Pakistan-Bangladesh relations thaw - Pakistan Today

Pakistan-Bangladesh relations thaw

  • Indian intrusiveness distorts the relationship

By: Abid Hussain

Pakistan’s relations with many countries in South Asia do not get proper attention at home and abroad for too many reasons. SAARC is regarded as a great platform for South Asian countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives but the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan has gone through many ups and downs. The execution of Abdul Quader Molla (a leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh) on 12 December 2013, brought a new turmoil in the relationship between two countries. While Molla was being executed in Bangladesh, Pakistan was upset about Bangladesh punishing him with the death sentence and a resolution was passed on 16 December 2013 by the Pakistani Parliament in condemnation of Molla’s death penalty, and PTI Chairman Imran Khan expressed the view that that Molla was an innocent man. Then Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan said to the National Assembly that the whole nation was saddened by this tragic incident. Despite all these expressions of concern, the government of Bangladesh executed Molla as a war criminal in the 1971 conflict.

It is believed that the Liberation War in 1971 was a determining factor in Bangladesh-Pakistan Relations. The Indian influence in the region has also made the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan suffer. The support of Indian Government for the Awami League is known as a turbulent factor. The long term Indian plan for isolating Pakistan in South Asia region has made Bangladesh remain hostile and antagonistic to it. Pakistan has always presented a gesture of a friendly relationship from time to time, but a response from Bangladesh has not helped, remembering the war trials as central to its healing and national reconciliation.

Signing a 25-year friendship treaty in 1971 with India, Bangladesh always remained committed to India most in security matters. The initial support to the Awami League by New Delhi has always made Bangldesh prefer India as the key ally rather than Pakistan. But it has been argued that the CAA and NRC in India have badly affected the relationship with South Asian countries, particularly with Bangladesh.

There is a dire need for policy shifts by both governments to resolve the old issues in an expeditious manner to meet new challenges posed by the world order. Both governments should formulate a policy plan to overcome the economic conditions in the way of people-to-people contacts. To address the old issues, both countries should work together in their business visa regimes. Sports diplomacy can further improve the relationship between the two countries. Cricket series like the one being played will further cement relations between both countries, and they will support each other as two brothers and friends rather than fighting one another as between two rivals. The latest data report from the UN shows Pakistani exports to Bangladesh were $778.8 million and imports by Pakistan amounted to $72 million in 2018, which is a good basis for building steady economic relations between two countries. If they can forget about the past for a better future, both governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan may come together to show the world that we were together, are together and will be together

The Bangladesh government always continues to accuse Pakistan of war crimes and demand official apologies for the events of 1971 war. Islamabad has denied war crimes and avoids Bangladesh for declaring them guilty of such heinous crimes.

Biharis in Bangladesh remain an unsolved issue for both Bangladesh and Pakistan since 1971 war. Many Biharis in Bangladesh are living in camps and are deprived by the government of Bangladesh of the basic rights of citizenship. It is said that people of the third generation have still been marginalized by not providing them with the right to live as citizens of Bangladesh.

Dealing with the BNP Government, the bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan were more active rather than during the reign of the Awami League. It is a clear fact that the Awami League is pro-Indian and anti-Pakistan with deep relationships with the Indian government. The Awami League does not want a close relationship with Pakistan, because it has always supported the Indian government and remained anti-Pakistani. It is believed that the Awami League is a big hurdle for improving the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The people who once were united under the flag of Pakistan look very far apart now. The events of 1971 still haunt both Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has now become an established fact that whenever there is a government of Awami League in Bangladesh the relations between two countries will remain strained. The bitter memories of the past do not let them get along together.

The reconciliation process between the two countries remains unfinished because of the unsettled disputes which were started in 1974, when Pakistan recognized Bangladesh. In friendship gestures, Pakistan has always remained active and pliable, whereas Bangladesh has remained obdurate about not settling the old disputes between the two governments. The unnecessary and exceptional delay in peace settlement may be brought to an end by forgetting the memories, for strong bilateral relations between the two countries.

There is a dire need for policy shifts by both governments to resolve the old issues in an expeditious manner to meet new challenges posed by the world order. Both governments should formulate a policy plan to overcome the economic conditions in the way of people-to-people contacts. To address the old issues, both countries should work together in their business visa regimes. Sports diplomacy can further improve the relationship between the two countries. Cricket series like the one being played will further cement relations between both countries, and they will support each other as two brothers and friends rather than fighting one another as between two rivals. The latest data report from the UN shows Pakistani exports to Bangladesh were $778.8 million and imports by Pakistan amounted to $72 million in 2018, which is a good basis for building steady economic relations between two countries. If they can forget about the past for a better future, both governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan may come together to show the world that we were together, are together and will be together.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]



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