When Pakistan was formed, the impression sent all across the world was that the Muslims of subcontinent now had the freedom to practice their religion without the fear of persecution from a Hindu majority. This in fact was a futile impression considering that a large number of Muslims chose to continue their lives in India. One might wonder that in a country where apprehension on the basis of religion was inevitable, what reasons did these Indian Muslims have to not move to Pakistan. Perhaps, they envisaged what we experience today.

From Bangladesh’s secession after continued military operations from the Pakistan Army and its then ally forces, it was clear that the idea of a country for people on the basis of their religious ideology was baseless since the beginning. However, we still continue inculcating our children with convictions of standing up for the (dream of a) Muslim ummah with help of historical revisionism, or sometimes historical negationism in our textbooks. Bangladesh reminds us that we were not far-sighted when we chose to form “a nation for Muslims”. How could we even expect the followers of Islam to unite as a nation when they can’t even unite on the manners, timings and places of their religious obligations?

Caught up in linguistic pitfalls of our religious scriptures and bigotry that we’ve embraced with irrationality, everybody who claims to be a Muslim is a disbeliever to some other kind of Muslim. Some fear identifying as Muslims because their compatriots have taken decisions which we believe are to be taken by God only. So who is a Muslim, I ask. For who was this country made?

Our history has very important lesson for us, only if we choose to learn from it. It teaches us that when it comes to making a nation, it takes more than an ideology. It takes pluralism to ensure a sense of belonging to the nation in everyone regardless of their gender, ethnicity and religion.

People who stood up for the rights of Bengalis back then were regarded as traitors, so are people who stand up for the rights of the neglected children of our motherland today. When we dismiss the opinion of a large number of people all together and label this suppression as an act in our national interest, we do not just silence voices but weaken the very force that holds us together. We must learn that repression of our people is not the easy solution to our problems but a distraction from them – and the consequences are always undesirable. I heartily feel like Pakistan owes an apology to Bangladesh, but it would be naive to expect anything like it observing that we’ve hardly learned anything from our guilt-ridden past and much of Pakistan continues to endure the establishment’s attempts at finding easy solutions to complicated issues like they did in 1971.

Considering the atrocities that Bengalis were put through by their own people, it is fair to say that Bangladesh is truly an independent state now. I hope that Bengalis of the present day will have the maturity to not detest me (a Pakistani) for a turn of events in the past that I and any unbiased student of history condemn. I would not suggest that neither of us “bury the past” because the scars it has left will not let us do so, but I do hope that we learn from it for the good of us both. I do hope that generations to come will not have as much to regret as we do.

Danish Nazeer is a student, movie buff, aspiring writer and a secular humanist. Follow him on Twitter