A Bangladeshi in Pakistan

Asif Chaudhury, a Bangladeshi friend of mine just sent me this interesting piece of writing that he found on a Blog. It’s written by a Bangladeshi girl who was visiting Pakistan recently and she has expressed her personal sentiments and experiences of the trip.  Her Blog is – http://krishnochuramusings.blogspot.com/
* The Picture below is of a Water lily in Bangladesh*

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“ Apko kia pata, ke humara dil apke liye kitna rota hai. Jab aap logo ko koi taklif hota hai to humain lagta hain k taklif humain ho raha hai. Bohot pyar karte hai hum aap se. alag ho gaye to kya hua. Bhai to bhai hota hai. Bangladeshi to humare bhai hai.”

Rafe, 60-something, Bus-driver, Lahore

I’ve met people from different parts of the world and traveled to a few places myself. But never, not once, in any of my interactions or travels, have I ever come across a race of people who have made me feel so proud of my nationality: Bangladeshi. But then, I visited Pakistan. I was born in an independent Bangladesh. I’ve never had to struggle to get my voice heard, I was allowed to vote (till quite recently) and I’m allowed to speak my mind. Until my trip to Pakistan, I had never realized how precious all these things are. I had always regarded Pakistan, a distant country, as a bitter chapter in our history. But only after meeting the people did I realize how close we could be and how much my heritage means to them. Never before have I received so much respect for just being Bangladeshi.

Till quite recently, I had never visited Pakistan. Neither had my parents. Since the only Pakistanis I’d met belonged to the educated bourgeoisie class, I had assumed that it was only this select lot who were aware of the atrocities committed in 1971. I had always believed that most Pakistanis believed that Bangladeshis were Kafirs who had let India take them over and regarded us with disdain. Don’t ask me why I thought all of this or what explanation I have for my notions. My notions had stemmed from the prevalent attitude of our pro-liberation buddhijibis, who have, through their own glorifications of our War of Liberation, somehow equated patriotism as anti-Pakistani feeling and instilled that in some of us. In fact, I still know people who think that to be a true patriot you would have to hate Pakistan, with all its institutions and people. Our elders in Bangladesh, somehow always let us think that Pakistanis don’t care about Bangladesh. I’m not blaming them for my ill-conceived ideas. I was partly to blame for judging a whole race simply on the basis of the half-truths I had heard. I am not proud of what I thought. But my recent trip to Pakistan has made me feel proud of who I am and I am proud of my newly acquired views. Though I think that I now face the threat of being termed a ‘paki-lover’ or ‘Rajakar’, I am writing this because I think that our generation needs to know the other side of the story.

To be perfectly honest, upon our arrival at Islamabad, since the very first people we had met were bureaucrats, I didn’t buy into the whole “Pakistani-Bangladeshi bhai bhai” ideology they seemed to desperately convey to us. To me it seemed too forceful, too elaborate and too far removed from what we in Bangladesh have been led to believe about Pakistani attitude towards Bangladesh. If every shop-keeper, hotel-boy, porter, flight-attendant, bus-driver and almost everyone else I had met hadn’t echoed the same sentiments, I probably never would’ve believed that Pakistani people actually believe that we are still their brothers and they love us. It’s love that is rooted in our shared history, in our present day struggles to make our mark in this world, our efforts to rise above poverty and frustration at watching our neighbors grow at exponential rates as we combat the demons of corruption and bad governance.

“There are so many things we need to learn from Bangladesh. In fact, I personally think that your Caretaker Government system is very effective and we’re trying to emulate that”, an Additional Secretary told the ten-member media delegation from Bangladesh. Nothing was said, but their admiration for our achievements, including in establishing democracy and keeping it for 15 years, was apparent. In Karachi, an official of the Press Information Department under their Ministry of Information regaled the success of our homegrown micro-credit formula and it’s award-winning success. As far as the bureaucracy of Pakistan was concerned, everywhere we went we were greeted by praise and accolade. Even with 106 licensed private TV channels and 60 on-air channels, the Government of Pakistan marveled at how the journalists in Bangladesh are better trained and more sensitized. In a country where GEO News was closed down for violating State of Emergency rules, the Bangladeshi media received accolade from the Pakistani media for the courage demonstrated and the torture survived. In a media world now free of ‘press advise’ from intelligence agencies or foreign ministries, they marveled at the openness of our media. Peshawar Press Club gave the media delegates a reception and Express News threw a dinner. I am told that this is commonplace for all delegates from Bangladesh visiting Pakistan. But it most certainly wasn’t commonplace for me. No one had ever told me that this is how much respect these people have for us. All I have learnt from the learned, well-versed editors of our progressive newspapers is that Pakistan, the monsters who had killed our people in 1971 is now a failed nation. They forgot to mention the people of Pakistan, the warmth and hospitality they extend to all visiting Bangladeshis and the love and respect they still have for us. They never taught us how to help them or how to become friends with Pakistanis. Ulta, this was frowned upon. We weren’t told about how much they crave our friendship.

