Opening old wounds – Ours and Theirs

A staggering 27,117 people stand united, holding green and red boards above their heads, to put up the world’s biggest ever human flag at the National Parade Ground on Victory day yesterday

Bangladeshis set world records during 16th December celebration.

The approach of 16th December fills me with unease every year. It’s one of those times when I try to avoid Facebook, Twitter, and the media in general. The level of insanity that is inevitably present makes me depressed, and let’s be honest – we don’t need extra reasons to be depressed these days. In recent years, there have been attempts to deal with the loss of East Pakistan by trying to re-write history so that the blame falls on America and Jews as well as the usual Indian bogey. This year, with the sentence of Abdul Quader Molla coinciding, I knew it was going to be particularly awful. And I was right.

It’s well established that in Pakistan, nobody is ever wrong except the other guy. A man can get caught stealing from his neighbor’s house and he will blame the neighbor for not keeping his valuables hidden well enough. This mindset is bad enough when it takes the form of personal arguments, but when it comes to international relations, the consequences can be dire. How can we build strong relationships with our brothers in Bangladesh if we refuse to accept reality?

The problem is more than just rhetorical. Delusional jihadi groups believe they are still fighting a war that ended decades ago. Lashkar-e-Taiba has provided training and money to jihadi militants in Bangladesh such as Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (Huji), and Jamaat-ud-Dawa is telling people that the outcome of 1971 will be reversed.

 

Such fantasies may appeal to those who are unable to face facts, but it in reality serves no purpose other than to pour salt in old wounds – both ours and theirs. Failing to admit our mistakes and treat our Bengali brothers with dignity and respect pushed them to the breaking point 42 years ago. Passing resolutions praising Abdul Quader Molla after he is convicted of war crimes in Bangladesh only adds insult to injury. How can we ask nations to respect our sovereignty if we refuse to do the same for others?

This is not the place to hash out the more painful details of that conflict, but what is done is done. No matter how hard Hafiz Saeed and his jihadi followers wish for it, history cannot be ‘rewritten’. There are 150 million Bangladeshis who will not allow it.

 

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