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Plight of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.

Posted by QB on October 3, 2007

The two hundred fifty thousand Pakistanis are stranded in Bangladesh and according to the following article UN and Red Cross has ignored them completely. Bangladesh government is taking care of them which is huge financial burden. I have to do lot more research on this subject before saying giving my opinion.
Copy the contents of this editorial with source link as most of the people never click on the link to read the contents.

Over 2.5 lakh stranded Pakistanis living in 66 camps across Bangladesh are the world’s most forgotten refugees. The plight of the refugees – better known as Biharis worsens each day.

Even though they are without a homeland, neither the United Nations nor the International Red Cross and Crescent Society recognise them as refugees. Bangladesh can ill afford these refugees but yet it has been taking care of these people for nearly three decades. The burden is becoming too much for Bangladesh to bear.

“…the stranded Pakistanis have become a burden for us…our people do not accept them either. Absence of proper initiative from the government is an impediment to the process of solving this longstanding humanitarian problem,” former President HM Ershad was quoted by a study conducted by NewsNetwork.

The camps where these stranded people are staying over three decades are the classic examples of subhuman living that has hardly any difference with animal life. Dingy and stinky atmosphere, merger of both water and sewerage lines, lack of latrines and clean water are constant threats to health. Fever, diarrhoea and other diseases are common phenomenona in the camp life.

Malnutrition of children in absence of proper food and medicine threatens their usual physical growth on one hand and absence of education turns them into dark generation on the other. There is no maternity care for mothers and no healthcare for elderly people.

Each family has been given one room — 6 feet by 6 feet. But who wants to know that these families have grown in size over the years. Sometimes, 10 people live in one room, spanning three generations. The question of privacy never comes. Some of the camps at Mohammadpur and Adamjee have become crime valleys. Theft, mugging, trafficking in drugs and prostitution continue with the placid support of local influential people, police and goons. Outsiders have easy access to these camps and get involved in criminal activities like selling drugs, illegal weapons and prostitution.

Life in the camps is fraught with insecurity, threat of vandalism and physical violence. At Mohammadpur and Mirpur camps, there were some incidents of murders for various reasons. One such murder took place at Mohammadpur Geneva Camp in July 2004 when a video shop owner was slaughtered in broad daylight.

Most of the men from the camps work as rickshaw-pullers, technicians, drivers, tailors, cooks and weavers. Mirpur Banarasi saree is all their contribution to the wedding market. Women work in garment factories and as domestic helps.

Another acute problem being faced by these stranded people is frequent moves of eviction from their camps by vested interest groups, local politicians and musclemen who sometimes enjoy the support of the local administration.

Since the cost of lands in Mirpur, Mohammadpur, Narayanganj, Syedpur or Chittagong where these people living has increased manifold, the rich people with the help of musclemen want to grab these lands to make housing plots or build multistoried buildings.

Sometimes the greedy people make arson attacks on the camps in a bid to evict them. Sometimes they apply force to displace them to clear the lands in violation of previous decisions or orders of the government. Consequently, the leaders of stranded Pakistanis are to frequently move to court, seeking justice.

Many cases against the evictions are lying in the higher courts for disposal. However, they keep on living in their camps by getting temporary court injunctions and by overcoming many odds and obstacles. What is the underlying reason behind the stalled repatriation of these stranded Pakistanis?

As per a tripartite agreement signed by India, Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1974, all the remaining Pakistanis staying in camps were to be taken back by Pakistan.

Since the repatriation process got stalled, late President Ziaul Huq, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and incumbent President Pervez Musharraf never declined to accept these Pakistanis. Instead Nawaz and Musharraf made categorical assurances to the governments in Dhaka for initiating the process of repatriation. Some may point their finger to the “Mohajir (Bihari) problem” in Karachi as Sindhis do not accept them in their province. But perceiving this reality, the Pakistan government built tin-shed houses at Mia Chunnu in Punjab for their rehabilitation with financial support from Saudi-based voluntary organisation Rabita-al-Alam-al Islami.

Former Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when he was the Punjab Chief Minister said, “I, on behalf of the people of Punjab, urge to accommodate in Punjab all the Pakistanis presently stranded in Bangladesh. However, for obvious reasons the responsibility to arrange funds for their repatriation and resettlement is of the federal government (of Pakistan).” After assuming office of the Pakistan Prime Minister, Sharif had assured both the Bangladesh government and the SPGRC delegation, led by Nasim Khan, of taking back their citizens.

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf during his official visit to Bangladesh also gave assurance to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s government to take up this humanitarian issue on priority basis, but no initiative is still in sight.

If the question of fund for repatriation and rehabilitation comes, it is not insoluble. It is understood that already there is some substantial fund raised for this purpose was learnt to have been deposited in a Pakistani bank (perhaps Habib Bank). Initiative could be taken easily to raise required fund from international voluntary organisations that are spending billions of dollars for humanitarian causes across the world. If the problem lies in the mindset of Pakistani politicians, then it needs to be solved by Pakistani politicians themselves. If Pakistan could show its magnanimity by giving shelter to refugees from different countries, including Afghanistan, why it would not take its own people to their homeland and ensure their legitimate rights to end their ordeal in camp life?

