DHAKA: Pakistan’s High Commission in Bangladesh on Saturday said that Islamabad has lifted all restrictions on visas for Bangladeshi citizens as both the countries have agreed to intensify bilateral contacts at all levels.
“Pakistan has already removed all restrictions on Pakistani visas for Bangladeshi citizens,” said the statement after a meeting between Pakistan High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui and Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam. “The two sides agreed to intensify bilateral contacts at all levels,” it added.
Speaking to a news agency, Siddiqui said that Pakistan is waiting for the same response from the Bangladeshi side. “Bangladesh’s restrictions on Pakistani nationals are still in place, and that is why I informed the state minister that we have already lifted all bars from our side,” he said.
The move is being seen as an ice breaker in the frosty relations between the two South Asian countries. Bilateral relations between the two countries turned sour after Bangladesh government formed a controversial tribunal for the “trial of crimes” during the 1971 war.
Bangladesh seemed interested in establishing closer relations with China and Pakistan due to India’s years-long partial attitude, including monopoly control over common rivers, killings of unarmed Bangladeshi civilians on borders and enactment of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.
Ties between Bangladesh and Pakistan began to turn positive, however, following a rare phone call last July by Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina. Siddiqui had also called on Hasina and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in Dhaka and reportedly discussed various bilateral issues in a cordial environment.
A separate statement, issued by the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry, said that both the sides agreed on the need to hold long-pending foreign office consultations, which were last held in 2010. “We look forward to engaging with Pakistan,” the statement quoted Alam as saying.
Alam also urged Pakistan to grant access to more Bangladeshi products by utilising the existing South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) provisions, relaxing the negative list and removing trade barriers. “The current trade balance tilts towards Pakistan,” he said.