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Bangladeshi envoy summoned by FO

03 November, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The diplomatic row between Pakistan and Bangladesh over a controversial video clip on social media continued to simmer on Thursday as the Foreign Office summoned the Bangladeshi envoy to receive a demarche over the language of Dhaka’s protest note.

“In order to register our protest on the use of undiplomatic language in a Note Verbale, on an incident of obscure origin, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Islamabad was summoned by Director General (South Asia & Saarc) to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today,” the FO said in a statement.

The video clip, which was posted on the Facebook account of the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka, contained Mujeebur Rehman’s interview that suggested he wanted autonomy not separation from Pakistan. The clip annoyed the Bangladesh government, which rejected it as a distortion of history.

A diplomatic protest note that was handed over to Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Dhaka by the host foreign ministry contained undiplomatic assertions, according to the FO. While the entire letter was laced with inconsiderate comments, the harshest was probably a reference to the events of 1971.

“Bangladesh’s long freedom movement culminated in the declaration of independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 26 March 1971 and Pakistan’s subsequent surrender at Dhaka on 16 December 1971,” the note said.

Bangladesh’s high commissioner was told that Pakistan’s mission in Dhaka could not be blamed for the posting of the video clip, which was done by an unidentified “third party”.

The Bangladeshi envoy was told that Pakistan wanted friendly bilateral ties in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement of 1974, which provided for a fresh start after forgetting the bitter past.

Speaking at the weekly media briefing, the new FO spokesman, Dr Muhammad Faisal, who also heads the South Asia directorate, said the Pakistani government expected Bangladesh to adhere to the tripartite agreement.

The current tense phase in relations has roots in a 2009 move by the government of Prime Minister Hasina Wajid to resume the trials of 1971 “war crimes” that had been suspended after the tripartite accord. Five Bengali leaders, who had opposed the creation of Bangladesh, have since been executed after “trials for war crimes”.

Human rights groups have raised serious questions about the fairness of these “war crimes trials”.

Dr Faisal also played down concerns about India making operational a trade route to Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port.

“It is our consistent position that Afghanistan as a landlocked country has a right of transit access through any neighbouring country according to its needs. Transport of wheat and other commodities to Afghanistan is nothing new, as Pakistan has been traditionally providing goods to Afghanistan,” the spokesman said.

Earlier this week, India sent its first shipment of wheat to Afghanistan via Chabahar port. It was seen as a bid to bypass Pakistan which lies between India and Afghanistan, but does not allow transportation of Indian goods.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had last week, while visiting India, again warned that his government could block Pakistan’s access to Central Asia, if Islamabad did not allow Indo-Afghan trade through Wagah-Attari border.

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