Dr Hossain, who signed the India, Bangladesh and Pakistan tripartite agreement in Delhi on April 9, 1974 was quoted by the study as saying, “There should be a meaningful discussion aimed at resolving this humanitarian problem. We had made a framework to repatriate the remaining non-Bengalis. Perhaps, the two governments do not give sufficient priority to solve this problem.” Source : Plight of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.

In due course most of the Pakistan forgot about these stranded Pakistanis who were being projected as patriots during the 1971 war and its immediate aftermath. These “patriots” of 1971 are now considered as “pariahs” by Pakistan that has stopped owning them as it fears that, on migration, they would settle in Sindh and join the ethnic political ranks of Mohajirs. The economic and the political costs just seemed too much to bear. The estimate of those now eligible for repatriation is said to be around three lakhs. However, with the advent of Mohajir (subsequently Muttahida) Quaumi Movement (MQM) as a political party representing Mohajirs, the issue of stranded Pakistanis received some attention as it was one of the demands in their charter of demands as presented to the government. MQM feels that the repatriation of these Biharis will lead to accretion in their support base. As a result, the Rabita Trust Fund was founded in 1988 to seek funds from other Islamic mainly Arab countries to help in repatriating these stranded Pakistanis. It did succeed in repatriating a few hundred families but had to give up in the face of the cool response from parties in power and the opposition. It finally froze its operations in 2001 and the process has since stopped.In order to overcome the fierce opposition of Sindhis to the settlement of these Biharis in Sindh, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif came out with a solution that entailed settling these Biharis in Punjab, In March 1999 his interior minister, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, publicly pledged to bring them to Pakistan and consequently some dwelling units were built in Punjab to house these Biharis but no tangible steps were taken by the authorities to repatriate these hapless victims.

With the passage of time and with Pakistani authorities showing no signs of taking them in, a number of these Biharis have realised that their future probably lies in Bangladesh and have accordingly appealed for Bangladeshi citizenship. Bangladesh Supreme Court in a land mark decision ruled that the citizenship can not be denied to those who were born in Bangladeshi soil after the creation of the state. However, the issue still provokes strong sentiments in Bangladesh. Many are strongly opposed to showing any leniency to these stranded Pakistanis for their role during the liberation war.

As a result these stranded Pakistanis continue to live in squalor in camps set up in Bangladesh and have no political rights. If Pakistan denies these hapless citizens their rightful share in the state, it will not only delegitimise the ‘Two Nation Theory’ but also ensure that in any future manifestation of nationalist assertion by any ethno-linguistic group as is seen in Balochistan today, no section of society would like to be seen as collaborating with the state.

However, when East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh in December 1971, the Biharis were left behind as the Pakistani army and civilians evacuated and the Bihari population in Bangladesh found themselves unwelcome in both countries. Pakistan feared a mass influx of Biharis could destabilize a fragile and culturally mixed population, and Bangladeshis scorned the Biharis for having supported and sided with the West during the war.

With little or no legal negotiation about offering the Biharis Pakistani citizenship, the Biharis (officially called stranded Pakistanis, in Bangladesh) have remained stateless for 33 years. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not addressed the plight of the Biharis. An estimated 600,000 Biharis live in 66 camps in 13 regions across Bangladesh, and an equal number have acquired Bangladeshi citizenship.

In 1990, a small number of Biharis were allowed to immigrate to Pakistan due to the efforts of MQM, which is still campaigning for their return. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Urdu: متحدہ قومی موومنٹ) generally known as MQM or simply Muttahida, is one of the largest political parties in Pakistan[citation needed].

MQM is the only Pakistani political party which grew out of a student organization. The student organization, All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization (APMSO) started on 11th June, 1978 at the University of Karachi by Altaf Hussain. Mr. Hussain remains its leader[1]. APMSO gave birth to Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) on 18th March 1984, which by 1991 “established a virtual monopoly over representation of the Urdu-speaking community in urban Sindh.” [2]

On July 26, 1997, MQM officially removed the term Muhajir from its name, and replaced it with Muttahida (“United”). to, “further the programme of national development” and to carry out “a nation-wide campaign against feudal domination.”

MQM claims to be making speedy inroads all over Pakistan

The majority of Biharis in Pakistan live in Karachi, where Orangi Town has the highest concentration of them while those in Bangladesh are allowed to live in specific camps only mostly within Dhaka city. Due to not having citizenship, most engage in odd jobs of various sorts. Wikipedia.

This is very sad that Pakistan government has abandoned their own citizens for ethic politics and Bangaleshi considered them outsider, even though they were born there, for close to Pakistan military at the time of their political struggle to free country.

This is interesting. Zia ul Haq very righteous Muslim was infact a hypocrite ignoring this stranded Pakistanis humanitarian crisis who are 250,000 only but open its border to let 3.2 million Afghans cross Pakistan border. Benazir Bhutto completely ignored this issue because she don’t want to annoy her Sindhi voters who are against these poor people settling down in that province. The other three provinces don’t welcome these Patriot who are suffering because they supported the united Pakistan cause.

Will try to fix this post in proper way whenever get time.


One Response to “Plight of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.”

  1. […] Plight of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh.The two hundred fifty thousand Pakistanis are stranded in Bangladesh and according to the following article UN and Red Cross has ignored them completely. Bangladesh government is taking care of them which is huge financial burden. … […]

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