I had always believed that the atrocities committed in1971 by the Pakistani Military Hanadar Bahini, the genocide and the rapes would be a taboo topic for us in Pakistan. Taboo not just on the account us being invited by the Pakistan Government, but also because I had believed the Pakistani version of the events of 1971 to be different from ours. Therefore, you can imagine my shock when everyone I met mentioned our Liberation War (mind you, not the “Fall of Dhaka”) as ‘mistakes made by us in 1971, that shouldn’t have happened and we wish they hadn’t happened’. Rafe chacha, the man who drove our bus said to me, ‘beta, Bhutto ne jo kia, bohot galat kia. Mujhe to ootni talim bhi nahi hai, par itna to mujhe bhi pata hai’. Roughly translated, he meant that despite his lack of formal education, even he was aware of the atrocities committed by Bhutto (not just Yahya Khan, the executioner, but also the dictator) in 1971. Later on, he even explained to me how now that all of Pakistan is racially divided; they understand how Bangladesh must have felt. Rafe chacha even said to me how the people of Pakistan feel that political leadership in Bangladesh is much stronger than in Pakistan. ‘Benazir Bhutto jo thi, wo bhi zamindar ki beti thi. Oon ko kia pata k 3 din se mere ghar mei atta nahi hai. Aap k muluk mei to kitne acche admi hai, leaders hai. Humai aaj take k bhi sahi admi nahi mila. Aap ka jo dr.yunus hai, un ho ne garib o k barei mei socha, kuch kia. Humare yaha ek bhi aisa admi nahi mila’, he remorses. He said he echoed the sentiments of the rural working class who are always struggling to survive the repeated onslaughts of the political turmoil in the country. The ups and downs of power-play-who wins the elections or who looses, really never affects the common man. He knows that politics is not for him. He knows regardless of who wins the election, if there ever is one, at the end, he looses. Successive regimes have only helped to widen the rich and poor divide and people like Rafe chacha seek a program like micro-credit to improve their financial conditions. There are millions like Rafe chacha who would benefit from the models developed by our NGOs and civil society organizations that help the grassroots people. Even a PID official admitted that Sheikh Hasina is his favorite South Asian leader because she stands for the common man. The sectarian violence, the non-homogenous population and the increasing rich and poor divide has helped people like Rafe chacha and the likes of him realize and empathize with our plights pre-71. We, as Bangladeshis, as an independent, sovereign nation, with our certain successful social organization models are now in the capacity to help them and save them from the fate we had suffered.

