Dhaka has protested Islamabad's distortion of the history of Bangladesh declaring its independence by posting a misleading video on a Facebook page which the Pakistan high commission maintains.
The foreign ministry yesterday summoned Pakistan High Commissioner to Dhaka Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui and asked Islamabad to apologise.
In a strongly worded diplomatic note, the foreign ministry stated that the message conveyed in the video that it was not the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who declared the independence of Bangladesh was a blatant lie.
The video claimed that the then Maj Ziaur Rahman had declared the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 and that Bangabandhu did not want Bangladesh's independence, he only sought autonomy.
According to foreign ministry officials, the 13:45-minute video had initially been posted on a Facebook page called Pakistan Affairs. Several Bangladeshi media outlets reported that the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka shared the video on its Facebook page and that it was taken down following a public outcry.
“The government of Bangladesh seeks a formal note of apology for this ill-motivated and misleading video post and calls for an immediate withdrawal of the footage from the Facebook page reportedly maintained by the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka,” said the foreign ministry in a statement.
“The Pakistan high commissioner has expressed sorrow, saying the incident had been 'unintentional' and that they had not 'understood the situation',” acting foreign secretary Kamrul Ahsan told reporters.
Kamrul, who had summoned the Pakistan envoy, said, “We told him [Rafiuzzaman] that Bangabandhu proclaimed the independence of Bangladesh and the Liberation War was led in the name of Bangabandhu.”
“History is history. One cannot change it by spreading propaganda,” Kamrul said, adding, “We strongly cautioned the Pakistan high commissioner that repeated breach of diplomatic norms by Pakistan would harm bilateral relations.”
The Pakistan envoy was also told to bring the matter to the notice of the authorities concerned in Pakistan.
While handing over the protest note, Kamrul told the high commissioner that it was an instance of purposeful abuse of the social media by the High Commission of Pakistan in Dhaka.
“Nothing can be farthest from the truth than claiming that the architect of independent Bangladesh and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman did not want Bangladesh's independence or that Bangladesh's independence was declared by anybody other than the great leader himself.
“Any such misadventure from Pakistan or for that matter any quarters in Pakistan would threaten normal ties,” the foreign ministry press release read.
“The high commissioner was reminded that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's historic speech delivered on March 7, 1971, when he stated 'the struggle this time is the struggle for our freedom, the struggle this time is the struggle for our independence' bears testimony to his intention for Bangladesh's independence. He was reminded that Bangladesh's long freedom movement culminated in the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 26, 1971, and Pakistan's subsequent surrender at Dhaka on December 16, 1971.”
Unesco yesterday included Bangabandhu's March 7 speech in the Memory of the World International Register, a list of the world's important documentary heritage.
Veteran war-crimes researcher Shahriar Kabir told The Daily Star yesterday that by sharing the video, the Pakistani high commission, specifically its high commissioner, has challenged the official position of Pakistan over the matter.
After the arrest of Bangabandhu in 1971, President Yahiya Khan-led Pakistan had carried out an investigation and published a white paper, he said.
Pakistan, holding Bangabandhu responsible for proclaiming independence and leading the Liberation War of Bangladesh, took him to the gallows.
They, however, could not execute him due to the huge global pressure, Shahriar said, adding that this was the official version of Pakistan on the issue.
“So, the high commissioner should face legal action and punishment in Pakistan for contradicting the Pakistan government's version,” said the president of Ekatturer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee.
Meanwhile, Sector Commanders Forum, Liberation War' 1971, strongly protested the “intentional propaganda” and “distortion of established facts” by the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka.
In a press release, it sought unconditional apology from the Pakistan government and its high commission in Dhaka.
Pakistan continues to distort the history of Bangladesh's Liberation War even after 46 years of independence, it said.