By Malladi Rama Rao
demand that Pakistan must tender a formal apology for the 1971 Genocide does
indeed come as a surprise. Not its timing though. The demand articulated on Sunday Nov 20 by
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni has coincided with the commencement of trials in the
three-judge International Crimes Tribunal headed by Justice Nizamul Huq.
government came to power promising to bring to book all the guilty men who had
committed "crimes against humanity' during the Bangladesh Liberation War in
1971. Topping the hit list are the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, who had openly collaborated
with the Pakistani forces which killed 30 lakh people and raped 2 lakh women
during the nine-month war.
Delawar Hossain Sayedee, has just been made to stand trial; the charge-sheet
against him runs into 88-pages. And the charges range from genocide, killing,
rape, arson, to abduction and torture of civilians in his home district of
Pirojpur. These offences are covered by the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act.
Pakistan was in fact put on notice by Dhaka shortly
after the SAARC summit at Addu Atoll, a Maldivian resort, by refusing to budge
an inch on its opposition to EU waiving tariffs on Pakistani textiles. Hina
Rabbani Khar, the foreign minister of Pakistan, had egg on her face as a
result. Because, even before returning to Islamabad, she told the Pak media
covering the summit that Dipu Moni admitted that its objection was an accident
and would be withdrawn.
EU offered US $
140 million relief in import duties to flood-hit Pakistan over the next three
is a euphemism as every trade analyst knows. It will confer an undue advantage
on Pakistan by making its core exports cheaper than rivals Bangladesh
EU Council of
Ministers, the apex body, takes the call on tax reliefs provided there are no
objections from other countries to whom also EU is the white trading knight in
shining armour, and if it is not made an issue at the World Trade Organisation
objections in September last year itself fearing that its goods would face
uneven competition while entering the EU market in the event of Pakistan
getting the EU concession. But it has since yielded after some progress on the
bilateral trade front.
Not Bangladesh. For it too, like for Pakistan,
clothing and textiles make up 60 per cent of its exports to EU. Knitted or crocheted gloves, with regular
duties of 6.4 % to 8%, women's cotton garments, which attract 9.6% to 12% and a
wide range of cotton fabrics, knitted and woven clothes, totaling in all 75
goods, are the common export basket. Pakistan realizes 62.7 million Euros from
yarn exports alone.
"We support EU to help flood-hit Pakistan, but aid
should not be at the cost of trade. Trade and aid should not be mixed', a Bangladeshi policy maker said as Dhaka
firmed up its opposition to the EU move and conveyed its 'concern' to the World
Trade Organisation (WTO). Its worry is
mainly related to eight items - four are in knitwear sector, three in woven
sector and one in leather sector.
EU offers tariff
preference to the goods of the least developed countries (LDCs). For EU,
Pakistan is a developed country, like India, and as such is ineligible for any
tariff concession. This has been the 'principle' stand of the EU for long.
"We are firm on
our position regarding the issue since our apparel export will face a serious
challenge, if the Pakistani goods are granted tariff concession while entering
the EU market" Bangladesh Commerce Secretary Md Ghulam Hossain told the a Dhaka
daily on Nov 15. "Our proposal is either to remove the eight apparel items from
the list of 75 items, or to offer the tariff concession up to 20 per cent of
Pakistan's last year's export of the items to the EU market," he said.
If the Pakistani
leadership expected Bangladesh to wave the green flag, it could be either
because of rank arrogance that dates back to the days of Yahya Khans and
Zulfikar Ali Bhuttos or outright ignorance of history and global trade. If
flood devastation in the textile belt of Sindh in 2010 was the reason for EU
bending its rules, Bangladesh has a stronger case for such a relief since it is
visited by devastating floods year- after-year.
As Dipu Moni told
the new Pak envoy to Dhaka, Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi, "giving trade preference to
a country solely on account of natural disasters is unprecedented'. She said
Bangladesh, frequently visited by even more devastating natural disasters, was
fully sympathetic toward the flood victims of Pakistan. And pointed out that a
number of countries, including those from Latin America, opposed the initiative
even before Bangladesh did.
For Mehdi Hashmi,
the shocker was, however, Dipu Moni reading what was a virtual riot act. "An early resolution of the outstanding
issues will enable existing friendly relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan
to make a great leap forward and create a wider space for cooperation," she
told the envoy.
Topping the agenda
is the formal apology from Pakistan for the genocide and atrocities committed
by the Pakistani military in Bangladesh in 1971. Next in priority is
repatriation of stranded Pakistani Mohajirs, division of assets and war
reparation. The Mohajirs as Bihari Muslims are known since they had migrated
from Bihar to newly created Pakistan in 1947 have been living as stateless
citizens in Dhaka since 1971.