Pakistan tells Bangladesh to ‘bury the past’

DHAKA  – Pakistan told Bangladesh to carry forward bilateral ties by ‘burying the past’ when former East Pakistan demanded a formal apology from Islamabad for the alleged excesses committed by its troops during the 1971 war.

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who was on 6-hour tour to Dhaka, also invited Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to attend 8th D-8 Summit to be held in Islamabad on November 22.
The apology issue came up in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two Muslim South Asian states, which had began their journey of freedom together in 1947 as a single state but were separated in 1971 as a result of Pakistan-India war, preceded by New Delhi-stoked insurgency in the Eastern wing of the united Pakistan.
Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes quoted Foreign Minister Dipu Moni as telling her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar that Bangladesh expects an apology from Pakistan. “The foreign minister has raised the 1971 issue and expected that Pakistan would apologise at one stage,” Quayes told reporters after the meeting.
“There are some unresolved issues between the two governments and she expects that Pakistan would come forward to resolve them,” the foreign secretary said, adding that Foreign Minister Moni also underscored the need for resolving other outstanding issues.
In response, the Pakistani foreign minister said since 1974 Islamabad has “at different times and in different manners expressed its regret for the 1971 incidents”, the foreign secretary said. “She (Khar) said it is now the time to proceed forward and bury the past,” Quayes added.
Later, Hina Khar – the first Pakistani minister to visit Dhaka since the ruling Awami League assumed office three years ago – met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her Ganobhaban residence and handed over an invitation letter from President Asif Ali Zardari to attend the Developing-8 Summit to be held on Nov 22 in Islamabad.
Sheikh Hasina, only founding member of D-8 now in office, thanked Hina for travelling all the way from Pakistan to invite her. As a founding member of D-8 and host of 2nd D-8 Summit in 1999, Bangladesh is keen to work closely with other members of the forum to advance the D-8 process, the prime minister told Hina.
PM’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad told reporters that Prime Minister Hasina and Foreign Minister Hina discussed various matters relating to mutual interests in the 20-minute meeting. Hasina said Bangladesh attaches high importance to its relations with Pakistan. This relationship is based on common historical, religious and cultural linkages, she said.
She underscored the need for enhancing people-to-people contact and greater exchange among students, teachers, academics, journalists, professionals, artistes and sportspersons to promote better understanding among the people of the two countries.
Hasina also attached importance to resolve the outstanding issues in order to move ahead with building up healthy and forward looking bilateral relations. PM’s younger sister Sheikh Rehana, Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni, Ambassador at-Large M Ziauddin and senior officials of the two countries were present during the call on.
Hina arrived in Dhaka on a special PIA flight at around 10:15 in the morning, when Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes received her at the Hazrat Shah Jalal International Airport. Hina also attended a lunch hosted by her counterpart Dipu Moni and met BNP chairperson and opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia and left for home after five hours stay in the Bangladesh capital.
About the Moni-Hina meeting, Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes said, “This is not a bilateral meeting, but we took the advantage to raise bilateral issues, especially the pressing unresolved matters that include formal apology from Pakistan for their acts in 1971.” Quayes said the Pakistani foreign minister gave ‘due attention’ to the Bangladesh demand and did ‘neither rejected nor accepted’ it immediately. She, however, looked sensible to Dhaka’s major demand, he added.
The foreign secretary said Dhaka has also discussed multilateral issues that encompass SAARC and OIC, while it has raised major bilateral issues that remained unresolved for decades. The issues, he said, were sharing of resources that Bangladesh deserves from Pakistan, repatriation of stranded Pakistan nationals from Bangladesh, and formal apology for the war crimes.
Quayes said Pakistan showed keen interest in ‘marching forward’ by burying old bitterness as Islamabad considers Dhaka as an ‘important’ partner. He said details of the issues would be further discussed in future formal meetings at official, ministerial and head of the government levels.
Muslim-majority Bangladesh, which was formerly called East Pakistan, seceded in December 1971 after bloody battles. Taking advantage of ill-conceived and discriminatory state policies of Pakistan, India had been sowing seeds of hatred among the people of East Pakistan against their brethren in the western part. New Delhi raised and trained insurgent cadres like Mukti Bahni who started terrorist activities in the East Pakistan.
The government and military of united Pakistan, where people from West wing had monopolised state power, responded with repressive methods, which fanned resentment and hatred among the Bengalis. All this transpired into the 1971 war, which allegedly began after tens of thousands of people were killed in Dhaka in Operation Searchlight – a campaign intended to deter Bangladeshis from seeking separation.
The current Bangladesh government claims up to three million people were killed in the war, many murdered by locals collaborating with Pakistani forces. It has set up special tribunals to try the collaborators for war crimes.
Pakistan tells Bangladesh to ‘bury the past’


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