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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 16:40 GMT
Bangladesh 'atrocities' row
Pakistan soldiers
Dhaka accuses Pakistani troops of crimes against humanity
Bangladesh has reacted angrily to remarks by a senior Pakistani diplomat about war crimes allegedly committed in 1971 when Bangladesh broke away to become an independent state.

Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner in Dhaka, Irfan-ur-Raja, ignited the latest row over the issue by saying that Bangladeshi fighters, not the Pakistani army, were to blame for the atrocities.

I express my anger and condemnation at the audacious and derogatory remarks

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad
His intervention sparked angry protests on the streets of Dhaka, and a swift response from the Bangladesh Government which summoned Pakistan's high commissioner to explain his deputy's "uncalled for and provocative" remarks.

Dhaka says at least three million Bengalis were killed when the Pakistani army attempted to suppress Bengali nationalist agitation in 1971, and wants Pakistanis to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Dhaka protesters
Protesters in Dhaka called for the Pakistani diplomat to be expelled
"I express my anger and condemnation at the audacious and derogatory remarks," Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad said.

"I hope the Pakistani Government will take immediate action to arrest the irreparable damage done to bilateral relations."

Pakistan's High Commissioner, Iqbal Ahmed Khan, was told his deputy's remarks "reflected a total lack of understanding of the history of the freedom movement of Bangladesh".

Strained ties

Mr Raja told a seminar in Dhaka on Monday that atrocities committed during the 1971 war were started by "miscreants of the Awami League" - Bangladesh's current ruling party - and not by the Pakistani army.

He also quoted a recently-published Pakistan judicial commission report into the conflict, which put the number of dead at only 26,000 - not the three million claimed by Bangladesh.

Angered by his comments, Bangladeshis took to the streets of Dhaka, torching a Pakistani flag and shouting anti-Pakistan slogans. They want Mr Raja to be expelled.

Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina: Demanded action over 1971 at the UN
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, won independence after a bloody nine-month war led by the Awami League and headed by the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina.

The relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan has been strained since September when Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf cancelled a meeting with Ms Hasina on the sidelines of UN millennium summit in New York.

In the summit, Sheikh Hasina spoke against military dictatorships, and later went on to demand Pakistan's apology for the events of 1971.

Pakistan told Bangladesh not to revive memories of the war, saying they could damage future relations.

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See also:

03 Oct 00 | South Asia
Pakistan to publish war report
15 Sep 00 | South Asia
Musharraf criticises Bangladesh premier
12 Sep 00 | South Asia
Hasina surprised by Musharraf 'snub'
30 Aug 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh requests war report
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