Friday, May 13, 2016

Syed Badrul Ahsan - Pakistan’s unabashed Nizami tears

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has surprised us once more. It has deigned to inform us, here in Bangladesh, that back in the days when its soldiers remained busy committing genocide in occupied Bangladesh, it had a constitution and it had laws. And it was that constitution and those laws which Motiur Rahman Nizami so courageously upheld even as his Jamaat-e-Islami goon squads cheerfully assisted the Pakistan army in abducting, killing and raping Bengalis in their own land. Nizami’s sin, laments Pakistan, was in upholding that constitution and those laws in 1971.

Observe once more the untruths Pakistan, through its successive governments since the collapse of its war machine in Bangladesh, has been peddling without end and with hardly anyone taking cognizance in the world beyond its shrunken frontiers. Its revelation that in 1971 there was a constitution and there were laws somehow tends to take the form of bizarre humour. It stretches the imagination to the point of disbelief. 

So what was the reality in 1971 Pakistan? The Yahya Khan junta, in cahoots with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan People’s Party, brazenly repudiated the results of the election of December 1970, a democratic exercise that would have led to the framing of a constitution for the country. By going for a brutal suppression of Bengalis on the night of 25 March 1971, the state of Pakistan informed the world of its refusal to go for any constitutional framework on which it could base itself.
So there was no constitution. And the law was martial law, the law of the jungle. And Nizami was defending the constitution in 1971. Pakistan’s politicians, who have shed copious tears every time a notorious war criminal has mounted the gallows in Bangladesh, delude themselves into believing that Motiur Rahman Nizami was upholding laws in the nine months of Bangladesh’s liberation war. That is a joke, for Nizami, like the soldiers and his fellow collaborators, were lawless, murderous brigands in 1971. He and all the other collaborationist elements of his kind went out of their way, all through the war, to reinforce the idea that in Pakistan the law did not matter, that it was the divinely ordained right of Pakistan’s soldiers to kill, rape and burn. Who was it that once said, in the days following General Ayub Khan’s seizure of the state in October 1958, that the Pakistan army had done a most wonderful of occupying its own country? In 1971, that army was in violent occupation of our land, plain and simple.

Wasn’t it AAK Niazi who through his womanizing and killing spoke openly of his soldiers producing a new generation of Pakistan-minded people in Bangladesh through a systematic raping of Bengali women? ‘Hum un ki nasl badal denge (we will change their generation)’, he boasted. Proof what he and his soldiers meant to do comes through the hundreds of war babies now grown into adulthood, most of them settled in the West through the kindness of good men and women there. And the women the soldiers raped, Nizami’s men molested? 

They are yet around, growing old and unable to forget the animal instincts of the soldiers.
Pakistan and its soldiers and its uncouth loyalists in Bangladesh picked up Bengalis — academics, civil servants, police officers, writers, musicians, poets, students, political workers — and then picked them off. That was the law which Nizami and his kind enforced. 

It was in line with the arrogance of the young Punjabi army officer who, in Comilla, vowed in a conversation with Anthony Mascarenhas to keep the Bengalis in slavery for thirty years. That was the law, which other officers, Rao Farman Ali Khan for instance, did all they could to impose on a subjugated nation. Rao Farman noted in his diary that the land of Bengal, not its people, mattered for Pakistan.

And so the people were being done away with, Hindus and Muslims alike. Ten million were compelled to find refuge in India. In an occupied land, Ghulam Azam and Nizami went around spewing nonsense about saving a Pakistani ideology, about crushing India and eliminating ‘miscreants’. They did not see the writing on the wall.  They needed to save Pakistan through a systematic murder of Bengalis. Remember Bhutto at Karachi airport on his return from Dhaka? Having watched from his hotel suite Dhaka burn, having seen the soldiers fan out in search of Bengalis to kill, he cheerfully told waiting newsmen, ‘Thank God, Pakistan has been saved.’ He had no idea that God was about to turn His face away from Pakistan.

