Listening to the Enemy: The Pakistan Army, Violence and Memories of 1971

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction In 1971, two wars broke out in East Pakistan. One was a civil war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan, and the other was an international war fought between India and Pakistan. In the wars, a variety of men representing the armies of Pakistan and India, as well as the Mukti Bahini (Bengali militia created with Indian support), and proPakistani Bengali and ‘Bihari’ civilians who volunteered in the auxiliary armed forces of Al-Badr and Al-Shams raped, looted, killed and terrorised civilians in East Pakistan, particularly women. In this article, I investigate the memories of some of the soldiers of the Pakistan Army to document the process and context of the violence of 1971 and analyse them in order to understand the complexities and nuances of personal memories. In particular, I trace the gradual transformation of soldiers into perpetrators of violence and continue the analysis further to trace the emergence of a human from within the abyss of violence. While committing violence, many of them admitted that they came face-to-face with their limited human condition and their vulnerabilities, which, in turn, enabled them to see the humanity of their victims. The recognition of these similarities had important consequences in the perpetrators’ lives, motivating them to rethink their experiences in the war and create a narrative that is different from the standard official history of 1971 in Pakistan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBeyond Crisis
Subtitle of host publicationRe-evaluating Pakistan
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9781136517594
ISBN (Print)9780415480635
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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