer Commanding Air Commodore Mitti (Zafar) Massoud, and all these three, they were no spring chickens.

They were war heroes. Sahibzada Yaqoob Khan had fought the Second World War. He was a decorated officer, he had been taken prisoner of war, and he was a strategist, beyond imagination, a person who wrote the entire syllabus of the Pakistan Army Command and Staff College Quetta and who is revered all around the world. Admiral Ahsan happened to be the ADC of Lord Mountbatten.

He happened to be the first ADC of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He also fought the Second World War, and he knew what was going on. And Mitti Massoud was an Air-Commodore, but as a group captain, he commanded the base of Sargodha in 1965 and led Pakistan to an aerial victory when the three of them tried and convinced Yahya Khan with detailed presentations, and a plan was presented, which is now in history known as the Ahsan plan how East-Pakistan could have been saved, how the 25th March action could have been avoided.

Yahya Khan was nearly convinced, but unfortunately, there were politicians in West-Pakistan and also some short-sighted generals, but mostly ambitious politicians who wanted to get the seat of power because in the 1970 elections, Mujibur Rahman had been given the maximum seats, and as such, he should have been invited to form the government.

He kept waiting for such an invitation, but it never came because the best Pakistani politicians were afraid, of course, they had their reasons, and there was a likelihood that the Indians would not have been able to convince Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to break up East Pakistan, and instead, he would have proved to be a more competent Prime Minister of the whole of Pakistan. But that occasion never arose.

These politicians made sure that the National Assembly session was never called where Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was elected as the prime minister of a united Pakistan. So I will say that it wasn’t one personality, but all these things and circumstances and then myopic considerations and short-sightedness of our leadership at that time that caused it, but I will not pin the blame on one person alone if you insist on it, then the person who was at the helm of affairs, Gen.Yahya Khan.

Read more: Pakistan – Bangladesh diminishing hope for better ties?

GVS: Do you think a political compromise was possible on Mujib’s six points?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Hindsight is 2020. But even then, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself was of the opinion that it is a bargaining chip, it is a debating point, and if you go through the six points very carefully, you find I mean prima facie, some of them may appear to be very drastic, but they could have been negotiated, and he would have simmered down to some of them or compromised on some of them. The misfortune is that these were not discussed in detail, especially by Yahya Khan; he never took a briefing about it.

For Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, it was one of the major aspects of it by which he could flog the horse of East-Pakistan’s separatist or Sheikh Mujib’s separatist ideas. But I personally feel that if we had bargained, if we had talked about it, things would have been different.

GVS: How did the news of surrender affect you as a graduating cadet?

Mr. Sultan Hali: We were so full of enthusiasm, and we used to listen to the speeches of our leaders, and we had also heard the speech of Gen. Niazi that the Indian tanks would have to march over his chest to get into Dhaka, somehow, we were convinced that Dhaka is not going to fall, and when it did, it devastated us.

I remember I was on night guard duty at that time when the news was finally announced by the Government of Pakistan. I felt so dejected, and so did all of my friends. I felt it the most because I was so much in love with East Pakistan. I thought that was my home. We used to carry these G-3 guns, which were, of course, fully loaded because we had to guard the airplanes at PAF Academy Risalpur which was also being used as an airbase at that time. Out of sheer anger, we fired in the air, letting out our anger because we thought we had been betrayed.

GVS: Have we learned anything from history?

Mr. Sultan Hali: I don’t think we have learned lessons. Still, we see communities in Pakistan, which are marginalized and which are being used again by the enemy in a similar fashion how the Bengalis were misled or agitated to rise against Pakistan. Take the example of the Balouch, the Sindhi’s, and the Pashtuns. They are being agitated that their rights are not being met.

True that East Pakistan was a great distance away. But even over here, we haven’t gone to the extent of appeasing those people. Because please remember, where there is smoke, there is fire. There are reasons for which these people are being agitated, for which these people are being turned into insurgents, or they are being turned against the state.

At the beginning of my interview, I had mentioned the various steps by which opinion builders do it. But at this moment also, we see certain opinion builders who come out in the streets, and they agitate the people with false propaganda stretching the truth to the extent that will suit them. I don’t want to take names, but it is happening all around us.

That means we haven’t learned the lessons, and let’s talk about the Balouchs, let’s talk about the Pashtuns, let’s talk about some of the marginalized Sindhi’s, for example, or even Southern Punjabis these are the people who are being marginalized.

If we do not take the whole nation along, if we do not listen to their rights, then the enemy will continue to exploit them. That is the lesson we should have learned from history. We need to question that can we allow the balkanization of Pakistan? Please remember that in the West, even maps have been issued of a fragmented Pakistan of a New South Asia. Hopefully, it will not happen, but we need to take steps, so the enemy does not achieve its heinous goals.

Read more: How Pakistan was ‘Created & Lost’: A journey of ‘Blood & Tears’

GVS: Bihari community was left behind in Bangladesh. What was their sin?

Mr. Sultan Hali: Actually, it is very unfortunate. Bihari, by the way, is a generic term. The people from the province of Bihar, because it was contiguous to Bengal, had come and settled down in East Pakistan.

Here I must relate a small anecdote which is ironic that in 1946 before the partition had actually taken place, the Bihar riots took place, and the Chief Minister at that time of United Bengal was Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy and one of his student leaders was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Both of them toured the whole of Bihar, they tried to stop the riots, and at that time, Suharwardy and specifically Sheikh Mujibur Rahman asked the Biharis that when Pakistan is formed and becomes independent, you are welcome to settle in East-Pakistan. Then a day came when the same Biharis came to East Pakistan. They were actually initially welcomed because this is a hard fact that they were very few.

