For Pakistanis 16 December 1971 was a sad day because on that day the Pakistani military had surrendered publicly before the Indian army at Dhaka’s Ramna Race Course Garden after a humiliating defeat.
In the War, hundreds and thousands of Bengali people had lost their lives. Bengali women were raped. A large number of Pakistani and Indian soldiers were killed. It was a tragedy, devastation. But for Bangladesh the 1971 war was, ‘the War of Liberation’ at the end of which the country had gained independence.
We, too, should accept Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign country rather than mourning and complaining every year on 16 December about “Dhaka Fall”. Come on, wake-up Pakistan. It’s Bangladesh Independence though they formally celebrate it on 26 March to remember the start of their resistance against the military action of March 1971.
The ugly separation between the East and the West Pakistan was caused by the recklessness and arrogance of former West Pakistan’s rulers.
Pakistan, however, did learn a lesson from the 1971 war when its first elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was successful in preparing and implementing the first consensus constitution through a democratic process. The 1973 Constitution declared Pakistan a federal parliamentary democracy with a devolved governance system. The Constitution guaranteed provincial autonomy and equal rights and opportunities for all the citizens of Pakistan.
The 1973 Constitution was a positive outcome of the 1971 war but in July 1977 the Constitution was suspended, later amended and its creator was hanged in April 1979. Pakistan is in a dark tunnel, vicious circle since then. It is going backwards.
Bangladesh, on the other hand, is better off. It is the fastest growing economy in South Asia and the country has progressed in many areas. Independent Bangladeshi people are in harmony with their identity and their place in the world. In my view Pakistan should reconcile with Bangladesh by accepting that our attitude and policies towards the Bengali people were utterly wrong. We made horrible mistakes and some of us had committed crimes. This might ease some of our discomfort with ourselves.
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