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The Great Tragedy!!!

15 December, 2006

By Faiz Al-Najdi


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16 December 1971 is remembered by most Pakistanis as the fateful day when Pakistan was dismembered by the enemy machination. East Pakistan changed its name overnight to become Bangladesh and over 90,000 of our troops became prisoners of war in their own country and later transferred to the prison camps of the enemy country.

 

This was a tragic day for all Pakistanis alike however for those Urdu speaking Pakistanis or non-Bengalis (also erroneously termed as Biharis) left behind in Bangladesh by the surrendering Pakistan Army, this became the mother of all tragedies. Even before the surrender, tragedy had already stricken them when immediately after the infamous Army Action of March 1971, the local Bengali populace, upon planned instigation & insinuation by the Awami League anti-Pakistan elements, had vented out their anger by running a revenge killing campaign of these unarmed defenseless people.  Countless of them were ruthlessly  murdered and dumped in mass graves throughout the former East Pakistan. These were in no terms less than a holocaust of the Nazis . All these ghastly crimes against these innocent un-armed Urdu speaking Pakistanis are now part of the history as they are very well documented in numerous international documents including the official White Paper from the government of Pakistan issued on 5th August 1971 and the Humood-ur-Rehman Commission Report of 1974.

Capitulation of the Pakistani administration there opened doors of hell for these non-Bengali Pakistanis who became the specific target of vengeance and retribution. Hundreds and thousands of them were once again murdered in cold blood and their bodies dumped into open ditches which had become mass graves for these poor people. Later on, all these mass graves of non-Bengalis were shamelessly & craftily used by Sheikh Mujib and his cohorts to show-case & trump up the false propaganda about this so-called genocide of the local Bengalis by the Pakistan army. The truth of the matter is that genocide of  Bengalis had not happened at all. Bundle of Stories vis-à-vis Pakistan army's rape and genocide against the local Bengalis were purposely concocted to gain sympathy and to isolate Pakistan in the eyes of the international community. For this purpose, mass graves of the non-Bengali Pakistanis previously murdered by the anti-Pakistan elements were used to present them as those of the local Bengalis in order to implicate the Pakistan army in these crimes. The facts about such nefarious & shameless tactics are also very well documented in the international press including the famous book "Internment Camps of Bangladesh" by an American author Mrs. Loraine Mirza. Unfortunately, the tragedy that began for these Pakistanis, after surrender, did not simply end here. Soon after creation of Bangladesh, the political persecution of these Pakistanis continued and gained momentum day by day. As a first step, they were evicted from their homes to live in squalid shanty camps in the urban sprawls of Bangladesh. Several government promulgations, in the form of Presidential Orders by the prejudiced Bangladeshi government, were issued which had in fact become instruments to dispossess these Pakistanis of their properties and belongings. Presidential Order 1 and 16 of 1972 (Bangladesh Abandoned Property Order) is one such black order to quote from.  As a result, their properties, businesses & belongings were confiscated and bank accounts seized, young men were branded as traitors & Pakistani collaborators and were incarcerated for indefinite periods without trial. Those cooped up in the camps were confined to these neo-internment camps, not allowed to move out for any thing including jobs, education, healthcare or any thing.

In short, they were forced to live like prisoners within the confines of these shanty camps. This fact can be verified in many international publications, one such to quote from is "Blood and Tears" by Qutub Uddin Aziz. A ray of hope to end of their miseries and eventual repatriation to Pakistan emerged when the tripartite agreement was concluded in New Delhi in 1973 between Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. As per the agreement non-Bengali stranded Pakistanis were to be repatriated to Pakistan. During Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's time, concrete steps were taken to repatriate some of them. Later President Zia-ul-Haq stalled their repatriation on the pretext of paucity of funds. This resulted in founding of Rabita Trust in 1988.

