An interview with Majid Nizami, Editor-in-Chief, TheNation Q: Which step(s), in your opinion, widened the gulf between West Pakistan and East Pakistan? Who were responsible for doing this? A: All Muslims belonging to Muslim League, from Peshawar to Ras Kumari, were in favour of partition of India. The Muslims of Bengal were also not lagging behind. However, when Pakistan came into being the geographical distance between the two wings created a number of problems, linguistic being one of them. Then, when Karachi was made the capital of the new country, the Bengalis did not approve of it from the core of their heart. They were in a majority and there were many who misled them. Then the language became an issue. Quaid-i-Azam chose Urdu as the national language which, unlike Bengali that is written in Sanskirt script, is written like Arabic. Jute was the main exportable item and the source of foreign exchange those days. Although Khwaja Nazimuddin, Nurul Amin, Khwaja Shahabuddin and many others became ministers, prime minister and even governor-general, people like Maulana Bhashani and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman had a different mindset. I have some personal experience in this regard. For example, whenever some Bengali editors came to Lahore, I took them to some restaurant on The Mall for a lunch or dinner. On seeing the buildings on The Mall, they would, apparently in joke but otherwise quite seriously, say Jute. This implied that these buildings had been constructed with the jute money. They always forgot that these buildings were in existence before the creation of Pakistan. I vividly remember that they used the same word Jute when I took them to a town hall of the Government College. When Bangaldesh was in the process of making and Mujib was freed from jail, I met him in the Dinga Singh building office of Khwaja Abdur Rehim, Bar-At-Law. Mujib was staying at the residence of Malik Ghulam Jilani in Gulberg, which was a new township at the time. Even that locality surprised Mujib at the very first sight. I told him that the elections are round the corner and most people believe that your party - Awami League would win and you would become the prime minister. I also told him that on account of his partys majority in parliament, he could declare Dhaka as the second capital of the country. While I said this, he asked me if the army would let him do this. I replied that with the assembly behind him, nobody would be able to resist the idea. To cut the story short, as a result of discussion with him, I reached the conclusion that he was determined to make Bangladesh. By a coincidence, Mr Bhuttos party won elections in West Pakistan and in Dhaka he said: Idhar tum, udhar hum (your government in Eastern wing and ours in Western). At the centre, both parties would have ruled together. In my opinion, such utterance, plus the attitude of Mujib and Maulana Bhashani, made East Pakistan what is now Bangladesh. India also played a role by raising Mukti Bahini, an army for the liberation of East Pakistan. These factors created a situation which made it impossible for army men and officials from West Pakistan to live in East Pakistan. Hence, our people became strangers in their own country. I think we all are responsible for this situation. Nobody can disclaim responsibility. Q: When was it for the first time when you realized that the security situation of the country was getting out of control? A: I reached this conclusion when I met with Mujibur Rehman at the residence of Malik Ghulam Jilani. I got convinced that this man (Mujib) no longer believed in Pakistan and is determined to make Bangladesh. Q: What were your feelings at the time of the fall of Dhaka? A: I was very active in CPNE those days and quite frequently visited Dhaka. There I met many a time Bengali editors like Manak Mian, Zahoor Bhai and Badruddin. I was shocked at the disintegration of Pakistan, but as a realist I accepted the reality. Pakistan was the only country in the world which comprised two wings with a distance of 1,000 miles between them. After the separation of the East wing from the West, trade and other links between them came to an end. There were many people who were not prepared to accept the situation. Senior journalist Meem Sheen (Mian Muhammad Shafi) hit his head against the floor and walls (when he came to know of this). There were several others who had also a similar feeling. Q: What was the role played separately by Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Bhutto and Mujib? A: I think all four had played a role in the tragedy. Sometimes I feel as if Yahya Khan was born only to seal the disintegration of Pakistan. Idhar Tum, Udhar Hum slogan of Bhutto also played a role. Mujib was a Bengali and wanted the establishment of Bangladesh at any cost. His daughter Hasina Wajid has not accepted Pakistan from the core of heart even today. As long as she is the prime minister, relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan cannot normalize. On the contrary, if Khaleda Zia was the prime minister, a situation suitable for a Pakistan-Bangladesh confederation could be created. Q: Could Pakistan have been saved if power was transferred