A Pakistan Officer's Contrition
10 August, 2005
A PAKISTAN ARMY OFFICER, having read my old essay, Nights and Days of Pakistani Butchers: Reminiscing this Bloody Day after Thirty Years, was greatly disturbed. After reading this almost 5 years old essay, this young army officer's heart was filled with extreme contrition and anguish. Although he was not directly involved in the genocide of Bengali, in 1971, he feels utter remorse for his predecessors' heinous act to us, the unarmed civilian population of Bangladesh. I am not at all surprised at his sense of guilt, penitence and compunction, for, I do frequently receive such e-mails from Pakistanis. What surprised me most is that he had the audacity to subtly suggest that Bangladesh should join back with Pakistan once more to create a 'greater Ummah' to defeat Pakistan's arch foe India.
Please read this Pakistan Army Officer's e-mail and my reply to him:
From: kashif khan <email@example.com>
Sent: Sunday, 7 August 2005 1:43:11 AM
my dear Sirl
Assalam o alaikum
I read ur article " the days and nights of Pakistani military". I can understand the feelings of a young student at that time. Let me introduce myself to u first. I am Maj Kashif from Pakistan army. Being student of warfare and military history, it is very easy for me to learn about killings etc by the armies but i just could not resist to write after reading ur article.
Bangladesh ur soverign country has always remained closer to my heart because of the reason that some times we also had some link with that part. I had never been to Bangladesh but i always think a high about Bangladesh. while serving under United nations, whenever i see some Bengali officer or jawan , they always get a special protocol and so is the case with almost every Pakistani militry men.
I just want certain comments from u, if u could spare some time and at the same time i must say i want to extend a hand of friendship to u. Just reply me following
a. Struggle for an independent pakistan started from Dacca and more so it was started by a bengali
b. We stayed together for quite a long time together.
c. Follies were committed from both sides East and West Pakistan leadership and they people never gave a chance to us, the younger generation to interact and solve their problems.
d. Why we always spread hatred now, even u have got ur free country.
e. I normally go through all the papers concerning East Pakistan crises and i always found a hatred towards Pakistan Army from u my bengali brothers. Why.
f. i m from the same Pakistan Army, i have done nothing to u. Granted my forefarthers must have done something, well i seek apologies on their behalf because i cannot do any thing at this time except for seeking apologies.
g. why cant we forget those follies which were committed by my forefarthers as well as ur forefarthers.
h. Why cant we recognize our joint enemy who want further break up any of the muslim state in her neighbour hood. why cant we stop this theme of hatred and seek love and affection for each other. U must be quite elder than me, at least u can give a chance to ur kids( who must be of my age or may be younger than me) to think and take some good steps towards the improvement of relations, instead of spreading hatred.
j. i hope u will not mind all this. At least i feel very bad whenever i listen something about my great Pakistan and my greatest Pakistan army. And that too from a muslim of former East Pakistan. why cant we unite and take some step towards reconciliation.
PLEASE DONOT MIND IF U FELT SOMETHING BECAUSE THESE ARE THE FEELINGS OF A TRUE AND DIE HARD SOLDIER OF PAKISTANI MUSLIM ARMY AND FROM A DOWN TO EARTH A PATRIOTIC PAKISTANI.
I SHALL BE LOOKING FORWARD FOR UR REPLY.
MAY ALLAH THE MERCIFUL BE WITH U AND UR FAMILY
My reply to Kashif Khan:
Dear Mr Kashif Khan;
Many thanks for reading my essay. The essay you read is around 5 years old. I am surprised it still attracts many readers, judging from the comments I frequently receive.
Please accept my apology for the delay in replying you. I was very busy writing another essay.
You are greatly perturbed at what I wrote in my unforgettable account of the horrendous nights and days of March 25-26, 1971. This is nothing strange to me. No doubt, anyone, who had had the misfortune to witness and experience the plunder, murder, horror and terror unleashed by the Pakistani army on the innocent, unarmed civilian population of the then East Pakistan should be extremely disturbed. I am not a professional writer. If I were, I would have provided a far--- far eloquent and vivid description of those nightmarish days and nights. Every word and every sentence I wrote in that piece of my account is absolutely true and correct. Nothing has been exaggerated. It was not only my hand which wrote that essay, it was my heart, soul and spirit. I only wished I had more vocabulary to express what I witnessed and experienced with my own eyes.
Any way, I must appreciate that you too are moved reading my simple essay. This is good, and I hope when many Pakistanis realise what their army did to us, the process of healing the deep wound will begin. But, please note that in no way, we, the vast majority of Bangladeshis will ever want to be in good company with the oligarch and the Pakistan military junta. The lesson/s we learned in 1971 had clearly unmasked the true character of Pakistan army, no obfuscation.
