After “stranded Pakistanis,” stranded Rohingyas?

Nadeem Qadir
Published : 22:30, Sep 01, 2019 | Updated : 22:38, Sep 01, 2019

Nadeem QadirMore than 300,000 Biharis, the Urdu speaking people who call themselves “stranded Pakistanis” have been living in camps in several districts since 1971, refusing Bangladeshi citizenship. But Islamabad has refused to take them which are seen by some as a betrayal against those who backed them in killing and raping Bengalis.
Now the country is faced with a challenge of repatriating the 1,200,000 Rohingyas sheltered in squalid camps in the tourist town of Cox’s Bazar. Myanmar has been not been very proactive to take its people back despite signing agreements for the repatriation two years on.
Two different cases with many commonalities - there is some worrying factors spelling concern not only for the local people of Cox’s Bazar and beyond but for Bangladesh’s national security.
There should be an immediate and unconditional return of the Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine state and for any consequences during the present deadlock, the Myanmar government t should be held responsible, but not in any way Bangladesh.
Not only their population multiplied, but many of them left the camps over the years and moved into the local social system by way of securing Bangladeshi passports, setting up business and marriage ties.
Many Rohingyas have either militant links or are militants themselves, selling Islam to those in camps and outside creating a scary atmosphere. Pakistani links with Rohingyas were also found by the authorities.
Biharis from India’s Bihar state moved to “Muslim East Pakistan” during the 1947 partition of the sub-continent, but despite being in the eastern wing of Pakistan, they collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 Bangladesh war.
They still speak in Urdu and have Pakistani flags fluttering on top of their camps.
Biharis in Bangladesh are currently stateless and in need of effective citizenship. Under the tripartite agreement of 1974 between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Pakistan agreed that all persons who were employed in Pakistan Government service could be repatriated to Pakistan. After the agreement, Pakistan felt no legal obligation to grant citizenship to those Biharis who did not fall under the categories enumerated in the tripartite agreement.
Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 25, 2019. REUTERSThe well-off section of the Biharis fled to Pakistan after the independence of Bangladesh but was rehabilitated with their property and businesses returned by slain military dictator General Ziaur Rahman.
They have been supporters and many have managed voting rights, legally or illegally, and side with the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which is known for its closeness to Pakistan.
The camps have turned into criminal dens known for drug trafficking, prostitution and the smuggling of weapons, as major avenues of illegal income for them.
They enjoy free electricity, water and gas supply, but do not pay any taxes. For their convenience, many stay on in the camps with dreams of going to Pakistan after 50 years of enjoying Bangladesh’s hospitality and their own financial sustenance. Yet, there is no allegiance to Bangladesh among them, or to the ruling Awami League.
In the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, it is the same, maybe even worse. There are armed Rohingyas who could pose a serious threat to Bangladesh.
Alarmingly, Chinese intervention did not work, but why? Apparently Beijing's pressure had no effect and one might ask Beijing what was the point of this drama on its part by sending two of its diplomats to monitor a process that would fail.
The NGOs have benefitted earlier by “looking after” the Biharis or stranded Pakistanis and they were doing the same with the Rohingyas by allegedly instigating them against repatriation.
Do we have to add the Rohingyas as “stranded Myanmarese” along with the “stranded Pakistanis?’ We must get rid of both the groups as soon as possible. Both are harmful as far as our interest goes especially in the context of allegiance to our constitution.
Before it is too late, Dhaka must transfer them to Bhashanchar island, which is a paradise compared to the camps they are now living in and thus there cannot be any objection in this case. We must snub who try to stop the process.
Once they are away from the mainland, repatriation would be easier as none would be able to instigate them against Bangladesh.
We have to save Cox’s Bazar, where visitors feel insecure, and its economy, its environment and its people.
Above all we have to ensure THE security and sovereignty of Bangladesh, keeping in mind Myanmar’s intentional inclusion of St. Martin Island as its part and US Congressman proposing the annexation of Rakhine state by Dhaka, which has rebuffed such an obnoxious idea.
Nadeem Qadir is the Consulting Editor, Daily Sun and a UN Dag Hammarskjöld fellow.

***The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions and views of Bangla Tribune.