‘Govt has not done enough for us since our arrival in Pakistan’

Published: August 3, 2012

The Burmese Muslims of the city live in 60 squatter settlements which are also home to other ethnic groups. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

For Noor Muhammad, a Burmese Muslim who migrated in 1979 to Pakistan, setting foot in Karachi was a joyful moment as he thought he would be able to build a better life for his family in the absence of persecution. More than 30 years of living in squalor, he has changed his mind, like many other residents of Korangi’s Arakanabad.

Sitting in a poorly furnished room in the locality, many Burmese Muslims vented their anger and frustration. They live without basic amenities. Electricity is acquired through the kunda system and there is virtually no gas supply. They also have to rely on tankers for water. The houses in Arakanabad are dilapidated, roads are broken and there are no schools. Agitated by the lack of a sewerage system, the residents used their entire savings to lay down pipes in the area five years ago.

“Officials ask for a bribe of up to Rs25,000 to make or renew our identification cards,” said an angry young man, brandishing his expired card. Most others also feel that the government has not done enough for them since their arrival in the country. “We are grateful that the government gave us shelter. But we haven’t been given any more help since our arrival,” said Noor Mohammad, 65, as others in the room nodded in agreement.

The Burmese Muslims of the city live in 60 squatter settlements which are also home to other ethnic groups. These are mostly located near riverbeds, drains or canals and these people rely on fishing to earn a living, said social activist and sociologist Rana Asif. Arakanabad, which was named after the Arakan province in Myanmar, is one of the more heavily populated areas with around 5,000 Burmese Muslims.

The community claims that it has been a part of Pakistan long before it was created. “Our forefathers have been living in this part of the country. Others like me were born in British camps in Bangladesh before independence,” said Haji Hussain Ali, twitching his beard, as his dark skin and narrow features glowed in the sunlight.

Even though they may have to deal with their own set of problems, the Burmese Muslims in Pakistan are shocked and upset at the ethnic cleansing currently taking place in Myanmar, where the UNCHR claims that around 80,000 people have been displaced. While washing dishes in a dingy room, Ayesha, an elderly woman, started weeping as she remembered her sisters who chose to stay behind in Myanmar. “Last week, I found out that the army had set my nephew on fire,” she cried. “They are taking away men and burying them in mass graves. All of it is so horrifying.”

The community feels that the world is keeping silent about the atrocities being committed in Myanmar. Nazeer Ahmed, who recently protested at the Karachi Press Club, wants the Muslim countries and the Organisation of Islamic Conference to take action.

“It seems that misery is written in our fate. We have no place to go,” he said.

But based on his experience, Noor Mohammad feels that escaping to Pakistan is not a good solution. Whenever his relatives, who are being persecuted by the troops and citizens in Myanmar, express their desire to migrate, he squarely says, “Become martyrs there, but don’t ever make the mistake of coming to Pakistan.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.

Reader Comments (40)

  • Awans
    Aug 3, 2012 - 12:47AM

    Everyone is just whining in Pakistan that Pakistan did not give us this or that. This is our mentality as we are selfish people and we want more and more and want to give less. All of my friends complain like the above community but the question is that how many are actually contributing to build Pakistan so it can deliver now and to our next generation and the answer is less than 0.1 percent in my view. Even those want to change want to cash in with this holy work like Imran Khan is doing with Shaukat Khanum. Anyway It is my request to Rohingya Muslims that since you arrived in Pakistan then try to integrate here rather than making a new ethnic group and also please tell your next generation to become a Pakistani rather than connecting with a Muhajir Identity or with Rohingya identity. If you want something from Pakistan than rather than becoming a Rohingya and identifying yourself different from locals try to integrate.
    The problems always arises when someone reach another land and try to claim that land but always say I am not like you and never be like you and dont want to be like you but accept me and give me everything and in my view it is not gonna work at all.Recommend

  • Vikas
    Aug 3, 2012 - 1:00AM

    When Muslims commit/committed so much atrocities, they should have thought about it. At least now, they can feel the pain what their ancestors inflicted on others.

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  • B+
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:13AM

    But based on his experience, Noor Mohammad feels that escaping to Pakistan is not a good solution. Whenever his relatives, who are being persecuted by the troops and citizens in Myanmar, express their desire to migrate, he squarely says, “Become martyrs there, but don’t ever make the mistake of coming to Pakistan.”

