Biharis are citizens… says BANGLADESH High Court

Kudos to the Bangladeshi judiciary


Young ‘Biharis’ are BD citizens, says court

DHAKA, May 18: Bangladesh’s High Court ruled on Sunday that the children of Urdu-speaking “Bihari” Muslims awaiting repatriation to Pakistan for 37 years would be granted Bangladeshi citizenship.

“The children who were minor in 1971 or born after the independence of Bangladesh are citizens of Bangladesh,” the High Court said in a ruling over a petition by a group of Bihari Muslims pleading for Bangladeshi citizenship.

“They are also eligible to be enrolled as voters in Bangladesh,” said the ruling read out to Reuters by lawyer Hafizur Rahman Khan.

With the ruling, nearly half of about 300,000 Biharis waiting for Pakistan to accept them may become lawful citizens of Bangladesh,” Mr Khan said.

“They may also vote in the parliamentary election due in next December,” he added.

The Urdu-speaking Muslims had migrated to former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from India following the partition in 1947.

Home ministry officials said about 140,000 Biharis who were either born in Bangladesh or have expressed loyalty to the country would be granted citizenship.

The rest would continue to languish in Bangladesh refugee camps waiting for an agreement with Islamabad to take the Biharis to Pakistan.

Pakistan has avoided the issue for decades despite repeated requests by Bangladesh, leaving the Biharis in crammed, squalid camps in Dhaka and other towns, run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Bangladeshi government

The Bangladesh High Court has ruled that the children of Biharis born in present Bangladesh are Bangladeshi citizens. Considering the historical animosity toward the Biharis in Bangladesh, the High Court’s decision is laudable.

However, several hundred thousand people are still not covered by the ruling. They will continue to rot in camps, like they have since 1971.

It is still not too late for the Pakistani judiciary to do what it should have done years ago and recognize the Biharis for what the manifestly are: citizens of Pakistan.

Looking at the suffering of the Biharis we have ignored for years, I am reminded of Thomas Jefferson‘s words regarding African misery in America: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

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