Apology from Pakistan

Apology from Pakistan

Bangladesh came into being through a nine-month bloody war in which Pakistan army committed atrocities on innocent unarmed civilians from March to December 1971. Yet Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman invited Prime Minister of Pakistan Z.A. Bhutto to visit Bangladesh in 1974 and he came to Bangladesh in July of that year. However it was reported Bhutto started tantrums in not showing proper respect to the Savar Martyr’s Mausoleum and did not reciprocate the generosity and noble gesture of Bangladesh towards Pakistan

The recent resolution adopted by the Pakistan National Assembly over the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah has spread a wave of anger in Bangladesh. It has been a political blunder of the government of Pakistan headed by Nawaz Sharif. The resolution itself is like “pouring salt to the wounds”..

Amid the widespread protests in Bangladesh over the resolution, Pakistan Foreign Office on December 20 made a statement that what was happening in Bangladesh was essentially its internal matter and passing a resolution in their parliament did not mean to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. The statement demonstrates that Pakistan realized its mistake and tried to minimize its impact on Bangladesh. But it was too little and too late. The damage has already been done..

It is recalled that when Pakistan Foreign Minister Ms. Hina Khar Rabbani visited Bangladesh for a few hours in November 2012 to invite the Bangladesh PM to attend the D-Summit, Bangladesh Foreign Minister reportedly raised with Ms. Hina Khar “some unresolved issues” including an apology from Pakistan for the atrocities inflicted on Bangladeshi innocent civilians in 1971. Ms Khar reportedly stated that Pakistan had “regretted in different forms and … it was time to move on”.

Probably Hina Khar meant that President General Pervez Musharraf regretted the tragic episode perpetrated by Pakistani army in 1971 on the people of Bangladesh while visiting Bangladesh in July 2002.

The Pakistani leader reportedly said: “Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events of 1971. The excesses during that unfortunate period are regrettable. Let us bury the past in a spirit of magnanimity. Let not the light of the future be dimmed.”

In using the word “excesses” to describe the actions of Pakistani forces, General Musharraf carefully avoided references to who committed the “excesses” and on whom the “excesses” were committed, and also whether they were mere excesses or constituted planned crimes against humanity executed by a military machine upon an unarmed people. His regret was not certainly considered an apology.

Apology means first the acknowledgment of crimes committed and second feeling and expressing remorse for crimes and third doing something to restore that was manifestly wrong and hurtful. The expression “regret” or “forgive and forget” does not equate to apology because self-acknowlegment and corrective acts by Pakistan are missing in these expressions.

It’s an important remedy for healing a damaged relationship. It tells the wronged party that the relationship with them is important. An apology has a number of positive effects for both parties. It does not erase past actions or the harm done, but it can erase the negative effects of those actions. A sincere apology brings relief by releasing the emotions, anger, resentment and bitterness. The apology soothes the wound and begins to heal the hurt. It allows the mending of the relationship to begin.

Incidentally, a few days after President Musharraf left Bangladesh, a joint statement by leaders of 51 civil rights organisations of Pakistan made a public apology to the people of Bangladesh. They said: “We feel sad and burdened by what we know was a violation of the people’s human rights… The apology should have come a long time ago, and citizen groups did make attempts to do so… We deeply feel that a message from us is necessary to acknowledge the historic wrongs, to express sincere apology and build a bond based on honest sentiments”.

In the recent past, there have been voices from Pakistani journalists, members of civil society should apologise for the atrocities committed in 1971.

The leading Pakistani English daily Dawn some time ago in its editorial came out for full-fledged apology to Bangladesh people. It wrote that Pakistan must recognise the wrongs committed by its leadership during those days, and issue a full-fledged apology — not just expressions of regret — that is acceptable to Dhaka.

It is the Pakistan armed forces which have to address the grave wrongs committed in Bangladesh more than 40 years ago. Most of the Pakistani high military officers who were allegedly responsible for the crimes are dead.

It is not understood why the new generation of leaders including the armed forces is not ready to apologise. They must note that new generation of leaders of Germany apologised to the Jews for the holocaust while that of Japan did to China and South Korea for war crimes. In 2008, Australian Prime Minister apologised to the Australian Aboriginal community for the wrongs committed in the past. The Vatican has apologised for the actions of Catholics who persecuted non-Catholics, and expressed sorrow over the attack on Constantinople during the Crusades, thousands of years ago.

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