While reading the book under review “Creation of Bangladesh: Myths Exploded” by Dr Junaid Ahmad, I went back into past and had nostalgic memories of my experience’s of 1971 debacle in which I not only participated as a young 20 years old Officer of the Pakistan Navy but am witness to many happenings of this period of Pakistan’s History. Much that I would like to forget many of our wrong doings and incorrect decisions but no one can eradicate history. History is there to learn lessons from but unfortunately this is not happening in Pakistan. This aspect has been brought out very loudly and clearly in his concluding remarks by the author is this book warning that the Indian Pattern of things in Baluchistan are very similar to what it followed during separation of East Pakistan from West Pakistan.
I visited East Pakistan many times before it became Bangladesh in 1971. The visit in 1968 was a significant one and it was organized by Pakistan Navy for us Midshipmen undertraining in the Naval Academy. During this trip we visited Jute Mills, Tea Gardens and many major industries. We also availed a day/night cruise on board “Rocket Ferry “. My impressions of that visit were that majority of Jute Mills and Tea Gardens were owned and managed by West Pakistanis. Their management and lifestyle were based entirely on the British Colonial pattern. Their treatment of labour was quite abhorring. The National Language issue was yet unresolved and remained source of concern to the Bengalis. The education system was dominated by Hindu Bengalis. The dislike for West Pakistanis specially the Punjabis was glaringly apparent in all Bengali eyes. We could feel the uneasiness in the atmosphere.
In August I was transferred to East Pakistan as a young commissioned Sub Lieutenant of Pakistan Navy to assume command of a converted Gun Boat to fight against Mukti Bahini insurgents. This was the time when insurgency was at its peak. Indians were supporting the insurgents will material and funds. During this period till 3rd December when Indian Forces crossed our borders, at least I was not clear in my mind about the cause of our fighting. Our leaders had not been very clear themselves. I felt non-motivated and confused. However, once we faced the Indians we had a cause and we fought our hearts out. I could not witness the embarrassing surrender ceremony as I was admitted in Combined Military Hospital after having been seriously wounded in action. But from the hospital bed I had followed what all happened.
The last time I visited Bangladesh was in 2004 as Chief of Naval Staff on the invitation of CNS Bangladesh Navy. I was accorded full protocol and received warmly. Maybe because Khalda Zia was PM and not Hassina Wajid. However, on some occasions I found former CNS’S of Bangladesh Navy quite sarcastic and rude when speaking about Pakistan. Similarly, as per the programme I visited the monument of the unknown soldier where after the visit I declined to write my remarks in the Visitors book. Although the President of Bangladesh received my call, but my overall impression was that the general public of Bangladesh is not inclined towards rebuilding friendship with Pakistan nor were they very satisfied with their relations with India.
The Author has described the causes and pointed out those responsible for the tragedy in details. His comments in this respect are fair and factual. I agree with him that the major binding force between the two people was the common religion of Islam otherwise due to the vast difference in language, culture, traditions etc between West Pakistanis and East Pakistanis the separation appeared inevitable. If it would not happen in 1971 it would have happened a few years later.
In conclusion I would like to say that the book is impressive because of the vast data collected which as per my experience and knowledge is based on facts and not on hearsay, proven with authentic documents and above all the comments and views of the author are fair, unbiased and rational. The Author has highlighted the faults committed by both sides in a very honest and forthright I consider the book has done justice to the title and meets the aim and objective of the author in all respects. The myths that we Pakistanis are confronted with at both national and international forums have been dealt and countered with sound reasoning. The book is a valuable addition for correct perspective of the History of Pakistan. It is an ideal read and reference for our history scholars and researchers. I recommend it to be an essential reference book in all major libraries in Pakistan and International Institutes specially in all Armed Forces staff and war colleges, the National Defense University, Think Tanks and Institutes carrying out research.
Lastly, I would like to congratulate Dr. Junaid Ahmad for his superb effort, hard work and sincerity of purpose. I am sure that many of us will benefit from this book.