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Friday, 15 December, 2000, 15:20 GMT
Dhaka expels Pakistani diplomat
A burning Pakistani flag
Protesters in Dhaka burn Pakistani flags
By Moazzem Hossain in Dhaka and Susannah Price in Islamabad

Bangladesh has declared a Pakistani diplomat persona non grata and asked him to leave Dhaka immediately.

The Deputy High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Irfanur Rehman Raja, was withdrawn by the Pakistani Government on 30 November after his comments on the Bangladesh liberation war triggered a storm of protest in Dhaka.

But despite strong criticism from the Bangladesh government and protest from different political and civil rights groups, Mr Raja has remained in Dhaka.

Pakistan says it deeply regrets the decision, saying it was surprising and unjustified and not in keeping with the spirit of friendly relations between the two countries.

This is the first time a foreign diplomat has been declared an unwanted person by Bangladesh.

'Undiplomatic activities'

On Friday morning, the Pakistani High Commissioner, Iqbal Ahmad Khan, was summoned to the Bangladeshi Foreign Office.

He was told that the activities of his deputy were incompatible with his status as a diplomat in Bangladesh.

A statement from Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Friday said the government rejected the allegation that the deputy high commissioner had behaved undiplomatically.

The statement said the government had already announced Mr Raja was being transferred and he was preparing to leave Bangladesh in the next few days.

Opening old wounds

Last month Mr Raja refused to apologise for alleged war crimes committed against Bangladesh by the Pakistani forces during the country's war of independence in 1971.

He also questioned the number of people killed in the war.

Bangladesh claims that nearly three million people were killed in the war but Mr Raja, quoting a recently published report, put the number at around 26,000.

Political and civil rights groups in Dhaka demanded his expulsion and the government lodged a strongly worded protest with the Pakistani Government, forcing it to withdraw him.

Record low in relations

But the Bangladeshi Home Minister, Mohammad Nasim, said that instead of leaving Dhaka Mr Raja had been engaged in anti-state activities.

The Bangladesh Government's action marks a record low in its relationship with Pakistan.

Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 from the rest of Pakistan after a nine-month-long war.

Bangladesh wants Pakistan to apologise for the alleged genocide it says Pakistani forces were guilty of during the war.

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See also:

30 Nov 00 | South Asia
Pakistan recalls Dhaka diplomat
12 Sep 00 | South Asia
Hasina surprised by Musharraf 'snub'
30 Aug 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh requests war report
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Pakistan after the coup: Special report
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