Dec 16: On this day in 1971, 93000 Pakistani forces led by General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi surrendered before the Allied forces of Mukti Bahini and Indian Army led by General Jagjit Singh Aurora. This ensured the culmination of the 13 day Indo-Pak war and the subsequent creation of Bangladesh. This day is celebrated as Vijay Diwas in India and Bijoy Dibos in Bangladesh.
It is obvious that Pakistan has got nothing to celebrate on this day. They were the aggressors and then the vanquished. But how do they ‘manage’ this day?
Using a loose analogy, if you trample forcefully on a rose and its thorn gets stuck in your feet making you bleed, you can do one of these:
- You can concede that you were being stupid and you paid a price.
- Walk away pretending that nothing happened.
- Blame the rose and the thorn.
And various sections of the Pakistani media did all the things above.
Media following the 1st option:
Might be hard to believe, but some media houses did try to be sensible in their approach.
Probably the most well known Pakistani newspaper decided to re-plug their 2012 4 part op-ed on 1971. Even though it doesn’t talk about the events of war and makes just a passing remark on the surrender of Pakistani forces, it is still a very objective analysis (no comments on the accuracy) of how and why the creation of Bangladesh took place and the faults of the Pakistani establishment with respect to East Pakistan from 1947. One of the paragraphs read:
Pakistan started counting traitors before it actually became a nation. There has hardly been a time since its birth that it did not find itself on a crossroad, crying foul at the top of its voice.
Dawn last year on Dec 16 had carried all the Jihadi propaganda advertisements that appeared in the newspaper from 14th-18th December 1971, and reminded people of the ‘dark times’ when hysteria was created and people of East Pakistan were painted as enemies in a holy war.
The Daily Times:
Another leading Pakistani publication, it published an op-ed ‘Reliving the ’71 debacle: political or military?’ which does the difficult job of acknowledging the atrocities inflicted upon by the Pakistani army and its military government on the citizens of East Pakistan and talks about the denial Pakistan still lives in.
The News International:
The News International too talked about the events from 1947 to 1971 which led to the 1971 episode, highlighting how socio-political reasons caused the rift between the two Pakistans.
Media following the second option:
It is perhaps the easiest thing to do, just pretend that December 16 is just another day and go on with your life. Many chose to do so. Or better, publish something attacking India e.g. The Nation, which published an usual op-ed that blamed India for sponsoring terror in Pakistan and contained statements like, ‘Since Mr. Modi attained power in 2014 with the help of terrorist organisation RSS.’
Media following the third option:
This one is most amusing and there are many practitioners!
A publication called the Pakistani Observer decided to the blame India and Bangladesh for everything and tried to painstakingly portray Pakistan as a victim of the “atrocities”.
One article titled ‘Repercussions of 1971 war’ began with how Indian government declared an open war against Pakistan (even though Pakistan led the first assault), called the genocide carried out by Pakistanis a complete fabrication, and blamed India for denying basic rights to some of its own citizens.
Taking this fiction writing a step further, the paper published another story titled ‘Bleakest day in Pakistan’s history’, which claimed how Mukti Bahini was created by RAW and that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman used to visit India since 1960s to hatch conspiracies against West Pakistan.
In short, the most sensible coverage was limited to carrying an op-ed and none overtly talked about the actual war and the surrender of Pakistani forces. Also, most of these articles were confined to not so prominent corners in the respective publications. Pakistan could survive the day.