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    Bangladesh and Pakistan

    PakNews.com

    Bangladesh Gets No Sympathy for 1971

    By Mohammad Shahidullah
    Dated: October 23, 2000

    Lately, a lot of attention has been focussed on trial of the Pakistani army personnel who were responsible for the killing of so many innocent people in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in 1971. I will try to provide some explanations why such a large-scale killing did not receive the kind of international and human rights groups' attention it deserved, and why the world did not move for any justice in this case. I will also reflect on how that impacts our psyche as a nation. 1) Credibility: Bangladesh govt. crudely and arbitrarily made up the number of deaths during the 9-month period of 1971. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, when released from Pakistani prison in Januray 1972, stated the death toll to be 1 lakh in London airport, 1 million in New Delhi airport and 3 million when landed in Dhaka. (Some people suggest that Sheik Mujibur Rahman confused million as English for lakh. But that is a different story). Obviously the number was not based on facts. Later, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed a commission to make a survey of the killings and come up with the real number.

    The commission, after an exhaustive work, came up in 1973 with a death toll number, which was a 5-digit number. The results were published in newspapers briefly. The govt., in an apparent attempt to save it from a big embarrassment, hushed up the commission report and a high level decision was made to continue with the 3 million number publicly. (This is possible only for politicians of third world). Now, a casualty of 20,000 or 40,000 or 60,000 people in a matter of months is not a trivial thing, and is not to be taken lightly. It is a serious tragedy of mankind by any standard and in comparison to other events of the century, which deserved appropriate judicial action. Specially, the people killed were totally innocent to be a target of any army. We, Bangladeshis should not have anything to be ashamed of if the human sacrifice we made for our independence is not in millions, but in tens of thousands. Not many peoples have made that kind of sacrifice for their countries. But as the over-enthusiastic Awami League leadership wanted to take the whole credit for independence to themselves, they thought that by putting a large figure of deaths, they would increase their price in front of everybody. 2) Exaggeration: Another thing to note is that world community is not ready to buy this number of 3 million deaths. They are not as gullible as simple people of Bangladesh who hardly do any diligence behind the numbers. (Even people in India in their private conversations agree that the 1971 death toll number is absurd). They do hair-splitting investigation of everything. A death toll of 3 million over a period of 8 and a half months (266 days) means over eleven thousand people were killed everyday on an average! There is hardly any mechanism that any army can employ to kill that many people in one day (may be except by nuclear bombs) for so many days in a row. It is not possible for any force to kill that many people individually or in groups when the whole population was against the army. (Carpet bombing in Vietnam did not kill nearly as many people as someone would expect). Also, 1971 was in very modern time, and communication was quite developed then. It was highly unlikely that Pakistanis would get away with such a big genocide and the world would not know about it or not do anything about it. India and USSR were very much on Pakistan affairs then, and at least they would not let it slip unnoticed. I would even ask all of us who were adults in 1972 to take a sample survey. How many people did you know personally or your relatives who were killed in 1971? Or how many people did you know who had their relatives killed? Bangladesh is a country where people know each other unlike in USA. It is not difficult to know if people get killed. If 4% of the population was killed in a matter of months, then everybody should have some of their relatives killed. That was not the case. If you consider all the links, you will find that the death toll could not have been higher than what Sheikh Mujib's commission found out. 3) Political Motive: Bangladesh govt. was never interested in bringing to books the war criminals of the Pakistani forces. All they wanted was to make a political issue out of it and keep it alive. They were afraid that a trial of the criminals (at least 197 by the Awami League govt. account) would bring the matter to a closure, which would deprive them of a propaganda weapon. They wanted to maintain the hatred in public mind so that the Awami League govt. could cover their incompetence and failures in running the country. It also fit well their agenda to keep the Islamic forces in the country suppressed in the pretext that they were a party to the killings and until a trial happens, they will remain guilty in front of the nation. A fair trial of the Pakistani army officers would reveal facts that would cause embarrassments for many big Awami League leaders and clear the names of many of their political opponents who are always accused for taking part in killing without a charge sheet to this day. 4) Lack of Sincerity: The Awami League govt. was hardly concerned about the emotional side of the relatives and friends of the victims. In reality, very few of the Awami League leaders (even lower level ones) had lost loved ones during the 9-month period. (That can be a topic of another article). So there was no sensitivity or sense of urgency for them to work for justice for the relatives of the victims. