Bangladesh should bury the past and move on

Creation of Bangladesh in 1971 was a painful incident for both Pakistanis and Bangladeshi. Instead of letting the past go, Bangladesh is still stuck in painful memories of the past.

48 years have passed but Bangladesh is still not ready to forget the incidents that occurred in 1971.

Yesterday, government of Bangladesh published a list of razakars.

The government has published the names of 10,789 Razakars who collaborated with the Pakistan occupation army in carrying out mass killings and atrocities against the Bangalees during the 1971 Liberation War.

There are multiple issues in what Bangladesh is trying to do.

The term “Pakistan occupation army” is so funny to be used in this context. Pakistan was not occupying Bangladesh. In 1947, people of East Bengal region decided to be part of Pakistan (instead of joining India or remaining independent). It was not a forced occupation from any angle.

Now let’s see who were razakars. During events of 1971 civil war, some Bengalis wanted freedom whereas the others wanted to remain part of Pakistan. India started funding and training those Bangali people who wanted freedom from Pakistan. That new force was named Mukti Bahni (freedom fighters).

Since India was involved in conspiracy and was funding & training Pakistani citizens against state of Pakistan, Pakistani government created their own force to counter Mukti Bahni. That force was called Razakars (volunteers).

Hence there were two group of people in East Pakistan that were fighting with each other and for opposite objectives. One force was supported by Indian government & Indian Army whereas the other force was supported by Pakistani government & Pakistani Army.

While Razakars are blamed for human rights violations during their operations, Mukti Bahni was not different. In fact, both these two forces were the reasons for creating mistrust and unrest.

Since history is written by victors, role of razakars is highlighted and exaggerated by Bangladesh and India. The war crimes of Mukti Bahni (it was technically an illegal force poking its nose in internal affairs of Pakistan) are rarely mentioned. Historical records and eyewitnesses reveal that tens of thousands of people belonging to West Pakistan and Biharis were massacred by Mukti Bahni.

The second issue with releasing list of razakars is against Bangladesh’s own interests.

“We published the names so that the next generation knows about the collaborators.”

Bangladesh Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque

Many of those people still live in Bangladesh and even have held high positions. A former prime minister Shah Azizur Rahman is included in this list who was Prime Minister from April, 1979 to March, 1982.

Consider this scenario: After 72 years of independence, Pakistani suddenly starts penalizing and shaming those Pakistani people who once sided with the British. It would be a weird situation. Bangladesh is doing exactly the same. After creation of Bangladesh, those people had a choice to move to Pakistan but they stayed and helped in development of Bangladesh. Bangladesh should be grateful to them but instead, the government is shaming them for an act they did half a century ago.

Whatever happened in 1971 was unusual and unfortunate. It was neither a war between Pakistan and India (that India claims that they won it) nor it was a war of liberation from ‘occupied Pakistani forces’ since Pakistan was not occupying East Pakistan. It was a civil war in Pakistan that was illegally fueled by a foreign country and resulted in creation of Bangladesh.

It was a controversial war from many angles. Did leaders of East Pakistan have a right to invite an enemy country to assist them militarily and financially? Did India have a moral right to weaken Pakistan by raising a force through Indian military? Did people of East Pakistan have a right to work side-by-side with Indian military personnel to weaken their own government?

Due to its controversial nature that is hurting even Bangladesh’s own people, Bangladesh should bury the past and look towards future. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh are among top emerging powers of Asia. They can collaborate with each other in fields of education, economy, manufacturing and many others.

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