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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Bengali hero's remains given back
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC News, Islamabad

Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rehman <i>(Photo from Bangladesh army website) </i>
Rehman was given the highest Bangladeshi gallantry award
Pakistan has agreed to hand over to Bangladesh the remains of a Bengali air force officer after 35 years.

Flight Lieutenant M Matiur Rehman, now a decorated war hero in Bangladesh, died in August 1971.

He was killed while trying to fly away with a Pakistan air force jet, just before Bangladesh's independence.

The move follows a formal request from Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khalida Zia during a recent visit to Islamabad, the foreign office told the BBC.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesperson Tasneem Aslam called it a goodwill gesture, but declined to comment on the tricky issue which was linked to the Bengali air officer's role in the struggle for the creation of Bangladesh.

An official of Bangladesh's High Commission in Islamabad said arrangements were being finalised to take Rehman's remains to Dhaka, but did not give any date.

War hero

Rehman was a flight lieutenant in the Pakistani air force when he attempted to hijack a jet aircraft during a training flight.

Pakistan has always maintained that the trainee pilot, Rashid Minhas, prevented the attempted hijacking, which resulted in the aircraft crashing shortly before leaving Pakistani airspace on 20 August, 1971.

Both Rehman and Minhas were killed.

Minhas was immediately decorated with Pakistan's highest gallantry award, the Nishan-e-Haider, and Rehman declared a traitor.

But as East Pakistan became Bangladesh in December 1971, the newly independent state declared Rehman as one of its war heroes.

He was decorated with Bangladesh's highest military honour - the Bir Sreshtho.

Once the remains are taken back to Dhaka, they will be buried with full military honours, the Bangladesh high commission official said.

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