By S. M. Hali
Nelson Mandela, the South African leader was buried earlier this month in his native town Qunu. As in life, even in his death, celebrities, human rights activists and world leaders sank their differences to pay homage to this great personality and vowed to carry on his message of reconciliation and clemency. Born on 18 July 1918, Mandela suffered incarceration for nearly twenty seven years, as he led his nation in an anti-apartheid revolution. His dynamic leadership, personal example of bearing hardship and adversity boldly, bore fruit as South Africa finally shunned apartheid, overcame institutionalized racism and inequality. Mandela became South Africa’s first black chief executive through a fully representative democratic election as he forgave the minority whites for their decades’ long oppression and tyranny meted to the majority blacks through brute force. Mandela’s truth and reconciliation commission bore fruit in uniting the strife torn nation to rise to its true potential. Despite desperate pleas by a grateful nation, Mandela served only one term as South Africa’s president, instead devoting his time to serve humanity both at home and abroad. Mediating in international disputes, combating human rights abuse and carrying out charitable and noble tasks of combating poverty, hunger and disease like HIV Aids through the Nelson Mandela Foundation, he became a highly respected elderly statesman, shunning the lust for power, pelf or personal glory.
No wonder that the thousands, who gathered at Soweto’s FNB stadium, braving inclement weather to pay their last respects to the revered and respected leader, expressed both grief at the irreplaceable loss but joy at having learnt lessons of clemency and rejecting retribution and revenge. Nelson Mandela’s personal charm and strength of character brought together even bitter enemies and deadly foes on the same podium to pay homage to the great leader.
Unfortunately, in the same timeframe, one government that spurned Mandela’s spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness is the Bangladesh Awami League led by Hasina Wajid.
Erstwhile East Pakistan broke away from the federation in 1971 to become Bangladesh. The causes of the bloody severance of Pakistan merit a detailed discussion but are beyond the scope of this article. Humiliation and degradation of the Bengalis on the part of West Pakistanis and manipulation of the grievances by India through sedition and conspiracy acted as catalysts for the ultimate breakup. In the fog of war and frenzy of madness, Bengalis butchered non Bengalis and West Pakistanis residing in East Pakistan, while Pakistani Armed forces too carried out excesses on their Bengali brethren. Time healed many wounds and Bangladesh made economic progress and in time relations between it and Pakistan became not only friendly but rather close till the return of Hasina Wajid, the daughter of Sheikh Mujib ur Rahman—the founder of Bangladesh, to power.
Hasina’s party, the Awami League squandered the economic opportunities owing to its leaders’ indulgence in corruption and sleaze. Now that the next general elections in Bangladesh are close, fearing a rejection by the politically aware people, the Awami League is creating diversions to make the people forget their misrule. That is an internal affair of Bangladesh and Pakistan has no interest in it other than the fact that it is a well wisher of the Bangladeshis. However, creating an atmosphere of vindictiveness, the collusion of the Bangladeshi judiciary and Awami League, in a hastily conducted trial, executed one of its political opponents, Molla Abdul Quader, who was head of Jamaat-e-lslami in Bangladesh. That too would not have been of interest to Pakistan except an expression of dismay at the abuse of justice along with similar observations by human rights activists, legal experts the world over, the UN and OIC. The fact that irked the people of Pakistan and urged its parliament to condemn the heinous political murder through a formal resolution is that Molla Abdul Quader was charged with aiding the Pakistan Army during the 1971 War. This leaves a gaping hole in the efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the world. Bengalis, during the 1971 were divided; there were those who did not want a carnage and bloody breakup. They only sought greater considerations for East Pakistan. Even after the formation of Bangladesh, forty two years later, there are many Bengalis who regret their extreme action which was so painful that does not make them traitors but pragmatic. This scribe too lost near and dear ones during the 1971 fury and rage but has forgiven the perpetrators. Hasina too should learn from Nelson Mandela’s legacy of reconciliation.