Monthly Archives: December 2021

Pakistan and Bangladesh have much to learn from each other 50 years later

Prime minister Benazir Bhutto visited Bangladesh in 1989. She had asked for that visit, which the then Bangladesh President Irshad accepted …

“The independence day of Bangladesh March 26, 1971 and Dec 16 is seen by that country as the day of liberation. In Pakistan around this time the mood is generally sombre with reflection of the past,” said former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar on Thursday.

He was delivering his keynote address at a conference on ‘50 Years Later: The Future of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations’ at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA).

“We have to acknowledge that the Bengali leaders made enormous contributions to the making of Pakistan, which was also acknowledged by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The resolution of Pakistan was also moved by A.K. Fazlul Haq. If Jinnah were alive and if he had been asked the worst decisions of Pakistan, he would have said that it was to refuse and deny the results of the 1970 elections along with deploring the action that was taken on March 24, 1971 by West Pakistan,” he said.

The former diplomat said he is often asked about his best assignments during his career to which he has to say from 1986 to 1989 when he served as ambassador of Pakistan to Bangladesh. “It was the best time. I got to meet all leaders, intellectuals, people in the media and civil society. We did discuss serious matters, but objectively and without anger though the differences of 1971 are still there,” he said.

“As a former diplomat, I’m not blaming any political party but every time the Awami League is in power, we have issues. The government under the Awami League has raised serious allegations and questions. They also demand an apology from Pakistan for the atrocities of 1971. But an apology is not that simple. The 1974 documents clearly address deep regret of events and atrocities. Bangladesh demands war reparation, distribution of assets, etc.

Experts discuss future of Islamabad-Dhaka relations at PIIA conference

“While I was the ambassador in Bangladesh, former late prime minister Benazir Bhutto visited Bangladesh in 1989. She had asked for that visit, which the then Bangladesh president Irshad accepted. The issues did come up but such things cannot be decided just like that. Such issues are an impediment to the progress and relations of both countries.

“It is sad that despite sharing the history of 1947, there’s so little interaction with Bangladesh here. The culture of Bangladesh is extremely rich in art, music, dance, etc. Why not have cultural exchanges? Pakistan would be happy to have an exchange programme for students. We can also offer hundreds of scholarships in various fields and Bangladesh, too, can reciprocate,” he said.

‘Let’s resume communication’

“Yes, the impediments are serious but there is no reason why we can’t be talking. There is an absence of debate not at the public and private level or the diplomatic level. But Pakistan and Bangladesh relations do have a future. I appeal, let’s resume communications. We have much to share and much to learn from each other,” he concluded.

Earlier, while reminding the significance of Dec 16, 1971, PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan said that it was when Pakistan was dismembered and Bangladesh formally became an independent and sovereign state. “The date is etched in the minds of millions of people in Pakistan and Bangladesh. History has few parallels to the events of 1971, which led to the second partition of the subcontinent and changed the political landscape of South Asia,” she said.

“In the last 50 years, much water has flown under the bridges of the Indus and Brahmaputra. The global and regional landscape has changed, with a multi-polar world, the phenomenal rise and outreach of China, an assertive India, and the continuing role of the United States. In the regional context, rising from the ashes, Bangladesh has made remarkable economic progress. Whatever the irritants of the past, the people of the two countries share a common historical identity, strive for the same values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and freedom of expression. Both countries are members of Saarc and other international organisations and they vote on the same side on many international issues. For the future of Pakistan-Bangladesh relations, there are many positive trends,” she said.

‘We didn’t leave like thieves’

Syed Sikander Mehdi, former Karachi University professor and chairperson of the Department of International Relations, said that the personal memories of West Pakistanis who went to East Pakistan for business and educational purposes are soft. These people still miss Bangladesh. But their memories are not recorded here. “The people from East Pakistan who settled down here before the break-up or after 1971 also have oral memories that have not been published. I did my schooling, college and university education in Dhaka. I was an activist in my student life. I remember us students protesting the Vietnam war, the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. Our family lived in the Bengali area till our migration from Dhaka in late 1972. I had very close relations with my Bengali teachers before and after the military operation. I had a job, my father had a job, too and we had no economic compulsion. When I told my teachers that we were leaving, they hosted a dinner for my family. So we didn’t leave like thieves. But after coming here we saw a headline in the newspaper, which read Bihari na khappay. We cannot wish away the past but we need to write more and talk more about all this,” he said.

Former Professor at the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, M Shahiduzzaman said that he was a former student of Sikander Mehdi. “We were sad when he left. Many years later when my students and myself visited the University of Karachi we found him like he has always been, a human being whose soul lies with us,” he said.

Meritorious Professor of International Relations and former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Karachi, Dr Moonis Ahmar, observed that Pakistan and Bangladesh relations were seeing a paradigm shift in 1974 with the signing of the agreement in Delhi but then this paradigm shift stopped. 

