Somehow after over 4 decades, we have not learned much from the fall of Dhaka. A wing of Pakistan was severed while we were busy spinning “conspiracy theories”, much like we are at the present time. This scribe clearly remembers as a young child, what transpired to lead to our shameful surrender.
Back then the mantra was the ‘Evil Indian’ conspiracy and today our boogey man happens to be “Evil Umreeka.” We fail to do an honest introspection of our failures and faults that led to the inevitable division.
As someone once said, “history is a rear view mirror, which helps you focus on the windshield, in order to move forward.”
The East Pakistanis, commonly referred to as Bengalis and/or Biharis were marginalised based on their language and color. There was a major disparity between the two wings. It was clear as day – perhaps not to the West Pakistanis – that their brethren were being shortchanged. Looking at it from the perspective of Quaid, who created this ‘United Pakistan’, he must have given this glaring difference a serious thought. The two wings of the Pakistan that was, were geographically apart, had two different languages and two entirely different cultures. Yet, the Quaid was hopeful that under his vision, the two wings will overcome all those differences. In his mind, he had envisioned a common theme of unity – unity of purpose based on a common faith and ability to prosper and move forward under the green flag.
As some sage people say, at times gaining independence is much easier, than building a collective and cohesive nation. This is in no shape or form an attempt to diminish the loss of thousands of lives that were lost to gain Pakistan. My ancestors migrated from Amritsar and I grew up on their accounts of sheer horror. The savagery and butchery demonstrated on both sides was beyond shameful.
However, when it comes to the atrocities, we tend to portray ourselves as only victims. Rarely do we admit that there were similar accounts of killings from our side as well. We lay great tributes to the lost lives – and rightfully so – to gain Pakistan. But we also turn a blind eye to the ones lost for Bangladesh’s freedom, by dismissing it as an Indian conspiracy. By not admitting our major blunders we are being dishonest to ourselves and our history.
If one looks closely at Pakistan today, they will see we are still as divided as we were perhaps 40 years ago. The ethnic, religious and linguistic segmentation is still there and we have not emerged as a united nation – a nation beyond petty differences. Yes, we pat ourselves on the back whenever everyone comes together as a nation in the face of a natural calamity. But just a grim reminder tells us that all nations do so on such occasions.
What is absent in our fabric is respect for diversity and the understanding that diversity is actually the strength of any nation. It shouldn’t matter if one is Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, Hindu or a Parsi, so long as they are a Pakistani is all that should matter. Some ill informed and overly misguided persons try to feed the false narrative that Pakistan was created to become the citadel of Islam and exists for Muslim inhabitants alone.
Can we somehow learn from the past and create a different perspective? It is high time that we realize that our identities and ethnicities actually bond us together. Pakistan is as much mine as much as it is yours. A Mujahir is no less a citizen than a Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi or a Pathan. This would be the greatest tribute to the millions of lives lost to earn this land. And perhaps the biggest apology to many lives that were lost in order to create Bangladesh.