DHAKA, July 29: President Pervez Musharraf regretted on Monday the excesses committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence, but called for burying the past in the spirit of friendship.
“Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pains of the events of 1971. The excesses committed during the unfortunate period are regrettable,” President Musharraf wrote in the official visitors’ book after laying a wreath at the National Martyrs Memorial outside Dhaka, dedicated to those killed in the war.
“Let us bury the past in the spirit of magnanimity. Let not the light of the future be dimmed. Let us move forward together,” Musharraf said, adding that “courage to compromise is greater than to confront.”
President Musharraf, according to official BSS news agency, also spoke of the sincere greetings and good wishes he carried from the people of Pakistan for “their Bangladeshi brothers and sisters.”
“We wish this land and its people peace, progress and prosperity,” he said and expressed confidence that with “our joint resolve, the friendship between Pakistan and Bangladesh will flourish.”
INDIA CHIDED: Earlier on his arrival in Dhaka, President Pervez Musharraf blasted India for “vitiating” regional security through its military deployment.
President Musharraf said he would talk to his Bangladeshi hosts about “the tension caused by the massive buildup on the border and ways to defuse it.”
“This situation is vitiating peace and security in South Asia,” President Musharraf said in a statement on his arrival at Dhaka airport.
“I intend to brief Bangladesh’s president and prime minister on our initiative to defuse tension caused by the massive Indian military buildup on our border,” the president said. Musharraf said the main purpose of his three-day visit was to discuss ways of further strengthening relations between the two countries.
“The primary aim of the visit is to discuss with Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia ways and means to augment bilateral relations...as well as to hold consultations on global and regional issues,” he said.
Musharraf said Pakistan and Bangladesh enjoyed a close identity of views on matters of regional and international concern.
“Such consultations facilitate greater understanding and coordination between friendly neighbours like our two countries,” he said. During his visit, the president said, a number of agreements were expected to be signed. He expressed the hope that these would help further reinforce the fraternal relations between the two countries.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shamser Mobin Chowdhury told AFP that official talks with President Musharraf would focus on trade and the economy, but also on the fate of 250,000 stateless Muslims in Bangladesh who claim Pakistani citizenship.
Officials in Dhaka said President Musharraf would meet business leaders and sign a number of agreements on economic cooperation during his visit.
Bangladesh hopes to achieve duty-free access for some of its commodities into Pakistan and attract increased Pakistani investment through talks with President Musharraf.
Security was tight in the Bangladesh capital on Monday after students of Dhaka University, protesting against alleged police brutality on campus and the arrest of some residents last Wednesday night, fought battles with police.
WARM WELCOME: On arrival President Pervez Musharraf was accorded a warm welcome. Both President Jamiruddin Sircar and Prime Minister Khaleda Zia were present at Zia International Airport.
A 21-gun salute boomed as President Musharraf along with Begum Sehba Musharraf alighted from the special plane on the Bangladeshi soil after an eight-hour non-stop journey, reaching here at 1630 hours (PST).
Two Bangladeshi children in traditional costumes presented bouquets to President Musharraf and Begum Sehba.
The presidential entourage includes Information Minister for Nisar A. Memon, Commerce Minister Razzak Dawood, Environment, Local Government and Rural Development Minister Barrister Shahida Jamil, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inamul Haq, Secretary Defence Hamid Nawaz, Military Secretary to the CE Maj-Gen Nadeem Taj, Chief of Protocol Mian Khalid Habib and Rashed Saleem Khan, DG (South Asia), besides a media team.
President Musharraf took salute and reviewed the guard of honour presented by a detachment drawn from the three services of Bangladesh.
On the occasion, the national anthems of Pakistan and Bangladesh were played.
Prime Minister Khaleda Zia introduced the distinguished guest to the presentation line comprising her cabinet ministers, elected public representatives, diplomats, intellectuals and elite.
Flags of Pakistan and Bangladesh fluttered atop the airport terminal buildings with tall, green and robust mahogany trees in the background, in fair monsoon weather.
Later, the presidential entourage left the airport for the visit of the martyrs memorial at Savar.
The official talks between Pakistan and Bangladesh are scheduled to be held here Tuesday at the Prime Minister’s Office. These will be followed by the signing of agreements/ protocols.
The schedule of engagements of President Musharraf for Tuesday included meeting with representatives of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), and a dinner to be hosted by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia followed by a cultural show.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Musharraf will have a breakfast meeting with his coursemates.
Later, he will visit the mausoleum of President Ziaur Rehman at Shere Bangla Naqar, where he will lay a wreath and offer Fateha.
On July 31, President Musharraf is scheduled to have a breakfast meeting with senior journalists, before leaving for Colombo, on the conclusion of his three-day official visit to Bangladesh.
VISIT OPPOSED: A number of Bangladeshi groups have opposed President Musharraf’s visit. The main opposition Awami League party’s student wing has called a one-day strike on Tuesday against the Pakistani leader, who it says is “unwanted” in Bangladesh.
The Awami League leadership is torn by internal feuds over whether to meet President Musharraf.
The party has called off a scheduled meeting with the Pakistani leader due to “unavoidable reasons”.
Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina Wajed is in the United States during President Musharraf’s visit.— Agencies