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Dhaka Tribune

Pakistan should apologise for 1971 if it is serious about building goodwill

Update : 23 Nov 2015, 06:06 PM

The foreign secretary is right to have summoned the Pakistan high commissioner over his government’s statement on the executions of convicted war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid.

We are disappointed to see Pakistan express “deep concern and anguish” and state it is “deeply disturbed” by what it terms as “unfortunate executions.” Its statement clearly transgressed diplomatic norms by interfering in the internal matters of an independent and sovereign country. 

It is poor diplomacy on Pakistan’s part and reflects its nationally embedded mindset of denial about the Bangladesh independence war.

As we all know, the International Crimes Tribunal process to end impunity for crimes against humanity committed during the 1971 war has aroused strong passions and much discussion both inside Bangladesh and internationally about the AL government’s decision to take them forward. 

There is nothing wrong with overseas politicians expressing their views on the process, or professing principled objections to the death penalty, but dignity demands they refrain from inflammatory comments.

It is wholly disingenuous and unacceptable for the Pakistan government to claim its high-handed remarks were in any way intended to reflect the spirit of reconciliation to foster goodwill and harmony which it says it seeks.

By appearing to endorse the now duly convicted persons for their actions during the war, Pakistan is once again failing to accept the lessons of 1971.

The ICT process exists to bring closure for victims of war crimes. By ending the impunity which has delayed justice for so long, it provides a crucial public record and remembrance for the victims. People in both Bangladesh and Pakistan can benefit from the better understanding and knowledge about war crimes that the judicial process helps to bring about. 

History shows Bangladesh forwent reparations and released Pakistani officers after the war, but Pakistan did nothing to try its own citizens under its jurisdiction for crimes committed during the war.

Bangladesh has continually shown good grace and magnanimity by maintaining good relations with Pakistan even in the absence of any official state apology.

If Pakistan is serious about seeking to foster goodwill with Bangladesh over the war, it would do well to follow the example of those of its own citizens who have individually apologised for war crimes.

At the very least, it must refrain from interfering in Bangladesh’s judicial process and move towards making a sincere statement of regret and apology for 1971.

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