13 from Pakistan honoured
Forty-two years after the Liberation War against Pakistan, Bangladesh yesterday honoured 13 Pakistani friends for their contributions to the Bangalee cause during the war in 1971.
According to the Bangladesh government, these Pakistani nationals raised their voice for the freedom of Bangladesh, thereby going against all odds in their home country, which attacked unarmed Bangladeshis on the night of March 25, 1971.
Some of them were sacked from their jobs, imprisoned and tortured for helping Bangladesh.
The Pakistani nationals have been conferred the “Friends of Liberation War Honour” at a function at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka.
The awardees are politicians Begum Naseem Akhter, Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Habib Jalib, Malik Ghulam Jilani and Qazi Faiz Mohammad; politician and filmmaker Shameem Ashraf Malik; journalists Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Prof Waris Mir; journalist and pilot Anwer Pirzado; human rights activists Begum Tahira Mazhar Ali and Ahmad Salim; lawyer Zafar Malik; and late philosopher Dr Eqbal Ahmad.
Naseem Akhter, a central leader of National Awami Party (NAP), was arrested along with her political associates for holding a rally in Lahore and protesting the Pakistani army's acts of genocide.
On December 16, she visited Bangladeshi students in Lahore jail and celebrated Bangladesh's victory by distributing sweets and chanting “Joy Bangla” slogans.
Naseem's husband Shameem Ashraf drafted a statement, protesting the arrest of Bangabandhu and demanding his release. The statement was signed by 44 intellectuals of Pakistan. He and his wife were humiliated socially.
Advocate Zafar Malik was a defence counsel for those arrested on charges of attempting to mobilise action against the atrocities perpetrated by the Pakistan army in Bangladesh.
He signed a statement along with 43 other intellectuals and politicians, demanding the release of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the termination of the military offensive in Bangladesh.
Zafar had formed a supportive group to press home his demand for the release of Bangabandhu.
Eqbal Ahmad delivered speeches at various US universities to create public opinion in favour of the Liberation War.
Tahira Mazhar Ali organised the first protest rally in Lahore against the genocide in Bangladesh and was later arrested along with her associates.
Mir Ghaus Bizenjo, a close associate of Bangabandhu, visited Dhaka in March 1971 and tried to break the impasse over the handing over of power to the elected representatives.
Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote a number of poems on the genocide and the sufferings of the Bangladeshi people.
Habib Jalib, a NAP leader and poet, delivered a speech against the genocide and wrote poems on the Pakistani atrocities only to be imprisoned.
Malik Ghulam Jilani, who was vice president of the West Pakistan Awami League, wrote an open letter to General Yahya Khan, demanding the immediate release of Bangabandhu. He too was imprisoned.
Journalist Waris Mir came to Bangladesh along with a group of students during the Liberation War.
Shocked at witnessing the incidents of massacre and genocide committed by the Pakistani occupation forces, he wrote a series of articles in the Daily Jang.
Qazi Faiz, a close associate of Bangabandhu, while in hiding tried his best to form public opinion for the release of Bangabandhu.
He came to Dhaka without a passport to meet Bangabandhu and expressed his desire to settle in independent Bangladesh.
Pilot Anwer wrote a letter to one of his colleagues praising the leadership of Bangabandhu. In the letter, he mentioned that Sheikh Mujib was the true leader of the Pakistanis and power must be handed over to him peacefully as he had won the election.
The Pakistan intelligence agency intercepted the letter, tried him in a martial law court, dismissed him from service and sentenced him to seven years' imprisonment.
Ahmad Salim wrote poems protesting the genocide by Pakistan occupation forces. He was tried by a martial law court and imprisoned.
State Minister for Liberation War Affairs AB Tajul Islam told The Daily Star, “Through honouring our friends, we have proved that we can honour people who stood beside us 42 years ago.”
“For the first time, we are honouring our Pakistani friends who had raised their voices for Bangladesh. The initiative will boost the dignity of Bangladesh in the international arena,” he added.