A day to mourn

By Mahwish Bhatti
December 16th 1971: a mournful and distressing day for almost majority of Pakistan when they lost East Pakistan which now is Bangladesh, a separate state. In the absence of historical accounts, this war is still mystified  politically and statistically, most pakistanis are still unaware of the  magnitude of the catastrophe.
In the pursuit of searching for real events, many overlooked the plight and distress of the  people with no political affiliations. Their lives revolved around knowing that there were no barriers to East Pakistan. Many earned their livelihoods from East Pakistan. The political differences led to partition of East Pakistan on December 16th 1971, which most of us remember as  “Dhaka Fall’.
My mother lived in the small town of Ichra in Lahore where her life  was her father, two sisters and a brother.  Her only source of information about the world outside her home was the radio. My mother loved the transistors and radios as she belonged to a modest family who couldn’t afford a TV.
She tells me how she used to stick around her radio all day to have updates about the ‘unwanted war with Bangladesh’. She would pray endlessly for the safety of Bangali  brothers and sisters but also prayed for the safety of Pakistani armed forces. Even now, as she narrates the story to me, she explains the agony of having to choose.  She didn’t want to. She wanted East Pakistan to be with West Pakistan. She wanted their safety and she wanted the armed men to bow down their weapons and embrace each other, a hope she tied until the last minute. But it just didn’t happen.
She remembers  how radio transmissions  manipulated the facts by portraying that Pakistan’s victory was  inevitable. This hype made people  confident and deluded, believing that east pakistan would stay with us.  The gradual descend, the grimness in the tone of radio broadcasters, when they caught the glimpse of total disaster instead of a win or even surrender, was the most painful sign.
But the people at large were emotional  and patriotic, the support with army was enormous.  My mother and my khalas (my mother’s sisters) knitted sweaters for soldiers. There were lines of trucks that stored the dry ration for soldiers in order to help them survive. Unaware of the facts they believed they were trying to keep Pakistan together, falling for the portrayal that the ‘enemy’ would be defeated and that we wouldn’t have to lose a significant part of our country . People recited ayah’s for the safety of Pakistan and everyone which includes the bangalis  as well.
My mother mournfully remembers, even today when she first heard the news of Dhaka fall. The hysterical reactions of her family as they couldn’t believe that it actually happened. The media that was either biased or inactive. In the absence of facts, my mother’s family cried their hearts out. My uncle, my mother’s brother, lost all his control and hit his head against the wall several times before he went unconscious. He has those scars marking the day when he felt a part of his own body was ripped away from him. The pain and plight can not be explained in words,  and there was no one to heal their wounds because everyone in Ichraa went into a depressing silence that left everyone in a  state of shock.

Even though my mother’s memory is diminishing,  she remembers her neighbors did not light their stoves in solidarity with their bangali bretherins. The mourning was grave, raw and unexplainable.
My father’s business was set up in east-pakistan.  The separation meant,  that he  had lost his business but he  left all his earnings in bangladesh,  as he thought someone might take up his business and earn a living from it. He still remembers Chittagong and speaks Bengali more often. To my surprise, he never mentioned his survival story during the war. All he remembers is his uncle who was in army and whose only mission was to steal as much money and gold from the Bengalis. He raped many women as well. My father mentioned this story only once and never repeated it. Perhaps looking away from it was a way of letting the horrors go.
One  of the families, in my mothers neighborhood,  lost their son in the war. The soldier  had embraced martyrdom. He was the only brother of seven sisters and was married, he left a sic month old son. Mom tells me how her sisters and mother could not cope up with the grief of East Pakistan fall and the  martyrdom of their dear brother and son. Father of his jawaan was a police man at that time and showed tremendous courage. He said to every visitor:
“Menu mubarik dawo. Mera beta shaheed hoya ay. Onu goli seenay tey lagi aay. O daraiya nahin”
(Congratulate me as my son sacrificed his life for this country. He got a bullet in his chest which shows his courage)
The man himself was unaware of what actually happened on the war front. He had enough reason to be proud for being a father of a martyr. One of my uncles who left the army after this terrible holocaust tells me that army and government marked a policy of not questioning the surviving people from both East and West Pakistan as every one of them had a disturbing story. My uncle and my mother haven’t been able to absorb this brutal reality even now. My mother did not let her hopes die even after the war, she remembers waiting for a possible reconciliation, impossible as it was it never happened. She kept on tuning her tiny radio over and over again and again to make sure  she hadn’t missed the news of  the merger of two now separate nations.
I being her daughter can only describe her emotions in my limited ability but I might not ever be able to experience what she went through. The horrific and depressing experience make her weep even now while she shares her experience. I cringe at the thought of a possible repeatation of history now.
16th December 2011 is going to be a mournful day yet again. Every year in December, this day marks a day of mourning in our household, of sharing grief, of revisiting the irrecoverable scars.
I share these stories only to let know people that on the cost of political or power dispute, the people  suffered endlesslu. The people of Pakistan like the people of Bangladesh were innocent and deeply attached if only the authorities had known and realized.
My mother still prays for all the martyrs and innocent people who were sacrificed at the behest of political maneuverings and negligence.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A day to mourn

  1. It may be the birth of A new country but it was indeed a death of Humanity. Not only dec of 1971 but all of those war had bought misery into humanity and problem was ego and greed of few men at the top.

  2. Ijaz Chaudhry

    Very Moving Account

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