Ministerial proposals: Bengalis, Biharis inching closer to citizenship

Published: March 9, 2012
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Interior ministry to brief parliamentary panel today. PHOTO: APP/FILE

Interior ministry to brief parliamentary panel today. PHOTO: APP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: 

More than three million Bengalis and Biharis living in Pakistan could finally see a change in their status if the latest recommendations made by the interior ministry see the light of day, sources said.

Under ministerial recommendations, they said, these Bengalis and Biharis would at last win full citizenship rights.

A detailed briefing is expected to be given by the ministry at today’s meeting of the parliamentary panel on interior affairs, according to a credible source in the interior ministry.

A copy of the report has already been sent to the standing committee to review and discuss the issue in detail before the meeting.

“The issue of nationality for them (Biharis and Bengalis) has become serious and a bone of contention, which is disturbing the restoration of peace,” an official source told The Express Tribune. “Bengalis and Biharis call themselves Pakistanis but according to the state law they are referred to as ‘foreigners’,” he added.

An official said that after much consideration, the government decided to go ahead with a plan to grant permanent status to them in anticipation that the step would help ease the unrest in Karachi and promote peace in the country.

A member of the PPP core committee said that although it is a welcome step, the issue must be brought up in parliament for debate and discussion.

For such sensitive cases, he added, endorsement from parliament and consensus from all concerned parties is essential and unavoidable. “Parliament should not be bypassed as the issue is very sensitive.”

The member added that Syed Qurban Ali Shah, a former Pakistan Peoples Party parliamentarian who had for long opposed the idea to legalise the Bihari-Bengali segment, said that the government should not take any step regarding the issuance of citizenships to Biharis and Bengalis as the constitution did not allow it.

A spokesperson for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), however, said that the party has no issues with the decision. The MQM would, in fact, support the move as it believes in the provision of equal rights for every person in the country, he added.

Before drawing any conclusion though, he said it would be useful to look at the comprehensive data of both groups in Pakistan. The spokesperson said that during the previous government’s tenure a department called the Alien Registration Department was established to collect the data of all those living illegally in Pakistan. “The government should initiate the idea [again] and bring it to parliament with a comprehensive data of Bihari and Bengali people in Pakistan,” he said.

When asked about the earlier opposition expressed by MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi, the spokesperson said that statements depend a lot upon the situation of the time and may vary accordingly.

In 2004, when the then government was considering issuing CNICs to Biharis and Bengalis, Rizvi was of the view that the two should not be treated equally, as Bengalis had opposed Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (22)

  • Amjad
    Mar 9, 2012 - 11:22AM

    I am sorry but why does Pakistan have to be a dumping ground for all of our neighbouring nations? Can not all these people go back to their countries of origin? We should focus on creating a positive future for native Pakistanis and not immigrants from other nations.

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  • Mar 9, 2012 - 11:32AM

    They should be given the full citizenship if we have any iota of humanity left.

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  • John B
    Mar 9, 2012 - 11:41AM

    How can PAK disenfranchise their own populace who were once called Pakistani? This should have been done the day ZAB went to Bangladesh.

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  • syed Imran
    Mar 9, 2012 - 11:42AM

    Another ploy for coming elections

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  • unbeliever
    Mar 9, 2012 - 12:00PM

    “pakistan was meant for every muslim in this subcontinent.”

    hope they prove this true

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  • PK
    Mar 9, 2012 - 12:00PM

    Give bengalis and beharis CNICs. They are our brothers and equal pakistanis. But boot out these afghanis who have destroyed the very fabric of our society.

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  • Arijit Sharma
    Mar 9, 2012 - 12:13PM

    Pakistan never talks about repatriating stranded Pakistani Biharis in Bangladesh – who are living in deplorable and squalid conditions – but is quick to pick up “the cause” of Kashmiris living in India. Why the racism ?

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  • saeed
    Mar 9, 2012 - 12:44PM

    @AMJAD kindly go and read some history…commenting without knowing the facts just shows your juvenile status..these people are living in pakistan way before 1971 and when fall of Dhaka happened they stayed here for the last so many decades they are immigrants in there own country…this should be done way way before…

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  • Mar 9, 2012 - 12:57PM

    When asked about the earlier opposition expressed by MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi, the spokesperson said that statements depend a lot upon the situation of the time and may vary accordingly

    Says a lot about the true intentions of these so-called muhajir leaders. True face.

    When Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf comes to power we will not only give the Pakistani Bengalis and Pakistani Beharis their true rights but also to those Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh.

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  • enlighten moderate
    Mar 9, 2012 - 1:09PM

    pakistan is for every1 who believes in pakistan ideology.And these Bengalis/Biharis deserve to be pakistani more than us.

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  • IZ
    Mar 9, 2012 - 1:09PM

    They were Pakistanis up till 1971 and after the war they wanted to continue to be citizens of Pakistan. It is ridiculous that they are disenfranchised. It is basic justice that they should get full citizenship rights.

