We've had truth and reconciliation in South Africa, the Congress party saying sorry for 1984 (even if it was years later) and the BJP refusing to countenance the idea of offering even a hint of an apology for 2002 Gujarat. In between, recently, on May 13 to be exact, the government of Bangladesh "urged Pakistan to apologise formally for alleged atrocities committed by its army during Bangladesh’s bloody liberation struggle in 1971". As the Dawn reported, "A Pakistani envoy told Bangladesh in February to let ‘bygones be bygones’ and rejected plans to try those accused of murder, rape and arson.".
Writing in Bangladesh's Daily Star, on May 20th, Syed Badrul Ahsan cited Willy Brandt kneeling before Israel's Yad Vashem memorial in 1970 as a mark of penance for what Nazi Germany did to six million Jews in the Hitler years and said:
It is a lesson Pakistan and its leaders need to learn from. To be sure, Pakistanis will tell you in their turn that Pervez Musharraf once expressed his regret over any crimes that may have been committed in Bangladesh in 1971. When they do that, you might as well inform them that there is a huge difference between an expression of regret and a clear statement of apology.
When you regret something you have done, you are not exactly contrite over your action. But when you publicly let people know that you are apologetic over a crime or sin you have committed, you give out the good feeling that you have finally been able to catch up with history. More significantly, you have finally adopted the thought that in life morality matters than anything else.
Pakistan's people and its leaders have, to our clear displeasure, never tried to take the high moral ground when it comes to dealing with 1971. The history that is taught in schools is a travesty of the truth. While a detailed analysis is provided of the circumstances leading to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, nothing really is offered as an explanation for the disappearance of East Pakistan in 1971. Or if there is something of an explanation, the clear hint is there that a conspiracy, obviously by non-Pakistanis, broke the country into two. With that kind of approach to history, you only undermine history. An angry Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited the National Memorial in Savar in June 1974 and made it clear he saw nothing wrong in what his country had done to Bengalis in 1971.
And, finally, today, a group calling itself the Action for a Progressive Pakistan, responds via a piece entitled "We Apologise" in the same newspaper:
The outrageous dismissal of Bangladesh's demand by the Pakistani foreign office -- "let bygones be bygones" -- is a shameful reflection of Pakistan's constructed amnesia over the horrific actions of its army and its political leadership. Not only has there never been any move on the part of the Pakistani state to apologise to Bangladesh, there has not even been any sustained effort by citizens' groups to pressure the government to publicly acknowledge the truth.
As Pakistanis, we find this unconscionable. We find it unconscionable that the Pakistani army raped, killed and pillaged our brothers and sisters in East Pakistan in 1971. We find it unconscionable that the Pakistani state has steadfastly refused to acknowledge these atrocities for the past 38 years, leave alone hold those responsible for them accountable as suggested by its own chief justice in the state commissioned inquiry. We reject the Pakistani state and army's claim that these atrocities were committed in our name.
(Links via separate emails from Anwar A Siddiqui and Ayesha Ali)
Post script: I find that Sepoy at Chapati Mystery is very much a part of this Action for Progressive Pakistan. May his tribe increase.