“Nothing is more clear, or more easily documented, than the systematic campaign of terror — and its genocidal consequences — launched by the Pakistani army on the night of March 25th… All of this has been officially sanctioned, ordered and implemented under martial law from Islamabad. America’s heavy support of Islamabad is nothing short of complicity in the human and political tragedy of East Bengal.”
– Senator Edward Kennedy, Crisis in South Asia, quoted by Joshua Keating, How Ted Kennedy helped create Bangladesh, Foreign Policy, August 27, 2009
When Pakistan was still mourning over killing of a terrorist and Prime Minister of Pakistan was busy in making dreamy declaration of ‘waiting for the day (when) Kashmir becomes (a part of) Pakistan’, on the other side of the border Prime Minister of Bangladesh not only denounced ‘killings in the name of religion’ but also pronounced resolve for ‘eliminating
terrorists from their roots’. Within a month of an appalling terrorist attack on a Dhaka in which 20 hostages were killed, Bangladesh killed nine Islamic extremist who were planning another large-scale assault. Though general
perception in Bharat about both the neighbours is the same, the ground realities are different in three fundamental ways.
It is true that minority rights and growing radicalisation are serious concerns for Bangladesh in recent times. If we analyse this trend in the historical context, we cannot
comprehend it without bringing Pakistan into picture. As explained by experts in Bangladesh, the Muslim bigots who were sided with Pakistan supported Jamaat-e-Islami during the liberation movement, continued to conspire, sabotage Bangladesh founder Sheikh Mujib’s dream of a secular nation. The duo army generals, Ershad and Zia, did try to change the secular nature of the state to an Islamic republic. It is known fact that ISI had always recruited Jihadis from Bangladesh to fight with Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, who are facilitating radicalisation and
anti-Bharat feelings in the Eastern neighbourhood. But as Baloch nationalist leader Sardar Ataullah Mengal once said, “The Two Nation Theory drowned in the Bay of Bengal in 1971”. Thus, if the very existential basis of Pakistan is anti-Bharat, the starting point of emergence of Bangladesh was not to be part of such Pakistan. This fundamental different perhaps allowed Bharat and Bangladesh to reach to the historic accord to settle the complex border dispute, which looks gloomy with Pakistan.
The natural consequence of different of ideological foundation reflects in the counter-terrorism policies of two neighbours. Despite International tag of being a ‘fountainhead of terrorism’ and failing state, Pakistan is still in self-congratulatory mode on the creation of demons like Hafiz Sayeed. The recent remarks by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that state to state relations with Pakistan are a bigger challenge for Afghanistan than the existence of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban divulge the intensity of the larger malaise represented by Pakistan. On the other hand, the religious extremism did never get popular traction in popular psyche of Bangladesh. The sustained and
systematic approach of Bangladesh in countering terrorism is visible. In fact, the hard actions against the Jamaat
elements and war criminals have been a souring point between Pakistan and Bangladesh. The sleeper cells of Al-Qaeda and other Jihadis, who primarily operate in Kashmir, and other regions of India, are busted by Bangladesh agencies, which is difficult to digest for the failing state.
The ill effects of these two critical differences at ideological and policy level are reflected in the development parameters. Pakistan is lagging behind in export performance in terms of its export-GDP ratio as well as the technological content of its exports. When it comes to textiles, the eastern neighbour has established own standards in the international market. Bangladesh is fairing much better in terms of external economic vulnerability compare to Pakistan. Whether it is human development or financial inclusion, Pakistan can just envy the erstwhile East Pakistan. The reality is that economically, politically and socially Pakistan is falling behind even its immediate neighbours which even Pakistani educated middle class is realising. Instead of poking in internal affairs of each and every immediate neighbour, if Pakistan could address these internal concerns, it can do best for itself.
Fragmented polity and instability may still be a concern for Bangladesh, so is the managing radicalisation. Still, Bangladesh can certainly teach Pakistan a lesson that if
fundamentals are right then any eventuality can be met. Otherwise, Baloch and Sindh provinces are ready to teach another lesson which will be disastrous for very existence of Pakistan as a state.