Pakistan ’71: Bengalis and Fellow Pakistanis
Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin
“michil cholasa jonotar aai samner prithivir, Nai doladol nai kolahol sob ek sathe kore vir” (There are processions of future world, everybody join it peacefully beyond the interest of Parties)
Let us start from the PAF stranded camp Bannu. In 16 December 1971 we came to know about real emergence of Bangladesh de novo i.e. a new Bangladesh. In the stranded camp as if ‘laissez faire’, means let be alone activities started. Airmen were out of the barracks. They were happy. They were walking aimlessly in the streets of living area or in the Parade ground. Those who were religious might pronounced ‘Sokur Al-hamdo-lillah’ (grace a Dieu or thanks to God). In the PAF Chasma also this ‘laissez faire’ continued which was for a dream of future and happy Bangladesh where we would serve in a happy Air force.
We were waiting for repatriation. Till date there were no signs of any pact to start repatriation or the exchange of POW. By that time Bango Bandhu was sent home from the same camp in Chasma where we were living. We were sent there after he left the camp. In Bangladesh he became ‘beau ideal’ i.e. the highest excellence of the country. We had rays of hope as he took the leadership of Bangladesh and all the captives like us thought him to be the ‘Persona Grata’ i.e. acceptable persons to mediators international bodies, he was certainly so. We were being aware that Red Cross and Red Crescent were dealing the matter. Various mediators preparing the pacts but that became ‘mutatis mutandis’ i.e. sent again to make necessary change. But Magna Carta for the final convention for repatriation was not prepared. However, once that was signed. We were waiting to join the procession of peace in the future Bangladesh where each and everybody would work beyond the interest of party. But we were tired of waiting.
In the stranded camps all the Bengali soldiers of all ranks of Pakistan Army, PAF and PN were taking preparation to be repatriated. Civilian employees of all levels of Pakistan Government were also in the process of repatriation. They had legal right to be repatriated. Besides them there were lacs of Bengali in Pakistan. During peace time they went to West Pakistan in search of better life. It was started after 1947 and continued till the liberation war was started. In East Pakistan also poor guys among the Pathans came and served as security guard. But difference between East and West guys were most of the Bengali and Rohinga started living in various slums of Karachi, they made that their permanent living address. Its cause was most of them were from very poor Bengali family to whom a shade whatever that might be over head was enough, to them those slums became their permanent houses. In the other hand poor Pathans after months or years of job used to go home by ship which was main conveyance for the poor. Some came back to join the job other were never seen. However Bengali service holder used to come to East Pakistan in regular intervals on leave. At the same way West Pakistani service holders here were in regular coming and going from the East wing. Few Bengali also purchased land in Pakistan and built houses there as Adamjee, Daud etc family purchased land here, built houses and established businesses. Such well to do Bengali were also interested to come back in Bangladesh after the liberation. There were authorities who were responsible to make list of slum dwellers Bengali for future repatriation. So far I Know list of the slum dwellers Bengali were prepared also and few with us also repatriated leaving behind their family members in Karachi. They hoped their other family members would soon join them in Bangladesh. But most of the slum dwellers were not repatriated due to complexity. So, those who were repatriated alone again took risk to go back to their family members crossing Indian borders. At that time border condition was not like the period of liberation war. So, what happened with them, who know?
After repatriation of slum dwellers Bengali of Karachi faced new problems in Bangladesh. Most of them were from poor family, so when they left East Pakistan and started living elsewhere in Pakistan they had no communication with relatives in East Pakistan. So, after the repatriation none was there to receive them from airport for most of the cases. So, here there was no slum for them where they could live. Few also were lucky enough to find their hand to mouth relatives. It was 1974, the hard days of after liberation famine. So, they find the life harder. For service holders like us either civil or military jobs were ready. We started our old careers newly. So, we and our family were helped. But for those slum dwellers of Karachi there was no job. In Karachi they could do something to survive. They failed collect such jobs. So, those rootless poor again took risk to go back to meet their family and to find old means of survivals.
