Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Bigoted and smug

Published Dec 23, 2013 07:45am


Your Name:

Recipient Email:

OUR National Assembly has condemned Abdul Quader Molla’s execution (Bengali citizen, Bengali political leader, hanged after trial before the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunal and after appeal and review before Bangladesh Supreme Court). It has “demanded” from Bangladesh “not to give new life to matters of 1971 and close all cases against the leadership of JI [Jamaat-i-Islami] in Bangladesh”.

We have just proved that not only are we still unapologetic over the horrific crimes we perpetrated in ‘East Pakistan’ but are also smug about such bigotry.

Three historical facts are now well documented. One, we treated Bengalis so poorly from 1947 to 1971 that it caused the majority of Pakistanis to seek ‘independence’ from the minority in West Pakistan through a violent struggle that resulted in the creation of Bangladesh.

Two, whether it was Awami League zealots, India trained and nurtured Mukti Bahini, or Bengalis within the military, paramilitary and police who rebelled against Pakistan during 1971, Bengali freedom fighters were savage in their treatment of Biharis, non-Bengalis and especially Pakistani soldiers and their families.

And three, the treatment meted out to Bengalis by Pakistan Army, and the private militias it raised and sponsored (Al Badr, Al Shams and Razakars) to enforce the state’s writ in East Pakistan in 1971, was heinous and barbaric.

By asking who started the rape and murders and whether Mukti Bahini was more vicious or the Pakistani Army, we confirm that the bigoted mindset that led 56pc of Pakistanis to carve out Bangladesh to protect their rights is still thriving in Pakistan. This is alarming not just because the resolution passed by the National Assembly has sullied our relationship with Bangladesh and added fuel to fires already raging there, but because the same mindset is responsible for keeping Balochistan ablaze and for Baloch youth going missing.

If citizens indulge in savagery against the state or fellow citizens, can the state respond in kind and inflict revenge not just on criminals but also on others who share their ethnic identity? Explaining the looting of civilian shops in East Pakistan in 1971, the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report quotes Lt-Gen A.A.K. Niazi as having stated on the first day of assuming command: “What have I been hearing about shortage of rations? Are not there any cows and goats in this country? This is enemy territory. Get what you want. This is what we used to do in Burma.”

Gen Niazi (nicknamed ‘Butcher of East Pakistan’) acknowledged to the Hamoodur Rehman Commission that ghastly crimes had been committed against Bengalis by stating that four days after assuming command he, “insisted that loot, rape, arson, killing of people at random must stop”.

Another witness, Lt-Col Mansoorul Haq, told the Commission that, “a Bengali, alleged to be a Mukti Bahini or Awami Leaguer, was sent to Bangladesh — a code name for death without trial, without detailed investigations and without any written order by any authorised authority.”

Brig Karrar Ali Agha in the worth-reading Witness to Carnage 1971 has documented in detail the events leading to the emergence of Bangladesh, including the crimes committed by the Bengali freedom fighters and our army. While he explains crimes committed by the army as revenge in response to crimes first committed by Bengali freedom fighters in March 1971, the tales are mind numbing.

He states that, “several officers were given to conducting night raids at private residences and dragging away any girls they found attractive for the night”. When one such report (that personnel of East Pakistan Rifles had sodomised Bengali women) was brought to the notice of Col Fazal Hameed, deputy director general of EPR, “his only outraged reaction was that while rape was understandable under the circumstances, sodomising a woman was rather shameful”.

Agha states that at a meeting of top military brass of East Pakistan held on Dec 30, 1970, when he opined that in case of a military action in East Pakistan the Bengali troops in EPR and the army would revolt, Brig Ghulam Jilani Khan (later governor Punjab) responded in chaste Punjabi with this nugget: “O Agha Sahib, don’t you worry, we will … their mothers, we will … their sisters.” Could the Bengalis be seen and treated as enemy aliens devoid of dignity and fundamental rights even if waging a war against their own state?

Notwithstanding the provocation, what Pakistan did in its eastern province was inexcusable. Pakistan’s response to Molla’s hanging is wrong because we are no innocent bystanders endowed with the moral authority to pass any judgement over Molla’s conviction. Molla has not been executed for his love for Pakistan, but for the murder and rape of fellow Bengalis even if he did so in the name of Pakistan. Where was our honor or sense of justice, pricked by the death of a foreigner, when our state executed and ravaged thousands of our fellow citizens in 1971?

With Bengali blood and gore on our hands, what business do we have lecturing Bangladesh to seek national cohesion by pursuing South African style truth-and-reconciliation instead of delivering victor’s justice (as we did in 1971)? Bangladesh has hanged not a Pakistani but its own citizen.

Whether Molla committed the crimes alleged or is a casualty of revenge is a matter for Bangladesh and its people to ponder. Let’s worry about the extrajudicial killings and quality of justice in Pakistan instead of condemning the justice system of another sovereign nation state.

The writer is a lawyer.

Twitter: @babar_sattar

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (24) Closed

Faisal Dec 23, 2013 01:07pm

Very well written Article Babar. This Country needs people like you!!!

