Execution of Dhaka of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdul Qader Mollah has prompted violent protests across Bangladesh. Found guilty of involvement in the death of civilians during the civil war of 1971, he was hanged in Dhaka under Indian pressure, putting the interests of Bangladeshi business community abroad. The European Union is strictly against executions and considers it as violation of human rights. The step, which was not encouraged by founder Sheikh Mujibur Rehman himself who warned against retribution and held on to this position till his 1975 assassination, shows political motives on the eve of December 16, the day that marks the fall of Dhaka as a bloody civil war ended with the surrender of the Pakistan Army.
What is significant is that we have got into the habit, rather like a scared child, of trying to cover up everything that has gone wrong and then denying we had anything at all to do with it. The example of Bangladesh is also pertinent in this case. For us, it appears that placing curtains around the truth and veiling our eyes has become the solution to everything – just as was the case in Bangladesh.
The sentencing of the JI leader, with more trials set to follow, raises a host of questions of a big impartiality. The opponents included professors, doctors, students and others – with Mollah’s walk to the gallows coming, ironically enough, just a few days before
At home we should be asking other, different questions. We have for the past four decades refused to face up to what happened in what was then the eastern wing of our country. The torture, the killings, the mass rapes committed there has been buried away, deep under multiple layers. There are many, indeed most, who do not know what happened; we often forget that the green and white flag of Pakistan once flew over Dhaka.
Bangladesh was not a colony of Pakistan rather part of it. But this event apprises us again that the red disk that floats across the green of the Bangladesh flag is intended to depict not only a sun rising over a new land but the blood that stains it. That blood, of students, children, men and women, was shed uselessly. Calling Molla a ‘patriot’ as the JI leader at home, as Munawar Hasan has done, insisting Mollah would count as such even in Bangladesh on the basis that the two countries were then one, can only be ranked as a remark of insensitivity and ignorance.
Some other comments from political leaders have been barely better. Certainly there is very limited suggestion that we should be looking back at what happened, facing up to it and learning from the sordid events of 1971. This goes well beyond the matter of Abdul Qader Mollah and whether or not he should have been hanged
The violent approach at the behest of external hand can solve no problems at all. Instead they will worsen and become more entrenched. We saw this happen in what was then East Pakistan. The signs of trouble were visible many years before the 1971 war. The people of that part of what was then our country had pointed out discrimination and injustice again and again. This is visible even now in documented figures. They show that though East Pakistan had a larger population than the western part of the country, the resources spent on it since the 1950s were only about 40 percent of the budget available – in some periods, falling even below this.
Naturally, the development in which all people of a country should have had an equal share never took place there. Today, we see precisely the same pattern unfold again, with startling disparities between provinces and districts in allocation of funds and development. The perceptions of unfair play are a key reason for the anger directed against the state and in turn the violence that shakes Baluchistan. This violence has already left deep scars across it. While the Baloch recall the events that led up to the formation of Bangladesh, it is questionable what the future of that remotely populated stretch of miserable territory is to be with its regular haul of mutilated bodies that turn up in street corners. Even the recent dramatic march made by the relatives of the disappeared from Quetta to Karachi has not really changed matters.
We seem to have lost sight of this reality. The ability to accept what is happening and act to deal with it in many ways marks nations that are successful. We are certainly not headed along this path. The same mistakes are being repeated once more and the same story of wrongdoing in other places told. Our history books say too little about Bangladesh and quite how that country took form as an independent state on the map. This is something we should all know about and something we should make sure our children know of too.
The issue of Abdul Qader Mollah reminds us about the history, that if the amendments needed were not made, then further problems may arise. We should today be examining all that went on in Bangladesh before posting messages on social media about Mollah or what is happening in Dhaka. Quite irrespective of the trial of JI leaders underway in that country, it is the doings they are alleged to have been involved in that is of key importance.
If we keep projecting people like Mollah as heroes what Munawr Hassan does or refuse to put before the public all that, he and others like him did there can be no change. We will have only more brutality, more bitterness and greater division within a country that has been torn apart before – and risks this happening again. Our assignment for the future must be to ensure this can never happen and that this is prevented by accepting what is going wrong, tackling crime and brutality wherever it exists and giving people everywhere in our country the equal treatment and respect for their rights which they deserve.
Pakistan and Bangladesh are still good partners which can benefit from their potentials. They have to make sure, it is not happening again; come out of the clutches of past rivalries, forget about the past and nourish in new era to benefit from their common culture and religion to establish lasting partnership in the region.