Bengali immigrants in Karachi polarised over violence in Bangladesh

Published: April 3, 2013

Syed Hussain, a Bengali immigrant from Mehran town, feels hurt by the unjust treatment of Muslims in Bangladesh. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Syed Hussain, a Bengali immigrant from Mehran town, feels hurt by the unjust treatment of Muslims in Bangladesh. PHOTO: EXPRESS
Mohammed Noor, a second generation Bengali, cannot relate to the events in Bangladesh. PHOTO: EXPRESS Aziz, a Bengali immigrant from Bilal Town, views the violence in Bangladesh as an Indian conspiracy. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: As tensions persist in Bangladesh over the sentencing of those involved in ‘crimes against humanity’ during the 1971 Bangladesh War, the Bengali-speaking community in Karachi remains hugely divided over the events in their country of origin.

The protests in Bangladesh sparked on February 5, when the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced Abdul Quader Molla, the assistant secretary-general of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami to life in prison after he was convicted of war crimes. Later, protesters expanded their demands to include a complete ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, along with its supporters and affiliates on grounds of being involved in genocide and crimes against humanity. A counter-protest was launched by the Jamaat-e-Islami, demanding the release of its accused and convicted members.

The protests turned violent on February 28 after after the death sentence of Delwar Hossain Sayidee, a leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, who was convicted for murder, looting, rape, arson and forced conversion of non-Muslims. Till date, nearly 800 people have been injured and over 100 people have lost their lives in the following clashes, including online activists and bloggers.

The prevailing violence in Bangladesh is a source of pain for Murtaza Mashooqullah, a private businessman who migrated to Karachi from Dhaka in 1969. “Bangladesh has progressed so much over the years, the economy is much stronger, and the literacy level is much higher,” said Mashooqullah. “It is sad to see such a thriving country suffer because of past events. Over time one has to learn to forget and forgive.”

On the other hand, Brigadier (retd) Ayaz Peer Mohammed, also of Bengali origin views the protests as a sign of secularism and progress for the Bengali society in the long run. Supporters of the protests in Bangladesh have welcomed the conviction and called for a complete isolation of religious parties from politics. “I wish we had the guts to do the same thing over here,” he said.

Abdul Aziz, a Bengali immigrant, currently residing in Bilal Town, Korangi, views the current violence in Bangladesh as a testimony to the mistreatment of Bengali Muslims in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. “Those of us who stayed in Bangladesh and helped the Pakistani army are being imprisoned and killed by the government there. And the Pakistani government does not recognise those who came here either.”

Syed Hussain, a resident of Mehran Town in Korangi, who migrated to Karachi in 1969, also shares the same opinion. “We might have left Bangladesh, but if our Muslim brothers are being treated unjustly anywhere, it hurts us,” he said.

The residents noticed, nevertheless, that the Pakistani government is silent over the issue. Aziz and Hussain believed that the Pakistani government had a responsibility to step up and support the Muslims who had helped the Pakistani army in 1971, others felt that the government owed an apology to the people of Bangladesh for the events of 1971.

“It’s strange that we are bothered by the atrocities in Palestine and Kashmir but are oblivious to a place that was once a part of us,” said Mashooqullah.

Bahram Hussain, a Karachi-based private businessman of Bengali origin, also believes that Pakistan needs to apologise but it will have to come from a democratic government, rather than a military one.

For the second and third generation Bengalis, born in Pakistan, the conflict in Bangladesh does not hold much meaning. “We are more concerned with the problems that we face here in Pakistan,” said Mohammed Noor, a day labourer, whose parents belonged to Bangladesh. “We can’t apply for most of the jobs or vote because we don’t have an identity card and we are constantly harassed by the authorities here for being Bengalis.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (23)

  • Ammar
    Apr 3, 2013 - 1:30AM

    On the other hand, Brigadier (retd) Ayaz Peer Mohammed, also of Bengali origin views the protests as a sign of secularism and progress for the Bengali society in the long run. Supporters of the protests in Bangladesh have welcomed the conviction and called for a complete isolation of religious parties from politics. “I wish we had the guts to do the same thing over here,” he said.

