The Pakistanis who weren’t there

Settling the children of a failed theory

As I was walking up the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today.
I wish, I wish he’d stay away. [Hughes Mearns]

Most people outside Bangladesh don’t even know they exist. And Pakistan would like to leave it that way. But hundreds of thousands of ‘Biharis’ find themselves stuck in Bangladesh, for Pakistan does not want them back.

Both Bangladesh and Pakistan are at fault for the plight of these stranded Biharis. Bangladesh should take the extra step in trying to assimilate them into society. First off, give them Bangladeshi citizenship; and second, give access to all government services, including health care and education. They may not be Bengalees, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be Bangladeshis. At a minimum, an effort should be made.

But I lay most of the responsibility at the feet of Pakistan, whose brazen audacity to deny that these stranded Biharis even exist destroys their credibility as protector of all South Asia’s Muslims. When pressed about the Biharis, Pakistan consistently hems and haws: often complaining how it’s an intractable political problem. I say it’s out-and-out discrimination. These Biharis are Urdu-speaking Mohajirs, and Pakistan doesn’t want any more of them. They’ll just go to Sindh and join the MQM, upsetting Sindh nationalists in the process.

It’s an eerie reminder about how fragile Pakistan really is.[The Curry Man]

The Curry Man is overly unfair to Bangladesh. It cannot be blamed not not according citizenship to people who not only did not want it, but did not want the country itself exist in the first place. Pakistan squarely needs to confront its responsibility. It also needs to be constantly reminded of it. And this is where the Bangladeshi government has shown little initiative — it must involve the international community more actively and compel Pakistan to lauch a repatriation process.

If, on the other hand, the Bangladeshi government has no appetite for this, it should do what The Curry Man proposes: normalise their status as citizens of Bangladesh.

7 thoughts on “The Pakistanis who weren’t there”

  1. At risk of sounding callous, I feel very little remorse for them.

    If you act like a tool, prepared to get wrong end of shaft.

    Similar fate awaits our eastern neighbour.


  2. Gaurav, that really does sound callous. You’re blaming hundreds of thousands for the decisions of a few. Besides, an entire generation has grown up in the camps since 1971: what’s their crime?

    What’s hypocritical about us Pakistanis is our vocal support for the Palestinian right of return for millions, even as we refuse to repatriate a few hundred thousand Biharis.

  3. Raven,

    They have done no crime. Their forefathers persued an idea which was loyalty to Pakistan, and which makes them suspect in eyes of Bengladeshis who bore the brunt of Tikka Khan, (This ofcourse is ironical considering talibanization of Bangladesh). I did not make history and I dont have capacity to create future either.

    Regarding hypocrisy of Pakistan, I do not know, it was born out of twisted world view and ruffled egos, present generation of Pakistanis is not to be blamed for this, but I do not know how it can escape the consequences arising out of actions its forefathers took.


  4. Bangladesh will soon realise that their terrorist recruits are coming out of this pool. They are bound to do something about it now. India is doing well to bring in more troops to its eastern border before it turns ugly. I’m sensing its soon going to be another historical time in the region’s history.

  5. raven, right on. Always perplexed by the Muslim world’s over-the-top fascination/obsession with Palestine. Too bad there’s no strategic oil or water (Kashmir) or land that the “Biharis” have dominion over.

    gaurav, have to disagree with you. You’re effectively advocating collective punishment for picking the “wrong” side.

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