    I think we should send him back to Myanmar so that he become martyr…Its so sad to hear that everyone always complains about Pakistan but never want to leave that is hypocrisy…whatever situation they are facing all other poor Pakistani are also facing the same issue… They should be thankful to Allah and then to Pakistan for not going through hardships which our brothers and sisters are facing in Myanmar….

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  • RS
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:14AM

    Don’t ask what country has given you, ask what you have given to the country who sheltered you

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  • Faiza
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:22AM

    People who cry out for the rights of Muslims in Burma, first look at the situation of these Burmese Muslims in your own country – a Muslim majority country

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  • Arpit
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:35AM

    “Become martyrs there, but don’t ever make the mistake of coming to Pakistan.”
    This is a slap on the face of people who call themselves champion of Muslim ummah..

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  • RS
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:38AM

    Do not ask what country has given you, ask what have given the country who provided shelter?

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  • Sarah
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:48AM

    My burmese muslim friends and all indeginious population of the country. Govt. have provided you with freedom and space. Don’t expect to be spoon fed for generations. Earn your living and respect.

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  • BLing BLing
    Aug 3, 2012 - 2:55AM

    For people to give back, they need to have something. To be fair, Pakistani government has not done anything for anyone. It is not like these Burmese Muslims are being discriminated against.

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  • entropy
    Aug 3, 2012 - 3:24AM

    This illegal immigrant has some nerve complaining about what Pakistan hasn’t done for him. He has no right to be in Pakistan in the first place.

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  • SAB
    Aug 3, 2012 - 3:36AM

    Go back to where you came from ! We already have enough in the plate !

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  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Aug 3, 2012 - 7:37AM

    If they could not build themselves in 33 years then its their own fault not Pakistan.

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  • Zalim Singh
    Aug 3, 2012 - 8:06AM

    and pakistan starts complaining about Burmese muslims persecution.

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  • Zeeshan Sheikh
    Aug 3, 2012 - 8:35AM

    Burmese have all freedom in Pakistan. they can do there business or to get a job and can live here peacefully.

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  • wahab
    Aug 3, 2012 - 8:43AM

    he squarely says, “Become martyrs there, but don’t ever make the mistake of coming to Pakistan.”

    So, why dont u just go back too?? This is why we should stop giving a crap about muslims elsewhere and focus on our own country!

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  • pl
    Aug 3, 2012 - 8:45AM

    this is the attitude of most people. everyone hates pakistan but when it comes to stealing pakistani electricity they are first in line.

    the people who hate pakistan locally and abroad are not at fault its the state who gives everyone a free ride and taxes the decent people whose only sin is they are silent.

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  • Toba Alu
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:10AM

    Surprise, surprise, now suddenly all the comments are that the Rohingyas should integrate in Pakistan society. Others are even more harsh and tell them to go back where they came from. I seem to miss something. What about backward Muslims who migrated to developed countries, they don’t have to integrate? Should we all send them back? Fortunately, we have not gone that far. I hope we never get that far either.

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  • Singh
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:30AM

    @RS:
    Please make sure give reference of JFK “Don’t ask what country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”
    Singh

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  • Awais
    Aug 3, 2012 - 10:26AM

    This is ridiculous, a country where their own citizens are not satisfied fully, how on earth this uncle is complaining about things . He should be thankful to Pakistan for the 33 years, rather saying this and that.

    Another lesson to PAKISTAN, stop helping everyone. Try to help Pakistan and Pakistani brothers, before another afghani/burmese/bangladesi starts complaining about us.

    Ridiculous to read the last line. “Become martyrs there, but don’t ever make the mistake of coming to Pakistan.” HUH.

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  • voice
    Aug 3, 2012 - 10:57AM

    pls get out from pakistan than blaming us while staying here and eating our food.

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  • Was a Pakistani
    Aug 3, 2012 - 11:16AM

    Since when govt of Pakistan has ever done anything for anyone that they expected them to come forward for them…. It’s Pakistan where corrupt flourishRecommend

  • Randomstranger
    Aug 3, 2012 - 11:32AM

    Indians should stop generalizing all Pakistanis as proponents of “ummah”. Not everyone here is a Zaid Hamid or a Maulvi. The new educated, and well travelled generation know how hollow the concept of Ummah is. Secondly, Indians should worry about India more often, and get out of the fallacy that India is the best country in the world. Massive numbers of Indian immigrants in UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Europe, muslim-majority middle east shows what a fine utopia India is…(sarcasm of course).
    @Awan: I fully endorse your comment. Everyone complains about this and that, yet only around 2% of the population pay taxes. People in Karachi don’t even pay their electricity rents, how do they expect the government to do everything for them?

