DhakaTribune
Friday January 19, 2018 11:00 PM

An opportunity missed

  • Published at 07:42 PM December 25, 2017
  • Last updated at 01:06 AM December 26, 2017
An opportunity missed
Wake up to this realitySYED ZAKIR HOSSAIN

What the Myanmar army is doing is no different than Pakistan’s acts 46 years ago

“Genocide” as a word is synonymous to the brutality launched by the Pakistani Army in Bangladesh during our nation’s nine-months long Independence War. And now, the word applies to the Myanmar government in regards to the atrocities being carried out against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.

From the UN to numerous rights groups, the barbarity of the Myanmar army in the Rakhine state has been described as “ethnic cleansing” all the way to “an act of genocide.”

UN investigators have said they were appalled by the brutality.

What I am trying to point out is that our diplomats are experts in talking big on issues which are rare, positive developments on the international front.

Demeaning individuals who are not in their good books, who did not commit any offense, is like shooting fish in a barrel. Those who are deputed from other ministries, especially to our missions abroad, know this very well.

But they have possibly missed a chance, at least in my view, by failing to further internationalise Bangladesh’s genocide by the Pakistani army in 1971, as the world condemns the Myanmar “genocide” in the Rakhine state.

They have held talks time and again, but to no avail. The last bilateral talk produced a joint working group for the repatriation of thousands of Rohingya who fled persecution in Rakhine state.

Experts are sceptical of what this deal would be able to deliver, set aside a permanent solution.

They have told me that, unless the Myanmar army’s actions in Rakhine state are stopped and security was ensured to the Rohingya returnees, this would be an unending process.

I remember seeing bodies strewn around in the streets of the port city of Chittagong during the first few weeks of the Pakistani military occupation in Bangladesh. The reports from Myanmar paint a similar picture

The commonalities of the Rohingya genocide and that of Bangladesh’s genocide are mainly random and systemic killings. The Pakistani army did the same in Bangladesh in 1971.

They killed men, women, and children indiscriminately.

Along with it, they systematically killed village leaders, known for their allegiance to the Awami League, and professionals until Bangladesh was liberated on December 16, 1971.

I remember seeing bodies strewn around in the streets of the port city of Chittagong during the first few weeks of the Pakistani military occupation in Bangladesh. The reports from Myanmar paint a similar picture.

The killing of infants, to erase the presence of the minority Rohingya population, is quite similar to the actions of the Pakistani army in 1971.

The number of rapes in those nine months is a record set by the Pakistani army in Bangladesh. The Myanmar army’s acts are no different.

Systematic killings of able men were carried out, so that the freedom fighters become weak — Myanmar is doing the same.

The Myanmar government has even gone so far as to bar the UN, certain rights groups, and the media from entering Rakhine state. Only a few such bodies were allowed in to Bangladesh by the Pakistani army, but were only able to move with an intelligence representative escorting them.

Military propaganda spoke of killing “miscreants” or agents of India, but they were in fact freedom fighters. The situation in Rakhine state is the same.

China, which did not take Bangladesh’s stance on the Rohingya issue, has repeatedly said a solution to the issue lies in continued bilateral talks between Dhaka and Yangon.

Thus, our diplomats must wake up to the reality and take off their rose-tinted glasses, and rush to make the Pakistani genocide an international issue, along with that of Myanmar.

We must seize this opportunity now, 46 years after our independence.

Nadeem Qadir is a UN Dag Hammarskjold Fellow in journalism.

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