The day Jamaat-i-Islami leader Matiur Rehman Nizami was hanged in Bangladesh, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution condemning it saying these steps could harm unity of Muslim Ummah. But why? Dhaka is punishing the collaborators of the Pakistani Army indulged in war crimes like killing as sports and raping helpless women in front of their husbands and children or raping minor girls before their screaming parents ….writes Sheikh Khalid Ahmed
The day Jamaat-i-Islami leader Matiur Rehman Nizami was hanged in Bangladesh, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a resolution condemning it saying these steps could harm unity of Muslim Ummah. It, however, did not say how. One can recall that when the Pakistani Army was butchering Bengalis, no Muslim country asked Gen Yahya Khan to hold his hand.
The resolution justifies the loyalty demonstrated to the United Pakistan in 1971. However, the resolution did not say a word of sympathy for those about two lakh Urdu-speaking Muslims who live in Bangladesh in ghettos for their continued loyalty to Pakistan. This resolution as also newspaper articles in Pakistan conveniently ignore the fact that Bangladesh is not holding trials against those people, who demonstrated loyalty to United Pakistan in 1971, but against those, who, as collaborators of the Pakistani Army indulged in war crimes like killing as sports and raping helpless women in front of their husbands and children or raping minor girls before their screaming parents.
People looking saintly now like Nizami who kept white hair and white flowing beard were in their prime of youth when they committed the crimes for while they have been punished after 45 years.
As said earlier, there is nothing in the 1974 tripartite agreement that suggests amnesty for Bangladeshi nationals who committed war crimes. There is nothing to suggest that the fate of these Bangladeshi nationals was in the minds of the Pakistani rulers at the time of signing the tripartite agreement or afterwards.
Today the concern Pakistan is showing for them may be more political than real. Pakistan does not have good relations with its neighbouring Muslim countries, Iran and Afghanistan. In South Asia, it has tense relations with Bangladesh for historical reasons. Pakistan had refused to share with it the common assets of United Pakistan although until its breakup in 1971 its main foreign exchange earnings came from jute export from East Pakistan. When Sheikh Hasina became Prime Minster, she asked Pakistan to apologise for the 1971 atrocities. Pakistan refused. In other words, Pakistan refused to take any steps which could have mollified the people of Bangladesh.
Pakistanis, who say the trial of Bangladeshi nationals, who committed war crimes, is in violation of the tripartite agreement, quote Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the prime minister of Bangladesh, had declared with regard to the atrocities and destruction committed in Bangladesh in 1971, that he wanted the people to forget the past and to make a fresh start, stating that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive”.
It is also cited that the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that his government had decided not proceed with the trials as an act of clemency. It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of War might be repatriated to Pakistan along with other prisoners of war’.
One can pluck these two quotations and prove to uninformed people that Dhaka is violating the tripartite agreement by holding trials of the people who indulged in war crimes in 1971. The context in which the above quoted statements were made very clearly related to Dhaka’s agreement not to go ahead with the planned trials of Pakistani Army men for crimes against humanity in 1971. It may be recalled that until the New Delhi tripartite agreement Sheikh Mujibur was adamant on holding these trials. Had Sheikh Mujib gone ahead with the trials, Bhutto would have found it impossible to keep his power in Pakistan. Bhutto promised to hold the trial of 195 PoWs in Pakistan. But when the PoWs returned home, there was in trial. Before Sheikh Mujibur could raise this matter with Bhutto, he was assassinated. Therefore, when today the Pakistani government and some analysts raise the issue of the Tripartite Agreement of 1974, they are deliberately misleading the global community, misinforming their own citizens and simultaneously attempting to distort the recent history of South Asia.
Relying on its presumption that the people have short memory, Pakistan and some Pakistani columnists are telling its citizens as well as the global community that Bangladesh is violating the April 9, 1974 agreement signed by New Delhi, Dhaka and Islamabad by holding trials of the guilty of 1971 War crimes. Bangladesh, on the other hand, denies this charge asserting that this tripartite agreement does not stop it from trying its own nationals who, as collaborators of the Pakistani Army, killed Bengali men and raped Bengali women.
If we revisit 1971 and its aftermath, we cannot forget the young Bengalis or the Mukti Bahini’s passion for revenge once the Pakistani Army surrendered. After the surrender some Bengali zealots thought they would be able to pounce on the Pakistan Army and butcher them. They were very angry when India’s Lt. Gen Jagjit Singh Arora shook hands with the surrendering Pakistani commander AAK Niazi. “We thought he will slap him”, a Mukti Bahini member told this writer.
India had very difficult time keeping such passions under control for the sake of a new start in the subcontinent. The Shimla agreement signed between India’s then prime minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistan’s then president-cum-martial law administrator Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on July 2, 1972, gave an outline of post-1971 relations in the region. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman wanted to try Pakistani Army men for war crimes. But Bhutto protested, Sheikh Mujibur said he would try only 195 Army men. Bhutto did not agree but said these 195 Army men would be tried in Pakistan.
It was in the wake of these arguments that the tripartite agreement was signed by Kamal Hossain, Swaran Singh and Aziz Ahmed, Foreign Ministers of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, respectively in New Delhi. The context of this agreement is trial or no trial of Pakistani Army men for war crimes they had committed in Bangladesh during the Liberation War. At this tripartite meeting, the Pakistani side did not raise the question of Bangladeshi nationals, who had collaborated with the Pakistani Army. Thus the tripartite agreement does not mention them. If the Pakistani government had a real concern for the future of its Army’s collaborators, it could try to assure their safety in the country whose liberation they tried to prevent as Pakistani Army agents.
The fact is that Pakistan did not and does not bother about those civilian Urdu speaking post–1947 migrants who chose then East Pakistan as their home and thus supported the Pakistani Army during the liberation struggle. Their love for Pakistan remains unmatched by anybody in that country, since the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 they have been living in ghettos in Bangladesh but calling themselves Pakistanis.
The generation of Urdu speaking or Bihari Muslims, who rejected Bangladeshi nationality, is descript today or had died yearning to go to their promised land, Pakistan. It is doubtful if the present generation shares its elders yearning to go to Pakistan now that there is a military operation going on in Karachi to malign Urdu-speaking Muhajirs as terrorists and India’s agents and decimate them as an ethnic community.