Bangladesh asks Pakistan to apologize for war

November 20, 2011


Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee (C) is escorted by security personnel as he emerges from the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka on November 20, 2011. A special court on November 20 opened trial for Bangladesh's first war crime suspect charged with atrocities such as genocide during the country's 1971 war of independence against Pakistan. -AFP Photo

DHAKA: A senior Bangladeshi official on Sunday urged Pakistan to formally apologize for alleged atrocities and acts of genocide committed by the Pakistani military during the independence war in 1971.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dipu Moni made the demand in a meeting with Pakistan's new envoy to Bangladesh, a statement released by the ministry said.

Aided by India, Bangladesh, then the eastern wing of Pakistan, won its independence in 1971 after a nine-month war.

Bangladesh says Pakistani soldiers, aided by local collaborators, killed an estimated 3 million people, raped about 200,000 women and forced millions to flee their homes. Pakistan has disputed the allegations.

According to the statement, Moni ''sought Pakistan's understanding and recognition of Bangladesh's position on resolving the outstanding issues including an expression of formal apology from Pakistan for the genocide and atrocities committed by the Pakistani military in 1971.''

It said Moni also wanted to settle the issues of division of assets and war reparations.

Moni said that resolving these long-standing issues was important to maintaining good relations with Pakistan.

''Early resolution of the outstanding issues would enable the existing friendly relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan to make a great leap forward and create a wider space for cooperation,'' the statement quoted Moni as saying.

The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has initiated a move to try Bangladeshi collaborators who allegedly helped the Pakistani military. A special tribunal has been formed to conduct the trials.

Five top leaders of Bangladesh's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, are currently behind bars, pending trial for their alleged role as collaborators.

Two other men from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, are in jail on similar charges. All of them have denied the allegations.

Jamaat-e-Islami openly campaigned against breaking away from Pakistan during the 1971 war. The international community has called on the government to ensure that the tribunal is free and impartial.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has praised the government for establishing the tribunal, but called for changes, including allowing the accused to question its impartiality, which current law prohibits.