With every passing year, mourning and angry commentary on the tragedy of December 1971 increases in Pakistan. Meanwhile, celebrations of victory also become more expansive, incriminating and ostentatious in India and accusations of manslaughter and abuses of human rights are hurled at us with greater venom from Bangladesh. Add to that the façade of war crime trials in Dacca and the clamor becomes louder more sinister. In this huge racket, Indians and Bangladeshis are quite clear and single minded in their narratives. Ever since then, Indians have forcibly occupied the high moral ground, having helped Bangladeshis against West Pakistan. The truth is that so far Pakistan has not been able to fashion its own narrative about the traumatic turn of events in 1971.We are still hopping from one half-baked narrative to another and have failed to make sense of orsell it to the world. There is an element of halfhearted and tentative effort here. We have to pause and reflect over this? One can only make an attempt to enquire into this strange state of affairs. WhiIe others might think of more fundamental causes, one can only talk from a personal standpoint. As a matter of caution, it may be kept in mind that there may be others who might have had a different experience. I returned from PoW camp in Ranchi in 1974 and was repatriated via Wagah to Lahore. It was a three day journey by train which I have described in another article. At Lahore, we were asked to fill a basket full of papers, including a narration of events and recommendations which one might have had to offer. I sat down to truthfully write… and there was so much to write. Handwritten papers began to quickly pile up. Suddenly a hand reached out over my shoulder and picked up the papers. I turned around to find my senior from the unit from which I had proceeded from Lahore to Dacca in November 1971.I was so moved by the warmth of both his embrace and advice. His advice was direct and seemingly unpalatable, “I know what you are writing is absolutely true. But just write your particulars and where you were, otherwise you would not be cleared.” Reluctantly, I agreed. What we have now is a much leaner and battle hardened fighting force, relatively free of pretentious religiousness or fake ideological strappings He tore off my papers, yet it took more than six months for me to be cleared and posted to a unit in Gujranwala. There I found a different but disappointing world.A few things stood out by their absence within the army in particular and our society in general. Within the army, a diplomatic but palpable silence was being practiced regarding the loss of East Pakistan. Nobody asked to know what happened at East Pakistan, officially or informally. Possibly there were three main reasons. One, that considerable volatility was bottled up by the repatriated men and officers on the conduct of the war itself. An attempt to probe could flare into ugly altercations and certain breaches of discipline. Two, privately there was a real concern about not causing hurt by asking those who had been there to recollect painful events of the war. Finally and equally likely was a question of service attitude sulking to face the bitter truth of defeat and surrender, in other words dreadful military failure. One did not see or have so far known a serious and purposeful institutional effort to go into the entire sordid affair, draw lessons and filter recommendations to avoid a repeat of the same. It was as if there was a deliberate desire to make believe that we did not lose the war in East Pakistan; somebody else did. If so, it should be considered a collective self-deception practiced by a conscience rent by a sense of guilt, inadequacy and failure. There was also this attempt to individually or in small groups, maintain distance from the disastrous episode and its unfortunate victims; the returnees. As the matter was not addressed under institutional arrangements, inevitably and nearly irreparably it resulted in absence of any institutional effort to rehabilitate, absorb and compensate the repatriated men and officers. Posting men and officers to their home stations seemed to have been considered enough. For instance four to five years of war and captivity created a gap in career profiles which remained unaddressed and went to the disadvantage of returnees. Officers began to become disillusioned, moody and prone to resigning. Many left in exasperation. Comparatively, very few made it to the higher ranks, and those who did were either exceptionally brilliant or plainly more fortunate or both. Repatriated soldiers were the worst hit, much less attended to and ill adjusted. Desertions, barrack scuffles and poor discipline resulted. Society had undergone a sea change in many ways. They seriously believed in the notion of an international conspiracy to dismember Pakistan and that the army was deliberately led into a premeditated situation to be defeated by local connivance. The society seemed to be disintegrating in strange ways. Children pitched against parents, students against teachers, workers against owners and subordinates against their superiors. State authority and its officials were being ridiculed by political workers and office holders of the incumbent party. People had generally become loud, disrespectful and callous towards what was once a traditionally formal, graceful and proper culture. There was a newer but strange phenomenon of religious segment beginning to become more visible and assertive under a pseudo-socialist regime. These mullahs were spinning a different and more dangerous narrative of national reconstruction which eventually resulted in Ahmadis being declared non-Muslims and forced re-Islamization of our society under the late General Zia. An upshot of such a sorry state of affairs was an unhealthy quiet among rank and file and a painful disillusionment within the system leading to drift, disinterest and despondency. When the late General Zia’s Islamization came, the returnees embraced it quite enthusiastically, hoping it might help kickstart a zesty and honest professionalism in the armed forces. Sadly that did not happen as the maneuver was intended to prolong his own rule and not really to serve Islam. Queerly mixed battle performance beside superlative valor during the Kargil battle can be considered a direct result of this regretful conceptual confusion and professional apathy. In this backdrop, the Pakistan Army’s battle inoculation in FATA came as a great act of providence ridding it of drift, duplicity and fake professionalism. What we have now is a much leaner and battle hardened fighting force, relatively free of pretentious religiousness or fake ideological strappings. Published in Daily Times, February 11th 2019.