An agreement was signed by Zia-ul-Haq as President of Pakistan and Omar Abdullah Al-Naseef, the then Secretary General of Muslim World League. Advertisements were floated locally & internationally to seek & collect funds, land was allocated for some 40,000 houses in Punjab and one thousand houses were planned to be built in Punjab to rehabilitate these Pakistanis once they were repatriated. Former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz bears a testimony to all these serious discourse involving Pakistani government machinery of the highest level at that time and he can be approached for its veracity.

As the ill fate would have it, this issue once more received a setback during Prime Minister Benazir's government due to political expediencies. She, however, was reported (daily Jang-Karachi) to have promised a massive rally in Orangi Town-Karachi on 15 November 1996 (Orangi Town is where most of the former migrants from East Pakistan had first found refuge at and it was a constituency of PPP leader Afaq Shahid also) to repatriate the stranded Pakistanis once the Orangi people re-elected Afaq Shahid. However, that did not happen and so did not the repatriation.

Then came Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. During his period in 1992, a population census of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladeshi camps was carried out jointly by representatives of the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh with one representative each from Rabita Trust and the stranded Pakistani community. At that time the number was verified as 238,000. Immediately after this, Pakistani citizenship/ID papers were prepared for each of them and are still in the safe custody of the Rabita Trust office in Dhaka. It is also a fact that in September 1992, Pakistani High Commission with the help of Rabita Bangladesh had begun issuing identity cards to stranded Pakistanis only to be suspended later for reasons not cited. This fact can also be verified from the Rabita office in Saudi Arabia. Sequel to this, on 10 January 1993 Nawaz Sharif's government did however keep the promise and brought home some 325 families and housed them in the accommodations exclusively built for them in Mian Chunno-Punjab. This operation was also later halted on the pretext of fund constraints. And, that was the last batch brought home and ever since these Pakistanis are waiting peacefully to be repatriated to Pakistan. Their sufferings in silence can not be described in words.

Lot of water has flown under the bridges since they were first evicted from their homes and cooped up in the ghetto-like camps. In between these periods, old have perished with unfulfilled dreams of repatriation to Pakistan. The young have grown old with amassed hopelessness and dejection. And, what to talk about the young ones; they frolic in the dirt of the squalid camps oblivion of the torture that their elders have been enduring since long. In the meanwhile, Al-haj Nasim Khan the long-standing leader of the stranded Pakistanis also passed away unsung on 28 August 2005; himself waiting in vain until his death to be repatriated to Pakistan. His last meeting with any Pakistani leader of importance was President Musharaf who he had met in Dhaka on 30 July 2002. In the same meeting Musharraf had made a promise to him to resolve this issue of repatriation soon and is reported to have said to them, "leave this task to me", which he had in fact repeated three times in front of a number of leaders of the stranded Pakistanis who had accompanied late Al-haj Nasim Khan . Alas, he also forgot his promise.

The result is that even after passage of 35 years, these patriotic Pakistanis are still waiting to be repatriated to Pakistan. They continue to endure all sorts of subjugation, discrimination and humiliation at the hands of both people and the government of Bangladesh- all in the name of being Pakistani collaborators. Their dilapidated shanty camps are often torched by arsonists who are mercenaries of the local land grabbing mafia. Water and electricity supplies to their camps are often cut without notice. Access to jobs, health and education are denied to them because they are not Bangladeshi nationals. Their daily ration supply of meager quantity from Bangladeshi relief agency also remained suspended since past one year. In short their safety, security, and subsistence remain under constant threat from both the local Bengali populace and the government who look down upon them as Pakistani traitors. They have been carrying this stigma of being Pakistani collaborators since all these years - all in the hope of finally making to Pakistan some day. What a deception and what a tragedy indeed!!

