Remembering East Pakistan: We look before and after, And pine for what is not

[To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions]
It is early 1970s. I am in 4th grade and in Islamabad. One day I saw my father with tears in his eyes holding a letter in his hands that he had received from Bangladesh from a Bengali friend who had gone back from Islamabad to what was previously East Pakistan. I do not recall the name of the friend or much of the contents of that short letter with a couple of paragraphs. What I do recall is that he read that short letter to me with so much emotion and sorrow that the thought of it brings tears to my mind even today. I only remember a couple of lines: It started with “My heart bleats and my heart cries when I …….” and it ended with these words “We look before and after and pine for what is not”. And I remember and cherish that experience of being with him to this day. Each recollection of the debacle of East Pakistan brings to my mind vividly the scene of my father full of emotions about his memories of the times and company of his friend(s) and the great loss that it represented to the dreams of those who left everything and migrated from India to Pakistan. Pakistan represented so much sacrifice, so much enthusiasm, so much promise and so many great expectations of the happy times that were to be awaiting for us in our own free country! 
Today, so many decades later, I do not know why, I Googled these words, and found that the last sentence is a verse from Shelly:

We look before and after, And pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
—– Percy Bysshe Shelley

1969: Boys of class 3 in ICG with Ms Nasreen Gul.
Front Row: From right: Two of my Bengali
class fellows. Wasiulhasan is rightmost. 
2nd Row: Two other Bengali 
class fellows 2nd, 3rd from right

Such is the power of feelings which puts events with minute details in the deepest recesses of our minds and we can never forget them. 

In 1969 my eldest sister was learning Bengali from Pakistan National Council Library (as it was called then) in their premises near Melody. We thought all was well and will continue for ever.

As the situation started sliding a year or so before 1971, the Bengali students of my class and there were around five of them, started huddling together and conversing away from us. Our headmistress in 1969-70 was Mrs Prodhan who was a Bengali and incidently her son Javed Prodhan was my class fellow. She and her family were among the first to leave. Slowly and gradually other Bengali class fellows also started leaving. Actually the writing on the wall was quite visible to people who could see and were willing to see. I think by the time secession occurred most of them had left. Only the poor people of Pakistan were kept in dark by those in power. 

The photo here shows the boys of class 3 of ICG (called IMSG in 1969) which include several of my Bengali class fellows. We are pictured  with our dear class teacher Ms. Nasreen Gul (who became Nasreen Manzoor after marriage). I recently met her in last December. She is still in contact with most of us in this picture and knew their whereabouts. I took this snap from a photo she showed me.  
2nd Row: L to R (standing) Riaz?-1, Munir, Shahid Ahmed, Ms Nasreen Gul, Bengali-1, Bengali-2, Mujahid
First Row: L to R (kneeling) Irfan Hyder, Sajjad Nabeel, Mohammad Ahmed, Bengali-3, Bengali-4 (Wasiul Hasan)] 

I had started reading Jang newspaper for a couple of years before the secession of East Pakistan happened and would regularly read it each morning. We were pumped up by the patriotic songs bellowing on air waves and the bellicose statements and coverage of our newspapers. We in Islamabad were living in a fool’s paradise, thinking that we are winning and would soon drive the enemy out. 

I still vividly recall the headline of Jang a day (or two) before our army laid down its arms. It proudly proclaimed the statement of General Niazi who was the Commander Eastern Command, that India would only enter Dacca on their dead bodies (Humari lashoan peh say guzar kay dakhil hon gay). It was such a blow to listen the next day on radio that General Niazi had surrendered along with his 90,000+ army-men in paltan maidan in that ignominious ceremony.

I think Chief Justice Hamdoodur Rahman Commission Report should be made a compulsory reading for every student of Pakistan. It is the right of our nation to get access to the full report. What we have is just the supplementary report. I now sincerely believe that “a nation that forgets its history, is likely to be forgotten by history”. 

Here is the excerpt from Chapter 5 “Recommendations” page 78-79 of the Supplementary Volume of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report under the subheading Trials: 

Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report Indictments

[Begin Excerpt]


3. There is consensus on the imperative need of bringing to book those
senior Army Commanders who have brought disgrace and defeat to
Pakistan by their subversion of the Constitution, usurpation of political
power by criminal conspiracy, their professional incompetence, culpable
negligence and wilful neglect in the performance of their duties and
physical and moral cowardice in abandoning the fight when they had the
capability and resources to resist the enemy. Firm and proper action
would not only satisfy the nation’s demand for punishment where it is
deserved, but would also ensure against any future recurrence of the
kind of shameful conduct displayed during the 1971 war. We
accordingly recommend that the following trials be undertaken without
delay. : –

(i) That General Yahya Khan, General Abdul Hamid Khan, Lt. Gen.
S.G.M.M. Pirzada, Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan, Maj. Gen. Umar and Maj. Gen.
Mitha should be publicly tried for being party to a criminal conspiracy to
illegally usurp power from F.M. Mohammad Ayub Khan in power if
necessary by the use of force. In furtherance of their common purpose
they did actually try to influence political parties by threats, inducements  and even bribes to support their designs both for bringing about a
particular kind of result during the elections of 1970, and later
persuading some of the political parties and the elected members of the
National Assembly to refuse to attend the session of the National
Assembly scheduled to be held at Dacca on the 3rd of March, 1971.
They, furthermore, in agreement with each other brought about a
situation in East Pakistan which led to a civil disobedience movement,
armed revolt by the Awami League and subsequently tot he surrender of
our troops in East Pakistan and the dismemberment of Pakistan:

(ii) That the Officers mentioned in No. (i) above should also be tried for
criminal neglect of duty in the conduct of war both in East Pakistan and
West Pakistan. The details of this neglect would be found in the
Chapters dealing with the military aspect of the war


[End Excerpt] 

We now wait for justice for the lives lost, dreams shattered, destiny of Pakistan mangled, and the losses/violence/lawlessness that resulted in what remained of Pakistan because of the non-implementation of the recommendations of this report. 

See also:


One response to “Remembering East Pakistan: We look before and after, And pine for what is not”

  1. It's great post! Thanks for sharing!

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