Pakistan should apologize to Bangladesh: Salima Hashmi

Bangla PakWhile the bilateral trade between the two countries has been growing slowly over the past years, there is no doubt that some scars have yet to heal. Here is an excellent piece published in The Independent which serves as a stark reminder of our past. Something that we, the team at New Pakistan, think would serve as a good replug for our readers:



DHAKA, MAR 24: The Pakistan government should formally apologise to the people of Bangladesh for the atrocities committed by Pakistan occupation army during the War of Independence in 1971, Salima Hashmi, daughter of Pakistani late poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz said in Dhaka on Sunday. “My father wrote a number of poems on the genocide committed in Bangladesh. He expressed the sufferings faced by the people in 1971,” a visibly emotional Hashmi said while talking to the Independent after receiving the “Bangladesh Liberation War Honour Award” at a ceremony in the city.

“I was overwhelmed with emotions while coming over to Bangladesh and receiving the award on behalf of my father,” the daughter of the renowned Pakistani poet, who was outspoken on the atrocities committed by the Pakistani occupation forces during the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, said.

The Pakistani government repeatedly warned my father for writing in favour of Bangladesh’s freedom struggle. We did not know much about the atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army, as information was not passed by the military personnel, she recounted.

Welcoming the present Awami league-led government’s initiative to honour the foreign friends for their outstanding contributions to the Liberation War of Bangladesh, she said: “Pakistani women have already apologised to the women of Bangladesh for the ill-treatment they received at the hands of the Pakistani army.”

Asma Jahangir, a renowned human rights activist of Pakistan and daughter of the late Malik Ghulam Jilani, then vice-chairman of the West Pakistan Awami League, also received the award on behalf of her father in Dhaka yesterday. “It’s a positive step taken by the Bangladesh government. It’ll strengthen Bangladesh’s relations with different countries,” she observed.

The recipients of “Bangladesh Liberation War Honour” and “Friends of Bangladesh” have thanked the Bangladesh government for bestowing the honours upon them for their outstanding contributions during the Liberation War. Some of them shared their emotions with The Independent on Sunday.

The Bangladesh government honoured 68 foreign nationals, as well as an organisation, in the sixth phase of honouring the country’s foreign friends.

Dr Amiya Kumar Chaudhuri, an Indian national, thanked the government for recognising their contribution in the 1971 War of Independence. He was an active member of the Calcutta University Shahayak Samity during the Liberation War. He used to collect funds for Bangladeshi intellectuals by arranging cultural events. “It’s really a remarkable moment for us. We highly appreciate the Bangladesh government’s initiatives to honour its foreign friends,” he said.

Chaudhuri organised a number of seminars to impress upon the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi the need to recognise Bangladesh’s struggle for freedom.

“We arranged many seminars to mobilise public opinion in favour of Bangladesh. Despite financial problems, we continued the movement to support the people of Bangladesh,” he added.

Dr Dhrubajyoti Lahiry, then a lecturer in Presidency College of Kolkata, was another member of the Calcutta University Shahayak Samity. He said they had extended all-out support to the refugees from Bangladesh. He also arranged seminars throughout India to create mass awareness about Bangladesh’s freedom struggle. “The award made me a little uneasy at first. But, at the same time, I feel happy that the government of Bangladesh has taken a landmark initiative to honour  all foreign friends for their role during its War of Independence,” he said.

The undaunted spirit of Bangladesh’s freedom movement, and the tyranny, persecution and anguish suffered by her people were vividly reflected in the paintings of Prof. Dhiraj Choudhury. Appreciating the Bangladesh government’s initiatives, he said, “It would inspire young people contribute to the country’s cause.”

Choudhury, a former professor of Delhi Art College, said, “I arranged a solo exhibition on the theme ‘Happenings and inheritance of Bangladesh’ in 1971. It created public awareness in favour of Bangladesh in the global arena and raised funds as well.”

Dr Tomio Mizokami, professor emeritus of Osaka University of foreign studies in Japan, expressed deep gratification after receiving the award. “It’s remarkable. It’s difficult to express in words. I feel honoured to have received such a prestigious award,” he said.

“During the Liberation War, I came to know about the atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army through print and electronic media outlets. I, then, decided to do something for the oppressed people of Bangladesh,” he added.
“I started collecting funds in Japan. I also shipped food and other essential commodities to the distressed people,” he recalled.

Munshi Mohammad Fazle Kader expressed his gratitude to Bangladesh for receiving the award.
“I’m a simple person. It’s a lifetime achievement from Bangladesh,” he said.

An eyewitness war of the Liberation War, he added, “I was working at the deputy high commission in Kolkata in 1971. I’m one of the persons who raised the national flag of Bangladesh at the deputy high commission in Kolkata.”

“The oppression of the Pakistani army against minorities, and the Bangladesh people, inspired me to work in favour of the Liberation War of Bangladesh. I prepared documents, distributed letters and leaflets and participated in meetings and processions to raise voice against the atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army,” he added.


The General’s Amnesia

Pervez Musharraf

Gen Musharraf has been on yet another whirlwind media tour trying to impress the Americans. It doesn’t seem to be working. His appearance on the Jon Stewart show earlier this week found him staring while the anchor termed him a liar to his face. Yesterday he arrived at ‘Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’, an American think tank to present his show to Washington officials. Whether he realised it or not, however, the think tank presented the speech on a live broadcast and a video of the speech can be streamed from their website.

Musharraf started his speech with a history lesson, and it is one that we can learn a lot from. Not because what he said was true, but because what he said was a warped telling of history that reveals much about the way these old men view the world. For example, did you know that “the situation in Pakistan was perfectly normal until 1979”?

This is important because to Musharraf, religious militancy did not exist until it was introduced during the jihad against Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The General knows better. He knows that religious sentiment was whipped against Bengalis as kaffirs in order to get troops to fight against their Muslim brothers. He knows that the 1974 proceedings against Ahmadis were a direct result of religious unrest.

When the original constitution was written in 1956 reflected the vision of Pakistan that Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah expressed in his address of 11 August 1947 when he stated that, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

Such religious tolerance did not sit well with groups like Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam and Jamaat-i-Islami and these groups demonstrated against minorities. Articles 260(3)(a) and (b) were introduced in 1974 – well before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

And this is not the only historical amnesia that was revealed during the General’s speech. According to Musharraf, in the 1990s dozens of mujahideen groups sprouted from the ground due to popular support and public sympathy for the liberation of Kashmir. Once again, the role of military in organising, training, and arming these groups was conveniently left out of the discussion.

Similarly, the General claims that it was not until the Americans pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989 that any anti-American sentiments existed in Pakistan. Really! And so to General Musharraf, the US Embassy in Islamabad was not attacked and burned in 1979. And this attack that never took place certainly had nothing to do with the fact that US cut military aid in April 1979 for the third time under the 1977 Symington Amendment due to concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Perhaps it is because Musharraf has such a poor grasp on history that he has taken to announcing from American microphones that he will return to Pakistan on 23 March 2012 to stand for elections. He says if he is elected he will do everything the same as he did before. Asked if he could do anything over from the past what would it be, Musharraf could not remember Kargil. He had forgotten how he sacked the judiciary. He said that before he left office his popularity was 84 per cent so he does not have to reinvent the wheel! His historical amnesia has wiped out the uncomfortable images of people celebrating in the streets and distributing sweets when he left. Gen Musharraf may have forgotten the past, but we remember.

Nobody wants to go back to the way things were in the past. We’re looking to go forward. Musharraf can’t understand this because he is from the past, and his view of the world is warped by historical amnesia.