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who did not lose anybody close to him, made behind the curtain deals with the Pakistani premier Bhutto (the person who was probably most responsible for the tragic events of 1971) in exchange of the war criminals. But he continued his high pitch rhetoric in public to keep his political enemies at bay. To this date, the same tactics are being used by the Awami League. When the identified war criminals were in their hands, they let them go and now they are behaving as if the Pakistani govt. rescued their army personnel by some military action. They are fooling the countrymen by their humdrum and shouting in the air for war crime trial knowing fully well that nothing will happen. 5) National Character: We have demonstrated time again how unreliable we are as a nation in giving out information. Especially our politicians have earned such notoriety as far as honesty is concerned that we do not need to elaborate. Even today, we lie about our population. When our population is nearing 150 million, we state it as over 120 million to avoid the disappointment of the donor agencies. We routinely exaggerate the numbers like percentage of literacy by a big percentage. The govts. in Bangladesh are only good at propagating lies, deceptions and falsehoods. They promise things in a flash that they know are not deliverable. They always claim credit for things that have really not happened, and for things they do not have any contribution. When our national budget's 50% comes from foreign aid, we always boast to pass a 'surplus' budget every year, which is totally farcical. These things are good for domestic consumption, but world community knows what goes in our country. Just because everybody is not blunt as Henry Kissinger was does not mean that people outside do not notice things or know things. They just tend to ignore things as petty matters in their big picture. The world community is sensitive enough not to insult the event by openly questioning the 3 million figure, but they all know it is an outrageous lie. So when the world community is consciously working to redress human tragedies in Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Kashmir, E. Timor, Chili, nobody is inclined to talk about 1971 tragedy of Bangladesh. The western world does not even recognize it as an important event of the century. It is not in the list of top genocides of the century for obvious reasons, although killings of less than half a million people got into the list (Time magazine). Apart from the fact that a considerable time has passed, we ourselves have weakened the case by our continuous dishonesty in this matter. We still hammer on the unrealistic 3 million number and are not willing to reconcile to truth. Because, in some of our hearts, we find our ego getting hurt to admit a mistake. Many of us do not really want a trial of the culprits, but are more interested in keeping a tension current in the region. This gives a good preoccupation for a section of our country, and suits the political agenda of many. Even today when 5 skulls are discovered in a grave in Mirpur, we drum it up as a 'MASS' grave. We try to sensationalize a thing that everybody already knows or expects. Because, it fits well with political timing of some special quarters. The situation now is very much like early seventies, and the party in power needs to create a lot of distraction to cover up their misdeeds. We discovered graves with many more skulls in 1972, but then we kept quiet. Why? This is the contradiction we suffer from. If we really believe 3 million people were killed in 1971, then why are we so excited to find a few skulls now? Are not 'millions' more supposedly buried in unknown graves? Discovery of 5 skulls does not go any distance to substantiate the 3 million number anyway. Some people will argue that it is an insult to the dead even to question the number of deaths now. But is it? And only 'anti- liberation' forces would do so. That is a typical response to many problems that our nation has come to face today. But if you think it carefully, we have insulted their memory more by making a farcical matter it has been reduced to. We have used them as a pawn in the narrow interest of the political parties. That is how we have treated our freedom fighters. Now we are politicizing even the children of the martyrs and using them for selfish propaganda. This is precisely why the sacrifice of our people did not (and does not) get the respect it deserved. This is the reason we did not get any justice in bringing the perpetrators of the crime to book. This has only reduced the honor of the nation to a level that we did not want. The present generation of Bangladeshis are only more confused by all these contradictions.

