Seminar on Sakoot-e Dhaka at Nazria Pakistan Hall Municipal Library

Vice Chancellor Government College University Prof. Dr Zakir Hussain  Presides the seminar on Sakoot-e Dhaka at Nazria Pakistan Hall Municipal Library. Somehow after over 4 decades, we have not learned much from the fall of Dhaka. A wing of Pakistan was severed while we were busy spinning “conspiracy theories”, much like we are at the present time. We fail to do an honest introspection of our failures and faults that led to the inevitable division.

As someone once said, “history is a rear view mirror, which helps you focus on the windshield, in order to move forward.”

As some sage people say, at times gaining independence is much easier, than building a collective and cohesive nation. This is in no shape or form an attempt to diminish the loss of thousands of lives that were lost to gain Pakistan. My ancestors migrated from Amritsar and I grew up on their accounts of sheer horror.  The savagery and butchery demonstrated on both sides was beyond shameful.

If one looks closely at Pakistan today, they will see we are still as divided as we were perhaps 42 years ago. The ethnic, religious and linguistic segmentation is still there and we have not emerged as a united nation – a nation beyond petty differences. Yes, we pat ourselves on the back whenever everyone comes together as a nation in the face of a natural calamity. But just a grim reminder tells us that all nations do so on such occasions.

What is absent in our fabric is respect for diversity and the understanding that diversity is actually the strength of any nation. It shouldn’t matter if one is Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, Hindu or a Parsi, so long as they are a Pakistani is all that should matter. Some ill informed and overly misguided persons try to feed the false narrative that Pakistan was created to become the citadel of Islam and exists for Muslim inhabitants alone. Facts of history said that the armed forces, the judiciary and civil society, all were to share the blame. “The judiciary always protected illegal initiatives of the politicians and the armed forces,” said Justice (retd) Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, former chief justice of Pakistan. “In 1958 Gen Ayub Khan staged a bloodless coup and declared himself president, ousting Iskandar Mirza. However, the Supreme Court declared the act as a ‘successful army revolution’ rather than an illegal use of power.”

Justice Siddiqi, who had refused to take oath under the provisional constitutional order when President Pervez Musharraf suspended the constitution after a coup and took over the government as the chief of the army staff, recalled the political and judicial history of Pakistan and highlighted the instrumental role of the army in the almost shattered democracy and persistent threats of coups and martial laws, which ignited the Dhaka fall.

Lt-Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum, former chairman of Pakistan Steel Mills who witnessed the Dhaka fall as an army captain, rejected the notion that it was the army alone that was to blame for the tragic incident.“It was more poor leadership, which pushed us towards the tragedy,” he said. “The Pakistan Army is an institution, which is known for its discipline and the soldiers here are bound to obey their commander-in-chief. If one such man (commander) is not decent or good, for this you can’t blame the whole force.”

He claimed that the army’s role was being removed from politics and there was a sense within the armed forces that it was not their job to run the state affairs. Gen Qayyum, who faced the axe for resisting the privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills, which was later overturned by the Supreme Court, said after Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah the country failed to get a committed and true leader.

It was a lack of leadership quality and sense of understanding national interests, which created Bangladesh, he said. He admitted the army’s contribution to the overall crisis of the country. “And unfortunately whenever there has been a martial law or a military coup, there have been a number of politicians who cooperate with the army to make that coup a success for their own benefits and lusts,” he said.

However, when it comes to the atrocities, we tend to portray ourselves as only victims. Rarely do we admit that there were similar accounts of killings from our side as well. We lay great tributes to the lost lives – and rightfully so – to gain Pakistan. But we also turn a blind eye to the ones lost for Bangladesh’s freedom, by dismissing it as an Indian conspiracy. By not admitting our major blunders we are being dishonest to ourselves and our history.

Can we somehow learn from the past and create a different perspective? It is high time that we realize that our identities and ethnicities actually bond us together. Pakistan is as much mine as much as it is yours. A Mujahir is no less a citizen than a Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi or a Pathan. This would be the greatest tribute to the millions of lives lost to earn this land. And perhaps the biggest apology to many lives that were lost in order to create Bangladesh.