Veteran recalls horrors of a south-Asian war 40 years ago

Remembrance meant something very different to new Canadian Mazibur Rahman.

On March 25, 1971, Rahman recalled the Pakistan army launched an attack on the Bengalis in Dhaka.

“(They) killed hundreds of natives, raped the women and set fire to the villages. We passed many sleepless nights, starved for days together,” Mazibur said. “The army would raid village after village in search of Mukti Bahini (freedom fighters).”

The war broke out when West Pakistan launched a military operation in East Pakistan against Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, who demanded the military regime honour the results of the first ever 1970 democratic elections in Pakistan won by an East Pakistan party to allow separation of the East from West Pakistan. Researchers estimate that between 300,000 and 500,000 Bengalis died. The Bangladesh government puts the figure at three million.

Rahman, 58, a Bangladeshi war veteran living in Toronto immigrated to Canada with his family in 2007.

At the time of the war in what is now Bangladesh, Rahman was 17. He said heprovided the freedom fighters with shelter in his village home, carried their guns and supplied them food.

“In mid November, nearly 200 (Pakistani) soldiers were killed in my locality by a major offensive,” Mazibur recalled. “The number of these deaths was very insignificant compared to the genocide they committed…”

Rahman said that remembering the martyred and the dead should not be meant for remembrance’s sake; he hoped Canadians would payrespects to the freedom fighters.

“It’s long 40 years we have gained independence from Pakistan, but yet to get the taste of a poverty, hunger and corruption-free Bangladesh,” Rahman said. “For that matter, we are still struggling to get the freedom in the true sense.”