Mohammad Zainal Abedin: The twin of the subcontinent — Pakistan and Bangladesh — seems to come closer for a better and more secured future forgetting the errors and bitter memories of the bloody past. One finds such a ray of hope if one reads the letters that the PMs (Prime Ministers) of both countries sent to each other on March 23 and 26 respectively on the occasions of their National Day and 50th Independence Day. Such judicious moves of the both the PMs are timely and praiseworthy.
Since prehistoric age human history experiences uncountable bitter and undesirable bloody clashes, battles and wars. There are such records, people belonging to different clans, tribes, classes, kingdoms, regions, countries, colors, creeds fought for centuries centering power, throne, kingdom, empire, assets, ethno-religious strife, differences, and even centering women. But with the span of time, particularly after the emergence of nation-states, everything changed and is measured or weighed on the scale of national interest.
In framing state policy national interest gets priority and preference above everything. The contents, language, and spirits of the letters of Sheikh Hasina to Pakistan PM seems to be an effort in that direction. Though it is obviously a diplomatic courtesy or formality, it is also a clear indication to create a working relationship between the two countries.
So there is nothing to be wondered if Bangladesh and Pakistan emerge as best friends for their respective national interests. They have common memories of joint struggle for a Muslim Homeland to get rid of the tortures, exploitations, hatred and humiliations let loose by their two adversaries — British imperialist and their Hindu beneficiaries and collaborators. It is very common and natural that they would come closer and maintain fraternal relation setting aside their fateful errors and sorrows of 1971.
Ample examples of such reconciliations were recorded in history, which were equally tragic. To end American occupation Vietnamese, with the help of China fought against America for 25 years. America lost about 50 thousand soldiers and uncountable numbers Vietnamese killed and women raped. Now Vietnam suiting its eco-strategic interest chose America as its protector and main investor, but considers China as its arch enemy. America almost destroyed Japan during the 2nd World War, but to safeguard its interest, even security, Japan now treats America a reliable and strong ally. America still maintains its military base in Japan. The western countries, including America, fought against Germany in two world wars, but now Germany is an active member of EEU and NATO. Even America fought for seven and a half years against Britain to end its colonial rule, now America and Britain are trusted allies.
PM of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and her Pakistani parallel PM Imran Khan, probably, remembering the agonies of about two-century long black history under the British rule assisted by their Hindu stooges-cum-benefices and present surrounding of the subcontinent prompted them to think to minimize their half-a-century old distance due to the blood-stained memories of 1971. Since Pakistan PM Imran Khan came to power he undertook vigorous steps through Imran Ahmad Siddiqui, the current Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka, to break the ice and make the relation warm between the two countries. Surprising all, Imran Khan called Sheikh Hasina and talked for 15 minutes that abacked all concerned.
Now the latest letters of both the PMs made the situation quite clear. On the occasion of Pakistan Day (March 23) Bangladesh PM Sheikh in a letter of felicitation to her Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan stated that Dhaka is committed towards peaceful and cooperative relations with Islamabad and other neighbours.
She wrote, “On behalf of the government and the people of Bangladesh and my behalf, I would like to extend to you, and through you, to the government and the people of Pakistan, our heartiest greetings on the occasion of Pakistan Day,” reads the letter.
“Bangladesh is committed to peaceful and cooperative relations with its neighbouring countries, including Pakistan,” it says.
“I believe there are immense potentials for our existing relations to be further deepened and diversified in the coming years,” continues the letter.
“Both of our peoples could benefit from the shared journey towards development and peace,” it says.
“I wish you good health and happiness, and the continued progress and prosperity of the friendly people of Pakistan,” it adds.
Islamabad found it very assertive and encouraging. On March 25 Pakistan PM Imran Khan wrote a more flexible letter to Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on the occasion of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence held on March 26.
PM Imran Khan in his letter congratulating Bangladesh on its golden jubilee of independence invited Sheikh Hasina to visit Bangladesh at the convenient earliest time. He, in the same letter, also paid his great tribute to the departed soul of the Sheikh Mujbur Rahman, the first PM and President of Bangladesh.
“On my own behalf, and on behalf of the Government and people of Pakistan, I have great pleasure in extending our felicitations on the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh,” PM Imran Khan said in his letter to PM Sheikh Hasina.
He said; the centenary events to commemorate the late Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are reflective of the deep affection and esteem in which he is held by you and the people of Bangladesh.
