Pakistan won the title of champions in a closely contested Asia Cup final against Bangladesh at Dhaka and what a match it was; fortunes fluctuated throughout the match and the Pakistani team scraped through by holding on to their nerves. It was a game that kept you glued to the TV screens and at the edge of your seats. Both teams deserve all the kudos for entertaining the cricket followers across the world.
There is no bad blood in cricket between Pakistan and Bangladesh so the rivalry is only of sporting nature and both, the Pakistani cricket team captain, Misbahul Haq, and the Man of the Match winner, Shahid Afridi, paid respect to the efforts of the Bangladeshi cricket team. What left a sour taste was the callous behaviour of some Pakistani fans. In the run up to the final and during the match, Pakistani social media chatter was abuzz with memes like ‘East or West, Pakistan is the best’, ‘kyunki Bangladesh bhi kabhi Pakistan tha’ (because Bangladesh was once Pakistan) and ‘Hum jeetain ya woh, jeet tau Pakistan ki hi hogee’ (whether they win or us, the victory is Pakistan’s). Making a mockery of a country’s sovereignty is in extremely bad taste. Anyone with a modicum of decency would find such blatant discount of a country’s identity as a separate entity objectionable — throw in the atrocities committed by the state of Pakistan against its own people in former East Pakistan and it is downright offensive. To do so just before the Bangladeshi Independence Day is downright odious.
Around forty-one years ago, when General Yahya Khan asked his commander of the Eastern Command to “sort out the Bengalis”, Operation Searchlight was launched on March 25, 1971. The “sorting out” in Yahya’s speech meant brutally crushing a popular uprising. The operation started with an attack on the dormitories of Dhaka University where heavy artillery was used against students and citizens of the country. Though it took another nine months for the transformation of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, many say it was the last night of a united Pakistan. The following day, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of the Awami League and Major Ziaur Rahman in Chittagong separately declared Bangladesh to be an independent state and all hell broke loose. The operation that was ostensibly launched to save Pakistan, accomplished anything but that and left death, destruction, loot, plunder, rape and genocide of the Bengali people in its wake.
As a nation, we are good at brushing the nasty collective memories under the carpet. We do not mention incidents like Operation Searchlight or the dismemberment of the country in our history books or national narratives. We shy away from admitting that our state has systematically used rape as an instrument of war against its own people. We do not talk about how the state machinery was and continues to stay involved in the brutal murders of the very citizens it is mandated to protect. However, our collective ignorance should not lessen the intensity of turmoil that they have faced. The Bengalis have fought a hard war for independence and such disregard of their feelings is distasteful.
Every other day, we see one political leader or the other foaming at the mouth, wanting other countries, especially the United States of America, to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan. It is about time we accord the same courtesy to other countries.
First published in The Express Tribune