Biharis kept waiting for passport
Despite obtaining country's citizenship, the Urdu-speaking Bihari are still being deprived of getting Bangladeshi passport as copy of the High Court (HC) verdict is yet to reach the home ministry even after eight months of the ruling.
On May 18 last year the HC ruled that about three lakh Biharis living in the country are citizens of Bangladesh.
After obtaining the citizenship, many Biharis have applied for getting passport. Though they have submitted the applications after following proper system, the passport offices have rejected the applications depriving their citizen rights, many Bihari alleged.
Secretary for Home Affairs Md Abdul Karim told The Daily Stat that the ministry is bound to follow the HC ruling but its copy yet to be received. "Without knowing the verdict clearly, we can't do anything for issuing passport to Biharis,” he said.
The passport officials are still unaware of new government policy regarding issuing passport to Biharis.
Abdur Rab Hawlader, director general of Department of Immigration and Passport said, “We didn't receive any instruction from the authorities on issuing passports to the Biharis.”
While Kafil Uddin Bhuiyan, deputy director of Regional Passport Office, Dhaka said, “We provide passport on the basis of police verification. Without police clearance, we can't do anything in issuing the passport.”
But the residents at different Bihari camps said, they are still being addressed as 'Stranded Pakistani' in police verification, which is the main barrier to get the passport. In some cases, passport officers say, without holding a permanent address, one will not eligible for getting a passport.
Mostakim, a resident of Mohammadpur Geneva camp said, "The last September, I had paid Tk 2000 against a passport but I could not manage it even after showing my national ID card.”
Meanwhile, concealing original identity, many Biharis had got passports before obtaining Bangladeshi citizenship. But they are also facing the same problem while trying to renew the passport.
Md Abbas, a resident of Wapda Bihari colony in Mirpur-10 said, “I obtained my passport in 1995 and visited India once. Recently, I have surrendered it before the passport office to renew it. But when I asked for it, they told me that it can't renew the passport without my permanent address.”
As per the HC directive, Biharis were enrolled as voter and got national ID card in last August and exercised their rights to vote first time in December 29 preliminary polls.
Md Hasan, general secretary of the Association of Young Generation of the Urdu-speaking community termed the situation of not issuing passport to them as a clear form of discrimination.
Sadakat Khan, president of Stranded Pakistanis Youth Rehabilitation Movement has urged the government for making formal announcement whether the Biharis will be eligible for getting Bangladeshi passport or not.
There are around 250,000 to 300,000 Urdu-speaking Biharis in Bangladesh. Of them, around 160,000 are languishing in 166 camps across the country, says a survey of UNHCR.
Around 4.26 lakh Biharis left Bangladesh during and after the Liberation War in 1971 while around 4 lakh opted to stay on. Following an agreement in 1974, Pakistan took back over 1 lakh, says a publication of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit of Dhaka University.
Later, Pakistan government stopped accepting applications from those willing to return and terminated the repatriation process.