The week is a sombre one ; the surrender at Dacca and the murder of children in Peshawar many years later remind us, that Pakistan has not gotten closure on much of what has happened in its past. There is a national trait; a combination of laziness and avoidance of difficult discussions, which the term ‘mitti pao’ best describes, that has left us wringing our hands every year for a couple of days in December. The Country has not moved on and is mired in its many military and political failures, yet all of us won’t do much about it.
The breakup of Pakistan is like Kashmir, unfinished business. Dacca’s fall and the subsequent shameful surrender of ninety thousand Pakistan Army troops were both avoidable and leave Pakistanis with emotions ranging from shame and anger to bewilderment a half century later. No formal apportioning of blame has taken place and nor have any heads rolled and worst of all no lessons have been learnt.
The Hamood ur Rehman Commission Report remains unaddressed and the role of the decision makers of ’71, both military and political are vilified, often without facts. Some questions that remain unaddressed are: –
- Were Admiral Ahsan and Lt Gen Yaqub Khan ignored for the sound advice they gave government, with an ulterior motive ?
- Did their respective resignations on the issue of military involvement in a political problem, not resonate with the leadership and why not. The subsequent March ’71 military action has not been analysed for its aim and how it was to be a solution; in fact second and third order effects appear to have not even been a consideration in the conduct of an operation that appears to have been in complete disregard for ground realities. a conspiracy at best and certainly gross incompetence at worst.
The ‘lesser citizen’, racist and un-Islamic discrimination meted out to East Pakistanis has never been called out and vilified. For a people who were largely responsible for the creation of Pakistan; West Pakistanis had disdain and racial dislike at the personal and institutional levels. Why was this not addressed then or even now.
- Who was responsible for the political problem that arose after the 1970 elections? Has blame been apportioned fairly after all these years and has Pakistan learnt anything from the politico-strategic folly?
- Was Eastern Command equipped to fight a war against India. Did it have requisite Air support artillery , and mechanised troops to conduct a worthwhile defence of the East?
- Was there another option to surrender? Could the disgrace of surrendering have been avoided or was that a preferred option.
These are tough but necessary questions that must be answered with honest self reflection in order to avoid future mistakes of the kind.
More recently, December has been a reminder of something truly evil.
The 2014 massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar where,132 children were cut down out of 150 killed is a weeping wound that Pakistan is in serious deficit of dealing with.
This too could have been avoided. Terrorists broke into a school and gunned down children and staff and the Pakistan government is still trying to find and kill/apprehend them. There are burning, unanswered questions that surround the handling of certain militants known to be involved in the attack. The APS attack galvanized a new wave of determination to fight terrorism in Pakistan, yet 8 years on, much of that initial gusto seems to have fallen flat and many rightly question the states resolve when not even the attack that shook the nations soul has been properly accounted for.
The government has shown a lack of resolve and in contrast to all expectations a previous government decided to undertake peace talks with the TTP. The lack of widespread protests in parliament at the time and in the streets of Pakistan is indicative of the callous indifference that the ‘mitti pao’ trait, that is now part of the national character embodies.
There is not even a National Monument in our capital to honour the children and the many thousands of victims to terror in Pakistan; and many years later the massacre is unaddressed, being forgotten by most Pakistanis. Meanwhile, the TTP is ascendant once more.
Some more burning questions arise and need to be thought about here:
1. Was the Judicial enquiry of any substantial use in the destruction of the TTP and did it apportion blame where it should have?
2. Was it an intelligence failure and was Pakistan’s soft engagement with the Afghan Taliban on the issue of the TTP an error that is now playing out in many other ways?
3. Has Pakistan been able to educate its citizens on the dangers of religious militancy?
4. Has Pakistan been able to point to the successful deradicalization of militants that were allowed back into Pakistan as part of the latest rounds of peace talks?
This December let us all think of the un-resolved questions and why so much remains in the “mitti pao” realm of unanswered questions and lessons not learned.
Pakistan has had and continues to have a crisis in Leadership, for strong leadership looks to learn and evolve from history. After all, the definition of insanity according to Einstein is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.