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The Wastes of Time: Reflections on the Decline and Fall of East Pakistan
Chapter VI PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
After I was transferred from Seven Cells to the block known as New Twenty, I came in contact with several other men who had played an important part in East Pakistan politics. They were Dr Abdul Malik, the last Governor of East Pakistan, Mr Akhtaruddin, a member of the Malik Cabinet, Khawaja Khairuddin, President of the East Pakistan Council Muslim League, and Maulana Nuruzzaman also a Council Leaguer. The youngest in this group was Mr Akhtaruddin, who was in his middle forties. I had known him as a student in the University. He was a member of the team of four students whom I led to Burma on a goodwill mission in 1953. Dr Malik has been known to me personally since 1962 when he was Pakistan’s Ambassador in the Philippines. It was during a visit to Manila in that year that I came to have some insight into his political views. Deeply religious, he had then warned me that Pakistan’s overtures to China following the Sino-Indian conflict, might prove embarrassing in the long run. Wasn’t Pakistan, he asked, playing a dangerous game in trying to form an alliance with a communist state which rejected the very basis of Pakistan’s existence, namely, religion?
 
Chapter VII PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Khwaja Khairuddin was a member of the Ahsan Manzil family, closely related to the late Khwaja Nazimuddin, Governor General and later Prime Minister of Pakistan. He had become President of the Council Muslim League in East Pakistan. Among the surviving politicians of the old school, he was the most popular in the city of Dacca and commanded a personal following transcending party labels. He had been Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s chief antagonist in the elections of 1970, had lost but the large number of votes cast for him had given some measure of his personal popularity. Having been Vice-Chairman of the Dacca Municipality for a long time, he knew the city inside out, and was considered even now (1973) to be a dangerous person who could perhaps sway popular opinion against the Awami League.

When I arrived at New Twenty, his trial had already begun. He showed me the statement he had prepared for delivery under Section 342, and readily accepted the few amendments and additions I suggested. It was a bold document. I was struck by its refreshing candour.
 
Chapter IX PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
The whole sequence of events from the sowing of the seeds of conspiracy to its final flowering in 1971 had been leavened by the creed of Bengali nationalism. Intellectuals and students swore by it, some actually sincerely dedicating themselves to its service, convincing themselves that in it lay the salvation of their race. Here again was something, part myth and part truth, which was never subjected to logical analysis, or dispassionate examination. Its adherents brought to bear upon it a blind faith approximating to religious obscurantism; those who opposed it made the cardinal error of under-estimating its power and influence among the young and underrating its potentialities as explosive ammunition. I would confess myself that although I had perceived how dangerous it could prove, I did not give it the importance it had already acquired in the eyes of our youth, and found myself caught unprepared when the explosion finally came.

‘ ... but nature should bring forth,
Of its own kind, all poison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.’ - Shakespeare

The peculiar brand of nationalism which was employed as a weapon against Pakistan in the Awami League’s campaign is difficult to understand except as a political ruse. Linguistic nationalism can have its own mystique; it can inspire men to heroism; it can breed a lofty idealism; it can provoke wars, inter-communal conflicts, and civil strife. But was Bengali nationalism a nationalism in this sense?
 
Chapter XI PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
‘In my beginning is my end’- T. S. Eliot

The more one tries to understand analytically the chain of events leading to the fall of East Pakistan in 1971, the more puzzled one is apt to feel. I am not alluding to the logistics of war; I am not referring to tactics and strategy. What I have in mind is the reversal in the feelings of the people that the Awami League had successfully brought about as regards the historical necessity of Pakistan. The Awami League did not represent the whole of East Pakistan, but it had by 1970 achieved, by a combination of political tactics and subversion, a position which had become unchallengeable. Those who opposed it did not dare to call its bluff, its rivals sought to beat it on its own ground by trying to prove themselves more ardent champions of provincial interests than the Awami League itself.