“Baji aap Bangladesh se hai? Arre kia baat hai. Phir to aap hamare mehman hai. Aap ko kia pilau? Paani yia Cola? Aap meri puri dukan le jao koi masla nahi. Mehman hai aap humare’. I got tired of hearing these lines. I heard the same lines in Islamabad, in Murree, in Karachi and even in Peshawar. A pukhtun shopkeeper abandoned his shop in the evening, in a jomjomat bazaar just to show a few lost Bangladeshi journalists the way to another bazaar. In fact, the Pathans made these guys have dinner with them, saying that Bangladeshis were not just guests but brothers.I have never received so much love and respect anywhere else in the world, for simply being Bangladeshi. Everywhere I went, everyone I met, somehow managed to show this chit of a Bangladeshi girl, with her uncovered head and bare arms, an amazing display of camaraderie and respect. I really don’t know what I have in common with the man from Waziristan who dragged my luggage across the streets of Saddar in Peshawar or the teachers of Peshawar University who were going berserk trying to find an old picture of my grandfather which could’ve been anywhere in Pakistan. They didn’t have to do any of that. They are not answerable to any government, theirs or mine. They didn’t know me. They belong to a different nation, a different culture and an altogether different world. But somehow, they were able to relate to me before I could relate to them. They called me a sister even before I would consider them friends. They made the first move, they extended their hand of friendship and their love and hospitality. They gave me love because they believed that their leaders had wronged us in ’71, but we have survived and grown stronger, and more successful than them. We have greater literacy rates and more female participation in all sections of the socio-economic system. From Islamabad to Peshawar and in Karachi, all they gave us was love and respect and all they wanted from us was knowledge. They humbly expressed remorse for 1971 for the actions of the Pakistani military. In every action of theirs, I saw a call for help and solidarity. I felt that this nation, once so known to our forefathers, now completely alien to us, needs us to cooperate with them, help them up, just like one brother (even an estranged one) would help another. They made me feel strong and powerful. They made me feel proud of our achievements—all the things that we take for granted at home. This wasn’t the kind of pride you feel when you defeat another team in cricket or when you realize someone else is worse off than you. This was the first time in my life a foreign country and people, by their own good actions, had made me feel so proud of my Bangladeshi heritage.

In war-ravaged NWFP, where the local government is still struggling to accommodate the refugees, ensure minimum security and attain a minimum standard of living for its entire populace, we were perhaps best received. The governor of NWFP, Mr. Owais Ghani only reinstated Pakistan’s new attitude towards Bangladesh, ‘Let us not be prisoners of our past. Let us learn from our past and now look forward’.

In my humble opinion and still limited purview of the world, I feel that Bangladesh and our hard-earned independence have been vindicated. We have proven to Pakistan, home to our military oppressors and bloodthirsty dictator of 1971, that we have survived and we’ve only gotten better. Now, it’s time to show them just strong we are by sharing some of our strengths with them and helping them out in their struggles.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. If we now close our doors to Pakistan, we will be shutting out a friend. The people of Pakistan have nothing but respect for Bangladesh. They want to learn. They want to know. But what will be our call? Will we play into the hands of those who have used the sentiments of 1971 to progress their own vested interests or should we promote our inherently peaceful and progressive way of life to a nation that looks up at us with hope and an offer of friendship. Again, at the risk of being labeled, I dare suggest that perhaps, it’s time to call truce and move on. We will never forget 1971, but then taking pride in our history should not be analogous to hating the people of another country, who were also victims of their circumstances and military oppressors.

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19 comments

  1. Asif Chaudhury · · Reply

    That was quick! I was pleasantly surprised when I read this. Like most Bangladeshis, I had no idea that some people in Pakistan had such positive views towards Bangladesh and felt some sort of connection still existed with Bengalis. Looking forward to seeing what your blog readers (especially Pakistanis) think.

  2. Very interesting article and point of view. I just finished reading a book called “A Golden Age” and I strongly recommend that people from Bangladesh AND Pakistan read it. The book is fiction and is Tahmima Anam’s first novel. While I’ve read historical accounts of what happened in 1971 and heard our side of the story it was eye opening to read this book.

    http://www.amazon.com/Golden-Age-Novel-P-S/dp/006147875X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245418109&sr=8-1

  3. Also, it was pretty surprising to see ZAB referred to as a dictator.

  4. Asif Chaudhury · · Reply

    PK, that is also quite a common Bangladeshi view. This is based on his refusal to accept an Awami League government which was democratically elected.

  5. My mother is Bangladeshi and my father is Pakistani, and although I spent my elementary school years in Dhaka, my formative years were in Pakistan. 1971 has always been a sensitive topic for me, since I had heard first-hand accounts of the war from my mother’s family. However, in high school in Pakistan I still remember kids saying they didn’t believe what the teacher was saying when she taught the topic. It led me to learn more about the war myself, and I interviewed several Bangladeshis living in Pakistan when I was in high school to hear their stories. In college, I took a seminar on genocide, where I combined a first-hand story of my mother’s friend (whose father, once part of the Pakistan army, was killed and put in a mass grave when the war broke out) with the statistics I found. The sense of denial I witnessed in the 1990s when I was in school bothered me to no end, and was the impetus behind me searching out what really happened.

    Having said that, I do think there has been a sense of awareness and ACCEPTANCE that has occurred in the last 10 years in Pakistan – I think enough time has passed for Pakistanis to step back and look at the war from a more objective lens. It has not only allowed for more empathy but more of an understanding of where we were wrong. And I think that kind of acceptance is key for us in moving forward as a nation. Pakistanis need to understand our history through that lens in order to understand our mistakes so as not to repeat them in the future.

    Thanks for this great piece. I get really passionate about this topic, so it was really fantastic to read a Bangladeshi’s perspective on the situation, and to see how positively she was received.

  6. Asif Chaudhury · · Reply

    I have a few relatives who are half Pakistani and most of them share your view Kalsoom. Regarding awareness and acceptance, I have met many Pakistanis with opposing views which led to very interesting debates between my Pakistani friends at university.
    1971 is a touchy topic. Especially for Bengalis who still see Pakistani denial as an insult.

  7. Naeela · · Reply

    I am so inspired to read this account of a Bangladeshi visiting Pakistan and hearing the responses of everyday people about Bangladesh and Bangladeshis.
    Living in the USA and having very close relationships with some Pakistani families, I have noticed two distinct situations. The average Pakistani living in the States embraces the Muslim Bangladeshi as a brother and often is, (depending on the age group) very much unaware or unconscious of the 1971 happenings. They embrace a Bangladeshi just as they would embrace another Muslim from another part of the world and more so because they have many other things in common with them. The educated among them also go to the extend of embracing a Bangladeshi other than a Muslim as a brother on the basis of common history. On the other hand, there is a sense of superiority complex and a patronizing attitude towards newly arrived Bangladeshis from settled and professional Pakistanis. This is similar to what our parents would describe in the elite classes in Pakistan in the pre-Bangladesh era. Many in this group claim that the 1971 situation was East Pakistan’s own doing and they had brought it upon themselves (that they were the naughty boys and needed to be spanked). That the West Pakistan was the perpetrator only to the extent of bringing discipline to the situation and in the process also became the victims. They cite how their families had to leave E.Pakistan in one clothing, their jobs, businesses, their assets and lost family members during the 9 months of fighting to the war. They cite that they were never compensated. The extent of ravages of the war within the East Pakistan territories are either not acknowledged or sensitively omitted during the discussions. To many I have simply offered books written by Harvard educated Bangladeshis on the accounts of the war.. the one that I invite them to read is My story of 1971 by Dr. Anisur Rahman which like the ekatturer chithi is an acount of the time through personal letters, pictures and some narrations. As a person of international reputation and credibility, his words are indeed taken seriously. I often do not hear back from them after they read the book.
    As regards to Bangladeshis, there are families who simply refuse to have any connections with any Pakistanis or Urdu speaking nationals regardless of anything just on the ground that they (meaning their ancestors) had killed our people. It is indeed very hard for them to move on.

  8. trueblue · · Reply

    This article is entirely unbelievable. I dont know of a single Pakistani who would be like Wow, you’re from Bangladesh, Wow, you are our guest, WOW! etc. That is SO unlike Pakistani behavior.

  9. Hello
    Thank you all for your kind comments and thanks to the blogger for posting this. A more detailed discussion on the piece can be found here http://unheardvoice.net/blog/2008/06/17/a-proud-bangladeshi-in-pakistan/
    Best wishes,
    Fariha

  10. Pakistanis have same attitude toward every guest visiting their land. Indian who visit Pakistan get hospitality shock when they meet average Paksitanis. This is the reason the Pakistanis were immune from foreign invadors when they raided India. Pakistanis were very hospitable people. It is very sorry to know that Bangalis are still captivated by their past and they are unable to seperate the past from Pakitanis. Bangladesh is a failed nation today with more corruption than any nation except Zimbabway. Pakistanis strike a common bond when it comes to dealing with corrupt govt.

  11. I think as a true Pakistani national I dont agree with her observation which she observed during her visit in Pakistan that we need Bangladesh support to resolve our financial aspects. I think Pakistan is the most powerful country appears after 1971. Pakistan is very advance in all fields of life.

