Pakistan Expels Bangladeshi Diplomat Amid Worsening ‘Spy’ Row

Tension between Bangladesh and Pakistan threatens their diplomatic relationship as both sides have hurled accusations against each other. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

DHAKA, Jan 7 – A Bangladeshi diplomat will leave the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Thursday, officials said, amid a deepening row between the two countries that has also seen a Pakistani diplomat in Dhaka expelled after being accused of spying.

Maushumi Rahman, the political counsellor at the Bangladeshi high commission in Islamabad, was declared persona non grata by Pakistani authorities and will now travel to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior foreign minister.

“There was no explanation from Islamabad,” said Alam. “They could not cite any valid reason when they asked the Bangladesh High Commission to send back the counsellor.”

Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs declined to comment on the matter when contacted by Reuters, and would not confirm if Rahman had been asked to leave the country.

Weeks of rising tension in the bilateral relationship were sparked in late November by the executions in Bangladesh of two opposition leaders convicted of crimes against humanity during the 1971 war to break away from Pakistan.

At the time, Pakistan’s foreign ministry expressed “deep concern and anguish” at the executions, describing the trials of those involved in alleged atrocities during the 1971 war as “flawed”.

In late December, Pakistan withdrew Farina Arshad, a diplomat at its high commission in Dhaka, after Bangladeshi authorities accused her of spying and involvement in financing Islamist organizations.

Pakistan said Arshad had been withdrawn after “constantly being harassed by the Bangladeshi authorities”, and it had twice summoned Bangladesh’s high commissioner to lodge protests on the issue.

It is unclear what the charges against Rahman, the Bangladeshi diplomat due to be expelled on Thursday, are.

A Bangladeshi foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the expulsion “an act of retaliation”.

On Wednesday, Bangladesh’s Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in a case against Motiur Rahman Nizami, the head of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s largest Islamist party.

Four opposition politicians, including three leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, have been convicted by a war crimes tribunal and executed since late 2013.

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