History consistently observes that young nations often emerge from a crucible of grievances and vengeance. They build their identities on the foundation of combating past injustices, but in doing so, they often end up playing their part in perpetuating a vicious cycle of repetition.
Comically Orwellian in spirit, the idea that ‘they started it’ is somehow supposed to serve as a perfectly viable justification for even the most reprehensible actions. We have seen great powers built on questionable pasts. The United States, for instance, found great success in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
The German Reichstag once proudly displayed the swastika, and thousands perished carrying the standard of Chairman Mao. In such great company, Pakistan, too bears the burden of a troubled past.
However, what sets Pakistan apart from many other nations is its response to its troubled history. While countries like the United States and Germany have taken steps to acknowledge and address their past wrongdoings, Pakistan’s various governments have chosen the path of silence and indifference.
Hans J. Morgenthau observed, “The human mind in its day-by-day operations cannot bear to look the truth of politics straight in the face.” He argued that ‘people often deceive themselves about the nature of politics and their role in it to live contentedly’. Yet, even when measured against Morgenthau’s criteria, it becomes evident that we struggle to attain the same level of contentment found among other nations. We are usually successful in our first idea of turning our heads from the unvarnished truth of politics, but we fail to deceive ourselves, condemned then to be stuck in Limbo of rationalizing half-truths.
This raises a crucial question: What are we so afraid of? Every educated Pakistani is well aware of Operation Searchlight and the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission. It is no secret that our actions during the Bangladesh crisis were deeply flawed. Yet, it should also be acknowledged that, even in the context of international atrocities, what transpired in Bangladesh was not necessarily worse than the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Our nation may have experienced five eras of martial law, but that does not make us inherently worse than any other country in the world. If we delve deep enough into the histories of nations across the globe, we will uncover skeletons in their closets. Rather than allowing our past to haunt us, we should strive for a more open and honest dialogue about our history.
Acknowledgment is the first step towards healing and growth. It allows us to learn from our mistakes, build bridges with those who suffered, and work towards a more just and equitable society. Pakistan’s refusal to address its historical wrongs not only hinders our progress but also perpetuates the pain and suffering of those affected.
In conclusion, the world has witnessed the rise and fall of nations built on the foundations of hatred and vindication. Pakistan is not alone in carrying the weight of a troubled past, but it is unique in its reluctance to address it. We need not play the villain in our own plays. It may be a fact that we do have blood on our hands, but so did every great power in history.