On the other hand, the Pakistani government continues to dilly-dally on the issue; accepting them as Pakistanis at one time and issuing statements to the contrary at another. In short, Pakistani policy vis-à-vis this issue has never remained straight. Lip service goes on even at the highest level of the government. Promises after promise are made yet virtually nothing is done about it. Pakistani politicians are no different. The religious parties - the champions of pan-Islamism - have no time & resource for them as they have too much to worry about Kashmir, Afghanistan & beyond. They are often seen visiting Arab & European capitals but have never cared to visit their Muslim Pakistani brothers & sisters in these camps. PPPs shackled by political expediency as they fear antagonizing Sindhis. MQM was the arch advocate but also appears to have put

the issue on the back-burner at least for now. Late Al-haj Nasim Khan is partly to blame as he, at the behest of  Jamat-e-Islami, had earlier engaged himself unnecessarily in smear campaign against MQM Chief which obviously did not bode well with them. This was one reason with MQM; political expediency remains the other. However, according to MQM they remain committed to the cause. Senator Babar Ghouri's meeting with stranded Pakistanis leadership in Dacca on 13 Nov-005 is a testimony to this fact. Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif has a slightly better record as, although too little too late, they in fact tried what they had promised. However, Senator Mushahid Hussain, the Secretary General of PML is another case. He had once lived in Dacca during the 1971 period (he studied in Dacca Notre Dame College) and is fully aware of this tragedy. He didn't voice not once for their repatriation to Pakistan. While many writers, in Pakistan and abroad, have written and are still writing on the issue, he being a writer himself has even chickened out on this front as well. His indifference towards their cause is utterly despicable. Even Sattar Edhi who remains a champion of the underdogs worldwide, has traveled even to the war-wretched Lebanon, but never once cared to visit their camps. Irony is that in Pakistan a simple humanitarian issue has got so very politicized that its resolution is nowhere in sight. As a result, these poor people continue to suffer and live a sub-human life in those shanty camps.

On the international scene, the world is too busy in war on terror and the big powers are already too obsessed with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. UNHCR says they are not refugees hence remain out of their orbit.

Pakistan doesn't accept them and Bangladesh doesn't accord them citizenship, as a result they remain hung in balance as "stateless with no nationality". This is despite the fact that these people are Pakistani by all moral, political and legal standards. This case is very well taken up in the recent study of May-006 (A Case Study on Stranded Pakistanis: A Human Rights Perspective), conducted by Basil Nabi Malik et al of LUMS-Lahore. The most important point dwelt upon in the report per se is the Citizenship Act of 1951. In this case, a pivotal document, which incorporates the Stranded Pakistanis in its definition of a national. In 1978, a presidential ordinance was promulgated by Zia-ul-Haq which incorporated a new rovision, namely Section 16-A. Many experts and scholars alike argue that the said provision in effect expels the Stranded Pakistanis from the definition of a Pakistani citizen. However, if the provision is closely analyzed, and its words scrutinized in depth, it shall be seen that this section is more in favor of their return, than actually initially contemplated. And, the Muslim Ummah is another big disappointment. They remain in big disarray themselves; so it is futile to expect anything from them.

Despite all these apathy and indifference we find a solace in the fact that many organizations are devoting time and resources on this cause. The noted ones are the US based humanitarian organization calling itself a "powerful voice for lifesaving action" - Refugee International - whose Maureen Lynch has visited the camps and projected their plight worldwide. They have also researched on possible solutions to this humanitarian issue. So, solutions are there but it needs sincere commitment from both Pakistan and Bangladesh to address this issue. Besides, we also see USCRI (United States Committee for Refugees International) and AHRC - Asian Human Rights Commission campaigning for the cause.

On the relief & welfare fronts, we also see some organizations that are engaged in actual relief works in the camps. The noted ones are: US based OBAT Helpers and Saudi Arabia based MWDO - Muslim Welfare & Development Organization. Nawaiwaqt's Foundation (headed by Majid Nizami et al) are engaged internationally in raising funds for their repatriation & rehabilitation in Punjab. Some organizations are also helping the cause by devoting time & resource on intellectual and diplomatic fronts which include mobilizing public opinion and propagating & disseminating information about their plight.

They are namely, Pakistan Repatriation Council, known by its acronym of PRC, Stateless People in Bangladesh of USA and a newly formed association in USA called Friends of Humanity - FOH. Besides, the Saudi based organizations namely, MWL (Muslim World League), IDB (Islamic Development Bank), and IIRO (International Islamic relief Organization) have also made significant contribution towards alleviating the sufferings of these Pakistanis.

