View from the neighbourhood: Lessons from 1971

View from the neighbourhood: Lessons from 1971

While Pakistan has faced many crises, the editorial describes “1971 and the events leading up to it” as a “cataclysm of incomparable proportions for undivided Pakistan”.

1971 Instrument of Surrender

Dec 16, 1971, says the editorial in Dawn, “is a date which will live on in subcontinental infamy”. While Pakistan has faced many crises, from the Taliban insurgency, multiple conflicts with India as well as the insurgency in Balochistan (the longest-running one in the country), the editorial describes “1971 and the events leading up to it” as a “cataclysm of incomparable proportions for undivided Pakistan”.

A continuing disappointment emanating from the secession of Bangladesh is the desire for successive governments to “shield the public from the unvarnished, authenticated truths of the war of secession and a willful failure to apply the lessons of that devastating conflict to Balochistan and the erstwhile tribal districts that have witnessed terrible violence in the first two decades of the 21st century.”

Given that Prime Minister Imran Khan had made greater transparency a key pillar of his campaign, the editorial asks the government to fully declassify the “Hamoodur Rahman Commission report and also making public more recent reports such as that of the Abbottabad Commission”

The editorial ends by acknowledging that “East Pakistan was unfairly treated by West Pakistan for much of the quarter century that the two wings were part of the same country.


The reluctance of the political and military leadership in present-day Pakistan to abide by the results of the 1970 general election also helped accelerate the crisis.” And to learn lessons from the past, for present conflicts, there must be a fair assessment of erstwhile mistakes.

The December 14 editorial in Dhaka Tribune recalls the day in 1971 when “the Pakistan Army and its local collaborators systematically murdered an entire generation of our greatest thinkers in the most brutal way imaginable.”

Calling it “one of the worst days in our nation’s history”, the editorial says “over 200 intellectuals perished on this day, and the repercussions are still being felt in our nation”.

It then reminds the people of Bangladesh that “while the Pakistan army and their local collaborators have taken from us our best and brightest… they have not succeeded in destroying our spirit”. It asks for a commitment to free speech as a way to honour those that perished all those years ago.

No peace required

Imran Jan, a political analyst and regular writer for The Express Tribune in Pakistan, asks in his polemical article on December 13 whether the peace overtures made by Prime Minister Imran to India Khan are “worth the effort”. The article tries to dismantle New Delhi’s “laughable excuses” at not engaging in talks with Pakistan.

First, Sushma Swaraj’s claim that “terror and talks cannot go together” do not stand Jan’s test as he accuses India of fomenting violence in Pakistan and Kashmir. Second, Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s (unsolicited) advice to Pakistan to become secular if it wants peace is countered thus: “Let me ascertain that Jinnah had envisioned a secular Pakistan. Nevertheless, even superpower states do not ask other countries to go secular as a precondition for achieving peace, let alone a hungry, naked, extremist, and rape-and caste-infested nation like India. The United States does not ask Saudi Arabia to go secular for peace between the two countries. India and Israel are allies and Israel is by no definition a secular state.”

The article then tries to dismantle the notion that India is a secular state, citing reports in US media about the lynching and assault on Dalits and the rampant existence of caste hierarchies: “There are endless stories of abuse and discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs and low-caste Hindus. Last month, there was a New York Times story titled “‘Tell Everyone We Scalped You!’ How Caste Still Rules in India”. In late October, a 14-year-old Dalit girl was beheaded by an upper-caste man. Dalit men aren’t allowed to ride horses. In March, one Dalit man broke with the tradition and rode one, causing higher-caste men to kill him. Avatthi Ramaiah, a sociology professor in Mumbai, said, “You may talk about India being a world power, a global power, sending satellites into space but the outside world has an image of India they don’t know. ”

Jan then goes on the question the idea that Islamabad’s peace overtures have been rebuffed because of the upcoming general elections in India, as the BJP does not want to be seen as being “soft”.

“The fact that the Indian leadership needs anti-Pakistan credentials for winning the election speaks volumes about how futile these peace overtures would prove to be even after the election. Imran Khan himself said that the BJP had an ‘anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan approach’,” he writes.

But for Jan, the problem is not merely with the Indian government but the Indian people: “the problem is not merely with the BJP but rather more with the constituency of the BJP which happens to be the majority of the Indian population. It is not just the BJP, it is this anti-Pakistan mindset that won’t just disappear even if a different party is voted to power.”