There are distinct divergences between Pakistan and Bangladesh. The most basic variation is in ethnic and linguistic homogeneity. Bangladesh is pre-dominantly Bengali by race and the Bangla language is the lingua franca. While Urdu is the official national language of Pakistan, there are wide diversities of ethnicity and language between and within all four provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Radio Pakistan broadcasts daily in over 20 languages and dialects. The majority of the people of Bangladesh treasure their bond with Islam. At the same time, the state of Bangladesh has taken a big step towards giving legal, practical expression to the principle of secularism. In 2010, its Supreme Court rendered a judgement banning the use of religion-related names and terms in the titles of political parties. While religion-linked political parties in Pakistan have obtained only a small percentage of the popular vote in eight general elections held to date, they wield a coercive, disproportionate influence to prevent reform of obscurantist laws. Though religion-based violence has occasionally occurred in Bangladesh, the phenomenon is comparatively restricted. In Pakistan, the continuous failure of the state to curb bigotry and extremism, the indoctrinated products of some (not all) Wahabi madrassas funded from Saudi Arabian and neighbouring sources and other factors have combined to produce an aggressive primitivism and intolerance in segments that intimidate the much larger, non-violent sufi majority. Perhaps location is one — but not the only one ! — of the pivotal reasons for this particular divergence. Whereas Bangladesh is physically encircled by Indian territory on three sides and its southern frontier is the Bay of Bengal, Pakistan is an immediate neighbour to Iran, Afghanistan, India, China and Russia. Near-neighbours include the Gulf states, Turkey, Central and West Asia. Factors of religion, ideology, territorial ambition, gas and oil have meshed together through cataclysmic events such as the Iranian revolution, the Soviet and the American invasions of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war, the American invasion of Iraq, the post-9/11 war on terror to place Pakistan in the midst of the global and regional geo-political maelstrom. Fortunately for Bangladesh, while its population alone ensures its importance and though its topography makes it vulnerable to global warming, its location does not expose it to global power conflicts. Bangladesh and India have contentious issues regarding water and pockets of territory along their border. However, Pakistan’s dispute with India over Kashmir has led to outright war more than once and the dispute remains both bilaterally unresolved as also on the unfinished formal agenda of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to which India took the problem in 1948. Here too, water is rapidly becoming a source of new tensions. Responding promptly to the introduction by India of nuclear weapons to South Asia in 1974 and to its explosions in 1998, Pakistan demonstrated exceptional scientific and technical capacity to expand its already-established use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes by conducting its own tests of weapons in 1998. As Bangladesh sees no existential threat from India to its survival, its own interest in nuclear power is confined to energy-use. Over the past 40 years, the passage of time, the great healer, encounters in cricket, exchanges in music and trade have healed some of the bloody memories. But a thick fog of figures keeps a wound festering. The estranged siblings estimate the cost in human lives of their painful parting like polar opposites. In the narrative adopted by Bangladesh and echoed by India and most of global discourse, about three million Bengalis were killed and about 300,000 women were allegedly raped by the Pakistan Army during the nine-month conflict resulting in the secession of Bangladesh. These numbers fail spectacularly on the anvil of factual scrutiny, documentation and rationality. In the 262 days between March 26 and December 16, 1971, Pakistan’s armed forces did not exceed 45,000 troops at optimal levels. The 90,000 prisoners-of-war held by India included over 50,000 non-combatant, unarmed West Pakistani civilians. Spread out in small, embattled formations across East Pakistan, facing a newly unfriendly or uneasy population, an India-supported insurgency, preparing for an Indian invasion, constantly under-supplied and under-equipped, the Pakistani forces would have had to kill 11,450 Bengalis and rape 1,145 women every single day for 262 days to reach the levels claimed. Not a single credible document has been cited in 40 years to substantiate such absurd allegations of scale. By unverified frequent repetition of the grotesque figures, the names of Pakistan and Pakistan’s armed forces have become synonymous with the charge of a ‘genocide’ in East Pakistan, which actually never took place. The unfounded charge amounts to the character assassination of a nation’s armed forces. The Pakistani version is diametrically different. The official Commission of Inquiry headed by a former chief justice could only estimate 36,000 dead. Other estimates go between 100,000 to 200,000 killed. To contrast the two claims is not to demean the gravity of the catastrophe by cold statistics. Every human life is sacred. Every human being’s dignity is sacrosanct. Any violation of either is reprehensible. Some atrocities by Pakistani troops did take place. Several eye-witness accounts state that the targets were almost always adult males, that women and children were spared. The killings were not one-sided. Many thousands of non-Bengalis and West Pakistanis, including women and children, were brutally slaughtered by Bengalis between 1st March and March 26, 1971, and subsequently as well, as also after December 16, 1971. About 4,000 Pakistani troops also perished in the conflict. The need to revisit this facet of history to conclusively establish the truth is superbly highlighted by the meticulous research recorded by a scholar who is neither a Pakistani nor a Bangladeshi. In her unusually sensitive and remarkably balanced book, Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, Sarmila Bose — an Indian Bengali Hindu by birth, a senior Research Fellow at Oxford University — powerfully and persuasively presents the case for a rigorous, evidence-based search for the truth. As countries projected to remain two of the 10 most populous nations of the world over the next 40 years, the estranged siblings have a solemn responsibility to reconcile truths and to invigorate co-operation for mutual benefit and regional stability. (Concluded) The writer is a former minister and Senator of Pakistan. He is the author of Pakistan: Unique Origins; Unique Destiny?