Monday, April 03, 2017

Why Pakistan skipped IPU Assembly


Saleem Samad


It was predicted that Pakistan would stay away from participating at the ongoing 136th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in capital Dhaka. Pakistan, on Friday last announced to boycott of the mega parliamentarian assembly, alleging a "malicious propaganda" by Bangladesh, and unfriendly attitude.

The last minute pull-out of 10-member delegation led by Pakistan national assembly speaker Ayaz Sadiq was due to participate in the IPU assembly in Dhaka. Further to slay the slain, Pakistan took the issue of Bangladesh observing "Genocide Day" on March 25 to memorialize genocide of three million people and sexual abuse of 400,000 women during the Liberation War in 1971.

Sadiq's statement was not a surprise Bangladesh government. He said the Pakistan national assembly members noted with disappointment the actions and "negative public statements" coming out of Bangladesh despite Pakistan's "restraint and overtures" to the country.

The bilateral relation between the two countries has been in roller-coaster since the independence of Bangladesh and surrender of Pakistan armed forces in eastern front in December 1971.

The boycott of the IPU conference is another sign of strain in Bangladesh-Pakistan ties. The relationship further plummeted when Pakistan has officially protested the sentencing and hanging of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders for war crimes committed during the bloody war in 1971.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government strongly reacted to Pakistan's reactions in regard of the judicial verdicts, which her administration stated tantamount to meddling in internal affairs of Bangladesh and also asked Islamabad to apologize for atrocities committed by marauding Pakistan army during the Liberation War.

However, diplomatic relations between two countries enjoyed best of ties during the two military regimes of General Ziaur Rahman (1975-1981) and General HM Ershad (1982-1990). The bilateral relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan had risen and shined during the regimes of Begum Khaleda Zia (1991-1996 and 2001-2005), when dreaded Pakistan spy agency ISI was given legitimacy for covert operation against India.

ISI operatives in a bid to destabilize the north-eastern states, had provided weapons, training and helped money laundering of funds to run the separatist groups, who were engaged in violent actions against the Indian authority. The Pakistan spy agency was also active in raising militant groups from among the Rohingya Muslims to wage war against Myanmar for a separate state.

Since Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009, her government was able to neutralize the ISI operations in Bangladesh and all the separatist leaders of Indian north-east were deported to India. Once the Pakistan's covert operations were blocked and regular seizure counterfeit Indian currency smuggled into India, Pakistan began tirade against Bangladesh.

Bangladesh also with other South Asian countries including India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan pulled out of the 19th SAARC Summit to be hosted by Pakistan in November 2016, citing incitement in terrorism in the region.

This episode further angered Islamabad and blamed Dhaka taking cue from New Delhi and adopts an anti-Pakistan posture, writes an editorial in a Pakistan newspaper published on April 1.

Speaker Ayaz Sadiq, quoted in an influential newspaper "Aaj News" expressed grief that "all such dedicated efforts, unfortunately, fell in vain and Pakistan was time and again targeted and maligned…. It was, therefore, decided, with a heavy heart, not to undertake a visit to Bangladesh at this time."

First published in The Asian Age, April 3, 2017

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA), is an award winning journalist and Special Correspondent, The Asian Age

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