SOME people hate me a lot in Pakistan. They hate me because I said sorry to Bengalis two years ago in Islamabad Press Club for the atrocities committed by Pakistan Army in 1971.They hate me because I also demanded an official apology from the government of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh for the genocide of March 1971.They say I don't know anything. They say I am not a good Pakistani.
They say I was very young in 1971 and I am not aware about the truth. When I say yes I was only a young schoolgoing boy in 1971 but I heard and read a lot about the genocide. How can I deny my late father, Professor Waris Mir, who visited Dhaka in October 1971 with a delegation of Punjab University students? My father was a teacher of journalism in Punjab University, Lahore. He was asked by the University administration to organise a visit of the student's union office bearers to Turkey, but he took the boys to Dhaka with their consent. They wanted to know what was actually going on in Dhaka.
I still remember that when my father came back from Dhaka he wept for many days. He told us stories of bloodshed. These stories were similar to the story of my mother. My mother lost her whole family during migration from Jammu to Pakistan in 1947.Her brothers were killed by the Hindus and Sikhs in front of her eyes. Her mother was kidnapped. She saved her life by hiding under the dead bodies of her own relatives. I remember that my mother cried a lot when my father told her that Pakistan army officers raped many Bengali women. My mother said: "We made sacrifices for the safety of our honour but why we are dishonouring each other today?"
My father always said that Bengalis made Pakistan and we Punjabis broke Pakistan. Once he said that March 23rd was Pakistan Day, March 26th should be the apology day and December 16th should be the accountability day. I started understanding the thoughts of my late father when I became a journalist in 1987.
When I first read the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report I felt ashamed. This report of a Pakistani commission admitted murder and rape but, despite this documentary evidence, many people still live in a state of denial. They say Sheikh Mujib was a traitor who created Mukti Bahini with the help of India and killed many innocent Punjabis and Beharis. I say that Sheikh Mujib was a worker of the Pakistan movement, he was a supporter of Fatima Jinnah (sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah) till 1966.He only demanded provincial autonomy but military rulers declared him a traitor. In fact, these military rulers were traitors because their troops raped their own mothers and sisters. They say I am a liar and an enemy of Pakistan. How could I be an enemy of Pakistan? My mother sacrificed her whole family for Pakistan. My problem is that I cannot deny truth.
A senior colleague of mine, Afzal Khan, is still alive. He is 73 years old. He worked with Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), and was secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) from 1980 to 1985. He was sent to Dhaka on March 28, 1971 for the coverage of the army operation. He told me many times that yes Mukti Bahini killed a lot of innocent people but what the Pakistan army did was not the job of a national army. Once he was staying in Ispahani House in Khulna. An army major once offered him a girl to spend a night with. When Afzal Khan asked who the girl was, the major said that she was the daughter of a local police officer and she could come to Ispahani House at gun-point. After this incident Afzal Khan came back to Lahore in May 1971. He says that all those who were responsible for the rape and genocide of Bengalis never enjoyed any respect in Pakistan.
The name of General Yahya Khan is still like an abuse in Pakistan. His son Ali Yahya always tries to hide from people. General Tikka Khan is still remembered as the "butcher of Bengal." General A.A.K. Niazi wanted to become "tiger of Bengal" but is remembered as "jackal of Bengal." The majority of Pakistanis hate all those who were responsible for the genocide of their Bengali brothers. That is the reason the family members of these army officers don't even mention publicly that who their fathers were.
But still there are some people who are not ready to admit their blunders. These people are a minority but they are powerful. I consider them enemies of the Pakistan for which my mother sacrificed her family. Why should we defend these enemies? Why doesn't our democratic government officially apologise to Bengalis? This apology will not weaken Pakistan. It will strengthen Pakistan.
I am sure that Pakistan is changing fast. A day will come very soon when the government of Pakistan will officially say sorry to Bengalis and March 26th will become an apology day for patriotic Pakistanis. I want this apology because Bengalis created Pakistan. I want this apology because Bengalis supported the sister of Jinnah against General Ayub Khan. I wants this apology because I want to make a new relationship with the people of Bangladesh. I don't want to live with my dirty past. I want to live in a neat and clean future. I want a bright future not only for Pakistan but also for Bangladesh. I want this apology because I love Pakistan and I love Bangladesh. Happy Independence Day to my Bangladeshi brothers and sisters.
Hamid Mir is Executive Editor of Geo TV in Islamabad. He will receive Saarc Lifetime Achievement Award on March 26th in the Saarc Writers' Conference in Delhi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org