“We have been moving two steps forward and four steps backward,” he said, while adding that Sheikh Hasina Wajid, the daughter of the man denied premiership here, should be invited over and asked to address a joint session of the Pakistan parliaments. And Pakistani PM Imran Khan can do the same when he visits Bangladesh. 

Ambassador Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui and Dr Raunaq Jahan also spoke.

Published in Dawn, 17 December 2021, written by Shazia Hasan

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50 Years Later: The Future of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations

16 December 1971 is a historic date for Pakistan and Bangladesh, when Pakistan was dismembered and Bangladesh formally became an independent and sovereign state. The date is etched in the minds of millions of people in Pakistan and Bangladesh. History has few parallels to the events of 1971, which led to the second partition of the subcontinent and changed the political landscape of South Asia. Regarded as a civil war, there were calls for accountability in Pakistan, however it is celebrated as the war of liberation in Bangladesh. Unlike most other people who have separated, it was the majority population which chose to part ways with the minority. Looking back, 50 years later, the unusual structural configuration of the Pakistani state may have contributed to its break-up, with two wings separated by over 1000 miles of unfriendly territory.

The majority homogeneous population of the eastern wing, far distanced from the seat of government, felt marginalized and was denied power, in spite of victory in the general elections of 1970. The tragedy of 1971, steeped in violence and bloodshed, was avoidable and all informed opinion had pleaded for dialogue and a political solution. However, politicians, historians and analysts from the two sides have given opposing narratives of the tragedy, and to this day, both Pakistan and Bangladesh are dealing with the collateral damage of the trauma, both physical and emotional.

In the last 50 years, much water has flown under the bridges of the Indus and Brahmaputra. The global and regional landscape has changed, with a multi-polar world, the phenomenal rise and outreach of China, an assertive India, and the continuing role of the United States. In the regional context, rising from the ashes, Bangladesh has made remarkable economic progress.

Whatever the irritants of the past, the people of the two countries share a common historical identity, strive for the same values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and freedom of expression. Both countries are members of SAARC and other international organizations and they vote on the same side on many international issues. For the future of Pakistan- Bangladesh relations, there are many positive trends. It is a time to reflect and move forward.

Ambassador Riaz Khokhar

Speakers’ Profiles

Ambassador Riaz Khokhar is a former career diplomat who served as the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan from June 2002 to February 2005. Few Pakistani diplomats have worked on as many important assignments as Ambassador Khokhar. He was Pakistan’s envoy to Dhaka, New Delhi, Washington DC and Beijing before leading the top post of the Foreign Service of Pakistan. He also served as adviser to prime ministers Benazir Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi and Nawaz Sharif and was appointed as Special Envoy on Inter-Faith Dialogue by prime minister Shaukat Aziz.

Dr Moonis Ahmar

Dr Moonis Ahmar is former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, and Meritorious Professor at the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi. He was also Chairman, Department of International Relations, University of Karachi and is Director, Program on Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution. His field of specialization is conflict and security studies, focussing on the South and Central Asian regions. He is the author of several books on different themes of International Relations.

Syed Sikander Mehdi

Syed Sikander Mehdi is former Chairperson of the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi. He has taught International Relations and Peace Studies at Dhaka University, Karachi University, and universities in Austria and Spain. He was visiting research fellow at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway; Henry Stimson Centre, Washington DC; and Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. He has published on peace education and culture, nuclear proliferation, refugees and migration, and war and conflict.

Mr M. Shahiduzzaman

Mr M. Shahiduzzaman is a former Professor of the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka. He completed his post-graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Center for International Affairs, in 1978 with late Prof Norman Palmer. He completed his Master’s degree in International Studies from The Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in 1976-77 and was awarded Outstanding Foreign Student of the Year-1977. He also lectured at the Naval Post- Graduate School, Monterey, California, USA in 1976.

Dr Kaiser Bengali

Dr Kaiser Bengali is an economist with over 45 years’ experience in teaching, research and policy advice in Pakistan. He was Consultant for Economic Affairs and Head of the Chief Minister’s Policy Reform Unit, Government of Balochistan, Adviser to the Chief Minister of Sindh for Planning & Development, Managing Director of the Social Policy & Development Centre, Karachi, and the first head of the Benazir Income Support Programme. He has taught at the Applied Economics Research Centre, University of Karachi, and the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science & Technology.

Dr Rounaq Jahan

Professor Rounaq Jahan is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka, former Senior Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University (1990-2010), and Professor of Political Science at Dhaka University (1970- 1982). She headed the Women’s programs at UN Asia-Pacific Development Center, Kuala Lumpur (1982-84) and the International Labour Organisation (1985-89). She was Research Fellow at Harvard, Chicago and Boston universities and Rajni Kothari Professor at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, in 2010. She is the author of Pakistan: Failure in National Integration and several books on the politics of Bangladesh.