    Well said Ayaz.

    Recommend

  • Syed Karim
    Apr 3, 2013 - 2:00AM

    During the last four elections, the opposition resorted to violence, shutdowns, and mayhem. This is the way the oppostion can show that the ruling party is weak and inept. Whoever controls the street wins the elections. The ruse worked every time and the opposition swept into power.

    The 1971 war crimes trials is being used an excuse.

    In South Asia, democracy is a facade; what prevails there is ‘pandacracy’ (elections and thug power).

    Recommend

  • Rafi Ka Deewana
    Apr 3, 2013 - 5:04AM

    @Syed Karim: “In South Asia, democracy is a facade; what prevails there is ‘pandacracy’ ”

    It is a facade because we don’t give it an opportunity to thrive. Our patience level is low. Democracy has to mature, but no one gives it a chance. India is a good example where democracy is maturing slowly and slowly. Bangladesh is on the same route. Pakistan has the least patience.

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  • Fedup Pakistani
    Apr 3, 2013 - 7:06AM

    Bengalis stuck in Pakistan should seek refuge in India….when Pakistan cannot take care of its Muslims, then let alone the other communities….

    Recommend

  • Apr 3, 2013 - 7:12AM

    Soon after his speech, at around 12:30pm, a white microbus, parked east
    of the BNP headquarters near Gazi Tower, was set on fire. An ATN News OB
    van and another private car were also set ablaze.

    BNP leaders Fakhrul and Abdullah Al Noman hurried into the office and sealed the gates, Suman Mahmud reported.

    ATN News Correspondent Touhid Hassan told bdnews24.com that media persons rushed to the scene on seeing the microbus in flames.

    Mohammad Solaiman was lying beside the van with burn injuries, Touhid said.

    Three
    youths poured inflammable liquids and set the van on fire, he said
    citing Solaiman. The driver could barely make it out of the van

    Recommend

  • Apr 3, 2013 - 8:00AM

    @Syed Karim:

    “In South Asia, democracy is a facade; what prevails there is ‘pandacracy’ (elections and thug power).”

    I hate it when Pakistanis use South Asia to describe their own country. India is 80% of South Asia. India is Democratic and Progressive.

    Don’t include India in your generalisations, which rather refer to the Muslim world, than South Asia.

    In South Asia, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are Democracies, with actual civilian supremacy. We all are nothing like Pakistan.

    Pakistan has more to do with the Muslim world and/or the Arab world than South Asia. Most Muslim countries are seeing calls for Sharia and whatnot, same as Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Saif Imtyiaz
    Apr 3, 2013 - 8:14AM

    The Muslim Bengali’s are back after a long sleep of over 40 years, they are going to be the ones who change the face of South Asia again.

    Bengalis are the ones who kicked the British out of India, we should be greatful, they were the main engine in the creation of Pakistan and then Bangladesh.

    One race so much power, the Bengali race has created countries and kicked out the imperial powers, we have a lot to thank for our Muslim Bengali brothers. Bravo.

    Pakistan Bangladesh Zindabaad.

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  • Apr 3, 2013 - 11:00AM

    @Saif Imtyiaz:

    “Bengalis are the ones who kicked the British out of India”

    Huh? Bengalis did play a part in kicking the British out of India. People like Subash Chandra Bose did his bit, but I am sure you mean Muslims from Bengal.

    Can you please same some guys who are Muslims, went to jail or sat on hunger strikes or sacrificed their lives AND chose Pakistan over India?

    Because I know none.. All of the guys who sacrificed their lives for India, stayed in India. As far as I know not one Muslim Leaguer has contributed notably to the freedom struggle, especially Jinnah, who hasn’t spent a day in Jail.

