Dhaka/Islamabad, May 21: Bangladesh Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen said Tuesday that his country did not stop issuing visas to Pakistanis, amid reports that Dhaka’s high commission in Islamabad has stopped issuing visas to Pakistani nationals over a fresh diplomatic row.
“The report should have appeared in the media in the reverse way,” he told a press conference in Dhaka, attributing the current crisis to Pakistan’s inaction in issuing visas to Bangladeshi diplomats to be posted in Islamabad.
Earlier, the media reported that Bangladesh stopped issuing visas to Pakistan nationals. “We have not stopped issuing visas to Pakistanis, but delays could happen in some cases which are common worldwide,” the minister said.
He said Bangladesh’s mission in Islamabad was facing manpower shortage which affected the processing of visas as Pakistan was delaying in issuing visa for Bangladesh’s newly appointed visa councilor in Islamabad. Moreover, he said, Islamabad was not renewing the visa of the officer who was temporarily entrusted with the task of issuing visas.
“It is them (Islamabad)…how could we issue visa unless we have our manpower to do that there,” the minister said. His comments came amid strained bilateral ties since 2013 when Dhaka decided to hang several of the Bangladeshi 1971 war criminals, who carried out atrocities siding with Pakistani troops during the country’s Liberation War.
“You can call it a sign of protest against the Pakistani gesture,” a Bangladeshi foreign ministry official familiar with the development told PTI. But the official, who preferred anonymity, said the Bangladeshi diplomat in-charge of issuing visas refrained from processing the application by Pakistanis as the authorities there had been sitting on his own official visa renewal application for the past four months.
Pakistani high commission in Dhaka is not processing his family members’ visa applications, barring Bangladesh high commission’s press and visa affairs councillor Iqbal Hossain from meeting his family, the official said.
According to the official, Hossain is living in Islamabad with his daughter while his wife and son were in Dhaka. “We earlier contacted and still communicating with them to resolve the pending visa issues of our diplomats,” Momen said. No official in the Pakistani high commission was immediately available for comments over the impasse.
The diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Pakistan is on the rise since last year when Dhaka denied a visa to the Pakistan high commissioner. In March 2018, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry proposed Saqlain Syedah as its new high commissioner to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh refused to accept Syedah’s “agreement” (documents related to proposal of nomination) as Pakistan’s envoy. Six months later, Bangladesh verbally notified Pakistan that it cannot accept Syedah’s nomination, and asked for an alternative nomination.
Asked if there was any development over the acceptance of the credentials of Pakistan’s proposed envoy in Dhaka, Momen said Bangladesh did not accept Islamabad’s proposal for “some reasons”. “(But) this is a quite normal phenomenon (in diplomatic arena), if they propose someone new, we will definitely consider it,” he said.
Pakistan has not come up with any alternative nominations yet. The row over the 1971 war criminals’ trials visibly prompted Bangladesh not to clear the credentials of the proposed Pakistani envoy to Dhaka.
Syedah is now appointed as high commissioner to Kenya, according to an announcement by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Monday. According to a report in Pakistani media, the foreign ministry made a suggestion to Prime Minister Imran Khan to downgrade Bangladeshi mission in Islamabad as Pakistani mission in Dhaka was being run by a consular level officer.
Pakistan’s national and provincial assemblies in recent years passed several resolutions while several of their ministers too issued statements protesting trial of the top 1971 collaborators of Pakistani troops in Bangladesh. The move prompted the foreign office in Dhaka to summon repeatedly Islamabad’s envoy to be handed down protest notes.
Five top collaborators of the Pakistani army, four being leaders of fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, which opposed the country’s 1971 independence from Pakistan, have so far been executed after their trial in Bangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal. The strained bilateral relations worsened in 2016 when Bangladesh forced Islamabad to take back three of its officials, including a woman diplomat, alleging their links to Islamist militants.
Diplomatic negotiations between the two countries are at a standstill for a few years now over Dhaka alleging Pakistani high commission of financing terrorist activities in the country. Foreign secretary-level talks have not taken place between the two countries in the past four years now.