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December 16, 2019

A national reflection day


December 16, 2019

On 16th December 1971 Pakistan became the first nation-state to disintegrate after World War II of 1939-1945. Several others followed in succeeding years and decades with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and in other regions when Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia, South Sudan from Sudan , East Timor from Indonesia. But this "first" by Pakistan was significantly different from the other break-ups. Apart from the fact that in 1947 Pakistan became the most uniquely-created nation-state in history with almost equal two halves of the population separated by a thousand miles of hostile territory, among other reasons as well, the separation of East Pakistan was the only instance when the majority of the population seceded from its own state and rejected the name of the original state: replacing it with the name of Bangladesh. The minority of the population retained the beautiful original name and has sustained its continuity now for over 48 years. In the process, residual Pakistan has proved it is also a remarkably resilient Pakistan. We are able to demonstrate exceptional qualities of compassion, ingenuity, diverse talents and courage even as our distressing weaknesses of multiple schisms, institutional excesses, misgovernance with poor human resource development co-exist. So painful were the harsh truths of what led up to 16 December 1971 that, for the past four and half decades, we have turned away from them, locked them into a box buried deep inside our psyche. All who know do grieve. But virtually two new generations of young Pakistanis in the past half century are told little or are given distorted versions in their school text books about this historically significant and fundamentally important facet of our history. Western, Indian and even some of our own academia's and media discourse portray Pakistan and its civil/political and armed forces as the sole principal villains of the tragedy, ignoring several inconvenient facts and truths.

It has been stated that to deliberately forget parts of history is an essential requirement of building a nation. The vitriolic anti-Pakistan bias of BD's PM Shaikh Hasina Wajid does not help in any way. Nevertheless, we should consider and discuss the need to declare 16 December as a National Reflection Day -- to encourage reasoned, fact-based, respectful dialogue and discourse on why that terrible day came to pass.

The writer is the author of " Pakistan -- unique origins; unique destiny?" )

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