of the Indian sub-continent demanded and eventually created a country
for themselves. Before the British departed, India was partitioned
in to two countries. Muslim majority areas became Pakistan and the
rest became the present day India. Pakistan consisted of two provinces
East Pakistan and West Pakistan, more than a thousand miles apart.
After the partition India went through a great turmoil, and a huge
transfer of population took place. Millions of Muslims of India moved
either to West Pakistan (and are often referred to as “Mohajirs”)
or to East Pakistan (and are often referred to as “Biharis”).
Although there were many languages among the émigrés
from India, the majority spoke Urdu.
The new country Pakistan was supposed to have
received her share of the assets of undivided India, but she didn’t.
Pakistan was poor in every way imaginable, resources, trained personnel
and infra-structure. Most of the machinery of government was located
in what was now India. Pakistan was mostly agrarian, and economically
underdeveloped with almost no industry. At a time like this the founders
of the country considered it necessary to direct the new émigrés
to go to areas of the country where their services could be best utilized.
As a consequence a large number of Biharis who worked for the Railway
in India proceeded to East Pakistan and those employed with the central
government in Delhi and elsewhere in India moved to Karachi.
|After the birth of Pakistan,
Karachi was chosen as the capital, and Urdu was declared the official
national language, the language identified by Muslims of the sub-continent
as theirs. However a large segment of population, the Bengalis in
East Pakistan were very unhappy with this decision and they made it
known. The neglect of the aspirations of the East Pakistanis continued
under many governments in Pakistan. The Politicians of East Pakistan
spoke to these and many other grievances of the people of East Pakistan
and eventually achieved a convincing victory at the ballot box. The
Government of Pakistan and West Pakistani politicians were unable
to reach necessary compromises with respect to sharing of power which
resulted in a civil war.
The Biharis, the Urdu speaking minority of East Pakistan, not only
stood for a united Pakistan, they also identified with language and
culture of West Pakistan. During March-April 1971 the non-Bengali
population mainly Urdu speaking were viciously attacked during which
nearly 64,000 were killed and many more injured. Eventually the federal
government called in the armed forces to restore law and order, and
for a period of time they were successful. Due to recent disturbances
the Biharis were also very afraid of the Bengali majority. Toward
the end of 1971 the Bengali nationalists with over-whelming support
of the local population and Pakistan’s chief rival India managed
to militarily beat Pakistan.
East Pakistan had declared herself the independent state of “Bangladesh”
in March 1971 with government in exile in Calcutta. On December 15,
1971, ninty five thousand Pakistani armed forces and other personnel
surrendered in Dhaka, and were taken to India. The minority, which
cooperated with the Pakistani government, were now considered traitors
and were under assault by the Bengali majority for their language
and political views. For the protection of this population they were
given sanctuary by the International Red Cross in certain areas of
the country, which later came to be known as camps. There are still
70 camps in various parts of Bangladesh with a population of more
then 250-300,000 people. In the newly liberated Bangladesh thousands
of Biharis were killed on the streets, maimed, raped and looted. Their
homes and businesses were confiscated. They were fired from their
jobs and Bihari students were expelled from schools.
|After break-up of Pakistan
Mr. Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto hailing from the province of Sindh, became
the President of the country and had the responsibility for negotiating
release of prisoners and settlement of other outstanding issues such
as transfer of population. By this time 535,000 Pakistanis had registered
with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Bangladesh and
had indicated their preference to move to West Pakistan. However the
Pakistani Administration introduced conditions upon who or how many,
shall be accepted for repatriation to Pakistan. In the end Pakistan
accepted the return of only 173,000 Pakistanis. Introduction of limitations
and conditions on the repatriation of this population was not only
unconstitutional (according to the constitution of Pakistan) i.e.
illegal it was also an abuse of authority and an immoral act by the
Pakistani head of state. Mr. Bhutto knew that the extermination of
the citizens of his State was in progress in Bangladesh yet he chose
to deny responsibility for protection of these citizens of the Pakistan.
These Pakistanis left in Bangladesh became the first group of stateless,
because Bangladesh did not accept them as citizens either. Realizing
the government of Pakistan was not going to repatriate them, Pakistanis
in Bangladesh continued to repatriate themselves and their families
by whatever means were available to them. Government of Pakistan issued
a presidential ordinance in March 1978 stripping all Pakistanis left
in Bangladesh after December 1971 of their nationality, unilaterally,
retroactively, arbitrarily and en masse . This ordinance was and is
illegal and the sole purpose of the ordinance was to deprive a group
of citizens, the common feature of the group being their language,
of their basic right as citizens of Pakistan. There are around one
hundred thousand Pakistanis who returned without the blessing of the
Government of Pakistan, now living in Pakistan who are not recognized
as citizens and are denied all amenities of citizenship. This is the
second group of stateless. We advocate for restoration of full rights
of citizenship for both these groups.