It was a strange, fearsome Pakistan which eerily took shape between March and December 1971. On the morning of 26 March, a highly enthused Roedad Khan told a bunch of generals — Tikka Khan, Khadem Hossain Raja and others — at Dhaka cantonment even as their soldiers went around shooting Bengalis like birds, ‘Yaar, imaan taaza ho gya (faith has been revived, friends)’. Faith and the law had curiously come to be symbolized by the firepower of the army. It was this recipe for murder which Nizami and the other war criminals were to try out in cooking a new political dish for Pakistan over the subsequent nine months. Today’s Pakistan is angry that the recipe did not work all the way, that the ‘law’ was not allowed to take permanent hold in Bangladesh by its people.

Pakistan’s anger comes mixed with its misplaced tears. It has been a historically indignant state with deep roots in murder and mayhem (revisit the Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946 and the death of two million Muslims and Hindus in the aftermath of Partition). Its ruling classes have felt no qualms about meddling in the affairs of other nations, Afghanistan and India for instance. Its army has for decades abducted and killed tens of thousands of people in Balochistan. 

Every military conflict Pakistan has been in was planned and put into action by its leaders down the years. Jinnah oversaw the dispatch of Pakistan’s soldiers into Kashmir in the guise of tribals driven by thoughts of independence; Ayub Khan in 1965 went into the Rann of Kutch and months later pushed Pakistan into a new war with India, losing both times; Yahya Khan went to war against his own eastern province and then against India, getting thoroughly humiliated in the process. Suddenly he was president of half a country.

Someone quipped once, ‘Every country needs an army; the Pakistan army needs a country.’ In 1971, the army needed a country, ours. Enthusiastic second-rate Pakistanis like Nizami went around fulfilling the wishes of the master. They were upholding the law, and that was martial law. Through employing that ‘law’, they left millions of Bengalis dead. The soldiers and their Nizamis turned Bangladesh into a huge burial ground.

Pakistan speaks of the future, without owning up to its sordid past. Its children do not know why East Pakistan vanished into thin air twenty four years after their country came into being. They have never been told why their army, which they love to bits, had 93,000 of its soldiers surrender in Bangladesh, soldiers who then spent three years in India as prisoners of war. Two generations of Pakistanis born after the war have not been educated on the elections of 1970 and the ugly manner in which the results of the vote were subverted. They do not know that, like the Nazis in Germany, the Pakistan army mutated into a band of murderers in Bangladesh. They have never been told that, like the Hitler collaborationists in Europe who helped the Nazis on their killing missions, the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh assisted Pakistan’s soldiers in refining and expanding the reach of genocide in Bangladesh.

Elderly Pakistanis have gone quiet about the calamity their country went through in 1971. Younger Pakistanis do not know or their history textbooks do not tell them that in December 1970, it was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League who won the general election and were legally entitled to assume power in Pakistan. They have been kept from knowing of the conspiracy the generals and Z.A. Bhutto, their first elected leader by default, engaged in to repudiate the results of the election.

Pakistan mourns Nizami and his adherence to the constitution and the law in 1971. It does not explain what constitution was there forty five years ago. It will not tell us under what law its soldiers and their quislings went into a long dance of death in the hamlets and towns of Bangladesh and brought about their own doom.

And here is the final point: Pakistan remains the only instance of a modern state where a majority of its people waged war against it, leaving it truncated and defeated. Americans in the south of the United States between the early and mid 1860s lost their battle to be independent. Biafra collapsed three years into its freedom, in 1970, and was pulled back into Nigeria. Ian Smith was compelled to eat humble pie despite his Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) for Rhodesia in 1965.

Bangladesh won its war against Pakistan. And Pakistan, proud of its questionable Islamic identity, arrogant about its army, remains bitter at memories of 1971. The bitterness rolls over into love for ageing murderers once on its payroll.

We are not surprised. But we are surprised that Pakistan’s leaders have never learned the lessons of history. Germans have gone around saying sorry for the sins of the Nazis. Japanese politicians have with folded hands asked for forgiveness of nations persecuted by Hideki Tojo and his militarists in imperial Japan. Pakistan has remained fixated on 1971. It has not felt sorry, has never acknowledged the criminality of its army, has never spotted the difference between good and evil, which is a pity.
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