Dhaka, Islamabad spar over 1971 ‘war crimes’ trial: report


Dhaka : Thirty-eight years after Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan, the two countries are sparring over the “war crimes” committed in 1971, a media report here said Monday.

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Dhaka has set in motion the process of trying the survivors among those who killed unarmed civilians, targeting sympathisers of the freedom struggle and religious minorities, especially Hindus.

It has sought help from the UN as well as cooperation from Pakistan, where many of the Islamist militia members are believed to be living.

However, a senior Pakistani official’s remark that Bangladesh should “move on” has elicited an angry response from Dhaka, the New Age newspaper reported Monday.

Masood Khalid, additional secretary for Asia Pacific in Pakistan’s foreign office, told visiting Bangladeshi media in Islamabad Saturday that war crime trials in Bangladesh could “hamper ties” and “cast a shadow” on relations between the two countries.

“We should not remain frozen in time but should look forward,” said Khalid.

In response, Bangladeshi Law Minister Shafiq Ahmed said Sunday that Pakistan had no right to comment on “our internal matter”.

“Each state has the right to try criminals on its own territory. We urge other countries not to interfere with our internal matters. The Bangladesh government will try its own citizens, who committed crimes against humanity in 1971, in this country,” he added.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League, which led the independence war, has moved swiftly to try the Bangladeshi perpetrators of war crimes since it came to power in January.

It has also demanded an apology for the killing of three million Bangladeshis and rape of 300,000 women by the Pakistani Army during the bloody nine-month war.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told Pakistan High Commissioner Alamgir Bashar Khan Babar on May 12 that his country must resolve the issue of an apology.

However, Pakistan does not acknowledge the scale of the killings and rapes. Former president Parvez Musharraf, during his trip to Dhaka in July 2002, only apologised for “developments in 1971”.

Bangladesh reiterated its demand for an apology May 15, a day after a Pakistan foreign ministry official urged Dhaka to “let bygones be bygones”.