End.

Reader Comments:

A fact has been grossly exagerated that Pakistan Army raped and murdered the E. Pakistanis in huge numbers. I agree that atrocities happened but not at the high scale claimed by the H.Rehman Commission and our politicians. I would rather go with the UN sponsered reports which have unbias figures.
We also ignore the fact that Mukti Bahni was also involved in the rape and murder of both the E. and W. Pakistanis. I don't know why people look at the thugs of Mukti Bahni as some noble heros! MBs' atrocities are also put in Pak Army's account!
I hope and pray that some day Pakistanis still stuck in BD are brought back here!


Imran Siddiqui, Canada - 16 December, 2006

Democracy in Turkey Pakistan('47) Bangladesh('71) since 1918

Democracy is replacement of Muslim Empire in 1918.This lead to
The Independence of India ’47 Israel ’48 Bangladesh ’71.They
Came along With abandonment of Islamic infrastructure. Up until
1918 Islamic principle rightly or wrongly ruled the affairs of worldwide
MUSLIM. British East India Company of Kingdom of UK
Called it democracy and civil law. The democracy often called
Kingdom sheikdom Emir Dom Sultan Dom of Malaysia Turkish
Sultan Dom with House of Lords House of senates or elected
MPS .Now fight to call it UN for refugees or USA for refugee
Status is in fact a fact for EURO or dollar owned oifieldsales.
With it came WML IDB IMF Muslim organizations working
Working for the plight of Few Biharis few Gujratis or Darfur
Trapped tragedy people or such kind as helper edhi Sattar
Zakat fund raiser united way or organ blood distributor’s .They all
Are having meetings seminars arranged by democracy org
Of above Format with honours awards contract and excessive
Money available up for grab for privileged few human or few
Registered users with fancy organization name. They have seminars
Agenda year after years with nicer or more decorative tables
Food menu and statistics.


mbzI, United Arab Emirates - 16 December, 2006

Crisis of insensitivity

It is one of our big national shame that those who fought for Pakistan with Pakistani Army are aboandoned by none other than Pakistani Army and its leadership.Is this a practical warning to every Pakistani living on the border that in future if it happens with them they should abandon Pakistani army before it is too late and try to get safety for themselves from the aggressor army.So this is another feather in the hat of army.On the side of citizens this should not be ignored and there should be some pressure group that should keep on keeping the issue alive so these people can be repatriated and soon.Nations that are live and viable worry even about one person.In US even today there are flags about POWs/MIA waving on all the govt buildings reminding every one to join in generating pressure on VIetnam,yet these soldiers went there to attack.while Biharis are those who fought on their soil against aggressor.
Keep the issue alive.,make website and keep track of politicians who did or didn't do anything about this.,and remeember in voting.

Dr.Khan, United Kingdom - 16 December, 2006

Lets get on with life!

I can understand the feelings of a Pakistanin when it comes to the 71 war. Only thing I can say, as an Indian, is, lets get on with life. 71 was another generation, another era, whats the point of bleeding about it now? Both our countris have pressing and demanding tasks ahead of us like bringing the 3d of humanity out of poverty. I have worked as a freelance teacher in a slum in mumbai some years back, and I know one thing for a fact: HUNGER GOT NO RELEGION OR NATIONALITY. Only thing we can do as sensible people is to concentrate on things that we DO. A stable and prosperious Pakistan is a need not only of Pakistan but also of India. And visa versa. Just think of it, Europeans fought against each other for almost 1000 years, but they work together now. We have been hear on 60 somethig years, for Gods sake! Lets try to give a new and bright future to our people. I think that should be the priority of us now.

