Instead of getting some closure on the inadvertent second Partition that we suffered in 1971, we have got anti-Pakistan rioting in Bangladesh. This is particularly painful; for once it was part of Pakistan, its eastern wing. The occasion was the hanging of Abdul Quadir Mollah for war crimes, but the attacks jut showed that Pakistan was being unfairly dragged in Bangladesh’s domestic politics. Supporters of the ruling Awami League may well believe that Mollah was a war criminal, a murderer and a rapist, the ‘butcher of Mirpur’. The opposition may well believe that he was innocent, and merely targeted because, then a student and an activist, now a Jamaat Islami leader. But the fact that supporters of his hanging, presumably Awami Leaguers, exist at all, show that 1971 is still an issue in Bangladesh.
I suppose those were Awami Leaguers who attacked the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka, and though I can’t see why the Dhaka High Commission must be made to suffer because Mollah was convicted as a war criminal. I’m sure the government knows, because it was the statement of the Interior Minister that set them off. When he said that Mollah was loyal to Pakistan to the end, he was not only sort of justifying the death sentence, but providing the excuse for the protests. I mean, imagine any Pakistani who was described as pro-Indian, and by the Indian Home Minister, no less. Of course, that was not how Jamaat chief Syed Munawar Hassan looked at it. He recovered from the shock he got from the deposing of Muhammad Morsi, only to be faced with the Quadir Mollah situation, but so far he has not ordered a candlelight vigil at Mansoora, as he did for Morsi. Mollah is unfortunately no longer around, but Morsi still is.
I suppose it is both sad and symbolic, that even though this is the 42nd anniversary of the Fall of Dhaka, and all the main participants are no more, on any side, the wounds are still burning enough for a man to be hanged, for that hanging to be condemned by the Parliament of another country, and for a chancery to be attacked. It happened so long ago that I was a child when it happened, but what I remember was my utter helplessness when asked if I was related to Lt Gen A.A.K. Niazi. It wasn’t so much that, as the grins by the questioners, which showed the question was meant to hurt rather than elicit information.
One of the things that Mollah’s death had meant for us was the need to acknowledge the reality of 1971, and to accept that Bangladesh had become a separate country. It should also serve as a reminder that the ruling Awami League is not ready to let 1971 pass into history, but wants to use it in various ways in present politics. At the moment, it is busy using it to eliminate political opponents. Mollah was hanged for something he is supposed to have done as a student, but these days he was deputy secretary-general of a party in opposition to the ruling BNP. Is that supposed to be the lesson in Bangladesh? That it’s dangerous to oppose the Awami League? When the Awami League took power, it was hardly a democratic party. It tried to establish a one-party state. The result was a coup in which Mujeebur Rehman and his family lost their lives, except for one daughter, Hasina Wajid, now Prime Minister. It’s perhaps interesting, that there are parallels with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was also inclined to a one-party state, also was killed (though at greater leisure than Mujeeb) by a military ruler who carried out a coup against him, had both his sons also die violent deaths. Indira Gandhi was not replaced by a coup, but died a violent death, and was succeeded by a son. And her favourite son, Sanjay, also died violently. Come to think of it, Yahya was replaced by a military coup of sorts, though he died in bed, was not succeeded by a child, none of whom came to a sticky end. But the Emergency of 1976 was perhaps the most serious attempt to turn India into a one-party state. A point of dissimilarity between Sheikh Mujeeb and Bhutto was in son-in-law. Hasina Wajid was originally married to a nuclear scientist. Now even Asif Zardari would not describe himself as a scientist, not even a non-nuclear one. In fact, he has achieved the (admittedly difficult) task of making Mian Nawaz Sharif seem an intellectual. With Imran Khan heading the PTI, Pakistan is clearly continuing with the non-intellectual trend of Pakistani leaders. Bhutto himself was terrifically well-read, but I’m not sure the same can be said of the President, either former or present. And though Imran Khan has proved his courage by his rally in Lahore in this cold snap, he too is a fast bowler, who is probably brainier than blondes, but little else. Imran can read, a skill not all fast bowlers have mastered.
While all this has been going on, we seem to have forgotten the stranded Pakistanis, who are still in Bangladesh, and who still want to come back. And judging from the violence, which has made Pakistan want to pull out of the Twenty20 championship and the Asia Cup, both of which are being held in Dhaka, stranded Pakistanis have a great deal to fear.