    The publicized sacrifice of a huge number "3 million" does not inspire the nation for doing any good for the country and the society. Nobody cares to honor the people who laid down their lives (except for some politically motivated photo ops on certain days of the year). Why? We have deprived the nation of truth by distorting the history. Unless we become conscientious and do the right thing and face the truth, it may be too late to rectify the situation and we, as a nation will live a lie forever! This is called self-deception. Nothing can be more unfortunate for a nation.

    [The author is a Bangladeshi journalist.]


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    unity, faith, discipline
    Pakistan Zindabad

    #2
    thanx for da info...

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    A bend in da road is not da end of da road
    chk out ma website
    http://ammars.4t.com

    Comment


      #3
      Its good to know that Bangladeshi's are being told the truth after so long.

      Comment


        #4
        Long post! Pakistan should apologize for the atrocities committed by our army… it does not matter how many people got killed .. even one soul lost to the cause of hate is regrettable .. it is hard to verify the ‘numbers’ in a civil war .. but Bangladesh and Pakistan suffered .. Bangladesh more than Pakistan .. India took full advantage of the situation .. but we Pakistanis are primarily too blame for the mess … there is no feeling of condemnation of the Bangla tragedy in the public .. most of us blame Bangalis for the mess… there is always two sides of the story .. but West Pakistan (at the time) was in-charge of the situation .. and the army was suppose to be the guardians of Pak-Bangali citizens .. political/cultural differences is not a vehicle or excuse of unleashing your might on your own people..
        To put things in perspective .. Mohammed Durah’s death was horrible act of butchery .. but how many times we have seen kids, man and women are being subjected to this treatment in our backyards? Remember Iqbal mesih and count less others who died with out being captured on cameras… how many times Gulf and Arab sates pulled Muhammad Durah on their own citizens … we have to be aware and push for our rights as citizens and be tolerant and open to differences of culture, religion and political views…


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        Hey one more thing
        These things are hard to explain
        For some it seems strange... to swallow
        The frontier of our minds
        Is the last place we find
        But maybe the first place we should go

        Comment


          #5
          Pakistan will not and should not apologise to Bengali people. They conspired with India in gaining independence while back stabbing their Muslims brothers in the West Pakistn. They comtinue to follow on the same course of action by playing puppets in hands of India. We don't owe them anything! If they want to normalise relations with Pakistan, then they should lay hatred towards Pakistan to rest.



          [This message has been edited by outlaw (edited October 24, 2000).]

          Comment


            #6
            Pakistan should not apologise now.
            Their history is facted up.
            To here what the chinese said about Rehman, read "A diplomates memoirs" by Sultan Khan, the man responsible for our strong ties with China.
            The chinese believed that Rehman was out for independence since 1967.
            NOT 1971.
            We should apologise, but the BD people need a help with the actual history.

            ------------------
            CROIRE A L'INCROYABLE
            You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!

            Comment


              #7
              bangaldehi being majority during undivided
              pakistan they should have been allowed to form the goverment after bengali politicians obtained majority .

              Comment


                #8
                Its not a matter of right or wrong… blame rests with both .. but Pakistani government and military establishment were the representative of Bangalis at the time …they should have protected this from happening … but instead they massacred so many souls in the name of politics and patriotism … now what is wrong with Israel massacring Palestinians ? …. They (Israel) justify their actions one way or other and so did we! Even worse we are responsible for killing our own people… our apology should be for Bangali people not Bangali government or Mujeeb who pushed his own people into that situation for his political gains… and again its not a matter of being whose right or wrong , but it’s a matter of compassion and respect and accepting the responsibility for our actions… If we feel so horrible (and we should) about the murder of Muhammad Durah .. why don’t we see the wrong done to Bangali people by our own Army?

                ------------------
                Hey one more thing
                These things are hard to explain
                For some it seems strange... to swallow
                The frontier of our minds
                Is the last place we find
                But maybe the first place we should go

                Comment

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