Pakistan’s apology might help improve its relationship with Bangladesh
An unconditional apology by Pakistan may enhance its diplomatic and economic ties with Bangladesh. It may also work as a morale booster and help restore peace between the two nations
Pakistan has not yet apologised to Bangladesh for the crimes committed by its military during the Liberation War of 1971. This topic is often brought up during discussions on the two country's bilateral relations.
This decision by Pakistan has been met with strong reactions by Bangladeshis. Although relations between these two countries have improved over the decades, Pakistan's refusal to apologise still stands in the way of a more resilient partnership.
There have been notable cases in the past where states have apologised for war time crimes. For example, after the Second World War ended, Germany settled on a plan to compensate the victims of Nazi atrocities. Its apology had improved its relationship with the rest of the world.
Ex-Pakistani General Khadim Hussain Raja's posthumous book 'A Stranger in My Own Country: East Pakistan, 1969–1971', published in 2012, is a testament to General Niazi's murderous ideology.
General Raja said, "What Genghis Khan would have been hesitant to say, Niazi may say it with impunity." He also mentioned that Niazi intended to unleash his army on Bangalee women.
Pakistan established the War Inquiry Commission (also known as the Hamoodur Rahman Commission) to investigate the war crimes. The commission found evidence of the Pakistani army committing genocide. According to the commission's report, both the military and civilian regime had failed to explain why Pakistan had been defeated.
However, when Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman went to Lahore to attend the OIC Summit in February of 1974, he was welcomed by Pakistan's President Chaudhry Fazle Elahi and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It was here that Pakistan officially recognised former East Pakistan as the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
In 2011, Pakistani politician Imran Khan made the following comment, "Hatred has always been stoked in Pakistan army's efforts. We have a responsibility to extend our apologies to Bangladesh." However, this promise died down after he took power in 2018.
A straightforward apology may be sufficient for now to help improve the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan. It may also be beneficial for both countries' economies.
Having one country formally apologise to the other may work as a morale booster, this may also help restore peace between the two nations.
Pakistan is often seen as a militaristic state concerned with Islamic extremism, a security challenge with political turmoil, and a centre of power and secessionist movements bordering Afghanistan.
Trade between Bangladesh and Pakistan has enormous potential. Pakistan's trade surplus with Bangladesh is expected to reach $521.50 million while Pakistan is expected to spend $45.60 million on imports from Bangladesh. Pakistan also exports cotton yarns and textiles to Bangladesh. It also purchases goods from Bangladesh such as jute, tea, and tobacco.
Both countries face threats from separatist and extremist armed organisations and their improved relationship can help them fight against terrorism.
Together, these two countries can achieve many positive things together. They can resolve hurdles of Muslims and other ethnic minorities. They can become an important ally in ending the hostilities that have plagued the Rakhine State in Myanmar.
While formally joining China's Belt and Road Initiative, both have expressed support for regional connectivity. These countries can also join hands in tackling environmental challenges such as climate change and carbon emission.
Although history is hard to erase, this may be the right time for Pakistan to offer an unconditional apology to Bangladesh. It should do so for the greater interest of the nations.
If they become allies, their diplomatic and economic ties will be enhanced, and the people of both countries will enjoy a friendlier relationship.
Sauid Ahmed Khan is a student of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Dhaka.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.