The Pakistan army and their various Bangladeshi collaborators conducted appalling acts of genocide during the Liberation War in 1971. They took the lives of 30 lac common Bangladeshis, maybe even more, whilst harassing and persecuting a further 4 lac women and children. Within this murderous scheme outlined and executed by the Pakistani army, there were other factors in play here namely a few political groups, individuals, organizations and forces which played at times either directly or indirectly assisted the Pakistani army in that murderous rampage of theirs.
Among those during the war, if we are looking to name some of the chief collaborators, we can talk about the Jamaat-E-Islami, Nizam-E-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP).
During the Liberation War, the leaders, members, supporters and well-wishers of these political parties joined hands with the Pakistan military regime and created various non-military and quasi-military forces, even death squads. These political parties, who were strong affiliates of the Pakistani military regime, united together to work towards one common goal. And that was to preserve the rule of West Pakistan in Bangladeshi soil, by torturing and persecuting freedom fighters angling for independence and the common Bangladeshi people.
It is especially evident here and something which we ought to remember, that during the Liberation War in fact even before it occurred for instance during the conception of the state of Pakistan, religion had always had an important and at times profound effect on the style and patterns of thinking during those times.
During the Liberation War, the aforementioned collaborators of the Pakistani army, including various political parties have repeatedly used the phrase ‘for the sake of protecting Islam’ in order to justify what they did and why. If we conduct an objective analysis of the various public appearances, speeches delivered, or meetings and seminars organized by those representing the upper echelons of the above mentioned political parties during the Liberation War, we would find that their efforts would necessarily summarize into messages like ‘”save Bangladesh from being the stooge of India”, “save this nation from the influence of Hindu state India”, “prevent this country from turning into a Hindu state”, or “protect the rights of Muslims” etc., which they would use as a tool to vindicate their collaboration with the Pakistani forces in foiling the Bangladeshi Liberation War.
At this point it is worth providing the example of another genocide, which occurred under similar conditions, were in order to justify the killings the terms “American influence” and “Western culture” were used as an “excuse” or “viable reason”. Said genocide, of course, occurred in Cambodia. It happened between 1975 and 1979.
In order to lead an attack against the then Cambodian government forces, the Khmer Rouge Guerrillas entered Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. This guerrilla organization known as Khmer Rouge had been striving for years using various means to overtake Cambodia and establish their rule in the country. After years of trying their efforts finally bore fruition in April 1975. At that time once they captured Cambodia for their own they renamed it to Democratic Kampuchea. The reason why I have briefly discussed this story is because, similar to the way the chief collaborators of the Pakistani army facilitated the mass genocide in Bangladesh by using excuses like ‘the protection of Islam’ or to ‘prevent the extinction of Islam’ to confound everyone, the Khmer Rouge forces similarly used lame excuse like Western influence and the rise of the ‘bourgeois’ race in order to carry out their own brand of heinous genocidal acts.
And as such, it can be concluded that these genocidal maniacs did what they did only to gain power and control over the country’s affairs and establish their influence at a political, social and economic level so that they can later do whatever pleases them. Now overtime when it comes to dividing the country, the only differences can be found in the reasons that are provided, but in reality, the motivations and the voices of the perpetrators remain exactly the same. Just as in our case it was the “protection of Islam” that was used to ‘halalify’ genocides, murderous Khmer Rouge guerrillas used “American culture” and the need to “save the country from the petite-bourgeois” class.
Despite the fact that the impact and effect of the genocide that was carried out during the Liberation War, various related incidents, roles played by individuals, viewpoints and opinions can be extensively researched and analysed on their own, it is more than easy to come to the conclusion that the Pakistan military forces and their collaborators did not carry out what is perhaps the most horrifying acts of mass genocides in the century, in order “to protect Islam”. Instead, they did it out of greed for power, financial gains and to establish their own budding political ideals into an everlasting form.
But it is important here to explain whether the people of the then East Pakistan reflected the wishes of the Pakistani army’s collaborator forces or what exactly did those people want their country to be like? And at this point it is important to revisit and analyse the history of modern Bangladesh, starting from when the nation was reborn of course.
Did the people of East Pakistan actually long for a nation free from religious-centric ideals or whether the intentions behind the birth of a nation within the then Pakistan in tow, were successful or not. Furthermore we also need to take a look at how these ideals were used both in context of East and West Pakistan and whether or not their influence still lingers they still lingers in those regions. I believe it is necessary that those historic stances are dissected and discussed.