Monday, 28 November, 2022

US Resolution on Pakistan’s Genocide in Bangladesh

A.K.M. Atiqur Rahman

At a congressional campaign committee reception of the Democratic Party held in Los Angeles a few days ago, US President Joe Biden has said that Pakistan is 'one of the most dangerous nations in the world' as it has ‘nuclear weapons without cohesion’. Although he said this in the context of possessing nuclear weapons without any cohesion, there might be other unknown truths hidden inside that statement. If Mr. Biden would have looked a little deeper into the past history of Pakistan, he would have been able to understand that his predecessors were too late in understanding Pakistan. It is surprising that a superpower like USA had to wait more than fifty years to know Pakistan. But Bangladesh, which is socio-economically backward than the United States, could identify the dangerous Pakistan in 1971. However, the fact that the United States finally got to see the real face of Pakistan after all these years is something really appreciating. Anyway, the doubt that yet remains in the mind even if it is a little - does the United States really consider Pakistan as one of the world’s most dangerous countries or is there some other purpose behind?

We understand that President Biden made such a comment on Pakistan while talking about various aspects of US foreign policy regarding China and Russia in the current international context. China-Taiwan tensions and the Russia-Ukraine war have caused the United States to stand against China and Russia. Pakistan has a close relationship with China since long time. Again, Pakistan had the same height of relationship with the United States. However, after 2010, as Pakistan's relationship with Russia deepened, doubts about Pakistan started to grow in the leaderships of the US. It is believed that this resulted in the resignation of Pakistan's the then Prime Minister Imran Khan. Therefore, it is natural for the US government to doubt whether Pakistan will step into any back alley with Russia using its bridge with China. However, the current government of Pakistan seems to have started a massive race to improve Pakistan’s relations with Washington.

What could be the possible motive of President Biden to 'define' Pakistan in this way? Taking into account the height of bilateral relationship between Pakistan and the US and the deterioration of that relationship in the last decade, we can see a probable scenario - (a) Pakistan is indeed a dangerous country which is known to the US for a long time but did not disclose for maintaining its supremacy in international politics; (b) Taliban's 'free style movements' on Pakistani soil since the US handed over power of Afghanistan to the Taliban last year; they may feel encouraged to grab nuclear weapons; (c) The new equation between China and Russia in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war, the fear of any negative impact on the US in maintaining its relations with Pakistan due to Pakistan-China relations and (d) Keeping Pakistan under some pressure so that it does not fall into the trap of the ongoing 'Russia-China equation'. However, after the fall of Imran's government, Pakistan's government has become desperate to restore relations with the United States.

The Taliban was born and bred in Pakistan. And since then, the US government stood by the side of the Taliban with all kinds of assistances and cooperation. Later, especially after 9/11, the US blessing on the Taliban disappeared. Again, it was the United States that handed over power of Afghanistan to the Taliban last year. However, there has been no change in the hobnobbing of the Taliban government with Pakistan. Such signs are already evident in some parts of Pakistan. According to reliable sources, the security system of the country is threatened due to the increase in terrorist activities in different areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly North-West Frontier) province, including the Swat Valley. A major rise in militancy leading to a possible unstable situation in Pakistan cannot be ruled out due to the ongoing political and economic crisis in Pakistan. The US concern regarding the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons is natural as the US government is well aware of the activities of the Taliban and their free movements in the territory of Pakistan.

As we know, various equations work in the international political arena. It is not only the big countries that need to calculate. Medium and small countries also have to understand and consider those equations. There are many instances in Pakistan's history that have convinced President Biden to be so concerned about Pakistan's nuclear weapons. It is not a difficult job to prove that any weapon, whether it is nuclear or others, is not safe in Pakistan's hands. But in all previous cases, the US government rarely expressed their concerns. In 1971, Pakistan Army used weapons to kill the people of Bangladesh, though the whole world spoke out but the US government did not show any concern. On the contrary, they provided military assistances to Pakistan in various ways, even though the American people opposed their government's policies that day. Fortunately, Pakistan did not have any nuclear weapons at that time; otherwise we could not find ourselves in Bangladesh. In view of that, if the Biden government speaks about such fears about Pakistan from its heart, it will not only give relief to the common people of America, but may also reassure the safety of the people of other countries in the world.

On 15 October 2022, a resolution has been introduced in the US House of Representatives demanding recognition of the atrocities committed against the Bangalees by the Pakistan Army in 1971 as a ‘genocide’ and ‘crime against humanity’. The resolution, among other things, also calls on the government of Pakistan to offer apologies to the people of Bangladesh for the genocide in 1971. Urging President Biden to recognise the genocide, the resolution has been brought by two lawmakers Ro Khanna and Steve Chabot. After several years of their efforts, they, for the first time, were able to table such a resolution in the House. Let’s see what role Mr. Biden plays in case of this resolution brought by these two congressmen.

It reminds us, at this moment, the role of US Senator Edward Kennedy in our war of liberation, despite opposition from the then US government. Based on his visit to the refugee camps for Bangalees in India, the International Herald Tribune published a report on 17 August 1971 titled 'After Visiting Refugees in India Kennedy Hits Pakistan Genocide' in which Senator Kennedy denounced Pakistan’s military repression in East Pakistan as genocide. On the same day, several other newspapers in the USA also published reports on this issue. During our liberation war, the US government had supported Pakistan, and even provided weapons to Pakistan to kill Bangalees. Though they could understand how dangerous Pakistan was, they were blinded by the arrogance of power.

We know that on 14 February 1972, during his visit to Bangladesh, Senator Kennedy addressed a large gathering of students at the Dhaka University campus where he said, "Even though the US government was not with you, the American people supported Bangladesh’s liberation war." They even brought a resolution to the US Senate to recognise Bangladesh at that time. However, the USA recognized Bangladesh in April 1972. Anyway, after Senator Kennedy, bringing a resolution to the US House of Representatives regarding the genocide that Pakistan carried out in Bangladesh in 1971 has obviously awakened the same feelings of the American people towards Bangladesh, even though so many years have passed. This initiative undoubtedly has touched the emotions of the people of Bangladesh.

If the resolution is passed by the House of Representatives, it will not only prove that the US government's policy was wrong towards Bangladesh in 1971, but also give them an opportunity to atone for the guilt of complicity in the massacres perpetrated by the Pakistan Army in Bangladesh through direct support and military cooperation. On the other hand, Bangladesh's efforts for international recognition of this genocide will be faster and stronger. It is our hope that the American people will not miss this opportunity to correct the mistake their government made fifty-one years ago. They will once again stand by those families whose members were brutally killed by the Pakistani army in 1971 in the same spirit as they had supported our war of liberation.


The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary