More than three million people had been killed in Pakistan orchestrated genocide of Bengali speaking people of the then East Pakistan in 1971

Bangladesh has sought an apology from Pakistan for the 1971 genocide in the former East Pakistan. Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam told Pakistan’s envoy to Dhaka that his country would settle for no less than an apology from Islamabad.

Bangladesh’s assertiveness comes in the wake of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Bangladesh’s Independence. The years 2020-21 have been named as Mujib Year to mark the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Birth Centenary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Dhaka to mark the Golden Jubilee Celebrations on 26 March this year.

The genocide inflicted by Islamabad killed over three million people, many amongst whom were civilians and leaving uncounted number of wounded behind. The military operation forced about 10 million people of the erstwhile East Pakistan to take shelter in neighbouring India. Thousands of women were rape and tortured. The magnitude and intensity of the loss faced by Bangladesh is trauma which Dhaka is yet to tide over.

In a meeting held between Bangladesh Minister and Pakistan’s envoy Ahmed Siddiqui on January 7, Bangladesh also sought completion of the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh and called for a division of assets.

This was the Pakistani envoy’s first meeting with the Bangladesh minister. The Pakistan envoy assumed charge last year after a gap of nearly 2 years as a result of Dhaka’s refusal to clear the appointment of an earlier nominee. The Pakistan envoy had in December met Bangladesh Minister Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Pakistan has tried to turn behind its heinous past and engage with a reluctant Bangladesh. Since July Islamabad has tried to engineer a thaw in its bilateral relations with Bangladesh. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had a telephonic conversation with his Bangladesh counterpart in which Khan is believed to have beseeched Hasina for improvement in bilateral relations between the two countries.

Dhaka is believed to have put conditions on improvement of political relations with Islamabad. In December, Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina had stated, “Bangladesh cannot forget and forgive atrocities perpetrated by Pakistan in 1971”, referring to incalculable sufferings, killings faced by Bangala speaking people of the then East Pakistan in 1971.

Bangladesh’s demand to tender an official apology from Pakistan rests on Dhaka’s decision to make Islamabad feel guilty of genocide beginning on March 25, 1971 when the Pakistan military launched ‘Operation Searchlight’ against the people of East Pakistan. The genocide that continued for 9 long months believed to be one of the worst state inflicted genocides in human history.