Dhaka orders army pullout from restive Chittagong region | world | Hindustan Times
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Dhaka orders army pullout from restive Chittagong region

world Updated: Jul 30, 2009 14:02 IST

The Bangladesh government has ordered its biggest troops pullout from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), its restive southeastern region that is home to minority Buddhist tribals.

The decision to withdraw a brigade of troops including three infantry battalions and 35 security camps was announced on Wednesday, honouring a treaty signed 12 years ago.

"This withdrawal process will start immediately and will conclude in September 2009," an Inter Service Public Relations department releasesaid.

With this, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina pushed forward a reconciliation process she initiated by a signing a treaty in 1997 during her earlier tenure.

Withdrawal of troops was among the pledges made by Hasina's 1996-2001 government which concluded the peace deal aiming to end two decades of bloody insurgency that began in mid-1970s when the army was deployed to help settle the Muslim population.

Many of the ethnic minority rebels immediately surrendered their arms.

While the government withdrew 200 temporary army camps, most of the pledges remained shelved, causing dissatisfaction among the communities living in the hilly terrain, New Age newspaper said.

The tribals say the process was stalled by the Khaleda Zia government that was opposed to the pact.

"As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is pledge-bound to implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Treaty signed in 1997, she directed withdrawal of the troops from the region," an official at the army headquarters told New Age.

"The government is sincere and committed to fully implement the treaty" signed to end insurgency and establish permanent peace in the CHT, the official said.

In CHT, a large Buddhist enclave was allotted to Muslim-majority Pakistan at the time of India's Partition in 1947 because Karnaphuli river, the principal source of water for the river port in Chittagong flows through it.

Tribals felt persecuted in subsequent years and revolted. The picturesque CHT is Bangladesh's major draw for tourists.