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Bangladesh

Christian leaders decry Bangladesh-Pakistan diplomatic row

Church calls for dialogue as tensions simmer over harassment of embassy workers

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka

ucanews.com reporters, Dhaka

Updated: February 03, 2016 10:28 AM GMT
Christian leaders decry Bangladesh-Pakistan diplomatic row

Secularists and pro-independence activists call for severing ties with Pakistan during a rally in Dhaka on Jan. 6. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)

Christian leaders are calling for "effective dialogue" to end a diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Pakistan that began after a Bangladeshi embassy worker was detained in Pakistan by plainclothes policemen.

Bangladesh summoned Pakistani High Commissioner Shuja Alam on Feb. 2 and handed over a protest note a day after the incident.

The arrest appeared to be in retaliation for the arrest of a Pakistan diplomat in Dhaka for alleged possession of fake currency and alleged links to militant groups, local media reported.

On Jan. 31 2015, Pakistan recalled its consular attache, Mazhar Khan, over his alleged involvement in terror financing and a currency forgery scheme. Again on Dec. 23, Pakistan withdrew diplomat Fareena Arshad, weeks after allegations of terror financing.

In response, Pakistan demanded the removal Maushumi Rahman, a counselor at the Bangladesh embassy in Islamabad on Jan. 6 without citing any reason.

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The tussle was an escalation in souring relations between the two countries since 2010 over war crimes trials in Bangladesh, related to the country's war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Dhaka-Islamabad tensions increased after Pakistan reacted sharply to the Nov. 22 execution of Jamaat secretary-general Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujaheed and Bangladesh Nationalist Party senior leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for their roles in war crimes.

Secularists and pro-liberation activists have called on Bangladesh to sever diplomatic ties with Pakistan for "unjustified meddling" in internal affairs.

However, the government is not opting for breaking relations, Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali told parliament Feb. 2.

"Diplomatic problems do not necessarily mean we should break relations. Many countries maintain relations even in time of war. The future will tell where this will go," Ali said.

Christian leaders say instead of breaking relations leaders of the two countries should engage in dialogue.

"Pakistan has tried to meddle in our internal affairs and ordinary people are calling for severing relations. But this is not a solution," said Nirmol Rozario, secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association.

"Leaders of the two countries should engage in effective dialogue to end problems, in order to ensure lasting peace and stability in both countries as well as in South Asia," Rozario said.

Improving relations is a must for greater welfare of people, said Father Albert T. Rozario, convener of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Dhaka Archdiocese.

"What happened in 1971 is deplorable, but we also can’t accept what is going on now," said Father Rozario. "The leaders must work out how to keep relations good for peace."

Without a formal apology from Pakistan for 1971, the relationship between the two countries is unlikely to improve, said Proloy Samaddar, vice president of the Bangladesh Baptist Church.

"Keeping good relations depends on both countries, but here much depends on Pakistan. Ties will get better if Pakistan apologizes for wrongdoings in 1971 and stops interfering in Bangladesh’s internal affairs," Samaddar said.

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