ARTICLE: Linn's Stamp News (27 Sept. 1971)
Bangla Desh Controversy Continues: Pakistani and Linn's Staffer Debate
As predicted in Linn's of Sept. 20, the controversy over Bangla Desh and its stamps continues to grow.
Since that issue was published, a fiery letter has been received by Linn's from Syed Riaz Ahmed, president of Oriental Philatelic International, Box 2128, Karachi 18, Pakistan. In it Ahmed accuses Linn's of "partiality" in news reporting and threatens to organize a boycott against it unless Linn's offers a public apology.
As much of Ahmed's criticism is aimed at Linn's Research Editor Mervin L. Chaplin, he has been given the opportunity to reply to the charges.
Ahmed said that he had just received the May 31 issue of Linn's and was surprised to see the stamps of Bangla Desh --- "an imaginary state" --- overprinted on the current definitive postage stamps of Pakistan.
He then referred to Chaplin's article, "Philatelic History in the Making: Watch World's Political Hot Spots," which had appeared in Linn's of May 10. Chaplin had referred to the formation of a Bangla Desh provisional government headed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and had asked, "How long will it be before we see stamps inscribed 'Bangla Desh'?"
"How strange and pathetic for the editor of the world's largest philatelic publication not knowing the actual facts of Pakistan," Ahmed lamented. "A journalist is expected to be well conversant with the latest world situation and not base his knowledge on rumors and unconfirmed reports."
Chaplin: "Linn's editors do a relatively good job of keeping abreast of the ever-changing world situation. All articles published to date concerning Bangla Desh have been carefully researched and objectively presented."
Ahmed: "I think it is my duty to tell your readers that contrary to what Chaplin wrote . . . there was NO civil war in East Pakistan. Only those insurgents and Indian infiltrators who wanted to break up Pakistan, were wiped out by the Pakistan Army."
Chaplin: "The denial that civil war exists is incredible. Almost daily the world-wide press reports the facts of this tragic situation. They speak for themselves. Indications are the resistance movement is far from crushed."
Ahmed: "There does not exist any provisional government of Bangla Desh under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In fact, he is being tried by a special military tribunal for acts of treason and waging war against the Pakistan government."
Chaplin: "It is true that Rahman is in the hands of the Pakistani government, as we reported previously (Linn's Aug. 23). He may well be found guilty and executed. But the Bangla Desh regime apparently lives on under Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmed. The government has offices in Mujibnagar, a location inside East Pakistan which is kept secret for military security, and in Calcutta."
Ahmed referred to the commercially used cover illustrated in Linn's of May 31 as submitted by Steve Poffentroth and criticized him for not mentioning from whom the cover was received.
Chaplin: "This information was available to Linn's but was not published as a matter of editorial discretion. There is nothing questionable about Poffenroth's cover; anyone examing it could plainly see it had performed a legitimate postal function in the international mails."
Referring to the rubber stamp marking on the cover, "Appeal to Indian Post Office: For the sake of humanity accept mail bearing stamps of Bangla Desh," Ahmed asked, "Why was this appeal made only to (the) Indian Post Office, and not to Ceylon, Nepal, Burma or any other post office?"
Chaplin: "We can't say; in fact, we don't know for sure that no other government was approached for the purpose of forwarding Bangla Desh mail. But, obviously, Ceylon is too far away to provide such service. Nepal does not have the necessary facilities, and Burma, which has played a neutral role in world politics for many years, could not be expected to take sides in this dispute. India was the logical choice since the Bangla Desh people and the Indian Bengalis have much in common."
Ahmed: "You might be aware that (on July 26) some stamps of the so-called Bangla Desh were displayed in London, all preplanned and financed by India simply to distract the public. (The) Universal Postal Union has declared that (it does) not accept the stamps of Bangla Desh as legal.”
Chaplin: “At the time Ahmed wrote his letter, he obviously had not received his copy of the Aug. 9 issue of Linn’s, which reported this as the lead story on page 1. He may never receive it, in fact, if the headline ‘Bangla Desh Makes Philatelic Debut’ is noticed by the Pakistani military regime and the article is censored.
“We would like to see proof of these charges against India. Ahmed, of course, offered none --- no doubt for good reason. It’s common knowledge that India and Pakistan have been pointing their fingers at each other since 1947.
“If the charges against India should happen to be true, what would she appear to gain by such action? India has no evident interest in annexing East Pakistan with its starving millions. She has enough problems of her own like that.
“To our knowledge, the Universal Postal Union has not yet declared its position with regard to Bangla Desh mail and postage stamps. We understand that the matter is currently under consideration and as soon as an official statement is made we will, of course, advise our readers.”
Ahmed: “I strongly protest against this gross misrepresentation of facts in Linn’s. You have hurt the feelings of 130 million people of Pakistan, by taking sides with the secessionist elements who have been incited by the Indian government.”
Chaplin: “First of all, we sincerely regret having been a source of grievance to any reader. No doubt some Pakistanis have been offended by Linn’s coverage of the Bangla Desh story.
“But let’s set the record straight: 75 million of Pakistan’s 130 million people live in East Pakistan, and that majority overwhelmingly elected Sheikh Rahman and filled 167 of 169 East Pakistani seats in the proposed National Constitutional Assembly with Awami League members.
“Those men, many of whom have been killed or jailed by West Pakistan, were duly elected representatives of the East Pakistanis. The free world cannot be expected to look on approvingly at the cruel reprisals of the West Pakistan regime.
“Furthermore, Linn’s has never --- either explicity or implicity --- taken sides in the Bangla Desh conflict. Our concern is to present the news as news in as objective a manner as possible. Background information is provided only to help the reader understand what’s behind the news.”
Ahmed: “I was so much impressed by ‘Linns’ Stamp News’ that I was thinking of popularizing it in Pakistan, but this partiality of Linn’s in news reporting has led me to change my mind.
“I will now see that nobody from Pakistan subscribes (to Linn’s) unless you apologize and inform your readers about the correct prevailing political situation in Pakistan and India’s role in creating troubles . . . and bloodshed . . . at the hand of (the) Awami League’s workers.”
Chaplin: “As we have done nothing more than report the news, leaving our readers to draw their own conclusions and form their opinions, we have no reason to offer an apology. And we refuse to play politics with philately.”
© Linn’s Stamp News, Sidney, Ohio, USA. Linns.com. Reproduced with permission.