An overdue apology

Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Dipu MoniBangladeshi Foreign Secretary Dipu Moni’s demand for a formal act of contrition from Pakistan for the genocide committed by its military in the 1971 civil war is justifiable.

Thatconfronting the past and formally acknowledging the inexcusable atrocities committed by the army of Pakistan is a requisite for continued cordial relations between the two countries for the future is understandable.According to official figures, three million civilians were killed and over 200,000 women were tortured and raped by the Pakistan troops and their collaborators. General Yahya was even reported to have said “kill 3 million of them” when he along with his coterie of generals, agreed upon genocide as a means of eradicating the threat of the Awami League, which had emerged as the triumphant party in East Pakistan in the 1970 elections.

The genocide campaign targeted women, professors and students of Dhaka University, intellectuals including doctors, teachers, writers, lawyers, ethnic groups, minorities and last but not the least, the supporters of the Awami League. The Pakistani troops broke into homes and offices and carried out systemic executions of these people. Therefore, an apology to the Bengalis is not only overdue, but it is also the least that the government of Pakistan can offer to the bereaved nation for all the injustices that it has suffered at the hands of its army. The apology would also help remove the animosity that remains in the hearts of the Bengalis, who are still struggling to come to terms with their violent past.

However, an apology of this nature cannot be made without an acknowledgement of a colossal national mistake, which has never been a speciality of Pakistani governments. This admission by Pakistan in recognising and condemning what is wrong will also be seen as a reconciliatory gesture on its part to ensure a continuance of existing cordial relations between the two countries.

While it is impossible to go back in time and change the course of history, the least our government can do is learn lessons from it. The government must be mindful of the repercussions of the crisis in Balochistan, a striking parallel to the events of 1971, in which the government alienated its own people, making them the targets of an ethnic cleansing campaign. It is imperative that the military stop its operations in Balochistan before history repeats itself. – Dailytimes