Pakistan on Tuesday urged Bangladesh to put the "tragic past" aside and forge ahead with stronger relations, as angry protests erupted in Dhaka over allegedly insulting remarks by a Pakistani envoy.
"As (military ruler) General Pervez Musharraf has said, we have to move away from the tragic past and build a strong relationship for which all the goodwill exists between the two countries," a foreign office spokesman said.
Protestors in Dhaka torched a Pakistani flag and shouted anti-Pakistan slogans after a Pakistani diplomat tried to blame Bangladesh's ruling party for atrocities during the 1971 independence war.
Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Irfan-ur-Raja reportedly said Monday that "Awami League miscreants" and not the Pakistani army were behind the atrocities.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, fought a brutal nine-month war under Awami League chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to split from West Pakistan, whose forces are blamed here for several massacres of innocent civilians.
Mass graves believed to hold the bodies of massacre victims were discovered as recently as last year.
Pakistani High Commissioner Iqbal Ahmed Khan was summoned Tuesday to the foreign ministry in Dhaka to receive a formal protest, officials said.
He was told his deputy's comments "reflected a total lack of understanding of the history of the freedom movement of Bangladesh," Foreign Minister Abdus Samad Azad.
"I am angry, I express my anger and condemnation at the audacious and derogatory remarks," Azad said.
The foreign office spokesman in Islamabad, in comments carried on the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan, said the events of 1971 were "a tragedy both for Pakistan and Bangladesh."
"The people of both countries have suffered because of the tragedy," he said.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Rahman's daughter, has demanded an apology for the Pakistan army's actions in 1971 -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)