Urdu-speaking Bangladeshis yet to get passports

January 26th, 2009 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, Jan 26 (IANS) Nine months after they were granted Bangladeshi citizenship, Urdu-speaking non-Bengalis, including many who migrated from Bihar, are yet to get their passports, a media report said. A High Court order of May 18 last year granted over 300,000 people citizenship rights and they were subsequently issued identity cards to be able to vote in last month’s general election.

But the home ministry says it has yet to receive a copy of the high court order, The Daily Star reported Monday.

Called Biharis, since a bulk of them migrated from Bihar, the Urdu-speaking non-Bengalis claimed to be Pakistanis and fought in vain to be repatriated for 36 years.

After prolonged diplomatic moves, only about 100,000 were repatriated.

After obtaining the citizenship, many Biharis have applied for passports. Though they have submitted the applications after following proper procedure, the passport offices have rejected the applications, many alleged.

Secretary for Home Affairs Mohammed Abdul Karim told the newspaper that the ministry is bound to follow the court ruling but its copy was yet to be received.

“Without knowing the verdict clearly, we can’t do anything for issuing passports 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.”

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.

Mostakim, a resident of Mohammadpur Geneva camp on the outskirs of the national capital, said: “Last September, I had paid Tk 2000 ($30) for a passport but I could not manage it even after showing my national ID card.”

Around 426,000 Biharis left Bangladesh during and after the Liberation War in 1971 while around 400,000 opted to stay on.

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