1971 War

Should Pakistanis apologise to Bangladeshis? An online appeal reopens old wounds

A Rwanda-based Pakistani is pushing his compatriots to admit that their country committed war crimes on Bangladesh, something Pakistan's rulers have never conceded.

An online petition stark in its simplicity has revived an over 30-year-old debate in Pakistan. “We the undersigned Pakistanis deeply regret the atrocities committed in our name against the people of Bangladesh in 1970-71. Yours with utter humility,” it says.

Created a couple of months ago by young Pakistani Imaduddin Ahmed, the petition took on new life after the Pakistan’s Director General South Asia and SAARC summoned the Acting High Commissioner of Bangladesh to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on November 30.

In a press statement released by the Foreign Ministry after the meeting, Pakistan rejected the Bangladesh government’s “insinuation of complicity in committing crimes or war atrocities”. The statement said that Pakistan holds the 1974 Tripartite Agreement as “the bedrock of relations” between the two countries (India being the third party).

According to that agreement, the concerned parties had agreed essentially to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past. Bangladesh would also, “as an act of clemency”, not proceed with the trials of those accused of war crimes or collaborating with Pakistan. However, later, the Awami League government set up a tribunal to pursue the 1971 war crimes. Human rights groups in Bangladesh and abroad have since called into question the fairness and transparency of the trials, while lawyers and witnesses representing the accused have reportedly been harassed.

In the run-up to the cataclysmic events of 1971, complete media censorship in then West Pakistan kept the people from knowing what was going on. The West Pakistan establishment took selected journalists on guided tours of East Pakistan.

“We either never wrote about it, or just wrote what we were told to,” I remember a former senior journalist saying at a seminar on freedom of expression in Karachi some years ago.

One Pakistani journalist who refused to toe the line was Anthony Mascarenhas, who had to flee to the UK from where he filed his reports for The Sunday Times. Mascarenhas became persona non grata in Pakistan and a hero in Bangladesh.

In school textbooks and media too, both sides tell their own versions of the story, painting their own side as heroes and the other as villain.

Implicit and explicit apologies

The online petition currently garnering signatures and moving comments is not the first time that Pakistanis have attempted to make amends for the past. In 1996, the umbrella group Women’s Action Forum issued a statement on behalf of its members around Pakistan:
“As Bangladesh celebrates its 25 years of independence, the state and the people of Pakistan must reflect on the role played by the state and the Pakistani military in the unprecedented and exceptionally violent suppression of the political aspirations of the people of Bangladesh in 1971. Continued silence on our part makes a mockery not only of the principles of democracy, human rights, and self determination which we lay claim to, but also makes a mockery of our own history.”

The statement noted that “even in cases of war, and other forms of conflict, there are certain parameters beyond which violence cannot and must not be condoned, and further that those perpetrating and responsible for such violence should be held responsible. In view of this, and in the larger interests of our own humanity as a nation, we must condemn the repression by the state of its own citizens in 1971.”

Imaduddin Ahmed, 32, says he was unaware of or had forgotten about the Women’s Action Forum apology, but was glad to be reminded of it.

Better known is the implicit apology of military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf. On a official visit to Bangladesh in 2002 as president, he paid his respects at the National Mausoleum of Liberation War Martyrs at Savar on the outskirts of Dhaka, and penned a note in the visitors’ handbook:
“Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events in 1971. The excesses committed during the unfortunate period are regretted. Let us bury the past in the spirit of magnanimity. Let not the light of the future be dimmed.”

He later repeated his regrets at an official banquet in Dhaka. This was the first time a Pakistani military ruler had acknowledged the excesses of 1971. The Bangladeshi government welcomed Musharraf’s gesture, hailed by many as a bold step but denounced by some as inadequate.

It was also in the Musharraf era, in the year 2000, that the Hamoodur Rahman Commission report, a judicial inquiry into the events of 1971, was de-classified. The report found “substance in the allegations that during and after the military action excesses were indeed committed on the people of East Pakistan”. However, “the versions and estimates put forward by the Dacca authorities are highly coloured and exaggerated. Some of the incidents alleged by those authorities did not take place at all, and on others fanciful interpretations have been deliberately placed for the purpose of maligning the Pakistan army and gaining world sympathy.”

Two wrongs

In 2012, Bangladesh asked Pakistan for an official apology. In response, Pakistan said it had already expressed regret in different forms and that it is time to move forward.

Ahmed’s petition has come under fire from those who point out that East Pakistanis as they were then, also committed atrocities against West Pakistanis. There is no denying that arson, looting, rape and murder were committed by both sides, although the scale and numbers continue to be disputed.

To those who say that Pakistan shouldn’t apologise unless Bangladesh apologises for the actions of the Mukti Bahini (East Pakistan rebels), Ahmed responded: “as if two wrongs make a right, or as if a terrorist outfit represents a nation”. He terms as “disgraceful” the Pakistan government’s rejection of the insinuation that its armed forces committed atrocities against the people of Bangladesh.

Two years ago, the Pakistan National Assembly’s resolution on the occasion of what Pakistan terms “the Fall of Dhaka” – December 16, 1971, when the Pakistan army surrendered – “also disgraced the Pakistani people by telling the Bangladeshi government not to rake up the memories of 1971,” said Ahmed.

The Assembly also termed as “judicial murder” and condemned the execution of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami leader Abdual Quader Mollah, convicted of committing war crimes in 1971.

Brainwashed by institutions

Ahmed says he was spurred to create the petition after a conversation with a former Pakistan High Commissioner and retired Pakistan Air Force Commodore in Rwanda, where he works as an advisor to the Treasury of Rwanda. It is a country, he says, where “certain categories of genocidaires have been reintegrated into communities after serving sentences and apologising”.

Talking to these two senior retired officers made him think that there might be other “right-minded Pakistanis who aren’t brainwashed by their institutions and would sign an apology”.

Ahmed’s family members, descendants of a war hero, support the petition, he says. His grandfather, Maj Gen Rehmat Ali Shah Bokhari, fought on the frontline of two Indo-Pak wars and was one of two officers who distinguished themselves with a “best war performance report” in 1971, he says.

“Instead of progressing towards an official apology since Musharraf’s hand-written note, we have regressed,” said Ahmed. “It is important for self-respecting patriotic Pakistanis to express their regret and show that the government of Pakistan is misrepresenting them.”

“It’s up to us to circumvent them and crowd-source an apology. This is as much for the people of Bangladesh as it is for ourselves.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.


In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.


Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.


The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.


The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.