Pakistan’s never-ending game plan to forge ties with Bangladesh
Sajid Yousuf Shah/BdNews24
While Bangladesh is celebrating the golden jubilee of the Liberation War, the defeated Pakistani establishment has come up with multidimensional propaganda in order to hide their notorious character and spread venom against India. Several Pakistani online and print media are trying to portray Pakistan as a genuine friend of Bangladesh. Their main narratives include: “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman never wanted independence of Bangladesh”; “Mujib was one of the champions of the Pakistan movement in the 1940s”; “He was a patriot Pakistani all through his political carrier”; “he represented Pakistan in many international forums”; “since Mujib and his party Awami League got overwhelming majority in the election of Pakistan’s National Assembly, they should have been allowed to form the government for the sake of the integrity of Pakistan”; “Pakistan was divided due to some communication gaps and mishandling of the political situation by the army junta of Yahia Khan”; “India took advantage of the political crisis, took revenge by bifurcating Pakistan and welcomed the Hindus of East Pakistan who took shelter during the ‘civil war’”; “from the inception of Bangladesh, India is successful in establishing its political, economic and cultural hegemony and poisoning Bangladeshi’ minds against Pakistan as it’s an Islamic country and India always remained an enemy of the Muslims”; “India will never give the due share of river water and wants to keep Bangladesh totally dependent on her”; “Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the courageous daughter of a courageous father, has strengthened Bangladesh’s relation with China defying India’s pressure”; “Hasina is sincere in improving Pakistan-Bangladesh relation and because of the strong presence of Indian agents in the administration and media she is moving very cautiously”; “Pakistan and Bangladesh are two powerful Muslim countries that can lead OIC and ‘Muslim Ummah’ jointly”; “Pakistan can help Bangladesh become a regional nuclear power, which Bangladesh deserves, but India will never allow it”; and “people-to-people relation between Pakistan and Bangladesh must be intensified by all means”; and so on.
On Nov 9, 2021, a “Pak-Bangladesh Friendship Conference” was arranged in Lahore by Jamhoori Watan Party, which was attended by the Bengalis living in Pakistan and some unknown Bangladeshi “youth leaders”. The speakers from different parties and groups emphasised ways and means to develop more friendly relations between two “powerful Muslim countries” of this region. The organisers chose the day because it was poet Iqbal’s 175th birthday. Speakers at the conference also paid tribute to Iqbal and Rabindranath Tagore while highlighting their contribution to the establishment of two “great nations”. Normally Pakistani propaganda machines portray Mujib as a traitor, deny the genocide of 1971 and accuse Bangladeshi “rebels” and the Indian Army for the indiscriminate killing of “innocent Pakistanis”. Now they have come up with a new strategy. In the Lahore conference, Pakistani speakers asked their government to apologise for the 1971 “tragedy”, respect Bengali language and culture, increase the number of scholarships to Bangladeshi students in Pakistani universities, name important roads in big cities of Pakistan after Mujib and other great Bengali leaders, help Bangladesh raise its issues with India, such as killings by BSF at the borders and the sharing of water of joint rivers at the UN etc.
We have never seen such aggressive propaganda and “love” for Bangladesh in the Pakistani media before and sadly many Bangladeshis are responding positively to such propaganda on social media. The second edition of this conference is scheduled for Jan 02, 2022, in Lahore.
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence continued with its failed attempt by launching a movie “Khel Khel Mein” on Nov 19, and through a Pakistani drama series “Jo Bichar Gaye”, premiered on Dec 12. They shamelessly depict distorted accounts of the 1971 Liberation War by showing protesting students as “uncouth bullies” and the Pakistani Army men as “righteous gentlemen”. They further played with the sentiments of Bangladeshis by releasing a documentary, “Separation of East Pakistan: The Untold Story”, on Dec 16, the Victory Day of Bangladesh.
As a part of the Pakistani conspiracy, displeasure erupted ahead of the T20 match between Pakistan and Bangladesh on Nov 19, after the visitors’ flag was placed during a practice session in Dhaka, upsetting Bangladeshi citizens. Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq continued carrying his country’s national flag during training “in a plea to boost the morale of the squad”. The move has angered the Bangladeshi cricket fans and they demanded the Bangladesh Cricket Board take strong action and cancel the series.
Bangladeshi youths were agitated by the fact that the visitors broke the protocols by hoisting their national flag in the Mirpur ground. Fans took to Twitter and Facebook to show their displeasure and disappointment. A Bangladeshi fan asked the Pakistan team to go back to Pakistan. “Go back Pakistan. Bangladesh should stop the series. Ban any kind of Pakistani flag in Bangladesh,” the user wrote on Twitter. Many Bangladeshi fans considered the move as a political message ahead of the golden jubilee celebrations of the nation’s victory over Pakistan in the war. Bangladeshi netizens observed— “Different countries have come to Bangladesh innumerable times, many matches have been played but neither party needed to practice by hoisting their national flag on the ground. But why did they do that… What does it indicate?” and so on. Soon after the controversy came to light, the Pakistan Cricket Board came into a damage control mode and said they started flying the national flag during practice sessions two months ago. BCB, however, did not express any displeasure or make any comment on the issue. Traditionally during international or bilateral matches, the national flags of the participating countries are hoisted during the games across the world. But the BCB imposed a restriction on carrying foreign flags by spectators in 2014, a decision which was later withdrawn following widespread criticism.
Earlier, the Pakistani hockey team were supposed to play a friendly match with Bangladesh on Dec 16. As many secular fronts declared to resist such a match, by all means, the idea was dropped. It appears that Pro-Pakistani political parties and groups with vested interests have already started executing their master plan to create a favourable ground much ahead of the next elections to Bangladesh’s parliament in 2023.