Hundreds of protesters on Wednesday, tried to lay siege to the Pakistani High Commission in Dhaka, demanding its closure as they alleged that Pakistan has “challenged Bangladesh’s sovereignty” by supporting the cause of the 1971 war criminals, three of whom have been executed recently. Left-leaning Workers Party of Bangladesh, a coalition partner of the ruling Awami League, had organised the protest. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was simultaneously a coalition partner organising the rally and also a diplomat saying that Bangladesh will not sever diplomatic ties with Pakistan. How does supporting a rally to close the Pakistan office not constitute breaking diplomatic relations?

How the protesters took a Foreign Office statement from Pakistan about the Jamaat-e-Islami executions to mean an interference in sovereignty is incomprehensible. Hasina’s encouragement of such baseless allegations is only meant to alienate a moderate opposition, and make sure that her party’s maintains Indian support. There is no other reason for an anti-Pakistan protest, the war ended forty-four years ago. We have no security issues with Bangladesh, nor do we share any borders.

Such a whipping up of anti-Islam or anti-Pakistani sentiment is backfiring in Bangladesh. Over the past year, at least 40 Bangladeshi citizens, ranging from secular bloggers to liberal academics, rights activists and members of religious minorities have been gruesomely murdered by religious fanatics. While Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq had to deal with international wars and external networks of terrorists penetrating their countries, Bangladeshi extremism is home-grown thanks to the government. When atheist blogger Rajib Haider was killed in 2013, Prime Minister Hasina reacted by arresting more atheist bloggers to appease the extremist elements sending a disturbing message that those practiced their right of free speech deserved to be killed. Then her government’s ban on Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami made matters worse, encouraging religiously motivated backlashes.

Bangladesh needs to allow political space and freedom in general to its people. Turning Pakistan, a country thousands of miles away with no real political interest in Bangladesh, into an enemy is preposterous.