I believe 'Forgive But Not Forget' should be the motto today. If Bengalis did indeed want to punish the collaborators and perpetrators of the horrific crimes of 1971, the days after the victory in the Liberation war was the way to go forward. Trials like the Nuremberg Nazi ones would have been the way to go. Unfortunately Sheikh Mujib chose not to go that route, instead trying to obtain recognition from other Muslim leaders for his new country (and funding to go with it). Their main condition - forgive and forget Pakistan - which Mujib did in 1974, and Pakistan also recognized Bangladesh. To be fair, Mujib had no choice as the country was devastated, and it laid the foundation for good relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh ever since. Ironically, Israel was the second country, after India, to recognize Bangladesh and raise the issue of the genocide on the world stage. All the Muslim leaders and the US chose to support Yahya Khan. Today the Bangladeshi passport reads 'Valid In All Countries Except Israel'.
Today there is no reason to go Pakistan bashing. The crimes of 1971 were committed by a ruling elite, who forbade their own press from covering the genocide, told their own people in West Pakistan everything was fine and the army was just dealing with a few insurgents in East Pakistan, invoked religion as an excuse to oppress people, blamed neighbouring India for instigating trouble and put draconian laws to take away rights in the name of security. Today, the Bangladesh government sees no problem in phone tapping and killing people without fair trial.
Today, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a lot to learn from each other. We have yet to taste the fruit of true democracy. Our culture and development lags behind India. This year, during the D-Day celebrations, the German chancellor was invited to the commemoration. He gave a speech renouncing the Nazi genocide and the other leaders, former foes and now friends, applauded. There was closure. What is the chance of the Prime Minister of Pakistan paying a visit tomorrow to Bangladesh, apologizing for 1971, and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh accepting the apology and moving on?
Sadly, in our countries, rattling about a foreign 'foe' and imaginary issues on which nothing can be done is a good way to distract the masses from the real issues such as corruption, poverty and crime.
A few links:
- Genocide Study of Bangladesh, 1971.
- The famed Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report. This was an internal enquiry done by the Pakistani authorities after 1971, and then classified top secret, before an Indian newspaper found out about it.
- Wikipedia: Bangladesh-Pakistan war, 1971.
- On this day, Dec 3: India joins the war, by BBC.