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December 16, 2016

Pakistan Muslim Alliance starts reaching out to Bengali and Rohingya communities


December 16, 2016

With an eye on the 2018 general polls, the Pakistan Muslim Alliance, a political party representing Bengali and Rohingya communities in the city, has restructured its organisational body and started consulting community elders in various parts of the city.

In the intra-party polls held on Tuesday at its central office in the Shershah area, the party’s central executive committee members elected Bachoo Dewan, a businessman involved in the fishing industry, as chairman and SM Farooq, the party’s central leader, as president. 

Other office-bearers are: Dildar Hussain Chaudary, senior vice-president, Dr Syed Hussain Saeed, secretary general, Ali Raza Pardhan, deputy secretary general, Rehman Ghazi, secretary finance, Muhammad Aftab Alam, secretary information, and Alauddin, chief organiser.

The meeting also decided that the Bengali community, along with the Burmese or Rohingyas who have been living in the city for decades, would actively participate in the upcoming general elections.

Abu Khabbab Al-Hussaini, the PMA’s spokesperson, said the party had immense support among the Bengali and Rohingya communities in the city and their votes were very crucial for a number of national and provincial assembly seats.

“Our eyes are on the 2018 polls, where we will mobilise the community to elect the candidates of the PMA, who will resolve their fundamental issues, especially their computerized national identity cards (CNICs),” Al-Hussaini told The News.  

Although there are no official statistics available, interviews with Bengali and Rohingya community leaders and researchers suggest that there are over 1.6 million Bengalis and up to 400,000 Rohingyas living in Karachi.

In Korangi and Malir districts, there are many neighbourhoods, including Ibrahim Hyderi, Arakanabad, 100 Quarters, Arakanabad, Chashma Goth, Burmi Colony, Ali Akbar Shah Goth and Zia Colony, which are heavily dominated by the two communities. They also live in large numbers in Ziaul Haq Colony in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Machhar Colony in Keamari, Moosa Colony in FB Area and informal settlements in Orangi Town.

The PMA was formed in 2001. The party had failed to win any seats in the 2002 general elections but managed to bag a significant number of votes from Bengalis and Burmese living in Korangi and Bin Qasim.

The PMA candidates had fetched around 5,000 votes each in NA-254 Korangi and PS-129 Bin Qasim constituencies, only in Burmese and Bengali neighbourhoods.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Sher-e-Bengal (PML-SB) is another political party which also represents both communities. Dr Saleh Zahoor, a leader of the Pakistani Bengalis Charitable Association, formed the PML-SB in March 2006.

However, according to community leaders, after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had formed a special committee for the Bengali and Burmese communities called the Pakistan Bengalis Action Committee (PBAC) in 2005, the PMA abandoned its activities.

The PBAC, led by Shaikh Feroz, a former town nazim of Orangi who originally belonged to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), is was active in all the Bengali and Rohingya neighbourhoods of the city. But after the recent crackdown on the MQM and a split in the party, Feroz left the MQM few weeks ago and rejoined the PPP.

The MQM submitted a bill in the National Assembly on Wednesday, demanding that CNICs should be issued to members of the Bengali community who have been living in Karachi since before 1971.

Although the Bengalis and Rohingyas support the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Jamaat-e-Islami traditionally, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl and the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat have recently found immense support in the two communities.