The great national trauma of December 16, 1971, when Pakistan got dismembered and one half of its beautiful territory fell apart, cannot easily be obliterated from the collective memory of the nation. That part is now Bangladesh. Certainly, this was a successful manoeuvre of our eastern neighbour, Bharat, which quite surreptitiously exploited our internal civil war to rend asunder the unified Pakistan, which had the distinction of being the biggest Muslim country in the world. India indeed served as the midwife for the caesarean operation and birth of a country based on Bengali nationalism. But to India's dismay, it (Bangladesh) did not relinquish its Muslims identity to merge with 'West Bengal' - a predominately Hindu dominated province of India. The Two Nation Theory was not drowned into the Bay of Bengal, contrary to the euphoric proclamation by the then PM Indira Gandhi, who lost no opportunity to express her triumph at bifurcating Pakistan as avenging thousand years of Muslims rule over the subcontinent. That Pakistan was 'cut to size' was the title of the book, which appeared soon after Bangladesh came into being. The so-called Tiger Niazi did not prove equal to the task. His 'generalship' was not to the calibre of a theatre commander, who could steer a better strategy to prolong the war so that international interventions could have averted the stigma of 'surrender' and an amicable compromise could have been worked out. What was the fatal mistake that the army true to the mandate initially had established 'peace' in every part of the former East Pakistan, and the opportunity should have been utilised for a political solution of the problem, which was essentially of our own making. Unfortunately, we did not gauge the exterior environment, which was not so favourable for us. Thoughtlessly, army action was launched, which was a blunder of great magnitude and that not only augmented the sense of alienation and hatred for West Pakistan, by our Bengali brothers, but also provided an opportunity to India, to infiltrate its forces inside Dhaka, against the international norms and conventions. The external factors could not have come into operation, if the leadership in West Pakistan would have the requisite strategic vision, as how to integrate a vast chunk of our Muslim brothers, in the former East Pakistan, to form a viable and much vibrant country, to be able to influence, the Middle East, Central Asian States, South Asia and the South East Asian countries. The importance of Pakistan's great strategic location, never dawned upon our myopic leaders, who lacked the statesmanship and above all the art of 'good governance'. That incompetence is endemic. The propensity for over centralisation and one-man rule, whether it be a military dictator or a civilian ruler hardly made any difference. Seemingly at present we have a civilian political system, but it is a great aberration of the parliamentary democracy, where Parliament enjoys only a ceremonial existence and presidency enjoys the full power. The same one-man show still lingers. The propensity to assume absolute power is the singular tragic trait of our national character. The democratic values are only talked about, for steering a political change, but soon a ruler assumes power, he defies all norms of democracy - explicit as well as implicit. Unless a nation internalises itself, real democracy shall only be willow-the-wisp. Ours is essentially a dogmatic and authoritarian culture, a hang over the feudalistic mindset, which creates impediments towards promotion of a viable democratic polity. It is not only those who possess vast chunks of land to be called feudal, but feudalistic traits are common features of our national personality, which reflects in our bureaucratic institutions, family and other organisational set ups. The people of Bangladesh are intrinsically anti-feudal in approach, contrary to the West Pakistan's political leadership, which, by and large is 'dominated by feudal military bureaucratic elites' as rightly pointed out by Masqood Ali in his recent book from East Bengal to Bangladesh. The disgust against Pakistan's military action was so profound that the author represses the objective reality that East Bengal, first was transformed into East Pakistan, prior to its becoming Bangladesh. This vital error in the title of the book is expressive of his antipathy towards Pakistan. Moreover, he does not dilate over external dimensions of the dismemberment. The above author, however, is quite right in maintaining that the "opposition to landlords was inbred in the Bengali Psyche." They had done away with the zamindari system in 1950, and the ceiling was fixed at 3.3 acres for individual holdings, whereas, in West Pakistan, the so-called Reforms in 1959 was only an eyewash. The Commission for Reforms set the limits upto 500 acres of irrigated lands and 1000 acres for non-irrigated land, which was simply preposterous....In East Pakistan, leaders predominately were from the middle class, was quite averse to military leadership and their frequent interventions in the political system, contributed to their will to separate from West Pakistan. One must give credit to the Bengalis that despite being larger in number, they had accepted quite gracefully the principle of parity, which if properly implemented would not have induced them to seek the division of Pakistan." Many factors contributed to their sense of being discriminatively treated, for instance the transfer of capital from Karachi to Islamabad, reluctance to give Bengali language the status that was given to Urdu and not granting autonomy, which was the vital imperative to keep two wings going together for the furtherance and glory of Pakistan. The majority of Bengalis never wanted separation; ironically, we made it impossible for them to remain united. In the same vein, West Pakistan is undergoing the same trauma, in rural Sindh and Balochistan; facing insurgency in our tribal areas. These are outcomes of not integrating the nation into a cohesive force. I wish to convey my short interaction with late Justice Hamoodur Rahman. That timely report on the military debacle of East Pakistan was not made known to the public, nor were his recommendations implemented, which would have set a proper precedence of accountability in the country. Hence my question is, shall we relinquish over centralised power orientation or witness more tragedies? The right decision may extricate us from the peril that is haunting us loud and clear. The writer is secretary general, FRIENDS Email: