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‘Bangladesh wants repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees’

‘Bangladesh wants repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees’

KARACHI: The High Comm­issioner of Bangladesh, Tarik Ahsan, has said that his country is not seeking assistance for managing Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar. Rather they want them to be repatriated.

He was replying to a question about Bangladesh having to deal with so many refugees though they had not sought any aid for it during a talk on ‘Bangladesh and the United Nations’ organised by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan at a local hotel here on Friday.

“Bangladesh already had 400,000 displaced Rohingya refugees and after the violence started on August 25, we got some 600,000 more bringing the total to around one million refugees,” he said.

“Whatever aid that we get for the Rohingya Muslim refugees will sooner or later dry up, too; so instead we want to build up international pressure on Myanmar [so they can be sent] home safely,” he said.

“For this our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed has put forth a five-point proposal for the United Nations General Assembly. Firstly, stop violence, second, to send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar, and third, for the UN to establish a safe zone inside Myanmar for the safe return of these people,” he said, adding that the fourth point was “for the international community to involve itself [in] their sustainable return and fifth, implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission on Rakhine State.”

Visa policy for Pakistan

About visa policy regarding Pakistan where many would like to visit Bangladesh but have difficulties getting a visa, the high commissioner said that visas required clearance from Bangladesh. “It is better to have someone in Bangladesh invite you, and not go there without a reference,” he said.

“There are many people in Bangladesh, too, who want to visit Pakistan and have similar problems as they face the same kind of restrictions,” he said. “Mutual understanding bet­ween the two centres can help here,” he added.

About the tourism industry in Bangladesh, he said that tourism was a promising sector with so many beaches, tea gardens, etc, but it was still in a development phase. “Ban­gladesh is a populated country full of local tourists. There is little capacity for foreign tourists right now,” he said.

Coming to the topic of his talk, the high commissioner said that the UN Charter was at the core of Bangladesh’s foreign policy. The country’s constitution mainly focuses on the fundamental rights that have been inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“Bangladesh has also made its presence felt at the UN by involving itself in various activities while being a member of the Security Council from 1979 to 1980 and from 2000 to 2001 and otherwise. In fact, Bangladesh is a member of some 20 UN bodies, including Unicef, Unesco, International Labour Organisation, Comm­ittee on Migrant Workers, etc,” he said.

“Apart from this, Bangladesh also plays an important role in world peace and development. In 2015, we [sent] our own all-women peacekeeping unit to Haiti,” he said, adding that their peacekeepers have earned the country respect of many countries.

“Bangladesh considers disarmament a key to peace building. The country is party to core disarmament treaties and conventions, including the Comp­rehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Tre­aty,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2017

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