VOL NO -367 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Sunday August 29 2010

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Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni said that the government was ready to offer nationality to thousands of Urdu-speaking people mostly languishing in refugee camps as "stranded Pakistanis" since Bangladesh's emergence in 1971, reports BSS.

"Many of the post 1971 generation 'stranded Pakistanis' took Bangladeshi nationality and the Bangladesh's door is open in offering the nationality to rest of them also," a foreign office statement Saturday quoted her telling a dialogue in London staged by British think tank Policy Exchange.

Only those, Moni said, who did not want the citizenship, were staying in Bangladesh with their stranded Pakistani or Bihari identities for the past four decades since the independence after nine months of Liberation War against Pakistan.

Nearly one million people who had migrated from India's Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to the then East Pakistan after the sub- continent's 1947 partition were left stranded in an hostile terrain since Bangladesh's Liberation War when they largely sided with Pakistani troops.

After years of negotiations, several thousand were repatriated, but the rest multiplied, living mostly in shanties called Geneva camps at different parts of the country as they waged campaigns for repatriation claiming to be "stranded Pakistanis" while Dhaka constantly asked Islamabad to take them back over the past several decades.

A large number of the young generation of the stranded Pakistanis, generally called Biharis, in recent years decided to stay back as Bangladeshis while the High Court ordered their citizenship several years ago.

"Our illusion for Pakistan has gone away . . . enough is enough," leader of the stranded Pakistanis Mohammad Ijaj Ahmed recently told the news agency.

The incumbent government in March this year took a project to construct 45 high-rise buildings to rehabilitate the stranded Pakistanis who are now living in the squalid refugee camps.

Officials said 38,667 stranded Pakistani families residing at the capital's Mohammadpur area would get permanent housing under the Tk 3.5 billion (350 crore) project as decades of negotiations yielded little results for their repatriation.

Pakistan's envoy in Dhaka last year said that his country already made "substantial efforts" to repatriate the Urdu-speaking people who opted for Pakistan 1971 as the issue remained shelved for decades since Bangladesh's independence after a nine-month long Liberation War against his country.

"Substantial efforts were made to de-relocate them under the 1974 treaty, under which many of them went to Pakistan. I am not sure how many of them still want to go to Pakistan," former Pakistani high commissioner Alamgir Babar said.



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