Since the day of its formation, Pakistan has always had a troubled relation with its erstwhile eastern part. There were a range of reasons for this. During its formation, the Pakistani elite thought that the linguistic, cultural and regional differences that both parts of Pakistan had could be overcome with the help of religious bonding but this did not happen in the long run. The West Pakistan elite refused to acknowledge or let these differences peacefully co-exist. On the contrary, in its attempts to homogenise the Pakistani nation, it tried to impose Urdu over the linguistically rich and proud Bengalis, while also trying to maintain political control over the nation despite the fact that East Pakistan had a greaterpopulation, which later on became the Secular Republic of Bangladesh. Hence, they had a greater say in the nation’s destiny. The resultant differences finally led to the emergence of East Pakistan as an independent nation, but the differences did not end there.

After the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, the relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh continued to remain sour as Pakistan refused to recognise Bangladesh as a sovereign nation and tried to delay its membership in the UN through a veto by its ally China. Other issues like repatriation of Pakistani prisoners of war, repatriation of stranded Bihari Muslims who helped Pakistani military and were declared stranded Pakistani nationals later, and the division of resources between two countries also contributed to this tension. A brief period of normalcy started in 1974 when Pakistan’s PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto invited Bangladesh’s premier Sheikh Mujib to the Islamic Summit to be held in Lahore and also formally recognised Bangladesh as a sovereign nation. Subsequent governments in Bangladesh in the late 1970s and 1980s led by Zia-ur-Rehman and Hossain Mohammad Ershad realigned Bangladesh’s foreign policy, distancing itself from old allies like India and brought it closer to Pakistan. In 1998, Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina visited Bangladesh. This trend continued during the time of Khalida Zia also, whose second term witnessed visit of Parvez Musharraf in the capacity of Pakistan’s president. A significant reason for increased warmth between both nations could be located in the alliance of Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) with pro-Pakistan Bangladesh Jamiat-e-Islami, which had opposed the independence of Pakistan.

All through this time, Pakistan’s stance on Bangladesh was dominated by two approaches. The first one, which was more dominant, was to rely on conspiracy theories and blame everything on India, denying agency to Bangladesh. The other one was a hesitant liberal approach, which acknowledged the problem yet stopped short of doing what was needed. It could be understood from the position of noted Pakistani Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Faiz was persecuted for his progressive views in Pakistan and had a good following in East Pakistan, yet he hesitated in calling the West Pakistan’s military actions in East Pakistan genocide, and condemning the West Pakistani establishment in the strictest terms. In this chapterIattempt to examine the relationship between the two countries from head to toe.