I doubt how many of them could reach Karachi again. At first border crossing, then living in India for Intermediate period and again crossing Indian border to enter Pakistan. In India penny less such persons had to search job. Identity problem was there. Bengali of Bangladesh is easily identified as Bangladeshi. In the other hand non Bengali of Bangladesh if entered in India they had no identity problem. As they were basically from India, in India they were like Indians. When they entered Pakistan they were again Pakistani because in Pakistan there were thousands of Muhajirs. I doubt the Bengali now living in Karachi will ever be repatriated as non Bengali here still waiting to be repatriated being in their camps in Bangladesh. The numbers of Bengali population in those slums certainly increased. By this time, a new Bengali generation living there. In the news paper sometimes we get statistics of Bengali in Karachi. By this time their number crossed sixteen lacs. Theoretically they are Bengali, so they are illegal there. It means police create problems. They are apprehended and released. But they have also no way. How will they push back so big number of people? They cannot push them back to India, as they are not Indians. So, their problems are unanswered like the non Bengali in Bangladesh. Practically new generation is Pakistani by birth if they accept or not. So, problems may be settled in new light and it is the demand of the time.
Let’s come back to the period of my time in PAF Sargodha. I have seen a Bengali hawker was selling pickles in front of a Mosque in Sargodha. I came to know some landless poor people from East Pakistan were given land in a hydro electric project area of West Pakistan; few of them still (‘71) would be there though I had no chance to see them. There were Bengali employees even in the remote Charsadda sugar mill in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. In big cities of Pakistan there were Bengalis. In Cantonments there were Bengalis who were unarmed and made captive after 25th March 1971. Matters of soldiers were different. It was a Government job. Soldiers were bound to act according to policy of the Government. In East wing after 25 March 1971 Bengali units of Pakistan Army did not surrender their arms and they fought against Pakistani co-fighters and finally joined the liberation war. Units where Bengali were minority they left the units and deserted to join the liberation war. So, in the war fields soldiers of both the factions fought against each other and killed each other. Bengali soldiers who were posted in the West Pakistan they had no alternative except surrender of arms. It would never be wise to extend the war field in the West wing.
In the West unarmed Bengali soldiers had to wait for the Government decision. Bengali members of the Pakistan Armed forces were segregated in the barracks. What happened in the other units? I cannot say. But in PAF Sargodha we could move barrack to barrack, barrack to mess and barrack to mosque. Though our Pakistani fellows were living in the same rooms as before with us, yet till the movement from there to stranded camp the two factions of soldiers never fought each other. In the West normal West Pakistani soldiers were as if in dark what was going on in the war fields. Sometimes someone would question, “Bandhu bhai tomara odhar kia ho raha hai?”(Friend what is going on in your country?). Now I am astonished in the war fields of Bangladesh Pakistani soldiers were brutes and were doing all types of war crimes but in Pakistan they were friendly with their fellow Bengali soldiers. Even in civil during that time there was no news of riots between the West Pakistani and Bengali People. In Karachi also there was not disorder between Muhajirs and Bengalis. So, civil life in Karachi was also not alarming. But I will not say there were no hatreds between the two factions. During the nine months of war they certainly hated Bengali more because they also heard about the war fields and causalities of their relatives. So, the policy of Defense authority to send us to the stranded camps were logical as there could be fighting between the co-fighters of one time, as only by a small political instigation that could happen. In Karachi also there could be the cause of bloodshed of Bengali by Muhajirs or other Pakistanis by such instigations. Deo gratias i.e. thanks to Allah such did not happen. We peacefully were sent to the stranded camps till that time co-soldiers of one time were not in riot what Bengali soldiers feared.
By ‘jure divino’(by divine law) war junta including all who were responsible for the massacre got their share. They made the poor Pakistanis bound to fight against their fellow soldiers in the war fields to materialize their mala fide policies. They lost the war and the ‘raison d’etre’ of Bangladesh was proved. So, a new country Bangladesh came into existence. But I am hundred person sure poor Pakistani soldiers were never ready to fight against their co-soldiers who had sufficient reasons to fight for their survival and existence of Bangladesh. It was the war planners who motivated them to kill Bengali. They had no alternative to choice. Because the teaching of Defense forces is for all soldiers: Do or Die no question why? So, poor Pakistani soldiers in the war fields either killed or they became dead by their fellow soldiers who once upon a time served together and partners of private love and hatred, joy and sorrow, liking and disliking etc what they would discuss each other in their leisure periods. These I dared to write as I am from the general airmen who had such sharing with my other Pakistani fellows in the peace time, though distance was also there among them who did not like each other and given priority to Bengali, Panjabi etc. Unluckily such people were more. The idea of the Pakistani higher military officials was beyond my imagination as my military rank I could not ignore. In the Defense, it is quite impossible. No where military bureaucracy would allow juniors to approach to their seniors for such chit- chat. I was just a teenager new soldier who has just completed ab-initio.