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  • TruthNFacts
    Apr 3, 2013 - 2:55PM

    Tribune, please, conduct a survey about the civil rights Bengali-Pakistanis possess in Pakistan. In fact, the problem Bengali-Pakistanis have been facing for years is multifaceted in nature. Karachiites personally know that a vast majority of 2nd and 3rd generation Bengali-Pakistanis, who are actually Pakistani born citizens, are denied of CNIC and other basic human rights. Because of extreme segregation, discrimination, and denial of civil rights; they do not have access to compulsory education, health, and employment. Consequently, they do not have any share in white collar private and public sector jobs, with the exception of menial jobs. They are forced to work in sectors which are unsafe and highly underpaid. As a result, they face exploitation, mistreatment, and discrimination. This also yields a cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and poor standard of living for them. It is a very common practice in Karachi that police arrest their youth occasionally, for no apparent reasons, and demand bribes for release. Failure to comply with illegal demands of police, results in humiliation, torture, and stay behind the bars for years. This forces them to live under constant fear and permanent tension. It is also extremely unfortunate that no political party raises voice for the rights of Bengali-Pakistanis. Isn’t it time for us to highlight the issue in mainstream media and fight for the civil rights of these underprivileged people. Please put pressure on political parties so that they make it part of their political agenda in the next upcoming elections to award civil rights to Bengali-Pakistanis.

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  • G. Din
    Apr 3, 2013 - 5:01PM

    @Fedup Pakistani:
    Bengalis stuck in Pakistan should seek refuge in India….when Pakistan cannot take care of its Muslims, then let alone the other communities….
    So now, Bangladeshis Muslims are also excommunicated. They are probably jumping for joy over there.

    Recommend

  • anwar kamal
    Apr 3, 2013 - 7:16PM

    Thanks to Mr.Ayaz peer Mohammad for your appropriate comments.

    Recommend

  • Saif Imtyiaz
    Apr 3, 2013 - 10:26PM

    Look, I am educated to a degree level and a full blooded Pakistani, we have to live up to the truth now. Without Bengali Muslims we would not have had Pakistan, its only because of them we have a country and that is factual.

    So what if East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Ghosh countries do break up but the main thing is Bangladesh is a full blooded Muslim country to the bones and that is the main thing

    Maybe I am the first Pakistani to admit it, I come from a Punjabi background and I will not deny like other’s in Pakistan that I have traces of Bengali blood in me so do rest of Pakistan and that is what makes us Pure Pakistani’s, Bangladeshi’s have been asleep along time now they are all educated in higher levels around the world and there is no hiding the truth from the new generation of Bangladeshi’s.

    We need to economically tie ourselves to Bangladesh now and move on and diversify ourselves.

    Pakistan Bangladesh Zindabad

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  • @Brute Force
    Apr 4, 2013 - 7:24PM

    Raja Habib ur Rahman Khan (1913–1978) was an Indian freedom fighter during British colonial rule of India, Rahman was an officer in the Indian National Army (INA) who was charged with “waging war against His Majesty the King Emperor”. Along with Gen. Shah Nawaz Khan, Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal & Col. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, he was tried by the British at the end ofWorld War II in the famous INA trials that Educate ovember 5, 1945 at Red Fort. Rahman also played an important role in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Khan was one of greatest and most celebrated heroes of the war to liberate Kashmir from Dogra rule. Fought against Maharaja Hari Singh’s Dogra army and conquered Bhimber inIndo-Pakistani War of 1947. During the Jammu & Kashmir agitation for freedom, he trained many people of the area as Mujahids to fight against the Dogra army for freedom.Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.

    HideAwards and honours

    In recognition of his contribution to the freedom struggle the Azad Jammu and KashmirGovernment, awarded Khan the following honours:Fateh-e-Bhimber (Liberator of Bhimber).Fakhr-e-KashmirGhazi-e-KashmirThe Degree college of Bhimber is named after him.Government of Pakistan awarded him the Civil and Military honors Sitara-e-Pakistan Nishan-e-Imtiaz(Military), Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, Tamgha-i-Khidmat(Military)

    Educate yourself, son.

    Express Tribune, how about you publish this for once.

