Islamabad uneasy at Dhaka trying ‘war criminals’

February 17th, 2009 - 12:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Feb 17 (IANS) Pakistan has told Bangladesh that the “time is not ripe” for Dhaka’s conducting the trial of ‘war criminals’ who committed atrocities on civilians during the 1971 freedom movement.

People who collaborated with the Pakistan government during the freedom movement are called “war criminals” in Bangladesh.

There were “more urgent issues” that were needed to be discussed between the two nations and Dhaka should not seek Islamabad’s cooperation in the trials “at this moment”, Mirza Zia Isphahani, visiting special envoy of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said here Tuesday.

“I think it (the issue) should not go now at this moment as we have so many other issues to concentrate on to strengthen ties with Bangladesh,” New Age newspaper quoted him as saying.

The first high level contact from Pakistan since the new government under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office last month, Isphahani emphasised that for now the two nations should work to consolidate bilateral ties.

Isphahani belongs to a family that had large business interests, industries and land holdings, particularly tea estates, in erstwhile East Pakistan.

Holding of the trials is a prickly issue as those accused worked for the East Pakistan regime.

After Bangladesh was free, many fled to Pakistan. Documents of that time prepared by Bangladesh’s human rights bodies, NGOs and former soldiers list over 1,500 names, including 79 from the Bihar province of India.

Bangladesh lost an estimated two million people during the freedom movement.

The Hasina government has sought assistance from other external partners, including the US and UN. They have welcomed the idea and promised to assist.

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