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Hasina scraps plan to visit Pakistan: official

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni likely to represent the premier at the summit

Gulf News

DHAKA: Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina yester scrapped her planned Pakistan visit later this month to join an international summit, officials said here today.

“We have just been informed (by the PMO) that she (Hasina) is not going . . . she could not make it this time,” a senior foreign ministry official familiar with the situation told Gulf News preferring anonymity.

The official could not elaborate further about the changed plan but said Foreign Minister Dipu Moni was likely to represent the premier at the summit of the Development-8, a grouping of eight nations with Muslim majority population, on November 22.

The development came three days after the premier’s press secretary Abul Kalam Azad told media that she would go to Islamabad on a three-day tour as Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar handed her over an invitation letter from President Asif Ali Zardari.

Khar arrived Bangladesh capital on a five-hour tour carrying the invitation when Dhaka reiterated its call for a formal Pakistani apology for the genocides the Pak troop carried out during Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War as she held talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni.

The summit in Islamabad is scheduled for November 22 and Hasina was expected to make her first tour to the Pakistani capital since her ruling Awami League was elected to power in December 2008 general elections. She, however, visited Islamabad as premier during the previous 1996-2001 tenure of her Awami League government.

Dhaka-Islamabad ties in the past four years was limited to a visit of Bangladesh’s education and commerce ministers and the parliamentary speaker to Islamabad and foreign secretary-level official consultations in November 2010.

The bilateral ties also witnessed a little strain two years ago as Bangladesh initiated a process to try its nationals who had joined hands with the Pakistani troops in carrying out the atrocities.

But Dhaka insisted that the process would expose to justice only the Bangladeshi collaborators of the Pakistani troops on charges of “crimes against humanity” while Islamabad subsequently acknowledged it to be an internal affair of Bangladesh.

The incumbent government has been demanding Islamabad’s official apology for the Pakistani troops’ atrocities during the 1971 Liberation War.

But Khar told Moni since 1974 Pakistan “at different times and different manners expressed its regret for the 1971 incidents” while its the time to proceed forward burying the bitter past.

Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharraf during a 2002 tour to Bangladesh visited the National Memorial for 1971 martyrs and wrote the visitor’s book “Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events of 1971. The excesses during that unfortunate period are regrettable. Let us bury the past in a spirit of magnanimity.

In 1985, President Ziaul Haq visited the national memorial and told Bangladesh’s media persons, “Your heroes are our heroes.”

Earlier, in June 1974, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto visited the memorial, though he caused quite a stir by his inappropriate behaviour there.

Pakistan recognized Bangladesh in 1974, when the country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited Islamabad to join an OIC summit.

Repatriation of several million Urdu-speaking people who claim them stranded Pakistanis and sharing of wealth of pre-1971 undivided Pakistan remained to be outstanding issues in bilateral ties.