    Recommend

  • @Brute Force
    Apr 4, 2013 - 7:29PM

    So on the one hand you claim Pakistanis are deluded to call themselves Arabs, on the other you bash us whenever we associate ourself with South Asia…brilliant…

    And you’re saying there is no political violence in India? Non? Yes, India is so . progressive that you forgot the Lok Sabha representative from Arunachal caught masturbating…brilliant yet again.

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  • Apr 4, 2013 - 9:38PM

    @@Brute Force:

    I would like to thank you for introducing a guy who had fought the British, that I didn’t know.

    But, lets me state my question again. This is what I said,”As far as I know not one Muslim Leaguer has contributed notably to the freedom struggle, especially Jinnah, who hasn’t spent a day in Jail.”

    I googled a bit and nowwhere was it mentioned he joined the Muslim League. His home was in newly formed Pakistan, why would he move?

    Bacha Khan said,”You have thrown us to the wolves”, when he learned of Pakistan. This is a guy who fought for India, a truly great man. He didn’t move to India, either. Doesn’t mean he is a Muslim Leaguer.

    My question remains: In the top 3 or top 5 of the Muslim League, has anyone contributed in any real way to the Freedom Struggle?

    Jinnah is falsely claimed as a Freedom Fighter, when all he did was call for Direct Action day against Hindus, which resulted in the death of 5000 in Bengal alone. Liaquat and Suhrawardy were Feudals. Khaliquzzaman too was no Freedom Fighter.

    Do you consider Bacha Khan Pakistani or Indian?

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  • Apr 4, 2013 - 9:52PM

    @@Brute Force:

    “So on the one hand you claim Pakistanis are deluded to call themselves Arabs”

    Where have I claimed that?

    My point is Pakistan is becoming less and less like India, more and more like the rest of the Muslim World, even Arab world. Not just me people like NFP also say the same thing.

    I rather not have Pakistanis associate themselves with South Asia, especially when talking about their ills, specific to them. Geography cannot be changed, but culture can evolve.

    Geographically Pakistan IS in South Asia, no doubt. But, culturally, politically and sociologically its nothing like India. India forms 80% of South Asia.

    “And you’re saying there is no political violence in India? “

    Political violence is in Latin America too. Europe too sees clashes, like it happened in Greece recently. Doesn’t mean Pakistan belongs to either Europe or Latin America does it!

    Political violence is present in a lot of countries, all over the world. Even Egypt. But, what is happening in Pakistan is not Political Violence, but Terrorism, Religious Terror, Religious Violence, which has assumed Political proportions.

    Regarding the MP who was caught watching some sexually explicit video. I guess you have not heard of the adventures of Italian PM and his ways… Do google. Would you call Italy backward?

    Pakistan is backward because it is a backward idea, a nation based on Religion, which broke off 24 years into birth; Where Religious violence is a norm, whose Constitution discriminates against minorities; Where festivals are banned because their origins were non-Muslim(Basant was banned citing law and order problems, but we all know the real story, don’t we..).

    No where in South Asia such things happen, only in Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world. So, yeah, Pakistan is more and more part of the Muslim world, than South Asia.

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  • Wasif Ajmal
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:01PM

    India broke became 2 nation Pakistan and India, East Pakistan now Bangladesh which makes it 3 nation now.

    India has so many different tribes and race

    Pakistan has so many different tribes and race

    And finally

    Bangladesh only has Bengali race only

    Do you picture this !!, Bengalis are 100 years ahead of us as they created their own country Bangladesh only for Bengali Muslims.

    Example: Punjabi or Gujerati race to achieve their own country including Pakistan and India well !!!, all the Race combined in Pakistan and India are 100 years well behind the Bangladeshi Bengali Muslims.

    Wake up see what the Muslim Bengali’s have achieved, Bengali Muslims are looked down upon by Pakistan and India, the reality is Bengali Muslims look down upon Pakistan and India as they are the ones having the last laugh due to having their own country, I wish well for my Bengali Muslim brothers in Bangladesh, very clever.

    Pakistan Zindabaad

    Recommend

  • Wasif Ajmal
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:05PM

    India broke became 2 nation Pakistan and India, East Pakistan now Bangladesh which makes it 3 nation now.