In fact, there was only one major government bureaucrat who was a Bengali. But the Biharis, they were in greater numbers, and they came, and they set up the railways, they set up the industries, and they set up various offices, they were a little more experienced in these matters, and they assimilated; they tried to assimilate into the culture of East Bengal. They stood out because of their separate language, because of their slightly separate culture, although the religion was the same.

After some time, a certain amount of animosity and jealousy was also there, which was, of course, spurred on by India. Later on, when RAW was formed in 1968, they carried out a propaganda campaign, telling the Bengalis that all their rights have been usurped by Biharis and by West Pakistan, so when the Bengalis decided to start an insurrection, at that time, the Biharis who had upheld the flag of Pakistan, they wanted, that East Pakistan should never be severed from the state of Pakistan.

What they could do at that stage was join the Pakistan army, not in uniform, but through their own local militias, like Al-Shams and Al-Badr, and fight along with the Pakistan army, because please remember 25th March onwards, what you call the military action actually, we had lost East-Pakistan; East-Pakistan had virtually separated. So 25th March onwards, the Pakistan army, along with its supporters of Al-Shams, Al-Badr, and all of these Biharis and their militias, they took back, inch by inch, the whole of East-Pakistan.

This insurrection was not only in Dhaka or around it; this was a proper breakaway, of course, in which the Indian soldiers in the garb of the Mukti Bahini were fighting, carrying out massacres, and killing people. And that is where the Biharis stood out because the West Pakistani army did not know the terrain so well, they did not know the area, they did not even know the language, and the Biharis were their eyes and ears.

When the crunch came, that is 16th December, when East Pakistan was no more, the same Biharis who had upheld the flag of Pakistan; they were labeled as collaborators and as traitors by the Bangladeshis, and some of them, unfortunately, were even massacred after the 16th December. Beyond that, they were stripped of the nationality of Bangladesh. They applied; they asked permission to be sent to West Pakistan, now Pakistan. Only 170,000 applications were approved, of which even the full number did not come.

The rest were put in camps; they continued to stay there in ghettos as second-rate citizens, worse than the Rohingya, Burmese, and they are still there for the last 50 years because they refuse to call themselves Bangladeshi’s, they stand for Pakistan, but it is unfortunate that in this part of Pakistan, we have welcomed the Afghans; I’m not saying that was a bad thing. Yes, we have a tradition of hospitality. We call ourselves the Ansar’s of Medina; we should have supported the Afghans when they came here, but the Biharis, they should not have been forgotten; they should not have been left there.

They continue to live in squalor because now they don’t have the means or the houses, the businesses, and other things they had. Instead, they are forced into labor. The Bangladeshi government had announced that those children who were born after 1971 will be given the citizenship of Bangladesh and will also be given the right to vote, but this is so far only on paper and I know that more than 250,000 Biharis continue to live in despondency, in squalor, and as if they are beggars, but they are proud Pakistani’s because for them in their minds, they are still living in Pakistan, however hard it may be, and we need to do something about it.

Read more: Pakistan Embassy London Fooled us! 1971 War

GVS: What does the future hold for Pakistan Bangladesh relations?

Mr. Sultan Hali: As far as Pakistan and Bangladesh are concerned, it is very important that, as Pakistanis, we should learn to accept the blame variedly, but for Bangladesh, it should also realize that the myths that have been created about 3 million Bengalis being butchered about 200,000 women being raped are all Indian propagated.

I have gone to the extent of busting these myths. Yes, there were cases of rape, there were cases of butchery, there were cases of loot and plunder, but not to the extent that is being exaggerated, and it happened on both sides. It was the Bengalis or the Mukti Bahini or the Indian RAW agents acting in the garb of the Bengali Mukti Bahini who carried these heinous acts.

A simple DNA test can prove the mass graves that are being shown as evidence of Bengalis being massacred. It will prove whether they are the bodies of non-Bengalis or Bengalis. As far as the rape cases are concerned, the Government of Bangladesh announced an award of, I think, 200,000 rupees for each woman who would come forward and say that she had been raped. Do you know the number of women who actually came up? It was less than 2,000. So that means this is an exaggeration.

As far as the future is concerned, 50 years have passed. Let us now let bygones be bygones. Let us be ready to forgive and forget. The Bangladeshi government insists that we as a nation and our Pakistan Army must ask and beg forgiveness from the Bengalis. We are ready to do that but only if the Bengalis also accept their part in this heinous game in which precious lives were lost, because I myself lost an aunt and two cousins, my aunt was brutally raped and killed, so were my cousins.

I’m ready to forgive and forget. That was my personal loss. But as far as Pakistan is concerned, as far as Bangladesh is concerned, Bangladesh has done well for itself. It has come out as a more or less stable economy, a very far cry from the basket case, which Henry Kissinger had described in the early years of 1975-76. It has stabilized its economy, it has stabilized its government, and it has stabilized so many other things but if Bangladesh continues to persecute the Biharis or the people who stood for United Pakistan, and punish them in kangaroo courts, if it is willing to do that, because after all, there was a tripartite agreement between India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, which was signed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman himself, that there will be no persecution, there will be no war trials.

I think, in the interest of both Bangladesh and Pakistan, if the wall of Berlin can fall, if European Union can come together, after 100 years of wars, we cannot rejoin again as a nation, but Bangladesh as a sovereign nation, Pakistan as a sovereign nation, perhaps under the umbrella of SARC. SARC was the brainchild of General Zia-Ur-Rahman, one of the Presidents of Bangladesh.

Read more: Debunking myths around Bangladesh’s creation

Let us have a confederation where we can pool our resources where we can live in harmony and benefit from each other’s strengths rather than continue to harp upon and rake the old wounds. Let us go towards healing. That’s the need of the hour.