As Bahrain’s security forces cracked down on protesters in Manama on Wednesday, Pakistani labourers in the capital found shelter with friends and at community centres in the capital.
A Pakistani resident in Manama, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the protests were mainly a sectarian issue. “Pakistanis are being targeted because they are Sunni. They are also part of the army and police here and the protesters are asking why Pakistanis are being given passports.”
The Gulf Daily News newspaper reported that 13 Pakistanis had so far been attacked in Bahrain this week. One Pakistani was killed on Sunday.
The naturalisation of foreigners in Bahrain is viewed as an attempt to change the demographic of the population, which is largely Shia. Protests against the naturalisation of foreign workers in Manama took place earlier this month. Opposition activists estimate that up to half of Bahrain’s national security apparatus is made up of Sunnis from Jordan, Yemen and Pakistan.
“These are issues that the governments need to resolve,” he said. “Why beat up poor labourers? Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are being targeted.”
“The Pakistanis who live in small houses, particularly in Shia-dominant areas, have left their houses,” he said. “They are taking shelter with relatives and friends, as well as at the Pakistan School in Isa Town and at the Pakistan Club. At least 1,000 to 1,200 bachelors are at the club.”
The Pakistan Embassy in Manama was closed on Wednesday, said an employee who answered the phone. He said it would re-open on Thursday.
The resident said the Pakistani embassy was not very active in resolving the problems faced by the community. “There is no ambassador here and the embassy has done whatever was in its control.”
However, he expressed the hope that the situation would be resolved soon. “I do not think Pakistanis will consider leaving Bahrain just yet. We hope everything will (turn out to) be fine and God will help the government.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2011.