Condition of the Stateless in
Bangladesh and Pakistan


video 7min. 31sec.

Watch this short video clip to catch a glimpse of the condition the stateless have lived in for over three decades.
Also listen to what the stateless have to say (in Urdu). This is the first in a series of many video clips. Visit again to watch more.
(All videos are presented in Windows Media Player WMV format. Downlaod Free Windows Media Player)

What are the consequences of Statelessness for an individual? The short-term consequences of statelessness are similar to being an illegal alien. Except that illegal aliens can return to the country of their citizenship but the stateless can’t.

The consequences often start with a lack of recognition of the education, training, skills or professional achievements. From there it degenerates in to unemployment or massive underemployment, lack of economic opportunities and exploitation (by state, employers and private citizens), absence of any political rights, inability and unwillingness of the stateless to seek justice, general poverty follows with unavailability of medical care and education for the stateless and their off-spring, lack of security of person and protection of property from other citizens and the state. Inability to travel or the ability to improve one’s condition in life are just some of the consequences of statelessness. These have been proven in numerous academic studies. Statelessness is depriving these individuals from uplifting themselves and their countries.

Municipal authorities pick up garbage all over the city just not in camps.
   Stateless in Bangladesh

Majority of Biharis in Bangladesh are effectively stateless, but statelessness alone can not explain the suffering of the Biharis during all of 1971 or since the independence of Bangladesh. The anger against them was so deep rooted and widespread that it can only be described as visceral in nature. Even now more than a quarter of a century later the existence of Biharis is just barely tolerated and they suffer from all kinds of prejudices.

The treatment of non-bengalis at the hands of Mukti Bahini, and Awami League during March-April 1971 was by every measure illegal, immoral and genocidal. Eye-witness accounts of survivors have been well documented in the book titled Blood and Tears by Qutubuddin Aziz, published in 1974. (Read excerpts of Blood and Tears).

Sickness of the child is agony for the mother. What do you read in the eyes of this mother?
Medical treatment is a luxury few can afford.

To begin with Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. And without a doubt Biharis in Bangladesh have became the poorest underclass in every way. In the decades since the end of the war the Biharis continue to suffer from government imposed poverty through confiscation of property, unavailability of education and medical care, absence of economic opportunities and violation of basic human and civil rights. (Read excerpts from “Internment Camps of Bangladesh”) by Loraine Mirza.

Whatever the real or imaginary offences of the adult Bihari population in the period 1947–1971, most are either already dead or near death. The current generation of Biharis was not even born at the time of Bangladesh’s freedom, however they can not escape the stigma of being Biharis and the abject poverty that comes with being a Bihari, with an abundance of other miseries. They deserve compassion from the world and in particular from the two societies most directly related to them, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

A blind old man from Adamjee camp.
   Stateless in Pakistan
Most women do the cooking on wood fire using fallen leaves and twigs.

Now turning to the stateless in Pakistan. Pakistan’s actions in respect of this population were nothing short of immoral and illegal in the extreme. Had Pakistan taken a principled position on this issue by now this population could have rehabilitated itself and integrated in to the mainstream. Remember that this population has committed no crime in either country yet thousands who managed to reach their spiritual homeland Pakistan from 1971 to date on their own, without the approval of the Government of Pakistan are being denied education, employment, medical care and other basic civic services. Even those who came to Pakistan legally are not allowed to bring their families. Children torn away from their fathers and mothers, wives separated from their husbands. Family unification is an important feature of every policy dealing with migration of people in every country.

An elderly man from Mirpur camp.
These bamboo walls and a bunch of tin sheets pass for a shelter in the camp.

The new computerized identity cards and passports are being denied to them which makes it nearly impossible to find decent employment, and restricts their mobility. It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 such individuals in Pakistan. These persons have families, wives, children and wish nothing more than to re-build their otherwise wretched lives. They ask nothing of their government except to be allowed the permission to live in their own country with dignity that every human being deserves.

If this class of individuals grows the problems of Bangladesh and Pakistan will compound. Restoration of justice is essential not only for the victims but also for the good of Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Patients in a dilapidated clinic: Diseases of skin and digestive system are frequent.
 “No wounds are as needless as the one’s we inflict upon ourselves”

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