Dhaka: Bangladesh expects an apology from
Pakistan for the atrocities of the 1971 Liberation War as
foreign secretaries of the two nations prepare to meet for
their annual talks after a gap of three years.
The meeting to be held in Islamabad tomorrow will also
be the first such meeting since the government of Sheikh
Hasina assumed office.
"We expect the consultation to be an ice-melting
meeting for the bilateral ties as the foreign secretaries are
meeting for the first time since the incumbent government
assumed office in January 2009," a foreign ministry official
told a news agency.
The official, who preferred anonymity, said Dhaka
expected a formal Pakistani apology for the atrocities carried
out by its troops during the 1971 Liberation War, besides the
issues of repatriation of several million Urdu-speaking
"stranded Pakistanis" and sharing of assets were expected to
dominate the two-day consultation between Mohamed Mijarul
Quayes and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.
"Dhaka believes a formal Pakistani apology will be
helpful in strengthening the bilateral ties and in carrying
out the current trial of the Bengali-speaking perpetrators of
`crimes against humanity` as collaborators of Pakistani
troops," he said.
He said since 1971 Bangladesh wanted its share of USD
4 billion worth of pre-independence exchange, bank credit, and
movable assets, which were deposited or protected in West
Pakistan during the Liberation War.
Bangladesh also wants settlement of USD 200 million,
which Pakistan received from the global community as donation
for the 1970 cyclone victims of the then East Pakistan.
Under a 1975 agreement, Bangladesh accepted half of
Pakistan`s pre-1971 external debts, but the asset-sharing
issue remained unresolved.
The official said bilateral trade would also largely
feature in the talks and Bangladesh was optimistic that
Islamabad would offer duty-free access to more of its products
the way Bangladeshi jute and tea were treated.
Besides, he said, Bangladesh would ask Pakistan to
prune the negative list of goods under the South Asian Free
Trade Agreement (SAFTA), to establish the Karachi-Chittagong
direct sea link and to increase the frequency of flights
between the two countries.
Quayes leads an eight-member delegation at the
consultation, the first since August 2007 when a military-
backed interim administration was in office in Bangladesh
while Pervez Musharraf was in power in Islamabad.
The foreign ministry official both countries were now
keen to reinvigorate the bilateral ties and want their
leaderships to undertake bold steps to take the bilateral
relations to a genuinely meaningful level as both nations were
"now being run by elected peoples representatives”.
A senior government minister earlier said Islamabad
should formally apolgise to Bangladesh for the 1971 atrocities
carried out by the Pakistani troops to strengthen bilateral
ties as the process was underway to try their Bengali-speaking
"Pakistan has to take measures after correctly
evaluating the incidents in 1971 if it wants to further
strengthen the existing relations between the two countries,"
Commerce Minister Faruk Khan said after a meeting with
Pakistan High Commissioner Ashraf Qureshi several months ago.
Former Pakistani president Musharraf and ex premier
Nawaz Sharif earlier "regretted" the 1971 role of the
Pakistani troops in the then East Pakistan while and Pakistani
rights groups and activists have also expressed regret.
Pakistani High Commission in Dhaka in April this year
issued a statement saying "war crimes" trial is an internal
matter of Bangladesh as it was related to the Bangladeshi
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni in a statement earlier said
Bangladesh would try its citizens involved in war crimes and
that the trial would not, by any means, affect Bangladesh`s
bilateral relations with Pakistan.
Officials earlier said Islamabad was visibly
embarrassed by Bangladesh`s initiatives as Pakistani diplomats
raised the issue in talks with their Bangladesh counterparts
in different countries.