Ambassador Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui

Ambassador Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui was a career diplomat who served as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh from 2016 to 2018. He also served as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Kenya and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to UNEP & UN-Habitat. He was Director General (Afghanistan and ECO) and Additional Foreign Secretary (Europe) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad. He is currently working as Adviser – Corporate Affairs at United Marine Agencies (UMA).

Dr Masuma Hasan

Dr Masuma Hasan is Chairperson of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, President of the Board of Governors of Aurat Foundation, and Syndicate member and Selection Board member of the University of Karachi. She was Cabinet Secretary to the Government of Pakistan; Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Vienna, IAEA, UNIDO, and all other international agencies in Vienna where she chaired the Group of 77; ambassador to Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia; Director of the National Institute of Public Administration Karachi.

Greetings from The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs

You are cordially invited to attend our Conference on 50 Years Later: The Future of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations on Thursday, 16 December 2021 from 11:00 am to 4:35 pm (Pakistan Standard Time).

We welcome your physical presence at the Library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs to participate in the event. All Covid-19 SOPs will be strictly followed. 

You may also join the conference on Zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87808213923?pwd=Nnc1QjFuVTE4NGNFV1NPSUFCVlNpQT09

Webinar ID:                         878 0821 3923

Webinar Passcode:              171111

The concept note, programme, and speakers’ profiles are attached.

Dr Tanweer Khalid
Honorary Secretary (She/Her)

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs
Aiwan–e–Sadar Road
Karachi, Pakistan

50 Years Later: The Future of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations

Thursday, 16 December 2021 11:00 am to 5:00 pm

Registration 11:00 am – 11:45 am

Inaugural Session

11:45 am – 12:00 pm
Purpose of the Conference
Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

12:00 pm – 12:30 pm
Keynote Address
Ambassador Riaz Khokhar, former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan.

Session I
A Time to Reflect

12:30 pm – 12:35 pm
Chair: Dr Moonis Ahmer, Meritorious Professor of International Relations and former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Karachi.

12:35 pm – 12:55 pm
Remembering Bangladesh in Pakistan
Syed Sikander Mehdi, former Professor and Chairperson of the Department of International Relations, University of Karachi.

12:55 pm – 01:15 pm
Removing Stereotypes for Future of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations
Mr M. Shahiduzzaman, former Professor, Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.

01:15 pm – 01:45 pm

Question and Answer Session

1:45 pm – 1:55 pm

Concluding remarks by the Chair

Lunch
01:55 pm – 03:00 pm

Session II
Positive Trends for the Future

03:00 pm – 03:05 pm
Chair: Dr Kaiser Bengali, Economist, former Consultant for Economic Affairs and Head of the Chief Minister’s Policy Reform Unit, Government of Balochistan, and Adviser to the Chief Minister of Sindh for Planning & Development.

03:05 pm – 03:25 pm
50 Years of Bangladesh: Achievements and Challenges
Dr Rounaq Jahan, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue, Bangladesh, former Adjunct Professor, Columbia University, USA, and author of Pakistan: Failure in National Integration.

03:25 pm – 03:45 pm
Memories of Bangladesh and its Transformation
Ambassador Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui, former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Bangladesh, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, and Adviser, Corporate Affairs, United Marine Agencies (UMA).

03:45 pm – 04:15 pm

Question and Answer Session

04:15 pm – 04:25 pm

Concluding remarks by the Chair

04:25 pm – 04:35 pm

Farewell Remarks
Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

Refreshments 04:35 pm – 05:00 pm

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Revisiting the Non-Aligned Movement: A Blueprint for a Multi-Polar World?

Only a few weeks short of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the United States under President Biden withdrew all US troops from Afghanistan. Weeks after the US announced the impending withdrawal, the Taliban swiftly began capturing large swathes of Afghan territory. Now, the Taliban are back in control in Afghanistan, as undeterred as they were prior to the US invasion of the country. For Pakistan, the present moment calls upon us to reflect on our previous policy of alignment with US foreign policy goals and the price we have paid for aiding and abetting America’s War on Terror in our backyard. At this critical juncture, it may be helpful to revisit the ideals that gave rise to the NAM, Non-Aligned Movement. Given the failure of American intervention in the Middle East, in Ira , Syria, Libya, Yemen, and in Afghanistan, is a strategy of Non-Alignment then the best way forward for states in the Global South? 

The premise of a Non-Aligned Movement was first proposed during the Bandung conference of April 1955, six years before the Non-Aligned Movement was formally initiated in Belgrade in 1961. The premise for the Non-Aligned Movement was based on the conviction of many of the leaders present at Bandung that it would be in their common interest to form an independent third bloc that would remain impartial to the Cold War – the economic and ideological war being waged between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. Attended by leaders of 29 newly decolonized countries across Asia and Africa, most notably Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia, and Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt, Bandung is remembered as “…the seminal moment in the political formation of postcoloniality.” (Young, 2006) Together, the leaders present at Bandung represented some 1.5 billion people, which was at the time equal to 54% of the world’s population.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Iraq, Politics, The Middle East, United States