Pakistan is home to a myriad of religious and ethnic minorities such as the Ahmedis, Balochis, and Hindus. In recent times, there has been a lot of discourse regarding the inclusion of these communities; however, one ethnic minority has rarely been included in this discussion- The Bengali community in Pakistan.
Whenever we think about Bengalis, we think of Bangladesh and India. The thought of a Bengali population living in Pakistan almost seems like a lie. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, a significant number of Bengalis migrated to Karachi to find work. Bengalis were once the second-largest linguistic community in Karachi.
After the 1971 war and subsequent independence of Bangladesh, this community became stateless. No country was willing to take responsibility for them. These ‘Pakistani Bengalis’ have been living as second-class citizens ever since. Estimates state that this might have up to 3 million members, but the actual number is probably far greater. In this blog, I will talk about some of their major issues as residents in Pakistan in order to bring more light to these forgotten Pakistanis.
Bengalis mostly live in the 132 colonies that are situated in Karachi and its outskirts. These colonies could be only described as slums that are rife with poverty, disease, and overpopulation. The residents lead a miserable quality of life due to a limited supply of clean drinking water, electricity, and gas. Perhaps the greatest problem they face is their struggle to get recognized as citizens of Pakistan. At present, these Bengalis cannot get registered as citizens and get an Identity card. Consequently, they are denied basic human rights. Members of this community cannot vote or attend public schools. They can’t get access to public healthcare or find formal work. They are often harassed by the police and by other citizens.
Before getting elected, Imran Khan promised to provide relief to this oppressed community and recognize them as citizens of the nation. However, this promise was not kept and the plight of the Pakistani Bengalis continues to this day.