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Bengali immigrants in Pakistan now wish they'd never left Bangladesh

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    Bengali immigrants in Pakistan now wish they'd never left Bangladesh

    You Can't Get There From Here
    Bengali immigrants in Pakistan now wish they'd never left Bangladesh
    By HANNAH BLOCH Islamabad

    When Almas Bahar Begum came to Pakistan 22 years ago, she was
    looking for a better life than the one she left behind in
    Bangladesh. She eventually raised seven children in Pakistan, but
    now, sitting on the floor of her family's two-room, tin-roofed
    house in a Karachi slum, she says it would have been better if
    she had never come. Tragedy struck last year when Almas Bahar's
    son Jaffar Ali, a fisherman, died after being jailed when he
    refused to pay a bribe to the police. Since his death, she has
    looked after Jaffar Ali's five children. "There is no future for
    them here," says the gray-haired grandmother. "The only solution
    is that I return to Bangladesh."

    But that may be impossible. In the years immediately following
    the 1971 civil war that created Bangladesh from what was formerly
    East Pakistan, hundreds of thousands of Bengalis, most of them
    illiterate laborers, migrated to Pakistan. Until several years
    ago, there was ample incentive: the Pakistani economy was doing
    relatively well while Bangladesh was an economic basket case. Now
    that Pakistan has fallen on hard times and Bangladesh is enjoying
    the fruits of liberalization and political stability, some
    refugees are trying to return. But overcrowded Bangladesh
    (pop. 130 million) is reluctant to take them. "The Bangladeshi
    government is not willing to accept people who say, 'I am
    Bangladeshi,'" complains Zia Ahmad Awan, a human rights lawyer in
    Karachi. "This is ridiculous. They want to deny this whole

    Perhaps 2 million Bengalis live in Pakistan illegally. At least 1
    million reside in Karachi alone, spread out over 82
    neighborhoods. They have become a vital part of the city's
    melting pot, working in the fishing and carpet-weaving industries
    and as domestic servants. But their illegal status means they
    face frequent police harassment, blackmail and sexual abuse-all
    without recourse, as they fear being arrested as aliens. "It is
    the hobby of police to arrest Bangladeshis," says Syed Muhammad
    Kazmi, a Karachi social worker. "When the fishermen come home,
    police know they have money and raid their houses. They take the
    women and children to extort money."

    Female immigrants face the greatest dangers. Hundreds of Bengali
    women have been forced into prostitution in Pakistan, and some
    have even been sold into slavery. Since the early 1990s, agents
    have brought women to Pakistan either by force or with promises
    of marriage and work. Once in Pakistan, "they are like chattel
    being sold," says Awan. Although such trafficking has declined in
    recent years due to stricter border controls, many Bengali women
    remain in Pakistan against their will. Consider the case of
    Anwari Begum, who as a teenager in Dhaka was drugged and brought
    to Pakistan's Punjab province 10 years ago. After a six-month
    journey across India, the girl was put up for auction with 50
    other Bengali women. All but four were sold. Her husband
    purchased Anwari for $1,800, and after an on-the-spot marriage
    ceremony and a payoff to the police, her new life began. She ran
    away a year ago, after her husband beat her. Now living in a
    Karachi women's shelter with her two children, Anwari, 28, wants
    to go home to Bangladesh. But she cannot afford the $210 for a
    one-way ticket to Dhaka. Even if she could, she has no passport,
    and obtaining a travel permit would require the help of a
    middleman who would charge an additional $150.

    Dhaka says it will accept anyone who can prove Bangladeshi
    citizenship. But it considers many Bengalis who emigrated and
    made lives for themselves across the border to be Pakistani. "My
    family doesn't know where I am," Anwari says in strongly accented
    Urdu. "I'm stuck here, I can't go back."

    A thousand kilometers away, another immigrant group is desperate
    to move the other way, to get out of Bangladesh and into
    Pakistan. The Biharis, Urdu-speaking Indians who migrated in 1947
    to East Pakistan from the Indian state of Bihar, favored the
    wrong side during the the 1971 war. To protect them from
    retaliation after the fighting, authorities herded more than
    300,000 into refugee camps. About 100,000 managed to make it to
    Pakistan illegally, but more than 200,000 remain in the camps
    today-a nuisance to Bangladesh and an embarrassment to Pakistan,
    which has repatriated only a few thousand, citing lack of
    funds. At a press conference in New York last week, Pakistan's
    military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, dismissed the idea of
    repatriating more: "I do not want to add to our difficulties. We
    have enough of them as it is." Islamabad fears the Biharis'
    presence would increase ethnic tensions, especially in troubled
    Sindh province, which already has a volatile ethnic mix. For now,
    the Biharis will stay put-just like most of the Bengalis stuck in

    With reporting by Ghulam Hasnain/Karachi and Farid Hossain/Dhaka

    I personally say if they want to go back.
    They should.
    We should exchange them for the Biharis.
    Of course pakistan gets the better deal as there are less biharis than illegal bengali immigrants.
    But The CE is right.
    Now is not the time.
    Maybe 20 30 years down the road.

    You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!


      Its interesting to note that the DEMOCRATIC government of Bangladesh is not willing to take back any of the some 2.5 million Bangladeshi's living illegally in Karachi/Sindh. In fact since their glorious independence the Bangladeshi's have followed a consistent program of depopulating overcrowded Bangladesh.

      Some 10 million Bangladeshi's live illegally in North Eastern India and a further 2 million live in Myanamar. And of course ther are 2.5 million in Southern Pakistan. Well indepedence brings with it responsibilty for your OWN citizens - if Bangladesh cant handle its own population that it has to encourage 15 million or so to emigrate to neighbouring countries, then why did it go for independence?

      Simple solution - deport 200,000 Bangladeshi's from PAK immedeiately and bring back all Biharis' to Pakistan!

      [This message has been edited by Malik73 (edited September 23, 2000).]