to Mujib? A: I declare on oath that at my meeting with him at the residence of Malik Ghulam Jilani I tried my level best to assure Mujib that the Nawa-i-Waqt would extend him all-out support if he gives up the idea of separation and works for a united Pakistan. Now I feel that Mujib had decided to go to any extent for the creation of Bangladesh. He was ready even to die for the cause, as subsequently it happened. Q: Among the politicians whose role you judge as positive? A: People like Nurul Amin, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Khwaja Shahabuddin and Mehmud Ali had played a very positive role. Q: How do you see the governments decision to accord the Most Favoured Nation status to India, a country that had played the most important role in the dismemberment of Pakistan? A: Theres no doubt that Pakistan came into existence in spite of the strongest opposition from India. It has not accepted even today the Islamic Republics existence from the core of heart. It has consistently been trying to destabilize Pakistan in fact wipe it off the global map. Its really very unfortunate that the MFN status is being given to an enemy country. Those who took the decision conveniently forgot the role India is playing even in Afghanistan. India is imparting military training to the Karzai army, and it should not be difficult for anyone to imagine against whom that army would be used. Q: What steps you think should be taken to bring Pakistan and Bangladesh closer? A: Its a fact that no effort was made to end or even reduce tensions between Pakistan and Bangladesh after the emergence of a new state. No such step was even considered by Pakistan during the tenure of Mujib or his daughter. The objective was very easy to achieve during the period of Begum Khaleda Zia, but unfortunately the opportunity was not utilized. Pakistan could export food items and even rice to Bangladesh and in return import jute and other things. Its an open secret that many Bangladeshis are illegally working in Karachi. Their stay could have been legalized as a gesture to improve ties between the two countries. Similarly, Bangladeshi students could have been given scholarships for study in Pakistan universities. But I am sorry to point out that no such step has been taken so far. Q: The late Mehmood Ali (who was a federal minister) had proposed a confederation between Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although he is no longer in this world, do you think his idea can still be implemented? A: I think it was a very good idea for unity between the two countries. Despite all attendant factors Bangladesh has not become a satellite of India. We could have imparted training to Bangladesh Army and made a defence pact between the two countries against their common enemy. I still think that we should not shelve the idea and instead continue to work on it. After all Mujibs daughter will not stay in power for good. There are many leaders and other people in that country who like to stay in contact with Pakistan. Q: Some people think that Pakistan still faces some security threats. Separatists are said to be working in Balochistan. The loyalty of many Sindhis is stronger with the Bhuttos than with Pakistan. How can Pakistan counter threats to its solidarity? A: There is no denying the fact that separatists are emerging in Balochistan, but they are not a potent force as yet. In fact, the problem cropped up after the assassination of senior leader Nawab Akbar Bugti, who had voted in favour of Pakistan. Here I will like to narrate a personal experience whenI went to inquire after him in a hospital in Karachi, where he was under treatment. I found him as a moderate leader. Interestingly, instead of talking to me in Urdu, he spoke in Punjabi. The existing bitterness in Balochistan can be de-escalated by talking to his sons. His murder case should be properly pursued. As for the situation in Sindh, Bhuttoism should not be taken as something anti-Pakistan. When Mr Bhutto was alive, it was difficult to decide whether Sindhis were more pro-Pakistan or the Punjabis. He was as popular in Lahore as in Larkana. Its the failure of our leaders that they dont pay much attention to peoples problems. You might have noticed that Mian Nawaz Sharif recently paid a visit to Larkana and addressed a public meeting at which Go, Zardari Go slogans were also chanted. Q: For the repatriation of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh, nobody has done anything except you. In your opinion whose responsibility is this? A: We have been raising funds for the stranded Pakistanis for several years. We send every month whatever we collect for them. Although the amount is not much, they are very thankful to us. The stranded Pakistanis have been living in camps, in very deplorable conditions. Ill like to remind the PPP leaders that Mr Bhutto had once said that he would fight a thousand years with India for the rights of the Kashmiri people. The late leader certainly had similar views for the stranded Pakistanis. Pakistan is their country and they have every right to come and live here. Many Bengalis are living in Karachi and earning their livelihood by working in different fields.