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News Analysis |

Amid all the hue and cries of the city of Karachi, there resides, the silent group of people in the suburbs of the Port city, who are still ensnared in their everyday frustrating battle of painting their identities in compliance of the Citizen Act of Pakistan.

For thousands of Bengalis living in the impoverished areas of the city, the question of who they are is their companion, day out and night. Suffering from abject poverty, the ethnic groups moans over the governments’ inability to facilitate them in getting the Computerized National Identity Card, despite many of the members of the community living here, even before the fall of Dhaka in December 1971.

A vast majority of both the legal and illegal immigrants were successful in this venture when cards were made manually, and additionally, all of them also got their CNIC in 2000s.

The estimated figures of the total number of Bengalis currently living and working in Karachi, according to an informal survey carried by Pak Muslim Alliance, a party famous among the Bengalis, is around two million. They are scattered in about 105 settlements across the city, including Orangi Town (in district west), Ibrahim Hyderi and Bilal Colony (in Malir district), Ziaul Haq Colony and Moosa Colony (in district central), Machar Colony and Lyari’s Bengali Para (in district south). Moreover, this population works as the laborers and daily-wage staff in nearby factories or as fishermen.

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This population is a mixture of legitimate citizens and majority of illegal Bengali migrants who flocked to Pakistan during 1980’s. Bengali migrant residents, at the beginning, had two ways, either legal or illegal to get their cards transferred to CNIC. A vast majority of both the legal and illegal immigrants were successful in this venture when cards were made manually, and additionally, all of them also got their CNIC in 2000s.

The problem arose once more for many of the minority members when their CNIC expired in 2014, and since then the government’s stricter stance, have caused their request of renewal turned down.

According to NADRA, their inability to produce any proof of their Pakistani Citizenship- or failure to meet the criteria’s of citizenship is the basis of their request rejection. NADRA is also of the view that, merely on the basis of different language, the request is not rejected.

The group argues that they were included in the list of Census in 1998 and had their names are on the electoral list. When they earn and live here and does not send their money to other countries, then refusal to be accepted as Pakistani citizens in the recent Census is tantamount to injustice.

While every member now demands to be recognized as Pakistani, they now complain about NADRA’s refusal to register them as the citizens of Karachi. The members of the group loathe this deprivation since the absence of CNIC has paralyzed their lives in every parameter of life. Due to the inability of proving their citizenship, they are often deprived of the fundamentals of human progression.

The group claims that many of the people living in this group are born here, and apart from the illegal immigrants, the government is now forcing the legitimate Bengalis to register themselves as foreigners or aliens. If that is the case, then this is direct breach of the Pakistani Citizenship Act 1951 that states “ … every person born in Pakistan after the commencement of this Act shall be a citizen of Pakistan by birth.”

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Many of the teenagers of this group born here are unable to pursue their education further since CNIC is mandatory for the university admissions.

The group argues that they were included in the list of Census in 1998 and had their names are on the electoral list. When they earn and live here and does not send their money to other countries, then refusal to be accepted as Pakistani citizens in the recent Census is tantamount to injustice.

An optimal way should be adopted to bring these minorities in the national database, which is not the breach of the International laws. Their inclusion in the database will harness the structural planning of this city.

However, according to the International law, Pakistan is only allowed to give the status of refugees to people coming from Afghanistan. The exclusion of this group from both the categories of the refugees and local residents poses bigger problems for the government than to these minority groups.

The exclusion of these groups primarily gives an inaccurate number of the total population and their subsequent share of the burden on the resources. On the societal level, their non-registration in the databases can be quite risky for a country, which is already engulfed in ample problems of internal and external security. With the country being a central actor, on the longest war on terror, in the region.

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An optimal way should be adopted to bring these minorities in the national database, which is not the breach of the International laws. Their inclusion in the database will harness the structural planning of this city.

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