Column
Pakistan remains adamant on war crimes issue

05 May 2016

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The people of Bangladesh were shocked and outraged at the Pakistan National Assembly’s resolution condemning the execution of Jamaat leader and well known war criminal Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and warning Dhaka against ‘resurrecting 1971’.

War Inquiry Commission (Hamoodur Rahman Commission), a judicial inquiry instituted by the government of Pakistan to inquire into the causes of defeat of Pakistan, held wide spread atrocities, other abuses of power by the Pakistani army officers and complete failure of civilian and martial law leadership responsible for the loss of East Pakistan. The Commission in its report to the government underscored the need for the Pak authorities to offer apology for the atrocities.
The resolution also casts aspersions on the judicial proceedings of Bangladesh. By doing this, the Pakistani authority has sent a clear message - that Pakistan Government endorses the heinous crimes Mojaheed and Salauddin Quader Chowdhury committed against humanity during the Bangladesh liberation war and that it is yet to reconcile with loss of its eastern wing. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rightly condemned Pakistan’s unabashed attempts aimed at interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh.

 

Trials of the Jamaat leaders in Bangladesh are being held in a free, fair and lawful manner by the tribunals constituted under provisions of law. All legal procedures are being scrupulously followed. There is no hide and seek game in the trial process which are being held at open courts, amid full access of the media. Therefore, instead of shedding crocodile tears for the war criminals and questioning Bangladesh’s judiciary, Pakistan must apologize for the genocide perpetrated by its troops in collaboration with its local collaborators during the liberation war.

 

The Tripartite Agreement of 1974 in which Bangladesh, Pakistan and India were co-signatories, made it mandatory for Pakistan to tender an apology for atrocities committed by its armed forces during the liberation war of Bangladesh. In the Tripartite Agreement signed by the three stakeholder countries there is explicit mention that Pakistan government “condemned and deeply regretted any crimes that may have been committed” by its armed forces. The Tripartite Agreement further stated that having regard to the “appeal of Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh announced that Bangladesh government has decided not to proceed with the trial of 195 Pakistani Prisoners of War (POWs) as an act of clemency”.

 

But Pakistan Prime Minister’s so-called “appeal to Bangladesh to forgive and forget”, as mentioned in the text of tripartite agreement, is yet to see light of the day although the Pakistani POWs were allowed to return home without facing trial. The commitment made by Pakistan in the Tripartite Agreement to appeal to the people of Bangladesh to “forgive and forget” has remained unfulfilled despite Bangladesh fulfilling its own commitment through repatriation of 195 Pakistani POWs who committed heinous war crimes, genocide, rape and other crimes against humanity on the soil of Bangladesh.

 

 

The exact number of people killed by the Pakistani occupation forces and their local collaborators is not known. Liberal estimates put the figure at around three million and a further eight to ten million people, both Hindu and Muslim, had fled to India for safety. Apart from committing many other heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war, the Pakistani forces and their local collaborators raped an estimated 250,000 women of erstwhile East Pakistan. The tyranny and torture unleashed by the Pakistani occupying forces shook the very foundation of conscience and human rights.

 

 In some cases young women were taken from one camp to another and from one place to another to be used as comfort girls. The brutalities inflicted on them included severing of breasts and mutilation of their private parts by inserting bayonet or barrel of gun. Such abuse and horrendous cruelty were unparalleled in history. The injured were kept hanging from tree upside down till death. Tens of thousands of dead bodies with their hands and legs tied in the back floating on ponds and rivers were a common sight across the country. Killing of innocent civilians were so rampant that Pakistani forces had to employ professional cleaners and sweepers to dispose off the corpses. All these were done with vengeance to destroy the moral fiber of secular Bengali nationalism that inspired the people to take up arms for liberation from Pakistani clutches.

