Bangladesh Turns 36: Bringing Stranded Pakistanis Home

Posted on December 16, 2007
Filed Under >Owais Mughal, Foreign Relations, Society
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Owais Mughal

Bangladesh celebrates its Independence Day36 years ago, on December 16, 1971, then East Pakistan became Bangladesh.

Last year Adil Najam had a very touching post on the same topic and I’ll strongly recommend a revisit to it here. Raza Rumi had also written a post after revisiting Dhaka recently.

I belong to a generation which did not see those times. My knowledge about this significant event of our history comes from the books I’ve read, things I have heard on the media and from elders, and from Pakistani and Bengali friends I’ve talked to.

A lot of water has passed under the bridges since then. Both nations have gone through a lot in these 36 tumultuous years. Whatever the past may have been – the good times and the bad – we at ATP pray for a bright future for both Pakistan and Bangladesh. We want to wish good luck to Bangladesh and its citizens for a bright future.

This December 16 is also time to seriously think about those Pakistanis who remain stranded in Bangladesh living in camps.

These are people who consider themselves Pakistanis, want to live in Pakistan, and whom we have ignored and forgotten. It is time to welcome them. If Pakistan can give refuge to millions of people from its western bordering country, we can welcome the few thousand who are our own, who remain stranded and stateless in Bangladesh, and who want to return to Pakistan.

Its time to bring them home!

40 Comments on “Bangladesh Turns 36: Bringing Stranded Pakistanis Home”

  1. December 17th, 2007 1:16 am

    I think they are real ‘wadday and sachay’ Pakistanis. We are living in their country. I think they are 30,000 in number. I feel grief that no political party ever talk about their return in Pakistan, except some poets and authors arranging meetings and seminars and keep it alive.

    I am again optimistic that might time came that they see their real home. The rehabilitation is not a big issue, as it was came into talks in Zia period. Iran gave commitment to provide transportation facilities and other Muslim countries also promised to gave their services. We will welcome and join hands with them.

    What my other fellows say about it??

  2. Viqar Minai says:
    December 17th, 2007 2:08 am

    The festering injustice continues to cause rift between one section of the Pakistani population and the rest. I have faith that one day they will be brought back to where they belong.

  3. ????? says:
    December 17th, 2007 4:21 am

    I feel ashamed of these 36 years that passed and more passing yet they are stranded.

  4. Rezwan says:
    December 17th, 2007 4:40 am

    There are a lot of misleading information about the whole affairs of the Bangladesh liberation war. According to a Pakistani Newspaper:

    “Only foreign media aired the news of the Fall of Dhaka on December 16, 1971. Radio Pakistan kept airing usual transmission and giving a picture of

  5. whole LOTA love says:
    December 17th, 2007 7:09 am

    its a crying shame that they are still living like refugees, no one in 36 years made a serious effort to bring them home.
    shame on all of us.

  6. Jamshed Nazar says:
    December 17th, 2007 7:17 am

    BanglaDesh should have been an independant country from day 1. The geography of the two “East and West Pakistan” regions dictated just that.
    The arrangement of such a “country” was based in a colonial mind set. Priorior to WW2, many europeon empires including France, UK, Portugal, Holland etc had constituient parts scattered across the oceans, but these parts were only functioning colonies and could never become equal parts of a “democratic” empire.

    After the birth of the new country, the center of gravity of the Pakistan movement moved from UP / Bengal to Karachi / Punjab and Bengalis were left out of the mainstream. With the abscence of an “inclusive” mentality towards Bengalis, there was no choice for them other than to create their separate sovereign identity. Good for them and shame on the west pakistanis for who were at the helm of leadership at that time for isolating the Bengalis.

    The best option for leftover migrants from Bihar / Assam, to me, appears to be that they are integrated in the mainstream Bangladeshi society. If Islam is considered as the basis of nationality, then Bangladeshis are as much, if not better, Muslims as the Pakistanis are.

    One could bring over thousands of these families out here in West Pakistan from the refugee camps of Bangla Desh. However, is it any better than living in Bangla Desh itself? Unfortunately, the dream of a golden, rocking Pakistan is just that – a pipe dream. The reality in the streets of Pakistan is no different than the reality in the streets of Dacca itself.

