Jack Of All Trades
Does Imran Khan really retain sportsman spirit?
Published : Wednesday, 29 July, 2020 at 12:00 AM Count : 432
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in his recent 15-minute telephonic conversation with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reportedly said his country was committed to deepening fraternal relations between the two countries on the basis of mutual trust, respect and sovereign equality.
After exchanging greetings, Imran wanted to know about the Covid-19 and flood situations in Bangladesh and the steps taken by the government. Sheikh Hasina informed him the initiatives and measures taken by her government to contain the spread of the virus and to give succour to flood affected people, according to Bangladesh Prime Minister's Office.
Imran Khan phoned Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganabhaban on July 22 last around 1 pm according to the timetable set by the relevant officials following months of diplomacy amid soured relations.
Let alone relations, there was silent animosity between the two countries since Bangladesh helped by India had fought out its independence from Pakistan in December 1971. However, after initiating diplomatic ties in late 1970s, the relations soured when Bangladesh started the trial of the war criminals in Dhaka in 2010.
The relations worsened after Pakistan parliament in September 2016 adopted resolutions against the war crimes trial in Bangladesh, which hanged some noted criminals for committing crimes against humanity during Bangladesh Liberation War 1971.
There was no diplomatic link between the two countries until August 15, 1975, when Bangladesh independence leader--father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated with his most family members in an army coup. His daughters Sheikh Hasina, now Prime Minister of Bangladesh and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana, mother of British Member of Parliament from Labour Party, Ms Tulip Rizwana Siddiq, survived as they were abroad.
Interestingly hours after the assassination the then Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reportedly phoned the coup leaders in Dhaka to congratulate them initiating the diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The relations were dampened when Awami League came to power led by Sheikh Hasina for the first five -year term in 1996. It did not improve in the subsequent three consecutive terms of Sheikh Hasina, who will end her current term in 2024.
The relations did not improve because Pakistan never agreed to seek apology for the genocide in Bangladesh launched by its forces on the midnight of March 25, 1971 compelling Bangladesh Supreme Leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to declare the independence. Bangladesh urged Pakistan through diplomatic channels and different forums mainly after 1996 to seek apology for the Bangladesh genocide. But Pakistan paid no heed.
It has been rare that the prime minister of any of the two countries called the others on its own. It was Imran Khan that phoned Sheikh Hasina twice over the last 10 months. With his phone call Imran a former world famous cricketer, exposed that despite being the Prime Minister of the politically volatile Pakistan, he still retains the sportsman spirit and wants to share current local and regional issues with his Bangladesh counterpart.
Earlier in October last year, Imran called Hasina, hours ahead of her visit to India amid his campaign on the Kashmir issue after the Indian government had revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status. Imran was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in August 2018.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party Chairman Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan was the captain of the Pakistan National Cricket Team, which he led to victory in the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
This time also Imran is believed to have spoken to Hasina on Jammu and Kashmir, the improvement of bilateral relations, and issues relating to SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
Imran reiterated his invitation to Hasina to visit Pakistan and said his country was committed to deepening fraternal relations with Bangladesh on the basis of mutual trust, mutual respect and sovereign equality.
In this context, experts and diplomats in Bangladesh believe to improve the relations Pakistan has to do a lot. It must beg its pardon acknowledging its forces had committed genocide in Bangladesh in 1971. Pakistan must also agree that Bangladesh rightly executed the war criminals dubbed Pakistani collaborators following prosecution in the court of law in recent years.
Pakistan also needs to agree on principle that it owes billions of dollars to Bangladesh for illegally transferring wealth from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) during its 24 years of rule from 1947 to 1971.
Pakistani leaders are yet to recognised the Bangladesh liberation war and often describe it as the criminal activities of armed miscreants helped by India. They never agree and confess that Pakistani soldiers killed three million people and violated two hundred thousand women in Bangladesh in 1971.
However, Imran's telephonic conversation with Hasina, has triggered rumours and speculations mainly in the Indian diplomatic arena and the media. The conversation seems to have shocked India, which counts Bangladesh as its most trusted friend in the region.
Though India is yet to stop killing of Bangladeshi trespassers on the border areas and to share water of the Teesta River, Bangladesh, led by the government of Sheikh Hasina has been helping India overtly in different fields. Lastly it opened its ports to help India make transshipment of goods to its landlocked northeastern states.
After the telephonic conversation a section the media speculated that Bangladesh probably was increasing its dependence on China, at the cost of India. China now is the biggest trade partners and building most mega structures in Bangladesh. The annual trade volume between the two countries is around $19 billion, highly in favour of China, which is engaged in building several mega projects in Bangladesh involving billions of US dollars. The mega projects include the Padma Bridge, Padma Bridge Rail Link, the Payra Thermal Power Plant, a railway from Chittagong to Cox's Bazar, a tunnel under the Karnaphuli river, and the upgrading of the Dhaka Bypass Road.
A failure of India's High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das' failure Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been highlighted by the media that Bangladesh was trying to distance from Indian. Media reports said Bangladesh was not happy over India's role in regard to Rohingya refugees' repatriation and the National Registrar of Citizenship in Assam.
However, there were no words from Bangladesh government in this regard, fuelling the raging media speculation.
Media said the Pakistani foreign ministry has been pressing for this telecom for the last three months. Pakistani envoy Imran Ahmad Siddiqui, who had filled a vacancy at the mission after a gap of 20 months, had met Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen. Bangladesh did not approve the appointment of an envoy nominated by Pakistan, in retaliation of the country's parliamentary resolution against war crimes trial in Bangladesh.
However, the Bangladesh foreign ministry had been silent on what transpired between Momen and Siddiqui while unnamed official sources said it was nothing but a courtesy call. The Pakistani side, however, projected it as a thaw in the relationship between the two countries.
Pakistan came up with onion diplomacy supplying the item to Bangladesh late last year after India stopped export of the politically sensitive commodity to its eastern friendly country.
Pakistan with a population more with 221 million annual exports and imports worth approximately $25 billion and $38 billion respectively probably needs economically emerging Bangladesh in its pursuit to boosts economy and to control population boom. Nuclear power Pakistan is nearly six times bigger than Bangladesh in land area.
Political observers believe to launch new fraternal relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan, Imran Khan should increasingly utilise his sportsman spirit.
The writer is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer