Bangladesh or East Pakistan?
On 16 December 1971 East Pakistan parted ways to become Bangladesh, thanks to the policies of a part time president. If we compare the socio-economic progress of Bangladesh with Pakistan, from 1971 till now, we will comprehend the fact that Bangladesh is very much East Pakistan except the change of name and flag.
During onslaught in 1971 sometime before 16 December, while visiting an area in East Pakistan, the commander of East Pakistan forces Gen. Niazi ordered his men to
“Comb the area, flush the jungles and improve the race”.
The overall discrimination of Bengali’s by the ruling elite of that time can be assessed from General A. A. K. Niazi’s statement. They couldn’t improve the race and lost the green land of East Pakistan which was painted red during the havoc. The instructions given to General Niazi were clear. In February 1971 the hedonistic President of Pakistan General Yahya Khan, in a top military conference, said:
“Kill three millions of them (Bengalis) and the rest will eat out of our hands”.
The Bengalis stood for their rights and against the racial discrimination; they countered in almost every sphere of their lives, and surfaced as a separate nation. Their struggle bare fruits in very short time for which they should be thankful to their Indian neighbors.
They celebrated their independence with great bliss but the happiness was short lived as the ruling Awami League proved domineering in its conduct. As a result, it was ousted from power due to a military plot in 1975 amid the killing of Bangabandhu (The title given to Awami League leader Sheikh Mujeeb by Bangladeshi people, meaning Friend of Bengal). There are total 19 coup attempts in these 42 years of Bangladesh with few successful while others failed. The military chief, General Zia u Rehman who came to power in 1977 was also assassinated in a military coup in 1981.
Like Pakistan, Bangladesh had been ruled by two major political parties other than the military regimes. Awami League led by Sheikh Hasina Wajid (daughter of Shiekh Mujeeb u Rehman) and Bangladesh National Party (BNP) led by Khalida Zia (widow of General Zia u Rehman), ruled the country for 20 years. Both parties have proven dictatorial and relentless adversaries, with one amending a law during her term in government and the other repealing it during their tenure. The myth which was created during 1971 freedom struggle, that Bengalis are more politically conscious than their fellows in West Pakistan, had somewhat proven wrong as the elections are the most bloody episode in the short history of country, killing thousands throughout these years. The war between two rival political parties has proven costly for the economy and society of Bangladesh.
Both Pakistan and Bangladesh share 146th spot in Human Development Index ranking of countries, with high rate of illiteracy, poor health infrastructure, slow growth rate of economy and many other tribulations. Both countries show an attitude of ambivalence towards their greater neighbor India, ranging from a desire to have a relation of friendship and cooperation to sense of insecurity and domination. Corruption and nepotism is deep rooted in the institutions of both these countries.
The political violence has become a major part of Bangladeshi politics. More than 350 peoples have been killed in political riots in this year alone and the altercation is still in place between both political parties at the moment which is costing dearly to Bangladesh. The country is once again in the slit of authoritarianism and political mayhem, the roots of which run deep. No lessons had been learned from military takeovers, whose signs are only 5 years old.