MISUNDERSTANDINGS BETWEEN PAKISTAN AND BANGLADESH
PROFESSOR ALI SUKHANVER
Recently a Bangladeshi judicial tribunal sentenced life imprisonment to Abdul Qader Mullah, a leader of Jamat-e-Islami, for his role during the independence war against Pakistan in 1971. According to the media reports, somewhere in 2010, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina initiated the process of trying those accused of committing crimes against humanity during the war, under an amended 1973 law. Last month, the tribunal sentenced another member of Jamat-e-Islami Abul Kalam Azad to death in the first war-crimes trial verdict. The hi-ups of Jamat-e-Islami say that all these charges are politically motivated because Jamat-e-Islami was a key partner in the former government of Khaleda Zia. The political opponents of Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, the present prime minister of Bangladesh, blame her of playing in the hands of Indian conspirators. They find her all time pleasing India with her actions and statements. The blame is somewhat close to reality when her regime is analyzed impartially. In spite of a cold rather hostile attitude towards Pakistan from Sheikh Hasina’s government, Pakistan has always tried its level best to keep friendly relations between the two countries because Pakistan does not think it wise to rip open the old sores. So keeping in view the same policy, the honuorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina was cordially invited to attend the Islamabad summit of D-8 group of developing nations last year in November but unfortunately this invitation was not accepted. Bangladesh’s foreign minister told the media that the Bangladeshi prime minister would not visit Pakistan ‘unless it apologizes for war crimes committed by the Pakistan army during Bangladesh’s so-called bloody liberation struggle in 1971.’
The political hi-ups of Pakistan and Bangladesh must be well aware of the fact that cordial relationship between these two Islamic countries is in the larger interest of the Muslim Ummah. The two countries can form a block of their own in the South-Asian region and can lead the other countries in every field of life including science and technology, trade and commerce. Pakistan can provide technical consultation to Bangladesh in the field of nuclear technology. Cultural and Trade Exchange programs on regular basis can help a lot in bringing the two nations more close. Except a very short chunk of time, Pakistan and Bangladesh have never been hostile or unfriendly to each other though the Indian lobby, which is unfortunately very much influential in Bangladesh in Sheikh Hasina’s regime, has always tried its best to air the non-existing differences between these two countries. It is the result of this Indian interference that the relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh have always been under the clouds of misunderstandings but fortunately this ‘Indian invasion’ could never succeed in turning these misunderstandings into enmity and hostility.
Once one nation, once one country, once a symbol of unity, Pakistan and Bangladesh though now represent two nations, two countries and two altogether different identities but still they have so many strong bindings which would never let them go away from each other. Three years after the birth of Bangladesh, Pakistan recognized it in February 1974 and further in January 1976 Pakistan started serious and sincere efforts to promote and strengthen diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. These efforts were followed by the efforts of restoration of communications and transportation connections. During the first decade after its creation, Bangladesh tried its utmost in a very successful manner to get rid of the impression that it was a colony of India by expressing an indifferent attitude toward India. It’s moving closer to China and the West was not welcomed by India because India had been planning to exploit Bangladesh against China and Pakistan since very after the creation of Bangladesh. Moreover by that time the people of Bangladesh had realized that they have more things in common with Pakistan than India including a very strong Islamic cultural heritage which always is the strongest binding force among all Islamic countries. I remember when I was in Dacca last year to attend an international conference; the religious atmosphere was the same as I find here in Pakistan. The echoing of Azan five times a day and people running anxiously and eagerly to the mosques; a lot of bearded people. I remember my informal meeting with so many students of Chittagong and other universities OF Bangladesh who introduced themselves to me by saying, “Sir! We love Pakistan because Pakistan is an Islamic nuclear country”. I remember most of those students wanted to visit Pakistan and most of them were of the opinion that it is India which has created misunderstandings between Pakistan and Bangladesh. In short I could not find even slightest tinge of hatred and disliking there for Pakistan but at official level still there are some issues yet to be resolved. According to the U.S. Library of Congress, the issues include sharing of the US$4 billion worth of pre-independence exchange, bank credit, and movable assets protected in West Pakistan and the emigration of large numbers of people, mostly Biharis to Pakistan but all these conflicting issues belong to the past that is why the new generation of Bangladesh is not very much interested in them. For a brighter today and for a better tomorrow, the two countries Pakistan and Bangladesh will have to burry the hatchets and let bygones be bygones. Digging out the pages of history in search of clashes and conflicts is nothing different from scratching of old wounds. Friendly relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh are a dire need of the time. The most important thing to be remembered is that successful relations don’t depend on how good understanding we have but depend on how nicely we avoid misunderstandings.