16 December 2011

Unlearned Lesson: The fall of Dhaka

Today is 40th anniversary of fall of Dhaka. Exactly 40 years ago, General Niazi signed the surrender agreement with Indian General Jagjit Singh Arora. Since then a lot has changed. Now Pakistan and Bangladesh are separate countries and enjoy good relations with each other. Even today it seems that we have not learnt any lesson from East Pakistan debacle.

Tension with Bengali people started immediately after formation of united Pakistan in 1947, when Urdu was declared national language whereas Bengalese were in majority.Few student protestors died on 21st February 1952 while protesting for Bangla as a Co-national language. That specific day is celebrated as International Mother Language day. Bangla was declared a national language in 1954 but a rift had already occurred between East and West Pakistan.

Sense of deprivation was increasing among Bengali people with the passage of time. After creation of One Unit and Ayub’s Martial Law Regime (1958-69) further alienated Bengalese and they lost every hope in federation of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman led Awami league in December 1970 elections with his controversial 6 points agenda. After a clean sweep in eastern wing and getting majority in federal legislature, He was not given the right to rule the country. Instead a ruthless military offensive was launched in early hours of 26th march 1971. This started a chain of events which resulted in Indian invasion of East Pakistan and subsequently fall of Dhaka on 16th December 1971.

There is one other angle to separation of East Pakistan. Former chief justice of Pakistan, Justice Munir Ahmad has written in his book “From Jinnah to Zia” that as a Law minister in 1962 He negotiated with Bengali members of assembly on behalf of Ayub Government about “How east Pakistan should be separated from west Pakistan.” He further writes that Bengali legislators rejected the proposal. This gives an hint that establishment of Pakistan wanted to get rid of Bengali people much before 1971. It also proves that Bengalese were loyal to Pakistan until the events and actions of military establishment put them in a position where they had no choice but to ask for independence.

Motherland was divided into two parts only 24 years after its creation, it was a tragedy. Pakistan’s military establishment and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto blamed India and Mujib-ur-Rehman for that disaster. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto formed Hamood-ur-Rehman commission which was headed by then Chief Justice of Pakistan, Hamood-ur-Rehman. This commission was given the mandate to investigate all circumstances and events which led to the disintegration of eastern wing. The commission submitted its report to Bhutto in October 1974 but the report was not made public. In august 2000 parts of this report were leaked out and published in India today and Dawn. After that in December 2000 this report was declassified and made public by Musharraf government.  The report clearly Held Military elite of Yahya’s regime, responsible for separation of East Pakistan and recommended action against Yahya and his deputies.

Unfortunately no action has been taken against anyone till to date. No precedent has been set to punish the culprits. This encouraged Generals like Zia-ul-haq and Musharraf to carry out Coup d’├ętats against civilian governments. As they knew no action will be taken against them for committing treachery against constitution of Pakistan. Any person in power today is not worried about consequences of any illegal act carried out by him because those who broke Pakistan were not punished, how they can be punished when their crime is relatively small.

Main factors which resulted in creation of Bangladesh were sense of deprivation and military action in East Pakistan. As of today no lesson has been learnt. There is sense of deprivation among people of Balochistan. Military is still used against its own People in Fata and Balochistan. The excuses for the operation are same as they were in 1971 i.e. Indian conspiracies in these areas. People of west Pakistan were unaware of atrocities carried out by military in eastern wing and same situation exists today as the rest of Pakistan don’t know how their countrymen are being treated by their own forces in FATA and Balochistan.

East Pakistan debacle was a big blow to the dreams of a prosperous Pakistan but somehow country managed to survive. Now the situation is even worse, If God forbids history repeated itself then the future will be much worse than anyone can expect. So we have to learn from history and should not repeat the same old mistakes again.

Today provides us with a great opportunity to rethink our mistakes made in the past. It’s important that “Those in corridors of power” first accept their mistakes. Only then they can try not to make these mistakes again. If internal problems are tackled more wisely and every citizen in Pakistan is considered as equal then a lot of problems will be solved automatically. If the current course of actions is followed then we will go deep down in an endless pit from where there is no hope of return. Let’s hope for better and try to play our individual part in preventing another East Pakistan type of debacle from happening.  


A version of this was published at Express Tribune Blogs

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