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  • Aug 3, 2012 - 12:02PM

    The whole point of this news story was to provoke the public against Rohingya Burmese Muslims. Looking at the comments here, to an extent it is working.Recommend

  • Akshay, India
    Aug 3, 2012 - 12:13PM

    Pakistan should stop discriminating against Burmese Muslims and give them land and free education so that they can live a good life. Since Pak is the Champion of Muslim Ummah it should take the lead in giving Burmese Muslims a comfortable and good life.

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  • roadkashehzada
    Aug 3, 2012 - 1:11PM

    so wht he wants? ordinary pakistanis dont have shelters, their roads are badly broken and he wants that being burmeses we shud settle them in governor house???
    just an other example of pakistan helping foreigners and later foreigners bashing pakistan.
    if someone can get hold of this person, i ll finance his business class ticket back to myanmar.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Aug 3, 2012 - 1:27PM

    @Naeem Siddiqui:

    If they could not build themselves in
    33 years then its their own fault not
    Pakistan.

    And to think of it, Pak failed to build itself in 60+ years!!

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  • Aug 3, 2012 - 1:43PM

    well, our economy is so crippled that it cant help its own people then how come Pak can help out refugees? We have Afghan refugees in our university who are all the time cursing Pak people and govt, forgetting the fact that had Pak not given them shelter they would be suffering in war stricken country.

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  • Narain
    Aug 3, 2012 - 3:16PM

    @Awans:
    The problems always arises when someone reach another land and try to claim that land but always say I am not like you and never be like you and dont want to be like you but accept me and give me everything and in my view it is not gonna work at all…..

    Extremely well said.Recommend

  • Awans
    Aug 3, 2012 - 3:50PM

    @Toba Alu: In my view absolutely yes. If some Muslims wants to live in Europe then they should have a respect for their values and If they cannot then they are most welcomed back home. It is not harsh but that is how things are governed in the world for thousands of years. Migration is a constant phenomena and integration too and until recently complains too for some over ambitious Opportunistic or by Pure Selfish Economic Migrants. In the last paragraph of the article the Rohingya Bhai stated that it is better to be martyr than to live in Pakistan. So tell me the person who cannot even value freedom which Pakistan have given to them then how can he value anything else and work for this country. ??

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  • an outcast
    Aug 3, 2012 - 4:19PM

    the problem with majority of the pakistanis is that when they are told about the realities of how minorities are living in their country, they refuse to accept it and try to portray a bright picture of the condition of the communities. i myself belong to a religious minority community, living in karachi i have seen that the communities living in worse conditions are of hindus, christians, sikhs, burmese muslims and afghans. all the areas in which these people, there are no basic facilities. the reality is the government has always spoken alot for the communities but hardly done anything. i can understand the pain of this man speaking as i have seen people in my community living without electricity water and gas. no mna, no mpa ever visits these areas. while the majority enjoys these facilities and ignores the plight of the minorities. God bless pakistan and its people

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Aug 3, 2012 - 5:15PM

    @Vikas:

    At least now, they can feel the pain
    what their ancestors inflicted on
    others

    Sad part is that in most cases, it’s their own ancestors who suffered in the hands of muslim invaders and had to convert and inherit the legacy of invaders.

    Recommend

  • entropy
    Aug 3, 2012 - 5:51PM

    Toba Alu

    I seem to miss something. What about
    backward Muslims who migrated to
    developed countries, they don’t have
    to integrate?

    Absolutely they should, but the issue here wasn’t lack of integration. This Rohingya man is living illegally in Pakistan but complaining that Pakistan hasn’t done anything for him. Illegal immigrants in Pakistan should be expelled as should illegal Pakistani immigrants living in the West. Many of us Pakistanis, both on the left and on the secular right, are sick of our country being the thekadaar of Islam. We just want to improve our own country and keep our noses out of other countries affairs.

