Dhaka, Bangladesh – Ties between Pakistan and Bangladesh have been strained over the past week after Pakistan passed a national assembly (NA) resolution protesting Thursday’s execution of Jamaat-e-Islami’s former Assistant Secretary General Abdual Quader Mollah. Mollah was convicted by a Dhaka Court for committing crimes against humanity during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971.
While Bangladesh’s government contested Pakistan’s national assembly resolution, missions of both countries on the other’s soil has been under threat of violence over the past few days. Although Bangladesh’s police managed to stop a siege on Pakistan’s embassy on Thursday by Ganajagaran Mancha, a youth platform that has supported the war crimes trials in Bangladesh, a threat from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to attack the Bangladesh Embassy in Islamabad has further complicated matters.
Foreign policy analysts point out that ties between the two nations have not been under so much stress since 1974, when Bangladesh became a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Embassies under threat
Pakistan’s local media reported late Thursday that security has been beefed up at the Bangladesh embassy in Islamabad, after TTP threatened to attack the embassy in retaliation of Mollah’s execution.
Pakistan’s newspaper The Nation reported that “security around Bangladesh’s foreign mission in Pakistan has been enhanced manifold and the fresh security directions have been issued to the Ambassador of Bangladesh” after an unnamed security agency expressed concerns on Wednesday that the Taliban expressed annoyance with Bangladesh’s government over Mollah’s execution and may attack the Bangladesh embassy.
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Bdnews24.com quoted Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Md Shameem Ahsan as saying, “The Pakistan authorities] assured us of doing the needful for the safety and security of our mission and its staff.”
Meanwhile, a few hours before these reports hit the internet on Thursday, Ganajagaran Mancha activists in Dhaka moved toward the Pakistan High Commission in a bid to lay siege on the embassy, after Pakistan’s National Assembly passed resolution protesting Mollah’s execution earlier in the week.
On Wednesday, protestors provided a 20-hour ultimatum to Bangladesh’s government to severe ties with Pakistan as a reply to the resolution. When the deadline passed on Thursday, they began to move toward the embassy in Dhaka’s Gulshan diplomatic zone.
“The police stopped the protestors near Gulshan 2,” said Mahmud Hossain, who witnessed the incident. “There was a scuffle between the police and protestors which led to the police charging at the crowd in a bid to disperse them, leading to clashes that left some protestors injured,” he said.
Some protestors claimed that the demonstration was a peaceful one. Some witnesses mentioned that protestors tried to fight back when the police charged.
“At least 60 to 70 protestors were hurt during the police action,” said Joy Sarker.
Joy pointed out that at least 9 to 10 protestors have been arrested by the police.
Ganajagaran Mancha has announced a protest programme at Shahbagh of Dhaka on Friday afternoon. It was at Shahbagh where the platform had initiated an “Occupy Wall Street”-styled movement, to protest against a life-term imprisonment verdict to Mollah on February 5, after he was found guilty for killing a student, a family of 11 members and for collaborating with Pakistani forces to kill 369 others in 1971 during Bangladesh’s war of independence.
Ganajagaran Mancha has been demanding the maximum punishment for all 1971 war criminals.
Over the past four decades, Bangladeshi authorities have maintained that during the nine-month long bloody war, the Pakistani army and their local collaborators killed at least three million people and raped more than 200,000 women in what was once East Pakistan.
Jamaat-e-Islami, Mollah’s political party, was against the formation of Bangladesh at the time.
The relationship deteriorated rapidly after Pakistan’s National Assembly passed the resolution on Monday that condemn Mollah’s execution as “a judicial murder” with support from Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F and Awami Muslim League.
I strongly condemn the resolution adopted in Pakistan's National Assembly.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) opposed the resolution with PPP’s Abdus Sattar Bachani by saying that Pakistan should not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
The next day, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry summoned Pakistan’s high commissioner Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi Qureshi and handed him a protest note against the resolution.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and chief of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League-led grand alliance, said, “I strongly condemn the resolution adopted in Pakistan’s National Assembly … Collaborators of Pakistan will not get any shelter on Bangladesh’ soil.”
She added, “Those who had committed crimes during our Liberation War are citizens of our country. We have tried them [for their atrocities].”
In a separate meeting, Bangladesh Awami League’s international subcommittee also decided to urge the Bangladeshi government to curtail relations with Pakistan in protest against their parliamentary resolution.
‘Worst ties since 1974’
Foreign relations analysts in Dhaka worried that ties between the two nations have not been this bad since 1974, when Pakistan had finally recognised Bangladesh prior to the latter’s membership into the OIC.
Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, an international relations professor from Dhaka University said, “Recent developments have hampered ties between the two countries to some extent.”
Another analyst feared that affected ties with Pakistan may harm Bangladesh indirectly. “Pakistan has strong influence over Middle Eastern countries,” he stated, hinting that Pakistan’s opinions against Bangladesh may affect Bangladesh’s biggest human resource destination in the Middle East.
During the recently concluded 2012-2013 fiscal year, Bangladesh enjoyed total remittances of $14.5 bn, 63 percent of which came from Non-Resident Bangladeshis working in the Middle East.