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Bangladesh turns 50: Half a century of unanswered questions

Bangladesh, which once used to be Pakistan’s eastern wing, turned 50 on Thursday, born after a bloody eruption of vehemence in 1971.

Bangladesh’s birth was a major setback to Pakistan as its eastern wing broke away. However, the denial that existed in 1971 among the residents in the west wing still permeates the national mindfulness of many Pakistanis.

Walking through the memories of the Dhaka fall, one remembers the statement of then President and military chief General Yahya Khan where he said that the war would continue till victory; a second-tier newspaper took the liberty of detailing some points which many calls true details.

The newspaper stated that “Indian troops had entered Dhaka and fighting had stopped following an arrangement between the local commanders of India and Pakistan”.

The denial of reality prevailed as Dhaka had fallen for residents of West Pakistan while for most of the eastern wing, it was Liberation. The two terms evidently showed that censorship had kept residents of West Pakistan in the dark and unaware about the situation on ground.

Today, 50 years after the formation of independent Bangladesh, many questions and reasons remain under debate. In Pakistan, the debate is mostly focused on:

* Why, for decades, was the population of East Pakistan treated as second-class citizens?

* Why was East Pakistan alienated from the state?

Ayub Khan’s One Unit scheme to merge West Pakistan’s provinces was to counter the eastern wing’s numerical majority.

A commission was also formed to probe the overall event in which eastern Pakistan broke away. The commission was called Hamoodur Rahman Commission. Unfortunately, the probe report of the commission has not yet been officially released.

Many believe that the contents of the probe report serve as an indictment of the policies of the then federal government.

It is also a fact that India played its part to meddle into the nation’s internal affairs. However, it was united Pakistan’s weakness that opened ways for any external intervention.

One of the many mistakes committed was to deny the majority their rights to form a government after the 1970 elections. At the time, it was considered workable to launch a military operation in March 1971 in the eastern wing, in which, thousands fled to India while scores of innocent people were killed on both sides.

Moreover, the basic provision of rights, including right to information, was denied through imposition of the will of few on many. Authoritative strategies were used to implement such forceful will of the few, which paved the way for the detachment of East Pakistan through a widespread bloodbath.

As Bangladesh today celebrates its 50 years of birth, Pakistanis are still awaiting an honest debate on the debacle, with hopes that the debate should be based on truth with real exposure of mistakes committed, only to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated in the future.

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