Arjun Serja, United Arab Emirates - 17 December, 2006

A huge shame indeed

It can only be called a big shame that we do not care enough about our fellow pakistanis. Even more sad is it when we could shelter millions of indianfriendly Afghans while our own are left behinde in outmost mizry. Those people, of all pakistanis of indian origan, should be the first one to be let into Pakistan. Twice in their life they gave up everything for sake of Pakistan. And this the we have rewarded them. They would have been only a tiny droplet in the pakistani poplulation ocean.
But then wich pakistani leader have ever really cared about pakistanis?

Khan. G. Farooq, Norway - 18 December, 2006

Beyound rhetoric

No one forgets! This will go on for ever. Does anyone truly believe there is a solution to the Indo-Pak morass? We'll fight until we bleed each other to death. It will end with one of the countries biting the dust. All these platitudes and verbal niceties do nothing. Kashmir will be solved by the sword and not words. Let us have the courage to accept this fact and save the empty words.

Jay, Philippines - 18 December, 2006

The Main Reason on Loosing War was Alcoholics Military-Leadership in 1971

The Main Reason on Lossing War was Alcoholics Military Leadership in 1971. Gen.Yaya Khan was a known Drunkerd Man always full of Drinking Alcohol and The same was ZA Bhotto also Mujeeb Rehaman.

In Internet when searching about Pakistan Export Bureau one see's how much more Pakistan is Locally Producing Alcohol for Export of course to Mid-East and Local Consumption under The name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
I am surprised that No Mulla or Imam from Suni or Shia is condeming This Act of Alcohol Licencing in Pakistan.
My Muslim Brothers Wake-Up and Reject The Alcohol Like at Fathey Mecca Alcohol was Thrown to Drain and also at the Office Charge Taking of Ayatolla Khomeni in Iran from all Iranian Embassies it was Thrown to WC. Islam is Clean see Sureh Al-Madiya Ayet 91 Alcohol is forbidden.

Mr.F.Koch (IPN), Netherlands - 18 December, 2006

Good riddance, not the great tragedy

Creation of Bangladesh was a blessing in disguise. Imagine Pakistan's fate today, if it had to feed, shelter and care for another 100 millions east pakistanis, a lot poorest of the poor.

Pakistan would do better by giving up Balochistan as well....

Richard A, United Kingdom - 18 December, 2006

Thats Correct

That's Correct Sir... whatever u say.. throw the alcohol down the drain..by the way.. what are u doing in Netherlands? Shouldn't u be in the land of the pure fighting against these things instead of enjoying the freedom guranteed by the European Uninion?

Vivek, Hong Kong - 19 December, 2006

For You Mr. Arjun, with logics

Arjun, would like to update your information. the Europeans fought on land and we are having a fight with India. As far as buiding relationship is concerned ,table talks with a giant is not possible. Tell me any single neighbouring country with which India has friendly relations. Now don't tell me that India has been a victim of their attrocities as this is unimaginable. A giant can not be eaten up by dwarfs. We can never forget that India ditched us thrice one in 1947, then in 1971 and lastly in 1999. Tell me if the role India played in 1971 by helping out the insurgents was that of a civilized nation. (If it is so then we r justified to support Kasmiri freedom fighters. Indira's words still resonate in my ears. we have sunk the Two nations ideology in the bay of Bengal. However the lady did not know that as long as BANGLADESH was East Pakistan, it was an ally of India. Today as an independent Sonar Desh it has become a real East Pakistan for India. Now India has to face 2 Pakistans. Two nations ideology still exists. u must say these rosy words to your politicans. As Jinnah only demanded Pakistan when the uncompromising attitude of Nehru & Patel led him to think that we can not coexist with u peacefully . This is further endorsed by the interview of Laxmi Sehgol (staunch supporter of Subash Chandar Bose) who said in an interview to rediff.com that Jinnah never wanted independence.

Do u think it is easy to forget those who sacrificed their present for our future? How can we forget 1.6 Millions brutal murders.

Check the statistics 95,000 Muslim women were abducted against 25,000 hindu woman.

Go and see the closed wells of Amritsar in which the Muslim girls jumped to end their lives.