    I personally have no objection for anyone to move in and out of the country. Nation states are just borders of economic activity that try to integrate linguistic and cultural variations in order to create a myth of one nation.
    The people in the Bangladeshi refugee camps should be given an opportunity to move to Pakistan or stay and integrate in Bangladesh. The Pakistani Government should work with its counter part fom Bangladesh to provide such options and provide incentives for either case.

    Sitting in a camp and labelled as a refugee from an ill fated war and considered to be on the wrong side of the barbed wire of nationality, these ex-Pakistanis must be given an oppotunity to be part of the main stream society in either Pakistan, Bangladesh or both. They can even provide bridges between the two communities for times to come.

    However, to expect such, atleast from the Government of Pakistan of this time, is a bit too much. It is too busy conquering its own people in Swat, Wairistan and Balochistan etc.

  7. December 17th, 2007 9:47 am


    A good post. I agree its time the real Pakistanis our behari brothers and sisters are returned home. It is a scandal that they still sing the song for Pakistan yet successive regimes have ignored their love.

    I remember Pervez Elahi saying not much can be done because of money and ethnic issues. However I disagree as why is it we can find space and money for Soomro and his clan to perform Hajj on state expenses and the like yet cannot even build small village towns for these great people.

    To end I hope one day we are united once again in a loose federation and more on this will come inshallah in a post on my website at

    Jeeyo East and West Pakistan



  8. Abid says:
    December 17th, 2007 10:09 am

    Having spent an inspiring year of my life I can say irrefutably that Bengalis were treated as second-class citizen with little or no effective share in decision-making process and felt as colonized. The West Pakistani

  9. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 17th, 2007 10:34 am

    “I personally have no objection for anyone to move in and out of the country. Nation states are just borders of economic activity that try to integrate linguistic and cultural variations in order to create a myth of one nation”.

    Wow Jamshed Nazar. What profoundness on your part. No objection to move “in and out” of the country!!! So should Pakistan open its doors and let any body and every body in? Don’t you think there is enough chaos in the country already that you want make the doors wide open?

    “Nation states are just borders of economic activity” and “a myth of one nation”. If you are not a Pakistani then I have nothing to say to you. But if you are, then it makes me sad that you hold such a low and warped opinion about your country and your nation. I like to impress upon you that borders of Pakistan are not “just borders of economic activity”. Not to this reader at least. Borders of Pakistan are sacred and must be defended at all costs. Pakistan is not a myth. It is a reality.

    And about ethnic Bihari and Assami Muslims in Bangladesh. A 36 years old should be uprooted from his place of birth and moved 1000 miles away to a country he knows nothing about? Is it not a shame that this 36 years old person is forced to live in a refugees camp and denied his rights of citizenship at his place of birth? Bangladesh needs to absorb these people and restore their rights of full citizenship just like Pakistan did for all those who chose to migrate to Pakistan in 1947 and few years after that.

  10. December 17th, 2007 10:54 am

    I am taken aback by the contempt and hatred shown by some of the posters here for those who sacrificed their lives and property to save East Pakistan.

    The “Biharis” are better Pakistanis than the feudals who maraud Pakistan and its tax-payers….

  11. Daktar says:
    December 17th, 2007 11:20 am

    Dear Stranded Pakistani. I can only imagine the pangs of strandedness and like just about everyone else here I agree fully with the sentiments of original post. Irrespective of who is or is not a better Pakistani, we as a national have a duty and responsibility to bring all those stranded Pakistanis who consider themselves Pakistani back home. Their strandedness is a national disgrace and should be remedied. That is what the post was about also.

    Having said this, I am a little surprised at how you start your comment. It seems to me that all except one comment above sympathize with the stranded Pakistanis and agree that those who want to return to Pakistan should be allowed to and assisted in returning.

  12. Watan Aziz says:
    December 17th, 2007 12:03 pm

    Never, in the history of voluntary migration, have the Ansars opened and welcomed the Muhajirs as it happened in Pakistan and continues today. (notwithstanding the original event, for which there is also no comparison).

