Thursday, June 20, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Pakistan and us

Update : 22 Dec 2013, 06:40 PM

To be honest, I was never a big fan of Pakistan (or anything Pakistani) from a young age. I had politely returned a kabli set (the Pakistani-style punjabi) I had received as a gift for Eid – it was not possible for me to bear the sight, let alone consider wearing an outfit that represented the Pakistanis and their local collaborators. 

As a matter of principle, I have always refused to drink a certain juice originally imported from Pakistan and now a Pakistan-Bangladesh joint venture. I have told many shopkeepers that self-respecting Bangladeshis cannot drink a Pakistani juice. I have also found it revolting to see a handful of shameless Bangladeshis flying the Pakistani flag during cricket matches – what an insult to our history and founding fathers.

Anyone who knows me would tell you this is quite uncharacteristic of me – I am a patriotic Bangladeshi, but not a jingoist. In fact, I consider myself more of a global citizen than only Bangladeshi/Bengali/Muslim. Not only that, I envision a Southasia (as opposed to South Asia) of the future, when countries can come together in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation. Maybe the day will come when we will compare regional, economic, and social development rates. However, none of this will be possible until we get closure for 1971. 

Bangladeshis of my generation will continue to remain hostile, negative and antagonistic towards Pakistanis until and unless Pakistan offers a formal apology to Bangladesh for atrocities amounting to ethnic cleansing, compensates Bangladesh for its deprivation during the East Pakistan era and losses during the occupation period, justice is served for the crimes against humanity committed during the Liberation war, and correct history is taught to the next generation of Pakistanis. 

Bangladeshis are willing to start afresh in the spirit of regional collaboration between Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and other countries, but this requires Pakistan to make an effort too. So far we have not seen any attempt by Pakistan to make amends as a state. It is evident from the statements by Pakistani politicians in the past week that they continue to be insensitive and indifferent about our pain and suffering during the Liberation War.

Pakistani civil society leaders have apologised for the atrocities in 1971, while I have many Pakistani friends who have privately and publicly expressed sympathy and apologised for the atrocities committed by the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborators. Sadly the same cannot be said of the Pakistani state or political elite.

Of course we need to move forward, but playboy-turned-(born again) Islamist politicians like Imran Khan are an impediment for us in gaining closure for the past. Imran Khan’s statement does not come as a surprise because it falls in the same pattern of pandering to religious extremism in the guise of a third-party alternative. Other politicians are also adding insult to injury by making deplorable statements attacking Bangladesh. 

I hope the next generation of Pakistanis will make an effort to learn their history and make amends – there is no reason why they need to carry the baggage of the past by defending Bangladeshi anti-liberation forces.  Pakistanis need to come to terms with their history, instead of being in denial, if they want a healthy relationship with us. It’s as simple as that. Godspeed Southasia!

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