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

The fire is on on both sides. Mr. Arjun, this nation is still not conscientiously dead. all we lack is the Leadership and once this vacum is filled, I tell u we will not see whether India has become a super power or whether it is a sweet heart of superpower. we shall pay off all the debts.

Sunbal, Pakistan - 19 December, 2006

NO TRAGEDY

IT WAS NO TRAGEDY. IT WAS INEVITABLE. MORE IS APPARENT UNLESS PAKISTANIS WAKE UP.

OBSESSIONS, BRAVADO, ATTITUDE, DENIALS, SELF PITY, LIVING IN THE GREAT PAST WILL NOT HELP PAKISTANIS AND PAKISTAN.

BANGLADESH WOULD HAVE COME TO BEING WITH OR WITHOUT THE INDIAN HELP/INTERVENTION. EAST PAKISTAN WAS AN UNNATURAL EXTENSION OF WEST PAKISTAN.

RACIST AND ARROGANT PANJABI MUSLIMS THOUGHT THEY WERE THE MASTERS OF INFERIOR BENGALIS. THEY HAVEN'T LEARNED ANY LESSONS. THEY CONTINUE TO BE ------ MOST UNREALISTIC PEOPLE WITH THEIR HEADS IN THE CLOUD.

A. V. RAO, United Kingdom - 19 December, 2006

MEANINGLESS

WHAT NONSENSE?

OF ALL THE EXCUSES PROFFERED BY ALL AND SUNDRY THIS TOPS THE LIST FOR THE MOST MEANINGLESS NONSENSE.

ALCOHOL HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LOSS NOR WERE THE PAKISTANI SOLDIERS COWARDS. THEY WERE OVERWHELMED BY A LARGER AND BETTER EQUIPPED ARMY AND THEY WERE FIGHTING A LOST CAUSE.

DON'T BLAME ALCOHOL. MR. KOCH LIVES IN NETHERLANDS THAT BREWS SOME OF THE BEST KNOWN BEERS IN THE WORLD AND IT IS NO SECRET THAT ARMIES AROUND THE WORLD (YES EVEN THOSE IN THE PURE ISLAMIC STATES) INDULGE IN ALCOHOL.

KOCH YOU ARE A COP OUT.


A . V. RAO, United Kingdom - 20 December, 2006

drunken observations

Reading F Koch's reactions makes one wonder if he himself is in a permanent state of inebriation. Going by his remarks on previous columns in your publication seems to strengthen my view.

aarvey, Hungary - 20 December, 2006

I think Faiz A Najdi is obviously not a student of history as his opening remarks imply that India was instrumental in engineering the split of Pakistan. The roots of Bangladesh were sown when Bengali Nationalism was trampled on by the powers to be in West Pakistan. It was the arrogance of the rulers and politicians that led to the gradual and total alienation of the Bengalis. Instead of distorting facts the author of this article ought present facts as history. Of course in the creation of Bangladesh, India became a "willing instrument" especially after the PAF attacked Indian airfields which ensured India's active participation.

aarvey, Hungary - 20 December, 2006

For a wrong that needs resistence!

Thirty five years later the debate about responsibilites of each party goes on unabated.
This is an invitation to those among you who believe in doing something about the present or the future to join us. Visit www.strandedpakistani.org and learn all about us and help us bring justice to this population. May Allah bless you all and end the suffering of the Stranded Pakistanis.

Syed Kamal, Pakistan - 07 January, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss when you want to Remain Ignorant

Faiz Al-Najdi, your superficial knowledge of history is appalling!! Atrocities in any name, race, language &/or religion is despicable! If I wasn't spared death in 1971, and I was as brain-washed like you must be, I too probably would have written that the reality is just a mirage!!!!"to show-case & trump up the false propaganda about this so-called genocide of the local Bengalis by the Pakistan army". The truth as I have experienced it is certainly different than your limited perception. Where were you Faiz Al-Najdi in 1971? I'm glad you're exploring history; just do that truthfully,honestly, and to be fair, without any bias; DO NOT re-write it!! Thanks.


EK, - 28 March, 2007

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