Did WE forgive Pakistan in 1974? :
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." Mahatma Gandhi
On the 30th of July 2002, at a debriefing to the press the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Bangladesh, circulated a historical tripartite document signed between Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, which seems to suggest that the vexed issue about 'apologies' was indeed done with 'in writing' way back in 1974. It also goes to show the level of tolerance Bangladesh displayed back then and if we are to take a serious look to sentences like:
"Prime Minister of Bangladesh had declared with regard to the atrocities and destruction committed in Bangladesh in 1971 that he wanted the people to forget the past and to make a fresh start, stating that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive."
or this one :
"The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh has decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency"
proves once again that we are not a weak nation, but a strong and brave nation.
However what is perplexing is why did it take us 28 years to retrieve this document, and what is more upsetting is other than the tabloid Manbzamin, no other newspaper seems to have carried this news?
Why - is anybody's guess, but as we go foaming in our mouths trying to make meaning out of 'regret' and 'apology', I think this document, which I managed to obtain with great difficulty, after nearly 4 hard days of running to different Governments offices, proves a point, that some forces are out there that wishes to keep Bangladesh forever divided and to look backward - not forward.
Maqsoodul Haque (Mac)
TRIPARTITE AGREEMENT BETWEEN INDIA, BANGLADESH AND PAKISTAN FOR NORMALISATION OF RELATIONS IN THE SUB-CONTINENT
New Delhi, April 9, 1974
1. On July 2, 1972, the President of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of India signed an historic agreement at Simla under which they resolved that the two countries put to an end the conflict and confrontation that has hitherto marred their relations and work for the promotion of a friendly and harmonious relationship and the establishment of a durable peace in the sub-continent. The Agreement also provided for the settlement of "their difference by peaceful means by bilateral negotiations or by any other peaceful means mutually agreed upon.
2. Bangladesh welcomed the Simla Agreement. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh strongly supported its objective of reconciliation, good neighborliness' and establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent.
3. The humanitarian problem arising in the wake of the tragic events of 1971 constituted a major obstacle in the way of reconciliation and normalization among the countries of the sub-continent. In the absence of reconciliation, it was not possible to have tripartite talks to settle the humanitarian problems, as Bangladesh could not participate in such meeting on the basis of sovereign equality.
4. On April 17, 1973, India and Bangladesh took a major step forward to break the deadlock on the humanitarian issues by setting aside the political problems of recognition. In a Declaration issued on the date they said that they "are resolved to continue their efforts to reduce tension, promote friendly and harmonious relationship in the sub-continent and work together towards the establishment of a durable peace ". Inspired by the vision and "in the larger interest of reconciliation, peace and stability in the sub-continent" they jointly proposed that the problem of the detained and stranded persons should be resolved on humanitarian considerations through simultaneous repatriation of all such persons except those Pakistani prisoners of war who might be required by the Government of Bangladesh for trial on certain charges.
5. Following the Declaration there were a series of talks between India and Bangladesh and India and Pakistan. These talks resulted in an agreement at Delhi on August 28, 1973 between India and Pakistan with the concurrence of Bangladesh, which provided for a solution of the outstanding humanitarian problems.
6. In pursuance of the Agreement, the process of three-way repatriation commenced on September 19, 1973. So far nearly 300,000 persons have been repatriated which has generated an atmosphere of reconciliation and paved the way for normalization of relations in the sub-continent.
7. In February 1974, recognition took place thus facilitating the participation of Bangladesh in the tripartite meeting envisaged in the Delhi Agreement, on the basis of sovereign equality. Accordingly His Excellency Dr.Kamal Hossain, Foreign Minster of the Government of Bangladesh, His Excellency Sardar Swaran Singh, Minister of External Affairs, Government of India and His Excellency Mr.Aziz Ahmed, the Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Government of Pakistan met in New Delhi from April 5 to April 9, 1974 and discussed the various issues mentioned in the Delhi Agreement in particular the question of the 195 prisoners of war and the completion of the three-way process of repatriation involving Bangalees in Pakistan, Pakistanis in Bangladesh and Pakistani prisoners of war in India.