Afzaal Khan Dec 23, 2013 01:10pm

You should renounce your citizenship and go live in Bangladesh if you care so much. Otherwise talk about crimes of mukti bahini and Bangalis too. Problem with ppl like you, you will always fault Pakistan no matter what.

jebran Dec 23, 2013 01:43pm

very true depiction of reality,thank u sir . may u line long...............

Kaspar Dec 23, 2013 02:53pm

Although the author has tried to balance the article by mentioning the atrocities committed by Mukti Bahini on West Pakistanis and Biharis, he has not been fair and objective overall. While he emphasizes the ill treatment of Bengalis by the West Pakistanis, he fails to mention that Bengal had been historically much poorer than, say, the Punjab, and even suffered famines at times in the past two hundred years. The other element

kammi kameen Dec 23, 2013 03:23pm

@Afzaal Khan : They say an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. I can see you're already blind.

Zulfiqar Khan Dec 23, 2013 03:50pm

@Afzaal Khan : Didn't you read this " Two, whether it was Awami League zealots, India trained and nurtured Mukti Bahini, or Bengalis within the military, paramilitary and police who rebelled against Pakistan during 1971, Bengali freedom fighters were savage in their treatment of Biharis, non-Bengalis and especially Pakistani soldiers and their families."

Ahmed Ali Dec 23, 2013 05:16pm

Excellent Piece. Salute to your courage for admitting the truth instead of telling lies and lies and lies.

Commander Safeguard Dec 23, 2013 05:17pm

@Afzaal Khan : Shame on you!

Ishtiaq Dec 23, 2013 05:47pm

Thank you for speaking out the truth. It takes courage to admit to our national guilt.

Masood Hussain Dec 23, 2013 08:40pm

I have always admired Mr. Babbar for his Studdies convictions,and courage to bring to light the facts fearless of consequences which we all know could be very unpleasant.

habib rana Dec 23, 2013 10:10pm

A mature and brave approach that we need to adopt if we want to learn from history.

Zafar Abbas Dec 23, 2013 10:14pm

The dismemberment of Pakistan or the fall of Dhaka cannot be ascribed to the obstinacy of a single party or politician. Rather it was the outcome of the stubbornness of the whole political and military leadership in the west wing of the

Em Moosa Dec 23, 2013 10:27pm

Brig. Siddique Salik who was military secretary of Admiral Ahsan, Gen. Tikka Khan and Gen. Niazi wrote the facts happened in east pakistan. Please read that book "the fall of dacca" or its urdu version i.e. "mein ne dacca doobte dekha", then you would realize what was the true picture over there in 1971.

Motiwala Dec 23, 2013 10:39pm

Truth, the pure kind is always painful. And hard to accept .I am not very cognizant of all details of the atrocities of that period. But there is no doubt that some these so called generals etc. are good candidates for war crimes.

asif Dec 24, 2013 06:20am

A very well written article

lubna Dec 24, 2013 09:20am

I cannot believe,it is coming from a lawyer,I think you havenot read the proceedings of this case in the court of law in bangladesh---somebody have to check your credentials as a lawyer--I am disappointed that you are considered a lawyer in pakistan.If you have been in canada,you would not be able to get a law degree and if you would have ,it must have been revoked by now and you would have been facing lawsuits in canada --this is utter ignorance to write without reading the court proceedings of this case

Tariq K Sami Dec 24, 2013 09:27am

There are always two sides of the story in every civil war. However it is the Victors who write the history. Let us remember this inhuman chapter in our common history and say never again to Military Action.

sherie Dec 24, 2013 01:59pm

i totally agree with what is said in this article. we should be questioning our parliament for wasting time on an issue such as this in the face of injustice and blood shed in our own country. bigoted and smug, thats the right description.

gagan sarkar Dec 24, 2013 04:17pm


So you are a legal luminary from Canada, and you are justifying the murder of the innocents. I am not a lawyer, but as common sense dictates, a murderer must be punished.

And why would Bangladesh follow the Canadian law?

gagan sarkar Dec 24, 2013 04:18pm

@Afzaal Khan :

People like you are the very cause why the country is in such a mess.

Uza Syed Dec 24, 2013 04:28pm

@lubna: Babar has a law degree from Harvard Law School and is licensed to practise law over there and I'm sure that you don't have many lawyers in Canada with Babar's credentials and most of your lawyers would wish that they did.

Fugstar Dec 25, 2013 03:48am

Interesting analysis of the moral quagmire on the issue. Late AQ Mollahs trial was a farce for all international observers to see.

Agha Ata Dec 25, 2013 06:46pm

There was a little tension in 1971 and in the following decades, that what the future historians or writers would say about what was going on in Bangladesh then. Well. . . the future historians and writers are here now. read what they are saying.

shuaib Dec 26, 2013 11:05am

@uza syed..I think Ms. Lubna has a valid point here. Graduating from Harvard Law School does not mean anything. BTW, the World is in economic turmoil because of graduates from these schools.