    Cite me one example in history of mankind where the voluntary migrants got equal treatment for jobs and property, etc. by mere show of papers.

    Cite me one example, where they became Prime Ministers, Governor Generals, Presidents, Ministers, Secretaries of Departments and ranked Officers of the Armed Services on mere arrival. Even as we speak!

    Pakistan is a land of opportunity and gratitude as well of ungrateful people, both muhajir and ansar.

    Pakistan Zindabad
    Pakistan Pa’indabad

  13. SH Kavi says:
    December 17th, 2007 12:17 pm
  14. Nayab Khan says:
    December 17th, 2007 12:20 pm

    It is time we bring them home.

  15. faraz Siddiqui says:
    December 17th, 2007 2:53 pm

    One one hand we have 2 million illegal afghans and 1 million illegal bangalis in Pakistan, but bringing back half million starnded pakistanis creates all kind of ethinic and economic problems.

    But i think, i has been 36 years. We should not give them false hope. Some parts of Paksistan can not toloreate these people. Bangalis should give them citizenship and should apologize them for their massacre of behari, just like Musharaf opologized Bengalis for “operation search lights”.

    Those of us who cry all the time about these stranded pakistanis, should create some program and fund to help these people to settle in Bangladesh.

    As for Watan Aziz, well there is a flaw in your arguement. What you said applied to migrant of another country,race or civilization. India was one country with all muslims sharing not just religion, but shared 1000 years of history. All muslims of India together struggle for Pakistan.

  16. faraz Siddiqui says:
    December 17th, 2007 3:10 pm

    Watan Aziz, India has so many examples. Their current PM, Manmohan Singh was born in Pakistani Punjab and he is even not a hindu , KL Advani who is candidate of PM of BJP was born in Sind Pakistan. They have so many army chiefs and leaders who were born in Pakistan and their families migrated to India at partition. But in India, ppl see them as their own people, not different just because they are migrated at partition.

  17. Watan Aziz says:
    December 17th, 2007 4:44 pm

    Day 1, Advani, Singh, etal, were at the bottom of the rung. They got measly few thousand rupees per family. **No property**. Take the first 10 years of India and see how many of their leaders were born on this side Ravi?

    It took three of four of them 40+ yrs to get to what on:
    Day 1, Pakistan had Governor Generals, Prime Ministers, etal. And all got property worth millions for mere show of papers.

    We got numbers in thousands, hundreds on Day 1!

    Mall, Road, Hall Road, Anarkali, etal, prime property was allocated, no some thing in Toba Tek Singh (nothing against the fine folks of Toba Tek Singh). Agri land by mega-acres in Sind. Hyderabad, Sind was virtually handed to them. Allocations in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Quetta.

    And as far as Mr. Singh is concerned, I am sure his family settled and **assimilated**. Spoke Punjabi or whatever were the local customs. Does that sound like a problem solved or problem created where they migrated? Over language?

    As for the muhajir of Pakistan, well, others have written enough about them. Both in East and in West.

    Show the gratitude to the ansars. Show the gratitude to the muhajirs. Everyone contributed to the success of Pakistan (whatever it is, and from whatever stripe we come from).

    As for the struggle, it was joint, but then enough (and no one stopped them) decided Pakistan was not worth the gamble. They bought into the argument of ’90 days of Pakistan’. Look where they are compared to their cousins to rolled the dice (and we are all grateful for them)?

    Take the current President of Pakistan. Explore where is his cousin? Lost somewhere in the valleys of Congress Party as a minor wanabe and migrated to some Southern city of India.

    Should we not walk away from the slogans that ‘we were deprived’? And close this chapter? The post was about BD!

    We should all be grateful for the joint contribution and success of muhajirs and the ansars. I am. About time everyone should be too.

  18. shahran says:
    December 17th, 2007 4:51 pm

    On 16 december we invited a guest on urdu talk radio ( who joined us on phone from a camp in chitagong. He told us his agony where he and his family remain in constant mental torture as 16 december approaches. They are being called traitor and even their children who were born in bangladesh were called as children of traitors. It gets worse as the victory day approaches.

