Recollecting the past Pakistanis used to call us “shala”
Lt. Gen. (retd) M. Harun Ar Rashid, Bir Pratik: Pakistanis never looked at us as equals. The way they talked with us was laced with vitriol and spite. “Oi Shala, ei dike ay!” (Hey <expletive>, come here!), they used to address us. There were always verbal abuses. I used to reply to their bitterness with, “Why do you verbally abuse us? You can address by our names or ranks.”
But they never treated us humanely.
Back then, they believed that Bengali meant ‘India sympathizer.’ At the same time, they believed that we could never be their equals. A Bengali secured first position at the place where I used to earn my commission, while I became second, with a Punjabi and another Bengali standing third and fourth respectively. However, in spite of Bengalis achieving important positions and even gaining great success, they never got the recognition nor even acknowledged.
We achieved undisputed victory in the ’70 election, which infuriated them. “Bengalis winning the election, what will we do now?” they asked themselves. They spoke in English in the mess hall or during informal discussions, saying that under Pakistani rule, Bengalis cannot be trusted. We used to tell our coworkers and acquaintances, “You held the election and organized it as well. In fact, you even broadcasted the results, too. But now you are saying that this won’t come to pass. This cannot be the practice of any civilized nation.”
Pakistan is a nation. According to its customs, the winner of the election will form the government. There is no scope for any outside faction to interfere. In respect to Pakistan’s history, I said, Bengali Muslims had great contributions to the formation of the nation. But whenever this topic was raised, they always had the same reply – that Bengalis could never run the Pakistani state. We responded that you’ve run the country for so long, now let the elected officials take the helm. Then observe whether we can really run the country or not. Otherwise, you cannot judge us without giving a chance.
Based on an interview by Ashiq Rahman, translated by Abrar Hussain