When it comes to Bangladesh, Pakistan remains chained to its past. It should get over the past and seek to normalise relations with Bangladesh….writes Abdul Hashim from Dhaka
The Government of Pakistan has been criticised, yet again, by its intelligentsia for its ‘hypocratic’ sympathy for Mir Quasem Ali, the Bangladeshi “war criminal” who was hanged recently in Dhaka for his murderous role during the 1971 liberation war.
Mr Pervez Hoodbhoy, one of Pakistan’s more perceptive commentators, has said that Pakistan Government was “living in a time warp” and that it shed all sense of propriety and objectivity when it came to Bangladesh, the former East Pakistan. No such expression of concern or sadness is shown for murders, killing and hangings taking place elsewhere in the world and even at Pakistanis themselves being jailed and hanged on conviction for drug smuggling and other crimes by the “kangaroo courts” of Saudi Arabia.
When it comes to Bangladesh, Pakistan remains chained to its past, Hoodbhoy says, urging that Pakistan should get over the past and seek to normalize relations with Bangladesh.
Ali is the sixth man to be hanged and each time, the Pakistan Foreign Office has expressed its ‘anger’ and ‘concern’. On one of the occasions, even the Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan had made comments and the National Assembly had passed a resolution condemning what it called “judicial murder.”
Ali, a Jamaat-e-Islami politician and a rich businessman suspected of financing the Islamist militancy, was convicted for torture, multiple murders and arson during 1971. He was the head of the pro-Pakistan Islamist militia Al Badr. Together with Al Shams and Razakar, Al Badr “had worked closely with the Pakistan Army in its futile but brutal effort to suppress the 1971 rebellion that shattered a united Pakistan, turning East Pakistan into a free Bangladesh.”
On the Pakistan Foreign Office’s criticism of Bangladesh’s “flawed justice,” Hoodbhoy, writing in Dawn shows the mirror to Pakistan, saying “Pakistan can scarcely accuse Bangladesh of unfair trials because its own judicial system has even shakier legs.
“In contrast to Bangladesh’s — where the war crimes trials are held before a civilian court — Pakistani civilians accused of waging war against the state are tried behind closed doors by military courts. Further, they are not allowed to engage a lawyer of choice, nor allowed access to military court records. This is entirely inconsistent with modern ideas of judicial propriety.”
Pakistan’s establishment feels it must stand by them because of its ideological fixation on the two-nation theory. “The two-nation theory — as I was taught in school — was, of course, critical to creating Pakistan. Let us look at its two key premises: First, that Muslims and Hindus are fundamentally incompatible and must therefore live apart
from each other with Pakistan as the homeland for Muslims. Second, that Muslims form a single nation — the Ummah — one that is robust enough to withstand local variations of sect, language, culture, and tribe. “The first premise does not need debate or further evaluation now that Pakistan and India are separate nations and have gone their own respective ways. The population of Hindus left in Pakistan has dwindled to about one or two per cent and continues to decrease. Being a tiny, oppressed and scared minority, they have no role in public life.
“The second premise must be judged in the light of events during 1971. There is also the ongoing bloody conflict between the Pakistani state and jihadist groups like TTP, Al Qaeda and Islamic State. Further afield, Pakistan’s poor relations with both its Muslim neighbours — Afghanistan and Iran — shows that Islamic solidarity just isn’t enough. Fratricidal wars across the Middle East, the recent declaration by Saudi Arabia’s head mufti that Iranians are not Muslims, and the growing Saudi-Israeli alliance, suggest that the ummah is a doubtful concept.”
“Pakistan needs to escape a time warp. It must understand that India was not responsible for the differences of race, language, and culture between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Like incompatible twins born within the same womb, we had little chance of staying together for very long. Under the additional stress of misgovernance, the relationship broke down. The union had already disintegrated by the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s reported remark where he famously said idhur hum udhur tum (here we, there you).
“Pakistan must no longer allow young Pakistanis in schools to be filled with wildly distorted versions of history. These ignore the horrors West Pakistan inflicted upon the Bengalis,” Hoodbhoy writes.