Communication & Media Cell; WMC, Washington DC, 13th December 2017, In a memorandum submitted to Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC, World Muhajir Congress strongly condemn atrocities committed by Pakistan Army in East Pakistan during 1971 war. WMC submitted this memorandum as Pakistan commemorates 45th Anniversary of Fall of Dhaka, when Bangladesh emerged as the new country.
World Muhajir Congress, a human rights and advocacy organization that represents approximately 70 million Muhajir population in Pakistan strongly condemn atrocities and brutal military action by Pakistan Army against Bengalis in East Pakistan during 1971 civil war.
The physical genocide of Bengalis in the then eastern part –known as East Pakistan- began on March 26, 1971 with the launch of Operation Searchlight, as Punjabi-dominated Pakistani Military from West Pakistan began a brutal crackdown to suppress Bengalis’ demand for the right to self-determination. During the ensuing nine-month-long war of independence, members of Pakistan military along with the support of Pakistan Army trained Islamist militias of Jamat-e-Islami massacred an estimated 5,00,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women in a systematic campaign of physical genocidal and rape.
It is also estimated that around 30 million civilians became internally displaced. After ethnic Bengalis, Urdu-speaking Muslims living in East Pakistan –known as Biharis- were the biggest victims of mass killings and rapes. The only crime of these Urdu-speaking Biharis was to support Pakistan Army during the movement to create Bangladesh.
Bengalis were the single largest ethnic majority group in Pakistan, 54 per cent, and were as much loyal, if not more, to the State of Pakistanis as were people living in West Pakistan.
It is very sad that till today none of the subsequent governments or institutions in Pakistan have accepted the reasons or responsibility for events in the former East Pakistan as well as for humiliating defeat in December 1971 that resulted in Pakistan losing its half territory and majority population.
World Muhajir Congress demands Pakistani government and authorities to not only tender an unconditional apology to Bangladesh government and acknowledgement of the genocide committed in 1971 but also to make Hamoodur Rahman Commission report public and hold accountable and punish those responsible for the war crimes committed in East Pakistan.
In 1947, Bihari Muslims, fleeing the violence that took place during the partition of India, migrated from India to the newly independent eastern part of Pakistan. These Urdu-speaking people remained loyal to the State of Pakistan throughout ethnic Bengalis’ movement for separation from Pakistan, causing anti-Bihari sentiments among local nationalist Bengalis. When the war broke out in 1971, the Urdu-speaking Biharis sided with the Pakistani Army.
On December 16, 1971, Pakistan Army surrendered before the Indian Army that had entered into East Pakistan to save ethnic Bengalis from mass scale genocide and rapes. Around 93,000 soldiers of Pakistan Army surrendered and were taken into custody by Indian Army as prisoners of war.
Soon after Bangladesh emerged on the world map as an independent state, Pakistani soldiers were shortly released and repatriated back to Pakistan. An estimated quarter of a million non-Bengalis, or stranded Pakistanis, however, are still languishing in Red Cross Camps in Bangladesh.
It’s been 46 years since East Pakistan became Bangladesh, yet these Bhiaris, commonly known as Stranded Pakistanis are still paying the price for siding with Pakistan and its Army at the time of Bengalis’ movement for independence.
WMC demands that these stranded Pakistanis be repatriated immediately back to Pakistan with dignity and honor. We fail to understand when 93,000 Pakistan Army personnel could be repatriated then why not the civilians who stood with Pakistan and its armed forces at one of the most critical times in their history.