    When asked if there is any organization from pakistan helping them he said not a single one is helping them and infact orgs from us and around the world are helping but it is a shame that none of them originate from pakistan.

    They are living in such inhuman situations that no one can imagine. Devoid of any bathrooms for taking shower, the women have to a partition of clothes with the help of their relatives so that they can take shower.

    I am surprised by the comment of pma on how can we move people from one place to another.I am not sure if he is aware of the sort of everyday torture these people are facing.

    We are all sitting comfortably in our drawing rooms discussing.just imagine if similar hatred starts happens in usa, what would you do ?

  19. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    December 17th, 2007 6:21 pm

    Shahran you have singled me out for no good reason. Bihari and Assami Muslims are rotting in concentration camps in ‘land of Bengali language’. They are citizens of Bangladesh. Their last three generations are born there. Their children speak Bengali language. Then why successive Bangladeshi governments have refused to restore their citizen rights. What is the problem. How far to carry revenge. Human suffering is same no matter what your skin color and what language you speak. If Pakistan could absorb millions of Muslims from India then why Bangladesh refuses to absorb few hundred thousands. I ask my Bengali brothers, “remove the barbed wires surrounding these concentration camps and set your Muslims brothers free. Their grand or great grand parents may have come to your land from the neighboring states of Bihar and Assam, but they are citizens of Bangladesh. Let your sense of justice prevail”.

  20. Dr. M. Baseer Haider says:
    December 17th, 2007 6:32 pm

    I think the real question to ask is whether Bengali people are in any better situation than they were pre-71 era. Does a common person get justice in Bangladesh now. Is a common person better off and have a better living conditions than one had pre-71 era. If the answer is no. Then what was their struggle for – just to get another country where instead of West Pakistani elite now Bengali elite would loot them.
    If they would have been after the real thing that is Equality and Justice for all then I guess both Bengalis and West Pakistanis would have been in a better condition today. Same mistake is being carried away by Balochi’s now, instead of demanding justice from the Governments of Pakistan and from their Baloch triabla leaders they are wasting their energies in a separatist movement. And in the end even if they will “win”, they will also soon realize that nothing really has changed.
    I think the best way to go is to join Lawyers and Tehreek-e-Insaaf movement. This seems like a long term solution for all Pakistanis.

  21. faraz Siddiqui says:
    December 17th, 2007 8:57 pm

    Stranded Pakistanis are bearing all revenge of bengalis. Their biggest crime is that they supported Pakistan in time of amry operation. I think they should have been brought back in 70′s but now we should not give them false hope.
    We should help them in settling in Bangal and should press Bangali government to give them citizenship. We have more 1 million illegal Banglais in Karachi and we can use these people as lever to press Bangali government. I think India should also play a part in it and should offer some of these ppl citizenships.

  22. Nafis says:
    December 17th, 2007 9:38 pm

    what all these fuss are all abt’??,,,,,, Don’t you guys know that those “unpriviledged”, “forgotten” people had given the citizenship of Bangladesh few months back??,,, and not only that ,they will also vote for the next parliamentiary election in ’2008. . ….. how much lesson has been taught from the past that’s should be the main concern I think,,,, to build better place and better future for next generation. as a Bangladeshi I can assure everybody we never had the feelings that they are any different than us. as a matter of fact I spent all my life as “in campus” student of “Dhaka Residential Model school and College” which happened to be next to those “Bihari Camp”( ..that’s what we used to call it and I think still ppl do.),,,, I think it’s too late to think abt’ them now,,,, as there are third generation has come who loves to get soaked in moonsoon rain and whos want to be called only ,,,” BANGLADESHI”.

  23. Rahim Khan says:
    December 17th, 2007 9:50 pm

    As I Read this article, many thoughts come to my mind, given the situation of our country. Have we learned any lessons ? or are we still on the same road, which led to 1971 disaster.

    Gen Zia and his rule, left many long-term problems for Pakistan. Since he lacked vision and legitimacy to rule effectively, he divided people of Pakistan, into factions. This not only prolonged his rule but left permanent scars on our society. Zia fanned ethnic nationalism into Pakistani society.

