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Saturday, 16 December, 2000, 10:33 GMT
Bangladesh marks independence day
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina observes the military parade
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina observes the military parade
Bangladesh is celebrating the anniversary of the end of its bloody 1971 independence war with Pakistan, a day after expelling a senior Pakistani diplomat.

Bangladesh became independent from Pakistan after a bitter nine-month war led by the country's founder Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed.

Victory Day march in Dhaka
Victory march: The snake represents collaborators
According to official Bangladeshi estimates, the war cost millions of lives in the former East Pakistan.

On Friday, Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Irfanur Rahman Raja was expelled from Dhaka after allegedly disputing the number of Bangladeshis killed in the war.

Mr Raja provoked street protests after he was quoted as saying that Bangladeshi figures claiming that Pakistani soldiers killed 3 million people were wrong.

According to Pakistan's official record, the war claimed 26,000 lives.

Military parade

On Saturday, thousands of Bangladeshis cheered a military parade and placed flowers at a war memorial on the anniversary laced with bitterness against Pakistan.

Men, women and children placed wreaths of roses and marigolds at the memorial for unknown martyrs near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

President Shahabuddin Ahmed, who is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was flanked by generals as he reviewed thousands of troops at the National Parade Square in the capital Dhaka.

Pakistan has expressed regret and surprise at the diplomat's expulsion, which it says is not in keeping with the spirit of friendly relations between the two countries.

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

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

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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'
03 Oct 00 | South Asia
Pakistan to publish war report
30 Aug 00 | South Asia
Bangladesh requests war report
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Pakistan after the coup: Special report
16 Dec 00 | South Asia
Pakistan attacks diplomat's expulsion
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