« Back to articlePrint this article

Why March 26 should be apology day for Pakistan

March 26, 2010 14:28 IST
On March 26, the government of Pakistan should apologise to the people of Bangladesh for the genocide of March 1971, says the wellknown Pakistan television anchor Hamid Mir.

Some people hate me a lot in Pakistan. They hate me because I said sorry to Bangladeshis two years ago at the Islamabad Press Club for the atrocities committed by the Pakistan army in 1971.

They hate me because I also demanded an official apology from the government of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh for the genocide of March 1971. They say I don't know anything. They say I am not a good Pakistani.

They say I was very young in 1971 and I am not aware of the truth. Yes, I was only a young school-going boy in 1971, but I heard and read a lot about the genocide. How can I deny my late father Professor Waris Mir who visited Dhaka in October 1971 with a delegation of Punjab University students?

My father was a teacher of journalism at the Punjab University in Lahore. He was asked by the university administration to organise a visit of the student union's office bearers to Turkey, but my father took the boys to Dhaka with their consent. They wanted to know what was actually going on in Dhaka.

I still remember that after my father came back from Dhaka, he wept for many days. He told us stories of bloodshed. These stories were similar to the story of my mother.

My mother lost her whole family during the migration from Jammu to Pakistan in 1947. Her brothers were killed by Hindus and Sikhs in front of her eyes. Her mother was kidnapped.

She saved her life by hiding under the bodies of her relatives. I remember that my mother cried a lot when my father told her that Pakistan army officers raped many Bengali women. My mother said, "We sacrificed for the safety of our honour, but why we are dishonouring each other today?"

My father always said that Bengalis made Pakistan and we Punjabis broke Pakistan. Once he said that March 23 is Pakistan Day, March 26 should be the apology day and December 16 should be the accountability day. I started understanding the thoughts of my late father when I became a journalist in 1987.

When I first read the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report I felt ashamed. This Pakistani commission inquiry report admitted to murder and rapes, but despite this documentary evidence, many people still live in a state of denial.

They say Sheikh Mujibur Rehman was a traitor who created the Mukti Bahini with India's help and killed many innocent Punjabis and Biharis. I say Sheikh Mujib was a worker of the Pakistan movement; he was a supporter of Fatima Jinnah, Muhammad Ali Jinnah's sister, till 1966. He only demanded some provincial autonomy, but the military rulers declared him a traitor. In fact, these military rulers were traitors because their troops raped their own mothers and sisters.

They say I am a liar and I am an enemy of Pakistan.

How could I be an enemy of Pakistan? My mother sacrificed her whole family for Pakistan. My problem is that I cannot deny the truth.

A senior colleague of mine is still alive. His name is Afzal Khan. He is 73 years old. He worked with the Associated Press of Pakistan. He was secretary general of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists between 1980 and 1985.

Afzal Khan was sent to Dhaka on March 28, 1971 for coverage of the army operations. He told me many times that yes, the Mukti Bahini killed a lot of innocent people, but what the Pakistan army did was not the job of a national army.

Once he was staying at Isphahani House in Khulna, then East Pakistan. An army major offered him the chance to spend the night with a girl. When Afzal Khan asked who the girl was, the major informed him that she was the daughter of a local police officer and she could come to Isphahani House at gun point. After this incident, Afzal Khan returned to Lahore.

Afzal Khan says that all those who were responsible for the rapes and genocide of Bangladeshis never enjoyed any respect in Pakistan. The name of General Yahya Khan is still like an abuse in Pakistan. His son Ali Yahya always tries to hide from people. General Tikka Khan is still remembered as the 'butcher of Bengal'. General A A K Niazi wanted to become the 'tiger of Bengal', but he is remembered as the 'jackal of Bengal'.

A majority of Pakistanis hate all those who were responsible for the genocide of their Bangladeshi brothers. That is the reason the family members of these army officers don't even mention publicly who their fathers were. Still there are people who are not ready to admit their blunders.

These people are in a minority, but they are powerful. I consider them enemies of the Pakistan for which my mother sacrificed her family.

Why should we defend these enemies? Why doesn't our democratic government officially apologise to Bengalis? This apology will not weaken Pakistan. It will strengthen Pakistan.

I am sure that Pakistan is changing fast. A day will come very soon when the government of Pakistan will officially say sorry to Bangladeshis and March 26 will become an apology day for patriotic Pakistanis.

I want this apology because Bengalis created Pakistan.

I want this apology because Bengalis supported Jinnah's sister against General Ayub Khan till her last breath.

I want this apology because I want to forge a new relationship with the people of Bangladesh.

I don't want to live in my dirty past. I want to live in a neat and clean future. I want a bright future not only for Pakistan but also for Bangladesh.

I want this apology because I love Pakistan and I love Bangladesh.

Happy Independence Day to my Bangladeshi brothers and sisters.

Hamid Mir, Executive Editor, Geo TV, receives the SAARC Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAARC Writers Conference on Friday.

Hamid Mir