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Karachi

June 27, 2016
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No CNICs for Pakistani Bengalis means no jobs for them

Karachi

June 27, 2016

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Karachi

A number of Bengali community elders regularly gather outside an office of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in Ali Akbar Shah Goth, a Bengali-populated settlement just off the coast near Ibrahim Hyderi, to discuss the current affairs and life in general.

A common theme in these discussions is the community’s troubles relating to acquiring or renewing their national identity cards and on the afternoon of June 15, they were discussing the torturing of a 10-year-old boy at a local seminary.

A teacher at the madrasa had brutally tortured a student, Ahmed Raza, by striking him on the back of his head with a stick for his absence from the seminary the previous day, leaving the child unconscious.

“We are compelled to send our children to seminaries because we have no other choice. Every school we try to get our children enrolled in ask for the parents’ computerised national cards and the child’s form-B, which we don't have,” said Kamal Hussain, a community leader in Ali Akbar Shah Goth.

The Bengali community leaders said the non-issuance of CNICs was the biggest problem the community faced.

“Despite us being the third-generation and born in Karachi, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is not issuing us CNICs, making the community vulnerable to harassment at the hands of the law-enforcement agencies,” said Hussain.

There are around 1.6 million Bengalis in Karachi and most of them live in dozens of shantytowns in the city’s Korangi and Malir districts. There are heavily Bengali-populated neighbourhoods in Ibrahim Hyderi, Arakanabad, 100 Quarters, Arakan Abad, Chasma Goth, Burmi Colony, Ali Akbar Shah Goth and Zia Colony.

Many of them also live in Ziaul Haq Colony in Gulshen-e-Iqbal, Machar Colony in Keamari, Musa Colony in FB Area and in several informal settlements in Orangi Town.

For the Bengalis living in Karachi, the unavailability of CNICs denies them of jobs and other usual perks of being Pakistani nationals.

They cannot open bank accounts, buy cars or buy any property.

They also complained that their neighbourhoods across the city were deprived of basic civic facilities including safe drinking water and a proper sewerage system and the community members were forced to live in filthy conditions.

“Bengalis should be seen as equals as they are patriotic and have sacrificed a lot for the country,” said Muhammad Tayyab, another community elder in the area.

He added that he and his parents had Pakistani identity cards, but his children could not acquire theirs without being hassled by NADRA.

Tayyab said he was born and raised in Karachi and was most likely to die in the city, but still not accepted as a Pakistani citizen.

“Because of the non-issuance and renewal of CNICs, community members, who are mainly fishermen and garment workers, are finding it extremely hard to get jobs. For the fishermen in particular, not having a valid CNIC is as good as being jobless as maritime security officials don't let them out to the sea without valid identity papers.”

In November last year, dozens of Bengalis fishermen staged a protest at a NADRA office in the Docks area for being unable to renew their identity cards.

Rana Asif Habib, a Karachi-based human rights activist who had worked extensively with the community, said Bengalis in the city mostly belonged to the poorest strata of the society, mainly due because of their alien status in the country as well the discrimination they faced.

“Police harassment because of the unavailability of CNICs compels Bengali youngsters to join ethno-political and religious parties and criminal gangs to seek shelter and in return, these groups use them for their political and violent activities,” Habib told The News.

NADRA officials said the government had issued CNICs to Bengali-speaking people who had opted to live in Pakistan after the 1971 war.

A senior NADRA official in Islamabad said those who were repatriated by the government through normal channels i8n the post-1971 period and those who had obtained Pakistani citizenship by acquiring a naturalisation certificate from the interior ministry had also been provided with CNICs as they had provided valid documentary proof.

The NADRA official said the registration body was unable to issue CNICs to people who had arrived in Pakistan on their own using fake travel documents or avoiding border checks because they were unable to provide documents required for the issuance of a CNIC

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