After Bangladesh recently executed Motiur Rahman Nizami, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami party, for genocide, rape and massacre committed during Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971, Pakistan's foreign ministry immediately and vociferously expressed its protest. Pakistan's National Assembly unanimously condemned Nizami's execution, as if to remind the world that the real perpetrators of the 1971 genocide of Bangladeshis were not lackeys like Nizami, but their Pakistani masters.
This was not the only instance of Pakistan's breach of diplomatic protocol. Every time Bangladeshi citizens convicted of war criminals of 1971were executed, Pakistan has been one of the only nations to protest. This time, Turkey also recalled its ambassador to Bangladesh in protest. This is unfortunate, because Bangladesh did not interfere with Turkey's narrative regarding the Armenian Genocide during WWI.
Pakistanis accepted Pakistan Supreme Court-ordered execution of its former Prime Minister Zulfiqur Ali Bhutto in 1979 for ordering the murder of a political opponent. Why should Pakistan now object to the execution, after due legal process, of Bangladeshi war criminals of 1971, for aiding abetting, and participating in the murder of lakhs of Bangladeshis, and the rape of thousands of Bangladeshi women, unless Pakistanis themselves felt solely responsible for those crimes?
When it comes to Bangladesh, Pakistan practices its own version of Holocaust denial and continues to behave like unrepentant Nazis. Pakistan never admitted to the crimes its soldiers committed against Bangladeshis in 1971. In textbooks Pakistan lies to its children about what really happened in 1971. Pakistani children are taught that it was all India's fault, and that the rather 'naïve' Bangladeshis were completely hoodwinked by India's machinations!
My request to the young Pakistanis of the current and future generations is not to believe a word of what a Bangladeshi like me, or a Pakistani, or an Indian says. Instead, I urge them to research what western newspapers were reporting between March 1971 and December 1971 about Bangladesh's Liberation War. Read The Times of London, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, TIME magazine, Newsweek.and The National Geographic. They had sent several reporters to Bangladesh to investigate and cover the country's Liberation War. You will find an unbiased reporting of the atrocities committed by the Pakistani army against Bangladeshi civilians.
For the record, President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger vehemently opposed Bangladesh's independence, as did Pakistan's ally China. However, many in Nixon's State Department, and the majority of Americans, as well as Canadians led by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and the British and the Australians, supported Bangladesh's independence.
A brief history of the events leading up to Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971 is in order here. After the ouster of Field Marshall Ayub Khan in 1969, Pakistan's new dictator General Yahya Khan scheduled universal franchise-based elections for December 1970. A cyclone devastated East Pakistan in November. The central government's foot- dragging on relief efforts convinced Bangalis once and for all that West Pakistanis did not care about them. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Awami League won an absolute majority (160 seats out of 300) in Pakistan's National Assembly. Astonishingly (and deviously), Sheikh Mujib was never invited to form a government!
Although Zulfiqur Ali Bhutto's Pakistan's People's Party won only 81 seats, he still declared: “There are two majorities; one in West Pakistan (81), one in East Pakistan(160).” Bhutto should have been imprisoned for treason for that utterance. Instead, West Pakistanis rallied around him. At the pretext of negotiating with Mujib in Dhaka, Yahya and Bhutto flew in military reinforcements and unleashed them on unarmed Bangladeshi civilians on the night of March 25, 1971. (For an authentic, firsthand account of the so-called “negotiations,” read Dr. Kamal Hossain's excellent book, Bangladesh: Quest for Freedom and Justice. The University Press Limited, 2013.) Pakistanis preferred to settle political differences with bullets, rather than through dialogue.
While Pakistani soldiers were the rapists and the murderers, the local Jamaat-e-Islami party and Razakars collaborated with the Pakistan army in their genocide and rape of Bangladeshis. Some non-Bangalis suffered retaliation, which was inexcusable. Not a single demonstration was staged in West Pakistan protesting the genocide of East Pakistanis! To the Pakistanis, Bangali Muslims were “more Hindu than Muslim”.
Bangladeshi Muslims are devout, but do not flaunt their Islam. They are far less communal than people in other sub-continental countries, and are happy to live among Hindu, Buddhist and Christian compatriots.
Fearing for their lives, millions of Bangladeshis crossed into India in 1971 as refugees. Millions more, including the writer's family, were internally displaced, abandoning their homes to escape the wrath of the marauding Pakistani soldiers. Many Bangladeshis who lived through the horrors of 1971 were friends or acquaintances of those who were massacred by the Pakistani army and their local collaborators. The writer personally knew university professors, intellectuals, physicians and journalists – too many to list here – who were massacred by the Pakistani army. My father topped the list of the educationists to be executed in Feni. (Fortunately, the Pakistani army ran out of time.) My future father-in-law, Dr. M. N. Huda, then a Dhaka University professor, was about to be executed at his university residence before Providence intervened.
With the help of Bangladesh Mukti Bahini and India, Bangladesh was liberated in December 1971. Before releasing Pakistani prisoners of war in 1973, India requested Sheikh Mujib's consent. Always generous, Mujib agreed on the condition that Pakistan try the 200 war criminals in Pakistan. Bangladesh gave Pakistan the list of the war criminals, complete with their name, PA number, rank and unit. Bhutto agreed to the condition but then reneged on his promise! No Pakistani soldier was ever tried for genocide against Bangladeshis!
Dr. Nuran Nabi's authentic and well-documented book, Bullets of '71: A Freedom Fighter's Story, (Author House, 2010) depicts an excellent picture of Bangladesh's War of Liberation from a freedom fighter's perspective. It also lists the names, ranks, PA numbers and units of all 200 war criminals that Bhutto promised to try but never did. Forty-five years have elapsed since Bhutto's deceitful “promise,” and now it is clear that Pakistan will never try its war criminals. Bangladesh should hand over the names of those 200 Pakistani war criminals of 1971 to the Hague International Criminal Court, so that they can finally be tried for crimes against humanity.
The writer is a Rhodes Scholar.