Now I shall tell the story how we were treated in PAF base Sagodha till we leave the base for the stranded camps. In the mess we sat side by side and took our breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the living rooms there were Muslim greetings between both the factions as usual as “Assalaomo Alaikom and wa Alaikum us Salam” also ‘toda jan de ki hal hei?’ or ‘keisa hei’ ( how do you do?) etc. During duty hour we only were in the barracks. General Pakistani airmen from other barracks seldom used to come to visit their Bengali entry fellows even once also they were trained and served together. However, religious minded Pakistani particularly members of the Tabligue Zamaat kept routine contact with Bengali airmen. If I had not forgotten then Amir of the camp Tabligue Zamaat was Chief. Tech. Rahmat. Whatever the area from Pakistan he might be he was a very nice man. I had a wrestler roommate Cpl. Murid about whom I told you in other memoir. He was a Sufi (mystic) type of man and used to go to mosque during Tahazzod period at night. Some time he called me and another Bengali fellow Cpl. Sharif to accompany him at that time. In PAF base Sargodha there was another religious group known as ‘Berely’. They also followed the way of mysticism and in due day in a week after Asha (night) prayer all the members of the group met together and sat a prescribed type of meditation. In the audio system there were Hamd or Nate Rasul (PBUH). They used to start Zikrullah i.e. repeating the names of Allah. They used to recite Darud E Rasul(PBUH) and used to do ‘Zikr’ of their ‘Peer’ (mystic teacher). I heard their ‘Zikr’ as ‘Haq Bao’. Most probably it was the ‘Zikr’ of their ‘Peer’.We were permitted to attend their congregation. They used to talk about Life: it is the field for the next world. They used to talk about death: MAUT JIS DIN AA GAAE, DUNIA KA HALOT KIA HOE i.e. when death will come what will happen with the earth? Most of the airmen attended mosque were the followers of the ‘Deobond’ ideology. Followers of the ‘Tabligue Zamaat’ were mostly from this ideology. This group is also familiar in present Bangladesh. Thus the religious groups had a sort of spiritual relations with the Bengali Airmen. However, once we had to leave Sargodha. Till today I remember them and the way of meditation of ‘Berely’ Zamaat. I remember lines from a famous ‘Nat’ e Rasul (PBUH): “MERE PYARE NABIDA SAHH NARIO, JALEM JOMANA KI JANE, ROB JANE…”. Now may be in the mosques of Pakistan followers of above mystic group gather in their specified day for ‘Zikr Azkar’. They discuss about religion, secrets of human life etc. Most probably in their audio machines such ‘Nat’s like above or other song to please Allah is heard as: “MERE MALIK O HAKIM O AKA HO TUM,
SARE ALAM KE RAZZAK O DATA HO TUM
SOBKA TOTA DILOKA SAHARA HO TUM
MERE MALIK HOR…………………………….”
There are philanthropists everywhere in the earth who love people. For their information I like to say for peace of souls there are many mystic groups working in the Mosques or Khanka or Darbar sharif worldwide. In Islam mysticism does not mean monasticism. ‘Boiraggo sadhona mukti a amar noi’, i.e. Salvation by monasticism is not for me is the teaching of Muslim mystics. So, they practice mysticism being in the family and society. They also get marry take children like other Muslims. In Bangladesh there are mystic groups like ‘Char Monie’, ‘Aat Roshi’, ‘Chandra Para’, ‘Dewan baghi’, ‘Maij Vandary’ etc leaded by various Peer-Masaikh. They follow Kadria, Chistia, Nizamia, Noksbondia etc mystic schools. There is Tabligue Zamaat. In about January or February (roughly) every year there is Biswa Estema in Tongi, Bangladesh and in Hazrat Nizam Uddin, India also in Rainwind, Pakistan such congregations held yearly in specified day by discussion among Amirs of the Zamaat. I invite you all. “ATMAR KHUDA METABAR TORA PABEGO SOTEJ BOL” said a poet. It means, “You will get new spirit for your spiritual desires”. May Allah help us!