“The Unfinished Memoirs”, a book based on the diaries of Bangladesh’s ‘Bagabandu’ (father of the Bangla nation) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has recently been published. Its launching ceremony was held in Islamabad under the auspices of the Oxford University Press and Bangladesh High Commission, in which prominent speakers like Suhrab Hossain, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Pakistan, M. Mijarul Quayes, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary, Professor Gowher Rizvi, a historian, scholar and academic who is currently the International Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh were the keynote speakers. IA Rehman, the Director Pakistan Human Rights Commission, Ameena Syed, the Managing Director of the Oxford University Press, and Hamid Mir, the eminent Pakistani journalist, also spoke on the occasion.
The speakers certainly followed a scholastic approach, reflecting significant thoughts and observations on the contents of the publication. Mujib’s Memoirs was later reproduced in a column (The News, Nov 24) as facsimile of the script of Hamid Mir talk at the event. It is good that we are independent enough to use our right to express freely but such meetings of regional gathering demand some responsibility on our own part. Regrettably there could be no more souring a talk than the emotional outburst of the anchorperson, who in a large auditorium of the Islamabad Club that was jam-packed with guests from Bangladesh, some other countries and Pakistan, did not hesitate to arouse some of the audiences for shouting “shame, shame” virtually against Pakistan and its institutions, as the slogans followed the narration of an excerpt from one of the books of his choice. Rather he further stressed the audience to repeat the slogan of “shame” with more vigour and voice.
Some of the audiences were however stunned over the negation of historical works of Pakistani authors, quoting the out-of-context references. If all the narrations by Pakistani writers were termed to be baseless, then why to rely on a ‘highly controversial and unsubstantiated opinion’ of a writer like Maj Gen (R) Khadim Hussain Raja, with reference to another person (Gen Niazi) who is no more alive? The book in question, posthumously published, leaves many questions unanswered regarding validity of the opinion expressed. “The Unfinished Memoirs” has reached us from Sheikh Mujib’s diaries after a few decades of his assassination. The word “unfinished” itself reflects the book to be based on partial records, and that too covering the very early years of Pakistan’s history i.e. up to 1954 only. Sumit Mitra terms it as a predicament as he wrote in the August 18, 2012 Hindustan Times: “the problem is, it is unfinished. Far from taking the story anywhere near its climax of Bangladesh’s birth, the narrative vanishes somewhere in the 1950s”. Mitra further says that “the book ends, rather abruptly, sometime after the first election in 1954 to the East Pakistan legislative assembly”.
Bahzad Alam Khan (Dawn.com, Nov 18) writes that “Mujib seemed to have little patience with – and more crucially, little trust in – most Muslim League leaders other than Jinnah”. Such comments from Sh Mujib’s book do carry significant connotations, but were missed by the worthy speaker, who on the contrary rushed to his conclusion without narrating the whole story. The audiences however, found the talk hardly relevant with the contents and historical period that Sh Mujib’s book covered. It rather seemed more of an emotional outburst without common understanding of the historical perplexities. It would have been preferable, had the speaker also studied “Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War”, a book by Dr Sarmila Bose, a research fellow at the Oxford. It would have possibly helped avoid superfluous expressions.
Dr Sarmila Bose comes up with startling conclusions of 1971 war. According to her, the movement for Bangladesh’s independence was hardly peaceful or Gandhian, as claimed by many. Bengalis, who were agitating for more rights and for freedom, were usually armed with weapons ranging from rifles to sickles. In other words, they were not a peaceful bunch. From March 1, 1971 when the elected national assembly was postponed till the time the Pakistani army launched Operation Searchlight on March 25, 1971, violent Bengali mobs and rebel fighters targeted Pakistani soldiers and their families and killed many. Despite this, federal troops exercised a certain degree of restraint. There were a number of massacres of Biharis which could be called genocide, especially because those killings did not discriminate between men, women and children. Did India actually take 93,000 PoWs? The total number of Pakistani soldiers in East Pakistan was only 34,000, plus another 11,000 civilian police and other armed personnel. India is right in saying it had 93,000 Pakistanis in its custody, but this figure, Bose tells us, included civilian officials, civilian staff, woman and children.
Finally and most importantly Bose concludes that the total death toll from Bangladesh’s independence movement was neither 3 million Bengalis as claimed by Mujibur Rahman and as accepted by almost everyone outside Pakistan, nor was it as 26,000 as estimated by the Hamoodur Rehman Commission, but between 50,000 to 100,000 and in this figure, Bose includes Bengalis, Biharis, Pakistanis and Indians. (http://wpinnowed.blogsot.com/2011/12/dead-reckoning-memories-of-1971.html).
Bose further writes that there were precious few studies of the 1971 war based on dispassionate research. This is the first book-length study that reconstructs the violence of the war at the ground-level, utilising multiple memories from all sides of the conflict. Two eminent US historians, Richard Sisson and Leo Rose, published the only research-based study of the war at the diplomatic and policy level 20 years ago. Their excellent book, “War and Secession: Pakistan, India and the Creation of Bangladesh (University of California Press, 1990)”, challenged the dominant narrative, but their work does not seem to be known among the public as much as within academia. (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth...958114219.html).
It is ironical that some of the icons in Pakistani electronic and print media are surely polluting Pakistani society, especially the youth, with outburst of pessimistic mindset and negative images of institutions – be it the superior judiciary, the Parliament or the Armed Forces of Pakistan – which seems part of a well planned psychological warfare. It may be helpful in meeting certain covert objectives of Pakistan’s enemies, but highly detrimental to the integrity of the country in the long run .
By Sajjad Haider
Thank You For Reading
By Sajjad Haider
Thank You For Reading