8. The Ministries reviewed the progress of the three-way repatriation under the Delhi Agreement of August 28, 1973. They were gratified that such a large number of persons detained or stranded in the three countries had since reached their destinations.
9. The Ministers also considered steps that needed to be taken in order expeditiously to bring the process of the three-way repatriation to a satisfactory conclusion.
10. The Indian side stated that the remaining Pakistani prisoners of war and civilians internees in India to be repatriated under the Delhi Agreement, numbering approximately 6,500, would be repatriated at the usual pace of rain on alternate days and the likely short-fall [text illegible] ..to April 10, 1974 on account of Kumb Mela, would be made up by running additional trains after April 19. It was thus hoped that the repatriation of prisoners of war would be completed by the end of April 1974.
11. The Pakistani side stated that the repatriation of Bangladesh nationals from Pakistan was approaching completion. The remaining Bangladesh nationals in Pakistan would also repatriated without let or hindrance.
12. In respect of non-Bangalees in Bangladesh, the Pakistan side stated that the Government of Pakistan had already issued clearances for movement to Pakistan in favor of those non-Bangalees who were either domiciled in former West Pakistan, were employees of the Central Government and their families or were members of the divided families, irrespective of their original domicile. The issuance of the clearance to 25,000 persons who constitute hardship cases was also in progress. The Pakistan side reiterated that all those who fall under the first three categorize would be received by Pakistan without any limits to numbers. In respect of persons whose applications had been rejected, the Government of Pakistan would upon request, provide reasons why any particular case was rejected. Any aggrieved applicant could, at any time, seek a review of his application provided he was able to supply new facts or further information to the Government of Pakistan in support of his contention that he qualified in one or other of the three categories. The claims of such persons would not be time-barred. In the event of the decision of the review of a case being adverse, the Government of Pakistan and Bangladesh might seek to resolve it by mutual consultation.
13. The question of 195 Pakistani prisoners of war was discussed by the three Ministers, in the context of the earnest desire of the Governments for reconciliation, peace and friendship in the sub-continent. The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the excesses and manifold crimes committed by these prisoners of war constituted according to the relevant provisions of the U.N General Assembly Resolutions and International Law, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and that there was universal consensus that persons charged with such crimes as the 195 Pakistani prisoners of war should be held to account and subjected to the dues process of Law. The Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs of the Government of Pakistan said that his Government condemned and deeply regretted any crimes that may have been committed.
14. In this connection the three Ministers noted that the matter should be viewed in the context of the determination of the three countries to continue resolutely to work for reconciliation. The Minister further noted that following recognition, the Prime Minister of Pakistan declared that he would visit Bangladesh in response to the invitation of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and appeal to the people of Bangladesh, to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past. Similarly, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had declared with regard to the atrocities and destruction committed in Bangladesh in 1971 that he wanted the people to forget the past and to make a fresh start, stating that the people of Bangladesh knew how to forgive.
15. In the light of the foregoing and, in particular, having regard to the appeal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh has decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency. It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war may be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement.
16. The Minister expressed their convictions that the above agreements provide a firm basis for the resolution of the humanitarian problems arising out of the conflict of 1971. They reaffirmed the vital stake of seven hundred million people of the three countries have in peace and progress and reiterated the resolve of their Governments to work for the promotion of normalization of relations and the establishment of durable peace in the sub-continent.
Signed in New Delhi on April 9, 1974 in three original, each of which is equally authentic.
Dr.Kamal Hossain, Foreign Minster of the Government of Bangladesh,
Sardar Swaran Singh, Minister of External Affairs, Government of
Mr.Aziz Ahmed, the Minister of State for Defense and Foreign Affairs
of the Government of Pakistan
[RECORDED VERBATIM AS PER CIRCULATION BY THE OFFICE OF THE FOREIGN MINISTER, GOVERNMENT OF BANGLADESH]