Now, let me address some of the matters you raised vis-a-vis 1971 and its aftermath.
To begin with, we have nothing against Pakistani commoners who are just as poor and helpless as we are. More importantly, I have nothing personal against you or any Pakistani, whether he/she is in Pakistan army or not.
It is great that you apologized, but please know none is in a position to apologize for others' crimes. On previous occasions, although some Pakistani civil and cultural societies formally apologized to BD (poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz etc.), the institution of Pakistan Army, so far, had not categorically apologized to BD. The vague comment of President Musharraf in Dhaka is way too less than enough. He just demonstrated his reticence on Pakistan Army's culpability in carrying out the BD genocide.
To get an idea of how your favourite army killed uncountable innocents and burnt thousands of our villages, may I request you to go through page 91 of the famous document "Witness to Surrender" by Pakistani Brig. Siddque Salik?
Now, please tell me:
How can we ever forgive and forget an army whose soldiers indiscriminately killed our young children and old people? I can tell you for certainty that there is probably not a single family in BD who has not lost at least one close or distant relation in the gratuitous murder committed by the Jawans of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
How can we forgive and forget those soldiers who raped our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters? They perpetrated this Islamic rape (to use their terminology) to around 400,000 of our women. The Islamic army of Pakistan regarded our women as captives (ganimatter maal), and, as per Islamic law, they were entitled to have sex with them. Please tell me how could we tolerate and forget such calumnious, debauched rectitude of Pakistani Jawans and Officers?
How can we forgive an army who treated us like they were treating animals and cattle? They believed, Allah had permitted them to kill all the unbelievers living in BD. This, of course, included almost the entire Bengali race, who, according to general Yahya Khan, were not true Muslims and, so, were fair game for the genocide. I have written an elaborate essay on this. (Please read)
And, how can we forgive a nation that has not, as yet, given to us what rightfully belonged to us?
Please answer me: If you had gone through what we Bengalis had suffered for nine months, would you have forgiven the perpetrators of rape, loot and arson? Do you think that by forgiving your great Muslim army, we would be able to forget the atrocities they committed when we were helpless and unarmed?
Are you trying to absolve your nation of the assets it owes to us by seeking our forgiveness?
Let the Pak-Govt pay us back, as was on 26 March 1971 (A) half of the State-Bank reserve (B) Half of PIA, (C) Half of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation and all other national resources. Don't you think this is just fair, Islamically speaking? - as you claim to be a very good Muslim?
Only when these are settled, could we talk of peace and reconciliation. Our hearts and minds will burn for ever, for what Pakistan army did to us in the name of Islam and the so-called Islamic brotherhood, which were just the tools of exploitation and oppression for the simple-minded and gullible Bengali people. We shall never ever let this happen to us again.
To the Pakistan army, India is the eternal enemy. This is not true for us. We can, and we are, living quite amicably with India. We never forget the help Indian government and the its common people accorded us generously when Pakistan army was killing us. Please know that India is not our enemy, it can never be. We shall, for ever, remain grateful to India and its citizens to let us survive when your Islamic brothers were slaughtering us.
Just like any neighbouring countries, we do have regional problems but no "joint enemy who want further break up any of the Muslim state in her neighbourhood". The concept of "Muslim State" is anti-Islamic and a dangerous threat to human civilization. We have experienced this in 1971, and no sane person would want to go through the same again.
I must let you know that the joining back with Pakistan, like what the Jamat is preaching now-a-days, will lead to another armed struggle/revolt. This time, it will be a civil war, to get rid of the Jamat foisted army elements of Bangladesh.
Therefore, establishing an Islamic state by joining, once again, with Pakistan is just a dim-witted idea. Jamat, and its Pakistani supporters do not, at all, understand the minds of the Bengalis. They are simply living in fool's paradise, hoping Allah will help them.
Your love for Pakistan and Pakistan Army is understandable. Just like you, we also love our Bangladesh and would not want this to become an 'Islamic killing field' one more time, whether by 'joint Pak-Bangla' army or by any other party.
I appreciate your patriotism for your country and we expect you to respect our patriotism for our beloved Bangladesh. Only through mutual respect and non-aggression can we secure peace, prosperity and welfare for our citizens.
Thank you again,
Abul Kasem is an Bengali ex-Muslim and academic. He has contributed in Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out and Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside and Why We Left Islam.. He has also written extensively on Islam in various websites and is the author of five e-Books: A Complete Guide to Allah, Root of Terrorism ala Islamic Style, Sex and Sexuality in Islam, Who Authored the Quran? and Women in Islam. Mr. Kasem leaves in Sydney, Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.