Part III: Two Wings Without A Body

Dec 2012

"Witness Calls E. Pakistan 'Terror Beyond Description'" blares a Washington Post headline from Dec 15, 1971. Source: http://www.docstrangelove.com/uploads/1971/foreign/19711215_wp_witness_calls_e_pakistan_terror_beyond_description.pdf

“Witness Calls E. Pakistan ‘Terror Beyond Description'” blares a Washington Post headline from Dec 15, 1971. Source

This is the third of a multi-part series “Waiting for a Real Reckoning on 1971″ by Naeem Mohaiemen. Part I | Part II

Partition resulted in the creation of two Pakistans, and from the beginning relationships between the two wings were strained and distant. At many key junctures after 1947, the attitude of the central state toward East Pakistan was not only that this was a troublesome province, but that this was a disloyal part of the Muslim body politic. Several key confrontations, including the Agartala conspiracy case against Sheikh Mujib and several Bengali army officers, highlight that the West Pakistan government was on hair-trigger alert about the loyalty of the Bengali population. Mujib’s declared and public position that the Kashmir crisis needed to be solved through negotiations with India further deepened the suspicions of the Pakistani military bureaucracy.

West Pakistani hostility, racism, and religious intolerance towards East Pakistan is a key element in understanding the violence of the war. In her recent book on post-1947 Pakistan, Saadia Toor states that “the attitude of West Pakistani elite towards the Bengalis also became increasingly more racialized over time.” (9) Toor has summarized these tendencies that were prevalent in everyday conversations:

There was cultural prejudice of course—basically the idea that East Bengali Muslims were culturally too “in thrall” to Hindu culture. But the Pakistani army’s own discourse was more explicitly racist. It had inherited the ideology of the “martial races” of the subcontinent expounded by the British and the latter’s contempt for the “effeminate” Bengali. During the army operation in 1971, this racism found its most explicit expression in the idea of Bengalis being an “inferior” race whose gene-pool must be “fixed” by the forcible impregnation of their women. Commentators from the 1970s onwards have spoken about this attitude being rife within the military and within certain parts of the upper echelons of liberal society in West Pakistan. (10)

Footnotes

9. Saadia Toor, State of Islam: Culture and Cold War Politics in Pakistan (London: Pluto Press, 2011), note 17, 206.

10. Author interview, July 27, 2011.

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6 Responses to Part III: Two Wings Without A Body

  1. LV????? on Dec 2012 at 7:54 AM

    marked this. please try more!

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