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  • Sukdeep
    Mar 9, 2012 - 1:54PM

    Pakistan was created for all the muslims of india forgot…. you backstabed them closing border in 1951 [email protected]:

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  • Michael
    Mar 9, 2012 - 1:56PM

    Why does India not want back its Bihari citizens? Were they expelled from India? Like the Brits used to expel criminals to Andaman Islands?

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  • MAD
    Mar 9, 2012 - 4:17PM

    @Amjad: u forget something. if someone never renounced Pakistani citizenship i think they have the right to reclaim it.

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  • Pro Bono Publico
    Mar 9, 2012 - 7:31PM

    @Amjad:
    Please don’t forget the two-nation theory that led to the creation for land for Muslims, Pakistan. All Muslims should be welcome.

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  • sashayub
    Mar 9, 2012 - 9:19PM

    This country’s policies never seize to amaze me, the Biharis and Bengalis have been part of our nation-state as well as our history, yet they are not given full citizenship rights….while the afghans, who have proved to be no less than leeches on Pakistan’s economy as well as society, mostly hold Pakistani CNICs, without check…..on the basis of these CNICs, they apply and get exile in various european countries like germany and switzerland….while locally Pakistanis suffer because of them!

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  • Rajendra Kalkhande
    Mar 9, 2012 - 9:34PM

    Knowing Pakistan’s politics, I am very doubtful that these people will get citizenship. For these helpless people the Pakistan dream remains shattered. They are still called Bengalis, Biharis and Muhajirs, not the Pakistanis. Forget about minority rights when fellow Muslims are treated like this. In my view these neglected people are the real Pakistanis as they are the ones have sacrificed the most in the name of Islamic Pakistan.

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  • Rajeev Nidumolu
    Mar 9, 2012 - 10:05PM

    Another nail in the coffin of Two Nation Theory(TNT) by Jinnah.
    Biharis and Bengali Muslims who opted to Pakistan after partition are left on limbo as stateless persons. They do not belong to Indiaby choice , and are not accepted both in Bangladesh or Pakistan .They are stateless people
    In 1974 Pakistan accepted 170,000 Biharis from Bangladesh
    The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is not addressing the plight of the Biharis.[citation needed] In 2006 a report estimated that between 240,000 and 300,000 Biharis live in 66 crowded camps in Dhaka and 13 other regions across BangladeshIn a visit to Bangladesh in 2002,
    Pakistani president Musharraf said that while he had every sympathy for the plight of thousands of people in Bangladesh known as ‘stranded Pakistanis’, he could not allow them to emigrate to Pakistan, as Pakistan was in no position to absorb such a large number of refugees which shared no linguistic, cultural, or historical ties with Pakistan. He encouraged his Bengali counterpart not to politicize the issue and accept the refugees as citizens of the successor state of East Pakistan. Pakistani government officials have threatened to deport the more than 1.5 million illegal Bengali refugees living in its country if the issue is not resolved acceptably.[10]
    by the middle of 1972, a total of 1,008,680 Biharis were domiciled in various shanty camps spreading all over Bangladesh.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stranded_Pakistanis
    http://www.statelesspeopleinbangladesh.net/home.php

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  • Pakistani Agnostic
    Mar 10, 2012 - 12:23AM

    @Rajendra Kalkhande:
    60 percent of Afghanis have contributed immensely to national Exchequer. Most of the hotels in Norther Pakistan, carpet business in karachi, textile and shoe making factories are dominated by Afghanis. Not to mention their spending spree on housing in Karachi and Lahore which increases employment in the country and causes a positive AS shock to real estate.
    Bengalis and Biharis are also pretty well established. I personally know a few Bengali businessmen. The only thing that is not going in their favor is the citizenship

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  • Simon Khan
    Mar 11, 2012 - 4:21AM

    Dont forget Muslim Bengalis creates Pakistan, all India Muslim league was found in Dhaka current day Bangladesh! They were the driving force in creating Pakistan.

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  • True Pakistan
    Mar 11, 2012 - 8:43PM

    Bihries were responsible for killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent Bengalies (the then Pakistanis) and therefore they should not be given Pakistani citizenship. They killed fellow Pakistanis how can they be accepted as Pakistani citizens

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  • Mar 12, 2012 - 1:12AM

    @True Pakistan:
    ?!
    I believe the Pak military used the rationale of a massacre of Biharis and other non-Bengali residents by Bengali protesters and separatists to move East, because the Biharis and non-Bengalis were being attacked and needed protection, after the political turmoil where Bengalis felt their rights, as Pakistani citizens, were being usurped (which they were), hence leading to a creation to Bangladesh as Bengali citizens.

    Might as well strip the citizenship of Pakistani soldiers then of Punjab and Pashtun origins of their citizenship as well because they committed aggression and genocide for killing any Bengalis in retaliation, i.e. Pakistani citizens of the time?

    You do realize how absurd the claim is, as not every Bihari or Bengali were involved in killing each other. Indeed there are stories of bravery and protection, however, small.

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