Thursday, December 16, 2010
Joy Bangla from the bottom of a Baloch heart
I WAS just 12 years old when he heroic people of Bangladesh defeated one of the world's most ruthless armies. Though many in Pakistan were weeping over the "fall of Dhaka" my family like most Baloch families were happy over the victory of the people of Bengal and creation of Bangladesh.
I remember just a year earlier, a Bengali domestic servant who was my age and who we used to call “Abdul” told me Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would make Pakistan jolt. Even though Pakistan was under the rule of General Yahya Khan, the blue-eyed boy of the Pakistan military establishment Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was acting like a soap opera “hero” in West Pakistan.
There was of course total self-denial in Pakistan about the Nazi-style atrocities being perpetrated on the Bengalis and all we could hear was that there was a war between Islam and Hinduism in East Pakistan; the Bengali freedom fighters were agents of India. Much like what is happening in my native, Texas-sized Balochistan today.
In Karachi, near the posh Hill Park area, I remember we used to play in the evenings with an excellent ballet dancer, who was the daughter of a prominent Bengali banker. I also remember vividly one day we heard the family had quietly left their home in the Pakistan Employees Cooperative Housing Society and escaped to Bangladesh, via Afghanistan.
Racial slurs against Bengalis were common; Bengalis were stereotyped as short, dark and thieves, in the backdrop of official silence on the political thievery and thuggery of more than two decades that had pushed
the Bengalis to the wall. Just like the Baloch are projected today, the Bengalis were said to be lazy and without ambition, good only at eating fish and producing offspring. This of course was the ploy of the military generals who were acting on the age-old premise: give the dog a bad name and hang it.
West Pakistan civil and military bureaucracy, notably Punjabi and mohajirs or Muslim immigrants from India, had devised the scam of One Unit to undermine the majority Bengalis enjoyed and to enable the West to steal the wealth of “East Pakistan.” I remember we heard how quality rice – the staple diet of most Bengalis-- was cheaper in West Pakistan than in East Pakistan.
Though Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman was portrayed as a traitor deserving death on Pakistan Television, there was some degree of support for Maulana Bhashani as his Maoist stress of social change rather than geographical change was favored by pro-China leftists.
The bloodbath that was be ing conducted by the so-called soldiers of Islam was never mentioned in West Pakistan; Al-Shams and Al-Badr were portrayed as patriotic, pro-Islam volunteers while the Mukti Bahini was projected as a pro-India mercenary force comprising uncircumcized Hindus. The same way Baloch resistance groups like Balochistan Liberation Army, Balochistan Republican Army and Balochistan Liberation Front are presented by Islamabad today. Yesterday, it was Sheikh Mujib today it is Hyrbyair Marri, Brahumdagh Bugti, and Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch who are resolved the national emancipation of nearly 20 million Baloch people in an independent Balochistan.
I also had a personal connection with Bangladesh. In my childhood, I used to hear from my late dad about how he had trekked through Cox's Bazaar afoot in his early twenties, commandeering nearly 40 family members during World War Two from Rangoon to Karachi. I had also heard about the man-eating jungles that came in the way.
I finally got a chance to visit Bangladesh in 1997.
I was really elated and emotional when I landed in Dhaka in a free Bangladesh. The ting ting of the bell of thousands of rickshaw-pullers was to my ears romantic, music of freedom
In Dhaka I met my colleague from the Inter Press Service, Tabibul Islam, a veteran journalist. His office in Dhaka was the same building that used to be the state-controlled Associated Press of Pakistan, a propaganda arm of the Pakistani authorities. I asked Islam when was the day he realized that East Pakistan would gain independence and he told me March 25, 1971 when Pakistan troops went berserk and staged a bloodbath in Dhaka University and elsewhere, leaving countless Bengali patriots dead.
I was extremely impressed by the excellent bus service that connects Dhaka with Cox Bazar's, stopping in Chittagong. I was intentionally wearing the traditional baggy trouser shalwar-kamiz suit to see how people in the streets would react with me. About 20 miles short of Cox's Bazaar the bus tire got punctured. The young man who was sitting next to me asked me, “Are you from East Punjab.” I replied no I was from Pakistan. He again asked me whether I knew what happened in 1971 and when I said yes, he asked again, “Then why are you here?”
I told the young Bengali I was a Baloch. “The same Pakistan military has killed thousands of my Baloch people.”
The situation in Balochistan has nosedived since then. In just the last couple of months more than 50 Baloch who were forcibly abducted by the Pakistan Military Intelligence, were tortured, shot in their head and their bodies dumped in the open.
Bengalis had very friends in the USA, some notable exception being the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and the US consul general Archer Kent Blood, author of the Blood Telegram, who put his career on line to openly revolt against the U.S. apathy towards Pakistan's genocide in Bangladesh. Today, the WikiLeaks cables show nothing has changed since the U.S. administration is talking primarily with Pakistan military generals and Inter Services Intelligence, when it comes to matters pertaining to the future of Balochistan, in stead of talking directly with Baloch leaders and stakeholders.
However, the Baloch look upon the secular people and government of Bangladesh with great expectations, especially when the Awami League is in power. To do justice to the three million Bengalis who gave their lives for their homeland and to the 200,000 thousand Bengali sisters who were raped, we urge the government of Sheikh Hasina to help the people of Balochistan by asking Pakistan to respect their wishes for an independent homeland.
From the bottom of my heart please accept, Joy Bangla! #
First exclusive publication on December 16, 2010
Ahmar Mustikhan is a Balochistan freedom activist and writer based in the Washington DC area. He can be reached at email@example.com