I remember the crowds which marched continually through the streets of Dacca in 1968 and 1969 shouting that they wanted deliverance from the yoke of Rawalpindi. 'The yoke of Pindi'! How did they come to believe that they had been chained to Rawalpindi against their wishes? What was it exactly that they wanted to renounce or repudiate? Across the border, the Indian press and politicians benevolently encouraged the rebels, assuring them of their sympathy and moral support in their struggle against tyranny and repression. Oblivious of the past role of the Hindus, the East Pakistani masses started to think that their friends lay in India, and that once they could free themselves from Pakistan's clutches, they would, with India's help, march from strength to strength. Those of us who had not lined up with the rebels could only feel bewildered at the turn events were taking.
 
Chapter VIII PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
Another promising man in New Twenty was Mr Akhtaruddin Ahmad. A barrister by profession, he had married into the Ahsan Manzil family, his wife being the daughter of Khwaja Nasrullah, son of Nawab Salimullah. He was in his middle forties. His family belonged to Barisal district.

I noticed that he had turned extremely religious. What surprised me even more was that in his reaction against the indifference towards religion of his earlier days, he had swung over to a form of religious bigotry and superstition. Not knowing any Arabic and not having much knowledge of religious texts even in translation, he had begun to develop an uncritical reverence for everything associated with them. In his present frame of mind, he was deeply suspicious of rationalism in any form; he would not condemn even the wildest pranks of Muslim fanatics, lest he should offend against some unknown canon.
 
Chapter X PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
The Muslim demand for partition was arrived at almost reluctantly. It was not until the Muslims had experienced at first hand the Congress interpretation of Indian nationalism under Congress governments formed in Bihar, the U.P., the C. P, Bombay, Madras and Assam that opinion swung in favour of a drastic solution. The idea of partition was first voiced in the Lahore Resolution of 1940, after the Congress ministries had resigned in 1939 upon the outbreak of the Second World War. The proposal was tentative, a feeler rather than an irrevocable demand, purposely vague in respect of its details, designed to test political reactions. But no sooner had it been put forward than there began a hysterical outcry against the Muslims as traitors, fifth columnists, and so on. Misunderstanding between the two communities widened, and reached a stage where communication between them became virtually impossible.

It is not to be supposed that the Congress leaders who were neither immature nor inexperienced did not understand the psychology behind the Muslim demand. But they were not prepared to compromise. Mr Gandhi characterised the demand for partition as a demand for vivisection, and as was usual with him, the image of mother India was invoked to inflame Hindu religious feeling against it. Dr Rajendra Prasad wrote a book called India Divided, painstakingly enumerating the points against partition, but showing no perception of the facts which had provoked the demand. Pandit Nehru thundered against it in characteristic fashion, mouthing theories and doctrines likely to appeal to Western audiences but refusing to answer the Muslim charges against Hindu overlordship. Mr C. Rajagopalachariar alone among the elder group of Congress politicians appeared to understand the nature of the forces at work, but his was a voice in the wilderness.
 
Chapter XII PDF Print E-mail
Written by Syed Sajjad Husain   
The partition idea was accompanied by a clearer and sharper elucidation of the nature of Muslim separatism. Mr Jinnah declared that the Muslims of the sub-continent by virtue of their culture and civilisation, their history and traditions, their art and architecture, their laws and enactments, their moral code and social norms, a separate nation entitled to all the privileges that such a group could claim. I am unable to quote the exact words he used, but the precision of his definition, the comprehensiveness of his phrases, his incisive diction, and the air of authority with which he spoke still ring in my ears.

This definition served many purposes. The most useful service it performed was to force us to reappraise realities and to acknowledge what had always been staring us in the face, while we had been literally beating about the bush. What other definition could have so clarified the nature of the political problem in India? Yet it must be emphasised over and over again that the definition was not original. Over seventy-five years ago Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had said the same thing. The Hindu writers and thinkers had asserted the same truth repeatedly. Turn to Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the Bengali novelist, or to R.C. Majumder, the Bengali historian, and you would have the same eloquent exposition of Hindu-Muslim differences. About a thousand years ago, Alberuni, the great Muslim scholar, had been struck by the same fact.
 
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