I found what happened during the Bangladesh-Pakistan cricket match very surprising.
I did not expect any open support for the Pakistani side by some Bangladeshis, especially when the match was between Bangladesh and Pakistan. The images of Bangladeshis wearing Pakistani supporting garments with Pakistani flags were also a double surprise, especially in the era of total Awami League domination of the country.
After listening to various news reports on this and interviews of people who supported Pakistan’s victory, I am less surprised. This is because teens and young people, no matter what, develop their own ways and go against the current and the dominant systems. From the interviews, it was clear that most of the young people who showed support for Pakistan did not do so to make any political points.
On the other hand, reactions from some Bangladeshis against Bangladeshis supporting the Pakistani team and rejoicing in Pakistan’s victory against Bangladesh have also surprised me. Very superficial points have been made by some to explain what had happened and some have even demanded that these people be sent back to Pakistan, even though they are Bangladeshis and born in the country.
Some have thought that they have eliminated and cleared the country of pro-Pakistanis, but now they are confronted with the prospect that no such thing may have been achieved. They are also outraged as this happened in the year that we are celebrating our 50th year of independence after a bloody nine-month war, initiated by the Pakistani military. There is an element of fear that the pro-Pakistani Bangladeshis may raise their heads again after long, successful efforts to subdue them.
I have long experience with Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi people from a range of backgrounds. I can tell you there are good and bad on all sides, and among the Bangladeshis, there are people who love India and there are people who love Pakistan. India lovers are described pejoratively by some as ‘Bharater or Indian dalals, and Pakistan lovers are described pejoratively, though with a higher degree of intensity, as ‘rajakars’, or children of rajakars who still retain the influence of their rajakar parents.
Living in London, all these feel childish and unnecessary. But the UK is a mature and stable country with a long experience of managing diversity of opinions and tastes, so they tolerate and celebrate freedom of conscience and individual choice. But Bangladesh is a newly emerging country with poor and weak institutions, so it would be wrong to expect the high standards that we experience and enjoy in the UK on a daily basis.
However, without learning to live with and respect individual choice and freedom of conscience, it will not be possible to create stable institutions, systems and cultures, without which we will not be able to enjoy the equality, justice, freedom that we all strive to achieve and deserve.
Perhaps with Imran Khan being in power in Pakistan has caused the Biharis in Bangladesh to feel a greater affinity to a Pakistan.
The partition of the indian subcontinent was a mistake for many, particularly Muslims with ties to many parts of the subcontinent.