    Today Pakistan is highly polar society, which maybe divided into seven or eight groups. Most members of these groups do not trust other groups, anymore. I believe this is big and very basic challenge facing today’s Pakistan. How can we think as Pakistanis, not as Sindhis, Mohajirs, Punjabis, Balochis, Pathans, Kashmiris,

  24. RJ says:
    December 17th, 2007 11:00 pm

    Note: Although my following post is not directly related to the artilce under discussion, but i posted as i could not find any article related to the subject in my post. May be moderators can write article on this subject. My apologies.

    Shaikh Rashid: We are a crowd not a nation.

    Today on Geo program Meray Mutabiq I heard garbage bag of past, politician Shaikh Rashid of Rawalpindi. Defining Pakistan he said: We are a crowd not a nation.
    Unfortunately he is right. Where as Immigrant citizens of

  25. Mudassar says:
    December 18th, 2007 12:19 am

    Learning from the past and shaping the future is what required of us at this moment and with regards to that I want to forward this link of article South Asia :’united we stand’ in todays News by Navaid Hussain Please read it , it may serve food for thought for all of us.



  26. Wali says:
    December 18th, 2007 11:19 am

    >>>Faraz says:Their biggest crime is that they supported Pakistan in time of amry operation.

  27. Wali says:
    December 18th, 2007 11:29 am

    It it really funny to see those who show great concern for their ‘fellow muslim brothers’ of other countries have no respect for their fellow Pakistanis especially Sindhis.

  28. zia m says:
    December 18th, 2007 11:36 am

    Mudassar,Thanks for the link.
    It is truly thought provoking.
    It is a shame our dictators have always been busy fighting other nations wars.Education is least of their concern.

  29. F. Ch. says:
    December 18th, 2007 6:46 pm

    I just want to say two things. On Bangladesh, I wish all Bangladeshis the very best on thsi important day for them. Best of luck to you and your country.
    On the stranded Pakistanis, who are we to say who is good or bad Pakistanis. Especially Pakistanis who have themselves left their country have little right to say to those who actually want to come to and be Pakistanis that they cannot. The stranded Pakistanis should have the right to return to Pakistan and if they want to then we should do all we can to help them return and help them settle with dignity in the country they want to be part of.

  30. Faraz says:
    December 18th, 2007 11:30 pm

    “The stranded Pakistanis should have the right to return to Pakistan and if they want to then we should do all we can to help them return and help them settle with dignity in the country they want to be part of.”

    Thanks F.Ch. for some simple common sense. Somehow we manage to complicate everything, as evident from a few other responses.

  31. Kausar says:
    December 19th, 2007 12:40 am

    You are right, we owe it to the stranded Pakistanis to give them the option of returning if they want.
    Also, best wishes to all Bangladeshi friends

  32. Viqar Minai says:
    December 19th, 2007 4:41 pm

    Regardless of what anyone says, I have full faith in God(SWT) that the day will come when stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh will have their rights.

  33. Mohammad Ali says:
    December 19th, 2007 7:07 pm

    Thank you for this powerful post and raising this issue. I agree, it is time that Pakistani brought its stranded citizens back home. We have delayed this too long and it should no longer be delayed.
    Also, I would add my best wishes to all Bangladeshi people.

  34. Wahab says:
    December 19th, 2007 7:14 pm

    I also agree. We need to bring the stranded Pakistanis back. For God’s sake, they are Pakistanis and want to be in Pakistan. We shoudl welcome them with open arms and do everything we can to help the return.

    Also, I will also add my word of good wishes for Bangladesh. Ameen.

  35. Qasim says:
    December 24th, 2007 4:34 am

    Best wishes and prayers for all Bangladeshi friends.
    I agree with the writer, we should bring stranded Pakistanis back. They deserve our respect and support.

  36. Sunny says:
    January 11th, 2008 6:01 pm

    As a Bangladeshi, I’m ashamed that our government haven’t done anythign to help. A lot of the anti-Bengali actions were done by the ederly Biharis in 1971 but the young Biharis are free from blame; they should be given instant citizenship, as in if they want it. Fortunately madrassas give the young free education in the evenings. Poverty rate is decreasing in Bangladesh thanks to Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the poverty rate in our coutry goes down 2% every year so that’s a huge success. The government is in the process of granting about 133,000 biharis in Bangladesh citizenship, if I’m correct. The anger, the war, the pain are reparing among the Bengalis and insh’Allah the Biharis will live in a higher standard in the future. I pray and hope for their secure future.

  37. June 11th, 2008 11:05 pm

    All of our troubles are of our own making. We not only failed to learn important lessons from our sixty years of existence we did not not even try.
    After all is said little will be done if we don’t accept individual responsiblity for the condition of our country and society. One mission that has been sacred for our organization is to gain justice for those who were illegally deprived of their nationality. If you want our county to be a country of laws then it is incumbent upon all of us to help victims of injustice regardless of the their religion, color, language, race or any other characteristic.
    Please visit our web site noted above and help us in some material way ( we are not short of people who agree with us and approve of our goals but do nothing to help us.) God bless you all.

  38. Rawshan Iajdani says:
    November 18th, 2008 4:54 pm

    Few things needs to be clarified here to those misinformed about the real fact. Bengali people are one of the most mercyfull and lanient people I ever known of. Those pakistanis were offered citizenship long time ago in 70′s and 80′s. This is them who wanted to be in Pakistan and refused to take Bangladeshi citizenship are called stranded pakistanis. Those who stayed out of camps and remained in the main stream are still Bangladeshi and nobody ever asked them to go back. There are millions of them. Anyways this new generation of those Pakistanis dont want to go back and they speak Bengali and became Bengalis and they are like any othere bengalis here. They celebrate 21st February, 26 march, 16 dec. They are noway responsible for the crime their elders did with pakistani soldiers and their bengali collaborators.
    They should also feel lucky that they are living in peace and harmony which may not be possible if Bangladesh still with pakistan by looking at the caos the pakistan is going through till these dates.

  39. Sadia says:
    January 30th, 2011 2:00 am

    last comment was from 2008 on this blog.
    just wanted to give few information regarding this issue.

    1. In 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

    2. Some 150,000 Urdu-speaking Muslim refugees have the right to be Bangladesh citizens, a court has ruled in November,2007. The Dhaka high court ruling applies to those who were minors when Bangladesh won independence in 1971 or born after.

    3. In August 2008, the Election Commission began a drive to register the Urdu-speaking communities in the settlements around Bangladesh.This was an important first step towards integrating these minority communities into Bangladeshi society.

    bangladesh is trying to help them maybe its time pakistan can try a little more.

  40. Rony rocks says:
    March 12th, 2011 7:27 am

    Hello guys! i want to share some info! During the last caretaker ragime, the “Biharies” (they are known in this name) are offered to have voter ID! In Bangladesh if you have a viter ID, you can apply for the passport also. with the help of it you can seek for any govt service as we, the Bangladeshi nationals, do. some of them took the opportunity but few of them not! Mirpur 11 in Dhaka is the place where many Biharies are living and if you go there you will find they have the opportunity to have the education of bangla medium as well as madrasa!

    But it all depends on the backward mind which is mostly followed by Islamic fundamentalism!

    Bangladeshi people are embarassing a broader aspect of Islam where in Pakistan, i saw actually in many Paki freinds’ practice, they are much involved in findamental practice of Islam! i don’t think this is a matter of ashamed, but if someone use it to keep in backward posture in soceity i think this problem is much more related to mental probs!

    But i must say outside Dhaka, they are leading their lives in very aweful way as they are deprived of education and suffering from superstitions of Islam!

    Biharies are not treated as a “traitor”. But we call JAMAT E ISLAM and ISLAMI SATRO SHIBIR the branded traitor!and that’s why there are many movements going on to ban them and judge them in court followed by International War crome tribunal!

    So i think there is no misunderstanding of treating them badly! most of them are mingled in our mainstream, some of them couldn’t is only because of their own metality!

Have Your Say (Bol, magar piyar say)