Bangladesh–Pakistan relations

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Pakistan-Bangladesh relations
Map indicating locations of Pakistan and Bangladesh


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The bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh are influenced by the fact that Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan from 1947 to 1971, when it achieved independence after the Bangladesh Liberation War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. As part of the historical Shimla Agreement, India sought to make sure that Pakistan would take steps to recognize Bangladesh.

Pakistan sought China's help in blocking Bangladesh's entry into the United Nations until 1974. Behind the scenes India rallied behind Bangladesh to help it gain international recognition. By the end of March 1973, approximately 99 countries had recognized Bangladesh.[1] Pakistan eventually recognised Bangladesh in 1974.


Liberation war and independence[edit]

After the partition of British Indian Empire by the United Kingdom 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.[2] The figure of people killed by Pakistani forces remains disputed, with estimates ranging from 300,000 to 3 million.[3][4] About 8-10 million people became refugees in India.[5] Many Bengali policemen and soldiers mutinied and nationalists formed a guerrilla force, the Mukti Bahini with Indian and Soviet Union support. When a declared war broke out between Bangladesh and 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.[6]

1974-2012: Establishment and growth of bilateral relations[edit]

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. A heavy lobbying staged by Pakistan, other states such as the People's Republic of China, Saudi Arabia and some other Middle Eastern nations, refused to recognize Bangladesh. In 1972, Pakistan left the Commonwealth of Nations after it extended membership to Bangladesh. For its part, Bangladesh demanded an apology from Pakistan for war crimes committed by the Pakistani military and reparations. Bangladesh's development of close ties with India, which had played a role in securing its independence, also angered Pakistan.

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 POWs and the return of troops to their prewar positions.[7]

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. Rahman visited Lahore for an Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, and in return the Parliament of Pakistan authorised Bhutto to extend recognition to Bangladesh.[8] In June 1974, Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Bangladesh and paid homage to Bangladesh's war memorial at Savar Upazila.[9] Both nations discussed an agreement in 1975 in which Bangladesh agreed to take up half of Pakistan's pre-1971 external debt provided Bangladesh received half of the country's pre-1971 assets and credit went unresolved.[10]

Relations improved considerably under the governments of Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, which had grown more distant from its war ally, India.[10][11] Five Pakistani heads of government have made official visits to Bangladesh since the 1980s and numerous trade and cultural agreements have been signed.[12] Common concerns over India's regional power 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.[12] 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.[13]

In 1985, President Ziaul Haq visited the Bangaldeshi war memorial, and said "Your heroes are our heroes."[9] Bangladeshi president Erhsad visited Islamabad in 1986.[10] In 1998, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Pakistan.[9] 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."[9]

2013: War crimes tribunal[edit]

In December 2012, several members of Pakistan Parliament sought a Parliamentary resolution that would apologize to Bangladesh for the 1971 atrocities. This initiative was also supported by Hamid Mir.[8]

In December 2013, following the execution of Abdul Quader Molla, dubbed the "butcher of Mirpur"[14] for war crimes, the lower house National Assembly issued a statement condemning execution, claiming it to be politically motivated.[15] Pakistan's Interior Minister expressed sadness that Molla was executed for his "loyalty towards Pakistan".[16]

Following Pakistan's reactions, Bangladesh summoned the Pakistan envoy, conveying its displeasure at Pakistan's interference in its internal matters.[15] Bangladesh conveyed its displeasure at the National Assembly statement, Punjab Provincial Assembly statement, as well as the remarks by Pakistan's Interior Minister.[17]

Protesters in Bangladesh took the streets to express their displeasure by marching towards the Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka.[18]

Bihari refugees issue[edit]

An issue of continuing controversy is the status and return of Biharis, also called Stranded Pakistanis to Pakistan.[19] Numbered around 540,000, these communities had migrated to what became East Pakistan from the Indian state of Bihar after the partition of India in 1947.[10] During the liberation war, these communities supported the Pakistani government and later wanted to emigrate to Pakistan, which stalled and hesitated.[10] By 1982 about 127,000 had been repatriated, leaving about 250,000 people still demanding repatriation.[10] In 1985 there was some progress in this area when Pakistani president Zia-ul-Haq agreed to accept the "stranded Pakistanis."[10] In a 2002 visit to Bangladesh, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf signed numerous bilateral agreements but said he could not allow the emigration of Biharis to Pakistan for the time being.[19]

Defence Cooperation[edit]

Defense cooperation improved considerably under the military regimes of Ziaur Rahman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad in Bangladesh, which had grown more distant from its war ally, India. Common concerns over India's regional power 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.[20]


Bilateral trade between the two countries has been growing slowly over the past years. During the eleven-year period between 2000–01 and 2010–11, Pakistan export to Bangladesh grew at an average annual rate of 27.6 percent and imports from Bangladesh grew at the rate of 9.2 percent. The total value of trade (export plus import) between the two countries in 2010-11 was about $983 million. To give a boost to bilateral trade between Pakistan and Bangladesh both countries have decided to finalise a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. FTA will pave the way for opening trade opportunity and will help expansion of trade between the two countries.[21]


  1. ^ "Situation in the Indian Subcontinent". 1972. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  2. ^ Sarmila Bose Anatomy of Violence: Analysis of Civil War in East Pakistan in 1971: Military Action: Operation Searchlight Economic and Political Weekly Special Articles, 8 October 2005
  3. ^ Matthew White's Death Tolls for the Major Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century
  4. ^ Virtual Bangladesh : History : The Bangali Genocide, 1971
  5. ^ Rummel, Rudolph J., "Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900", ISBN 3-8258-4010-7, Chapter 8, Table 8.2 Pakistan Genocide in Bangladesh Estimates, Sources, and Calculations: lowest estimate 2 million claimed by Pakistan (reported by Aziz, Qutubuddin. Blood and tears Karachi: United Press of Pakistan, 1974. pp. 74,226), all the other sources used by Rummel suggest a figure of between 8 and 10 million with one (Johnson, B. L. C. Bangladesh. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1975. pp. 73,75) that "could have been" 12 million.
  6. ^ Bangladeshi war for independence
  7. ^ Eager Eyes Fixed on Eurasia Russia and Its Neighbors in Crisis Russia and Its Neighbors in Crisis, Edited by IWASHITA Akihiro, Slavic Research Center, p 211-
  8. ^ a b "Pak MPs to propose for apology to Dhaka". The Daily Star (Bangladesh). 2012-12-07. 
  9. ^ a b c d "PM to visit Pakistan to attend D-8 summit". 2012-11-10. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Bangladesh - Pakistan
  11. ^ The Zia regime
  12. ^ a b Bangladesh's emotional scars
  13. ^ Dhaka offers Pakistani businessmen multiple visas
  14. ^ Nelson, Dean (12 December 2013). "Bangladesh hangs 'Butcher of Mirpur' for ‘war crimes’". Telegraph. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  15. ^ a b "Bangladesh grills Pakistan envoy over Molla resolution". Dawn. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  16. ^ "Jamaat leader’s hanging in Bangladesh ‘saddens’ Nisar". Dawn. 13 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  17. ^ Zaman, Sheikh (18 December 2013). "Dhaka summons Pakistan high commissioner over Molla resolution". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  18. ^ "Dhaka demonstrators protest Pakistan's reaction to Molla's execution". Express Tribune. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  19. ^ a b Musharraf's visit
  20. ^ Pakistan Armed Forces#South Asian Countries
  21. ^