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Where do the stranded Pakistani's belong? Bihari Muslims and their cry for help

A crucial point of discussion in regard to the Bihari Muslims has been the measures taken to cater to them since the 1970’s, especially since the Biharis talked about how the planes that were supposed to take them to Pakistan never arrived and the 300,000-minority community was stranded in one-room houses as stateless refugees. In 1981, at a conference of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, twelve international and national organizations decided to form a working group to assist Bangladesh and Pakistan in the resettlement – they resolved to create a working group to aid both countries in the transfer of Biharis. In the very same year, the Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee warned to hold mass protests including the boycott of wheat rations donated by the government of Bangladesh until and unless their repatriation was expedited. At the end of 1982, almost 4600 Biharis were resettled in Pakistan. It’s also interesting to observe that the airlift worth $1.5 million was sponsored by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other Persian Gulf states. By 1974, the Pakistani government had transferred 108,000 Biharis to Pakistan. By 1981, the number rose to 163,000.

However, despite all these measures it's absolutely imperative for us to delve deeper into how we feel about this segment of our population living in these situations and being honest with ourselves in how we would want to accommodate them, because chances are that we as a nation won't be as willing to give them the life they deserve, even if they return.

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Biharis in both Pakistan and Bangladesh live in deplorable conditions. Bangladeshi Biharis in camps not only have to deal with limited resources and finances, no opportunities (partly because of their camp address), as well as crimes and drug abuse within camps, but also the constant ostracization by Bangladesh at large. They are treated as traitors and second-class people, not even deserving of being considered citizens. In Pakistan too, they largely live in slums, with a lack of opportunities and facilities, and with their citizenship status under threat too. Both Pakistani and Bangladeshi governments need to own up to the Biharis in the respective countries, and provide them with basic rights.


Ironically, neither the UN nor the International Red Cross and Crescent Society recognize the Biharis in Bangladesh camps as refugees. They have been denied the refugee status because they are not considered displaced people. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has not addressed the plight of the Biharis. Pakistani governments disowned these people on the grounds that their entry into Pakistan would create great racial, linguistic and ethnic problems in the country and Bangladesh scorned them for having supported the enemy. In Bangladesh, despite recent progress in voter and ID registration, 41 years of non-recognition has left around 200,000 Urdu-speaking people living in abject poverty and vulnerable to discrimination. Wars and conflicts have displaced millions of people around…


You raise some interesting points. Approximately 250,000 Biharis are still trapped in Bangladesh as of right now. Both Bangladesh and Pakistan refuse to accept them. In actuality, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Sheikh Mujib's daughter, has repressed Biharis since taking office as prime minister, branding them as collaborators with the Pakistan Army in 1971, and is handing down death sentences in court. Additionally, the Bihari refugee camps have transformed into slums, forcing the formerly educated and upper-middle class Biharis to live in squalor, experience starvation, and lack access to education and healthcare facilities. Their only transgression was believing in Pakistan.

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