 

According to the book ‘A Stranger in My Own Country – East Pakistan’, written by senior Pak Army officer Late Maj Gen Khadim Hussain Raza and published by Oxford University Press, Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, then Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan, said that he would let loose his soldiers on the women of East Pakistan till the ethnicity and lineage of Bengali race was changed. What an audacious and dangerous statement.

 

War Inquiry Commission (Hamoodur Rahman Commission), a judicial inquiry instituted by the government of Pakistan to inquire into the causes of defeat of Pakistan, held wide spread atrocities, other abuses of power by the Pakistani army officers and complete failure of civilian and martial law leadership responsible for the loss of East Pakistan. The Commission in its report to the government underscored the need for the Pak authorities to offer apology for the atrocities.

 

Bangladesh’s demand for an official apology from Pakistan intensified after the Musharraf regime in Pakistan declassified the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report in 2000. The report had accused the Pakistan Army of carrying out senseless and wanton killing of intellectuals, soldiers, civilians, industrialists and businessmen. It accused the Pak Army of raping a large number of East Pakistani women as a deliberate act of revenge. The report also accused Pak Army chief General Yahya Khan of being a womanizer and an alcoholic. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission recommended that Pakistan Government constitute a high powered Court of Inquiry to investigate and hold trial of those who indulged in these atrocities. But no such Court of Inquiry was ever constituted by Pakistan.

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Late Zulfiqur Ali Bhutto during his visit to Bangladesh in 1974 remained adamant and refused to accept responsibilities for the atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces during the Liberation War in 1971. Neither did Bhutto offer any apology nor has there been any formal or stated apology from the government of Pakistan for the heinous war crimes committed by its forces even after passage of more than four decades.

 

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Late Zulfiqur Ali Bhutto during his visit to Bangladesh in 1974 remained adamant and refused to accept responsibilities for the atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces during the Liberation War in 1971. Neither did Bhutto offer any apology nor has there been any formal or stated apology from the government of Pakistan for the heinous war crimes committed by its forces even after passage of more than four decades.

 

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the first Pakistani ruler who publicly admitted that brutalities were committed by the Pakistani forces in 1971. On an official visit to Dhaka in 1991, then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured that an apology would be forthcoming from Pakistan shortly. But Pakistani Army that wielded tremendous clout did not see eye to eye with Sharif on this issue and no such apology came from Pakistan. All other Pakistani leaders who visited Bangladesh tactfully avoided the issue and refrained from paying homage to the freedom fighters or placing wreaths at the Martyrs mausoleum in Dhaka, as doing so will obviously invite a reference to the atrocities committed by the Pakistani forces and an obligation to offer apology.

 

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, during his visit to Dhaka in 2002, used a cleverly drafted expression of regret at the ‘pains’ caused by ‘excesses of 1971’. Musharraf stressed that digging the past “would not lead to anything positive other than creating dissatisfaction in Pakistan”, adding that such issues had ‘negative impact’ and Pakistan had sensitivity towards this issue. The purpose of Musharraf’s statement was to enable his allies, notably BNP and Jamaat, to use his ‘contrition’ to declare this chapter as closed and allow them to get on with more open and closer relations with Pakistan.

 

Former Pak President Zardari’s Special Envoy Mirza Ishpahani, in response to a question by media in Dhaka in 2009 on the issue of tendering apology, said, ‘We should not go into this right at this moment, because there are so many issues that we would like to cooperate with Bangladesh right now’. His statement evoked a strong reaction in Bangladesh.

 

As Bangladesh continues to persist with its demand for an apology from Islamabad as a precondition to improve bilateral ties, a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abdul Basit, who is now Pak High Commissioner to India, urged Dhaka to ‘let bygones be bygones’ and hoped that ‘relations should not become hostage to the past’. Bangladesh reacted immediately saying Pakistan must apologize for the genocide it had committed in 1971.

 

Persistent refusal by Pakistan to apologize for the genocide and atrocities committed by its armed forces during the Liberation War of Bangladesh is a highly emotive issue hindering Bangladesh-Pakistan bilateral relations.




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