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Searching for Truth and Reconciliation in Bangladesh

by WILLIAM GOMES

Dear Mr. Imran Khan,

I am writing to you on the birthday of Mohammad Ali Jinnah to share my sincere thanks to you for protesting the judicial murder of Abdul Quader Mollah before the Pakistan National Assembly. I was heartened by your speech which showed moral courage and linked 1971 with present day politics problems. More than two years ago, you stated that Pakistan should apologise to Bangladesh, and I wrote to you about reconciliation between the peoples of Bangladesh and Pakistan. It is with this in mind that I seek your, PTI’s and a broader audience again.

It is time to challenge prevailing wrong attitudes in Pakistan, and the ‘War Crimes Industry’ that continues to plague Bangladesh’s internal politics and regional relations, to establish an accurate historical record, and break the culture of exaggeration, blood capitalism and silencing of dissenting views, by asserting the right to the truth. The judicial murder of Abdul Quader Mollah on 12th December, and wider violence and vilification in the name of the war crime tribunals in Bangladesh is possible because both of our peoples do not have access to the full picture of what unfolded between 1968 and 1972.

A just reinvestigation is of paramount importance to both of our countries, where terrible state crimes are still happening and where media are complicit in spreading disinformation. In Dhaka recently, on 6th May 2013, there was a massacre of sit in protesters by state security forces, which was covered-up, then justified by the Bangladeshi establishment. Without accepting, understanding and addressing such failings of state institutions and civil society our prospects are grim.

Having grown up in Bangladesh, and spoken to those who suffered and benefitted from the war, I have begun to question what I was taught in school. The internationally discredited War Crimes Tribunals, from their inception, have been a tool of revenge from the party in power. This is evident from the poor standards of evidence as well as the accused’s curtailed access to defence lawyers, limited numbers and scope of defence witness testimonies, not to mention the abduction of a key defence witness. Questions about the independence and impartiality of the judges and blatant involvement of the government have dogged this trial, which provides the world with a case study of how not to pursue justice.

The alternative for us is truth and reconciliation. The aim of a future Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be a compassionate state; reconciliation, not revenge; knowledge and acknowledgement, not forgetfulness; acceptance, not rejection. In addition to Truth and Reconciliation, Reparation and Rehabilitation could extend opportunities for the Biharis (Muhajirs) of Bangladesh, and Bengalis of Pakistan to visit and settle as they wish.

In making such a big undertaking, we would honour the memory of all victims of gross indignity and systematic human rights violations, and promote the importance of the right to truth and justice.

I request that you and PTI  take up the challenge to review and initiate actions suggested by the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, and further to this help to nurture the conditions to speak, listen and learn about this period of tribulation which brought the worst and the best out of us.  It is time to identify a history common to all Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. It is time to restore to our countries a moral order, to seek the truth and to make it known to the nations. Without this, the future may be difficult. There are good number of people who will strengthen your hand and join your call.

I look forward to your prompt action in this urgent matter, and stand ready to provide any further information or assistance you may require.

Yours sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Journalist and Human Rights Activist

Twitter@wnicholasgomes

York, United Kingdom

CC:

1.Mr. Mian Nawaz Sharif,Prime Minister of Pakistan

2. Ms.Sheikh Hasina Wazed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh

3. Ms. Khaleda Zia, Leader of the Opposition, Bangladesh

4. Mr.Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Turkey

5. Ambassador Mohammad Kawu Ibrahim, OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission.

6. Mr.Stephen Rapp, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues

7. Ms. Catherine Ashton,High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

8. Ms. Navanethem Pillay,UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

9. Justice ATM Fazle Kabir,International Crimes Tribunal (Bangladesh)

10.Prof. Yasmin Saikia, Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Arizona State University

11. Prof. Gayatri Chakrovarti Spivak, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society

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