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  • Mr X from Bombay
    Aug 3, 2012 - 9:53PM

    @entropy:

    This Rohingya man is living illegally in Pakistan but complaining that Pakistan hasn’t done anything for him

    Please read the article carefully without making assumptions. Those Rohingya muslims giving interview above were “provided shelter” by Paksitani government, which means “asylum” for which he is thankful. He is complaining about the unnecessary provocation they are facing pretty similar to mohajirs in quite many town in Pakistan. My own brother in law’s wife who hails from Karachi made a shocking statement in our family gathering when we heard a news of some x number of people were killed in street violence in karachi last year. She simply said “So what……they were only mohajirs!!!”……..Such absolute lack of compassion and humanity to your fellow muslims for whom you keep on relentlessly fighting with India. When you cannot take care of what you have, why ask for more ?

    Clearly, Pakistan was and is never interested in wellfare of muslims, it’s only purpose of existence has always been 1) How to take Kashmir from India, and 2) How to humiliate India in any manner possible.

    It is joke what happens to shias, ahmadis, and other minority ethnic muslims in Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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  • Observer
    Aug 3, 2012 - 10:48PM

    Welcome to Pakistan, the the self-proclaimed leader of the Muslim Ummah, which promised an Islamic paradise to all the erstwhile Muslims of undivided India.

    Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Aug 3, 2012 - 11:06PM

    I feel the pain of the Rohinga but it is clear Burmese are just like Afghans and other ethnics in Karachi who are interested in handouts from Pakistan government and don’t believe in self reliance. I would say let us get rid of every Afghan, the community of all which never seems to be tiring of harming and bashing Pakistan. If there is a true enemy of Pakistan it is the Afghan they are not appreciative of our sacrifices for them so we should rid of every last one.
    It is time to send back all afghans and get in the Rohinga then they will feel right at home and complain till the cows come why Pakistan government has not given us jobs in Railway and PIA and given by quota to others. Now they can rejoice bc both of these organization are destined to be in grave shortly thanks to all the all the ethnicities. It is amazing Pakistan is the only state where everyone feels state has an obligation to feed everyone and best job is where you where never to show up at work and get a check staying at home …this is the Karachi way and the Pakistani way…Recommend

  • Awans
    Aug 3, 2012 - 11:58PM

    @Ahmed: Well brother Ahmed we should not generalize any community at all and I have met some Afghans who dont bash Pakistan and the people like these are living here for more than two generations and that group of people have every right to live here because those children who are born on Pakistani soil will have another identity crisis as from where they belong to. If those Afghan families who value this Pakistani society and want to be the part of it then they have every moral right to live here. Also there is another group of Afghans who are on bashing spree and yes you are right those who dont like this country obviously have no right to live as overtime they will alienate themselves from general public. I am sure there will be many among Rohingyas as well who will be living here as Active participants of society and we should value them. So in my view generalization is a pretty bad thing and we must avoid it at all costs.

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  • Observer
    Aug 4, 2012 - 12:00AM

    @Ahmed:

    “It is amazing Pakistan is the only state where everyone feels state has an obligation to feed everyone …”

    Why does that amaze you? Isn’t that the principle of an Islamic state? Doesn’t Pakistani constitution supposed to uphold Islamic values?

    Recommend

  • Bilal Khan
    Aug 4, 2012 - 2:20AM

    @Awans:
    You could give that same advice to Pakistanis living in UK, USA and Canada to start integrating yourselves with the gora community and let the next generation know that you are canadian, british or american.

    Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Aug 4, 2012 - 8:17AM

    @Observer you are entirely wrong. Islamic was supposed to be religion of not complainers and self reliant traders and merchants. If you read the history you will know that the prophet discouraged beggars and most of the all early Muslim leaders barely could afford one meal a day and by todays standard they will all poor. Even prophet himself had nothing to eat many times at home. Islam is supposed to be religion who should provide for others and ask for nothing in return if they are able bodied. Welfare state is supposed to be for ones who can’t provide for themselves.
    @Awans I have met Afghan on every continent I have not met one who has ever said one good word for Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Ijaaz
    Aug 4, 2012 - 11:49AM

    @Vikas
    Great logic you have dude. By that token, them native americans would be gleefully smiling when those two planes hit the twin towers or when madrid gets bombed right?

    Perhaps the london bombings brings a ray of warmth to the heart of the irish?

    Guys like you should be thankful that the likes of the spanish didn’t rule the Indian subcontinent. (Going by the records of the various spanish speaking hispanic countries out there), we would also have been one nation under God speaking espanol…

    If you can’t empathize with people, learn to be silent…Recommend

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