Tuesday, July 16

It’s a settled issue

Mir Mostafizur Rahaman: Outlining Islamabad’s position on its ties with Bangladesh, Pakistan’s information and broadcasting minister, Pervaiz Rashid, said yesterday (Thursday) that his country is ready to do anything to promote Bangladesh’s development.

However, he also pointed out that Pakistan would not seek formal apology for its role during Bangladesh’s Liberation War as the matter was settled in 1974.

The minister was exchanging views with a Bangladeshi Press delegation at his office in Islamabad. Several issues, including the future course of bilateral relations, South Asian regional cooperation, fighting terrorism and domestic politics of Pakistan, came up.

Elaborating the Pakistan government’s thoughts on future development cooperation, he said: “You can use our land to export your products to central Asia, you can use our ports at Karachi to export your products and you can use our Silk Route to trade with China. These are not mere words. We, especially our Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, mean it.”

Responding to a question whether Pakistan would formally apologise to Bangladesh for its role during the Liberation War of Bangladesh, the minister said the matter was settled in 1974.

“Let us not stick to the bitterness of the past. Let us move forward and work for the mutual development of each other,” he said

But when it was pointed out that it was Pakistan that had triggered tension between the two countries by interfering in Bangladesh’s war crimes trials, the minister refrained from making any comment.

However, suggesting the way to enhance bilateral relations, he said: “Let us share the happiest moments, forgetting the bitter past, as we should look forward and should deal with the issues of today.”

And today’s issues are economic development, poverty alleviation, ensuring peace and widening cooperation in different areas.

He also pointed out that the upcoming SAARC summit, scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November, would be high-time to sort out differences between the two countries.

Suggesting that peace should be the first priority for the development of the region, he said the SAARC countries should give up the policy of confrontation and embark on a policy of cooperation. “And that is the only way to ensure peace in the region,” he added.

The minister said the present Pakistan government is pledge-bound to root out terrorism from the country. He also sought a collective response from all SAARC countries to combat extremism and terrorism in the region.

“We believe that a regional response is crucial to eliminate terrorism and extremism, as the issue has become global. If an incident happens in any part of the world, we should ensure that it does not benefit or strengthen extremists in any other part of the world,” he explained.

Responding to a question, he said freedom of the Press in Pakistan is “more than enough”. Among others, information secretary Imran Gardozi and DG, external publicity, Shafqat Jalil were present.

The information minister said Bangladesh and Pakistan have many things in common, and he “would love to visit Dhaka”. “I hear about many beautiful places in Bangladesh. I would love to go to hill areas, the Sunderbans and Cox’s Bazar,” he added.