(AFP) – Feb 17, 2009
DHAKA (AFP) — A Pakistani envoy has urged Dhaka to let "bygones be bygones" as he rejected Bangladeshi calls for help in prosecuting alleged war criminals.
Bangladesh's new government has said it will try suspected war criminals for murder, rape and arson committed during the country's bloody liberation struggle in 1971.
Mirza Zia Ispahani, a special envoy of Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari to Bangladesh, said late Monday both nations should now look to the future.
Ispahani said former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf apologised for the war when he visited Bangladesh during his tenure.
"We have already apologised when the former president (Musharraf) came here. He apologised. Certainly he did. Bygones should be bygones," Ispahani told reporters.
"We should not now go into this right at this moment because there are so many other issues we would like to cooperate on with Bangladesh," he added.
War crimes have been an unresolved issue in Bangladesh since the former East Pakistan won independence from Islamabad in a nine-month liberation conflict.
The government said some three million people were killed during the war with a private group which has investigated the conflict blaming dozens of top Pakistani generals, brigadiers and local Islamists allied with Islamabad for the alleged atrocities.
The Pakistan envoy's comments came after Bangladeshi police arrested two men Saturday suspected of war crimes in the 1971 conflict. They were the first arrests since 1975 when thousands of suspected war criminals were pardoned.
The plan to try the suspects follows pledges by newly elected Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and appeals by veterans of the conflict.
War crimes were a big factor in December's general elections, when veterans addressed a series of nationwide rallies telling young voters that this was the "last chance" to try suspects.
A private War Crimes Fact Finding Committee recently unveiled a list of 1,775 people it alleges were war criminals, including 16 top Pakistani generals and key leaders of the country's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami.
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