    India has so many different tribes and race

    Pakistan has so many different tribes and race

    And finally

    Bangladesh only has Bengali race only

    Do you picture this !!, Bengalis are 100 years ahead of us as they created their own country Bangladesh only for Bengali Muslims.

    Example: Punjabi or Gujerati race to achieve their own country including Pakistan and India well !!!, all the Race combined in Pakistan and India are 100 years well behind the Bangladeshi Bengali Muslims.

    Wake up see what the Muslim Bengali’s have achieved, Bengali Muslims are looked down upon by Pakistan and India, the reality is Bengali Muslims look down upon Pakistan and India as they are the ones having the last laugh due to having their own country, I wish well for my Bengali Muslim brothers in Bangladesh, very clever.

    Pakistan ZindabaadRecommend

  • Imran Raja
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:20PM

    @Wasim Ajmal, so true.

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  • @Brute Force
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:33PM

    Forgive me for saying this, but you’re really not a very intelligent or mature commenter. You practice deflection, forgetting that you’d asked for the name of a single Muslim freedom fighter who opted for Pakistan, then changed and asked for a Muslim Leaguer.

    I really can’t be bothered to read much of what you said because you seem to know very little about topics you seem to feel so strongly about. “Basant – you’re banning your festivals”
    Now had you done the least bit of research, yes, this little thing called research you’d have found that the strings used to make Basant kites were being mixed with glass, and this led to a number of children being accidentally decapitated in Lahore, which led to a public outcry and the banning of Basant. However, if you’d done some more “research” you’d have found that people were flying kites regardless.

    You Indians can be trusted to turn any debate into a trial on Jinnah and a bash session on Pakistan. I have faith in my country. What I don’t have faith in is your ability to reply to a question with an answer – the debate was over “pendacracy” which you said applied only to Pakistan. I defined pendacracy as political violence and you readily accepted India has political violence. The rest was your warping of the simple observation by a commenter into a classic Pakistan bash session, even though you accepted the basic premise only just now.

    Grow up, son

    ET you love to end the debate when you see fit, pls don’t crush my post like you have before.

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  • RBG
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:44AM

    @BruteForce haven’t u heard of names like Kazi Nazrul Islam, A K Fazlul Huq, H S Suhrawady, Maulana Bhashani..?? It’s unfortunate that Indians and Pakistanis do not remember the role of Bengali Muslims in stirring revolution against the Raj.

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  • MK
    Apr 26, 2013 - 3:53AM

    @BruteForce the greatest revolutionary poet of the freedom struggle, Kazi Nazrul Islam, was a Bengali Muslim. And Nazrul is Bangladesh’s national personification.

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  • Apr 26, 2013 - 11:57AM

    @MK:
    @RBG:

    I quote myself from above: “As far as I know not one Muslim Leaguer has contributed notably to the freedom struggle, especially Jinnah, who hasn’t spent a day in Jail.”

    Thanks for introducing me to some new names, but the Kazi Nazrul Islam never belonged to Muslim League. Fazlul Haq never went to jail. Suhrawardy was a Feudal lord responsible for the Direct Day massacre, who the CM of Bengal then. Bashani never went jail.

    What my point is: Nobody of worth from Muslim League can be considered at par with the real Freedom Fighters, the guys who went to went to jail and/or gave up their lives to British bullets.

    What my point was not: No Bengali Muslim contribute. Because that is clearly not true. Nor did I mean it was only Hindus who fought the British. Maulana Azad, Ali Brothers, Bacha Khan(He said to Gandhi after he got the news of Pakistan,”You have thrown us to the wolves”. Pretty clear who the “wolves” are) are some of the Muslims who fought for India, not Indians.

    None of the people fit the bill that you mentioned. It was the Congress which fought the British, Muslim League fought the Congress. Gandhi, Nehru, Subash Chandra Bose, all went to British jails and were despised by them. ML was a party of Feudalists, who feared the impending Land Reforms Nehru swore he would push through and hence went running to ML.

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