Bangladesh–Pakistan relations

Bangladesh-Pakistan relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and Bangladesh



Bangladesh and Pakistan are South Asian countries.[1][2] Following the end of the British raj, the two countries formed a single state for 24 years.[3] The Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 resulted in the secession of East Pakistan as the Republic of Bangladesh. Pakistan (formerly West Pakistan) recognized Bangladesh in 1974 after pressure from across the Muslim world.[4]

Bangladesh continues to call on Pakistan to acknowledge and apologize for its alleged crimes during war.[5][6] The execution of a Jamaat-e-Islami leader in 2013 was opposed in Pakistan and led to strained ties.[7] In 2015, two officials of the Pakistani High Commission, visa officer Mazhar Khan[8] and second secretary Farina Arshad,[9] were named by banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh operatives as having financed terrorist activities.[10] In January 2016, Islamabad had asked Dhaka to recall senior diplomat Moushumi Rahman from its high commission in Islamabad within 72 hours. Diplomatic sources in Islamabad told the media that Rahman was indulged in "terror activities in Pakistan" and that concerned security agencies continued to monitor her.[11]

The two countries are both founding members of SAARC, as well as members of the Developing 8 Countries, the OIC and the Commonwealth of Nations. Both are classified as Next Eleven emerging economies. Bangladesh has a High Commission in Islamabad. Pakistan has a High Commission in Dhaka.


Liberation war and independence

After the partition of the British Indian Empire in 1947, Bangladesh was integrated in Pakistan which was known as East Bengal until 1955 and thereafter as East-Pakistan following the One Unit program.

Bilateral relations between the two wings grew strained over the lack of official recognition for the Bengali language, democracy, regional autonomy, disparity between the two wings, ethnic discrimination, and the central government's weak and inefficient relief efforts after the 1970 Bhola cyclone, which had affected millions in East Pakistan. These grievances led to several political agitations in East Bengal and ultimately a fight for full independence. In March 1971, the Pakistan Armed Forces began "Operation Searchlight," which targeted intellectuals, political activists, Hindus and other minorities.[12] The number of people killed by Pakistani forces remains disputed, with estimates ranging from 300,000 to 3 million.[13][14] About 8-10 million people became refugees in India.[15] Many Bengali policemen and soldiers mutinied and nationalists formed a guerrilla force, the Mukti Bahini with Indian and Soviet support. When a declared war broke out between East Pakistan and West Pakistan in December 1971, the joint forces of Indian Army and Mukti Bahini later known as Bangladesh Armed forces defeated Pakistani forces in East Pakistan and the independent state of Bangladesh was created.[16]

1974–2012: Establishment and growth of bilateral relations

The left-oriented Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had been the main political opponent of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, came into power in the aftermath of Bangladesh's separation from Pakistan. Initially, Pakistan was not in favour of recognizing Bangladesh and urged other states to hold back their recognition until Pakistan could enter into a dialogue with Bangladeshi leadership. Bangladesh on its part insisted recognition as a pre-condition for dialogue. In 1972, Pakistan left the Commonwealth after some members of the Commonwealth extended membership to Bangladesh. Pakistan also severed ties with other countries which recognized Bangladesh.[17][18]

On the issue of Bangladesh's application for membership to the UN, China, on Pakistan's request, exercised its veto power for the first time to stall the move, which helped Pakistan to secure in a bargain the release of its Prisoners of War and the return of troops to their prewar positions.[19]

In 1974, the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan thawed. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman withdrew the bans on some pro-Pakistan organisations that had operated before Bangladesh's independence. Mujib visited Lahore for an OIC Islamic summit, and in return the Parliament of Pakistan authorised Bhutto to extend recognition to Bangladesh.[20] In June 1974, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Bangladesh and paid homage to Bangladesh's war memorial at Savar Upazila.[21] Both nations discussed an agreement in 1975 in which Bangladesh agreed to take up half of Pakistan's pre-1971 external reserves provided Bangladesh received half of the country's pre-1971 assets and credit went unresolved.[22]

Relations improved considerably under the governments of Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, which had grown more distant from its usual allies, like India and Russia.[22][23] Five Pakistani heads of government have made official visits to Bangladesh since the 1980s and numerous trade and cultural agreements have been signed.[24] Common concerns over terrorism have influenced strategic cooperation leading to a gift of several squadrons of F-6 fighter aircraft to the Bangladesh Air Force in the late 1980s although there was no serious effort to maintain them as they were later left to be destroyed by a cyclone.[24] Trade between the two countries currently stands at $340 million which was described by the Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Ruhul Alam Siddique as 'negligible when taking into account the combined population' (of both countries). Areas he hoped would induce investment from Pakistan to Bangladesh included the textiles and energy sectors.[25]

In 1985, Pakistani President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq visited the Bangladeshi war memorial, and said "Your heroes are our heroes."[21] Bangladeshi President Erhsad visited Islamabad in 1986.[22] In 1998, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Pakistan.[21] In July 2002, Pakistani General Pervez Musharraf also visited the war memorial and said "Your brothers and sisters in Pakistan share the pain of the events of 1971."[21]