“Pakistan deeply values its fraternal ties with Bangladesh, which are based on shared history, common faith, and convergent interests in promoting lasting peace and security as well as sustainable prosperity in our region and beyond.
“The centenary and the Golden Jubilee of Bangladesh remind us of the far-sighted vision of reconciliation and friendship between our two peoples, so dearly cherished by the leaders of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan remains a sincere partner in the fullest realization of this vision.”
The letter continues: “We would like to fortify our existing bonds with brotherly Bangladesh and build new ones for our succeeding generations, as we believe the destinies of our two peoples are intertwined.
“On this occasion, let us renew our resolve to jointly work for a better future for our peoples and even closer ties between our two countries.
“To take our deepening relationship forward, I also extend a cordial invitation to Your Excellency to visit Pakistan at the earliest convenience. I am confident that this would open a new chapter in our fraternal relations.
“I avail myself of this opportunity to convey best wishes for Your Excellency’s long life, health and happiness and for the continued peace, progress and prosperity of the brotherly Bangladeshi people.”
Letters of both the PMs indicate they have identical opinions in forwarding and improving the existing bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan, which have immense potential to deepen and diversify in future.
Such exchange of views between the two PMs of two Muslim countries attracted the attention of cross sections of people of both the countries. Some were even surprised seeing such a degree relationship, which none even thought of even a year ago, so this new initiative may have far-reaching consequences.
Hailing the letters of the PMs of two Muslim countries of South Asia, the former Federal Minister and Senator of Pakistan Jabed Jabbar termed the new development as time changer. He said, “My brief view is, this is the unique opportunity to resume dialogue between the two countries without any preconditions.”
Emphasizing the importance of looking forward, Senator Jabbar said, the past is important, but the future is more sublime, because the future will enable us to avoid further mistakes (that we) committed earlier.
“The better part of human history is the future part,” he quoted the British philosopher Bertrand Russell and added the current communication (between Bangladesh and Pakistan) has tremendous potential to further deepen and develop amity bilaterally, regionally and globally, particularly with the Muslim world.
Mostafa Kamal Majumder, editor of daily ‘The New Nation’ of Dhaka said, “Let the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan be meaningful and closer.”
He said, Sheikh Hasina is working to develop relationships with all the neighboring countries of Bangladesh. So it is natural she would also contact Pakistan. Keeping distance with any country doesn’t benefit Bangladesh, he opined.
Kamal U. Sayeed Mohon, a New York-based freedom fighter of Bangladesh Liberation War, however, opined, Sheikh Hasina wrote the letter keeping uniformity with India. Modi also expressed his intention to minimize problems with Pakistan what Pakistan PM passively welcomed.
So what Sheikh Hasina wrote was almost identical to Modi, perhaps at the instruction of Modi. She can’t go beyond the radar and prescription of India. However, geniuses of her sincerity her ability now depends whether Sheikh Hasina welcomes the invitation of Imran Khan and visits Pakistan, Mohon asserted.
A renowned octogenarian journalist of Dhaka termed the letters of the PMs of Bangladesh and Pakistan as a “welcome step to the right direction to normalize their relations.” He cautioned adversaries of Pak-Bangladesh friendly relations to disrupt it.
“Those adversaries will go to any length to keep the two nations aloof from each other,” he cautioned and added, “now the ball is on the court of Sheikh Hasina, she is to decide to which direction she will go.”
This octogenarian, who is an expert of subcontinental history opined that the positive or negative result of the current initiative entirely depends on “Sheikh Hasina’s will, which will also determine her position in the history.”
Recollecting history he said, Bangabandihu allowed Zulfikar Ali Bhutt to visit Bangladesh and he also visited Pakistan in 1974, so she does have logical ground to visit Pakistan honoring Imran’s invitation or invite him to visit Bangladesh.
Finally I should say, the ray of normalizing the relation between the two countries will reach its final destination once normal workable relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan is sincerely established. Though the contents and languages of the two letters are encouraging, thorny paths remain ahead. Success of this journey entirely depends on the goodwill and sincerity of two sides and how smartly and sincerely they can remove the throngs of the past. If the two sides honor their spirits that they ventilated in their respective letter they may open the most desired chapter of history which will be recorded as the turning point of Bangladesh-Pakistan relationship. Implementation of such an expectation, however, depends on the ability, sagacity and prudence, above all, sincerity of the two leaderships. *
Ø Mohammad Zainal Abedin is Bangladesh-origin American journalist & researcher.
Ø Written on Feb. 27, 2o21