    Yes i agree we Pakistanis are very loving and peaceful nation and I proud of my armed forces including Gen. Naizi Commander Eastern troops and Field Marshal Yahiya how fought bravely in 1971 against Traitor Mujeeb and his indian army agents plus USSR and USA fundings.

    We proud of our national army heros. Please as a Pakistani nation stop say sorry to these Bangali traitors coz that land is famous for Mir Jaffers and Mir sadiq. “Bangal is the land of traitors. “Her Kam mei Allah kei bahteri hoti ha”. God saved our nationals both men and women from this creepy BD nation.

    We are best from many countries.

    The losers are bangalis not us. Our army did right thing at that time to kill indian plotted terrorists and basterd traitor like mujeeb ass hole.

  12. Saime are you Indian?????
    I am Pakistani, I must say that we love our Bangladeshi brothers and have great respect for them. Our dictators did wrong in 1971 and we are sorry. Every time something happen in Bangladesh we feel pain.
    Remember the non of us would be free today if we didn’t fight togather.

    Long live Pakistan
    Long live Bangladesh

  13. One more thing, Jinah was was our father, Pakistan And Bangladesh are bothers who had diffrences and decided To move out of one house, that’s how I see it

  14. Palash · · Reply

    I think it’s about time that we forget the past and be united.
    Long Live Pakistan. Long Live Bangladesh.

    long live Pakistan
    long live Bangladesh

    Sincerely,

    Your Brother from Bangladesh

  15. Rizwana · · Reply

    A very interesting piece of writing. I am from Bangladesh but have been brought up in Oman and i have seen and interacted with many people from the subcontinent. There are people who are not very good and there are people who treat you like a part of their family regardless of your nationality, culture etc. I dont think Bangladeshis should make hating Pakistanis an essential sign of patriotism. Those who do this are nothing but intolerant, prejudiced, narrow-minded whatever you want to call them. what the leaders of pakistan did in 1971 is obviously something to be gravely condemned but at the same time we shouldalso bear in mind that 1971 is past (a very important past indeed) but that doesnt mean that we will consider every Pakistani our enemies. We are Muslims and we are supposed to be tolerant and kind towards others…Muslims and non-muslims. And for those Pakistanis who deny the mistakes and brutality of thier leaders back then..well history speaks for itself. the world has seen what happened and no matter how much ever you deny it the fact will always remain a fact. So i hope people will stop judging each other based on a distant past and have a more kind and broad-minded attitude towards others..be it Bangladeshis or Pakistanis.

    1. Shahid Mahmood · · Reply

      Hello Rizwana,I like what you write,we Pakistanis does not deny the attrocities happened in 1971 but want to talk about both sides I mean what happened with women of west pakistan ,there were three game player Indra Gandhi Z A Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib.all were assasinated,whole faimly with Mujeeb slaughtered except haseena,second come to indra first his one son killed in crash then she killed by her own gaurds and his only remaining son rajiv too metdeath in blast third come to Z A Bhutto,first he hanged to death then his younger son killed by his afghan wife then his elder son murtaza bhutto killedby police when his sister was P.M,and at last benazir too killed in blast.many would say that it was merely a coincidence that nature did vanisshed not only the real players but their generation too.

  16. Shahid Mahmood · · Reply

    I appreciate this article but I am not agreed as writer gave impression that they are developed then pakistan ,look pakistan is only islamic country with nuclear power ,pakistan is among 10 military mights of the world,india dont dare to step in pakistani border ,perhaps we are humble peoples so writer get wrong impresion of her warm wellcome by pakistanis ,USA,Britain,Russia,China every country knows our potential,Israel is on our finger tips and so all of india this is to keep the record straight militarily we become invincible and economically we are struggling and Inshallah we will be economic power too.best wishes for all Bangladeshis .

  17. I think Pakistan and India can never accept each other as brothers being from different religion. However Bangladeshis are muslims and brothers of Pakistanis as they share common religion and history of independence from british India. I propose that both East and West wing of Pakistn now should reconsider and join a confideration to be more powerful in sub continent. If east and West Germany can do this why cant Bangladesh and Pakistan do this ?

  18. long live Bangladesh ! Long Live Pakistan! Long live India! Long live Srilanka! Long live Nepal! Long live Bhutan! long live Maldives! Long live afghanistan

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