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Chronology for Biharis in Bangladesh

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Biharis in Bangladesh, 2004, available at: [accessed 18 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1971 During the civil war, there were many attacks on the Bihari community as they were seen as symbols of Pakistani domination. Bengalis reportedly killed over 1,000 Biharis. In December 1971, with the formation of the independent state of Bangladesh, the Biharis were left behind as the Pakistani army and civilians were evacuated to India.
1972 In January 1972, Bangladeshi troops were ordered to confiscate all weapons, but they met fierce resistance when they approached the Bihari enclave of Mirpur. Almost 100 people on either side of the conflict were killed and following the incident, several thousands of Biharis were arrested and imprisoned on allegations of collaboration. By 1974, the Pakistani government had transferred 108,000 Biharis to Pakistan. By 1981, the number rose to 163,000.
1981 At a conference of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), twelve international and national organizations decided to form a working group to assist Bangladesh and Pakistan in the resettlement.
Mar 1981 The Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee threatened to hold a long march, a general hunger strike, and a boycott of wheat rations donated by the Bangladesh government unless the repatriation of their people was expedited.
Nov 1 - Dec 31, 1982 Some 4,600 Biharis (commonly known as "stranded Pakistanis") were evacuated to Pakistan after a year of no publicized plans for official repatriation by the Pakistani government. The US $1.5 million airlift was financed by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. The operation was done in conjunction with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Feb 1, 1987 In the fourth day of clashes between Bihari protestors and police in Karachi (Pakistan), the death toll rose to a total of 8 dead and 50 wounded. The protesters were demanding the release of a Bihari member of Pakistan's Parliament, Afaq Shahid, who was arrested in May 1986 on charges of possession of an illegal weapon.
Jul 9, 1988 It was announced that the Pakistani government had reached agreement with Rabita al-Alam al-Islami, a Mecca-based humanitarian group, to assist in the repatriation of an estimated 260,000 Biharis in Bangladesh.
Jul 10, 1989 During an attempt by 2,500 Biharis to march into the Pakistani embassy in Dhaka, 12 people were injured in clashes with police. The march, organized by the SPGRC, was to protest delays in their repatriation to Pakistan.
Feb 13, 1990 Almost 300 Biharis staged a demonstration in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Burning an effigy of the chief minister of the Pakistani province of Sindh, the demonstrators threatened to set sail for Karachi, which had been the site of recent ethnic violence.
Apr 4, 1991 About 5,000 Biharis demonstrated across the country, including the capital, demanding repatriation to Pakistan.
Aug 5, 1991 In Dhaka, nearly 2,000 Biharis staged a "noisy" demonstration demanding repatriation.
Sep 19, 1991 Nearly 2,000 Biharis demonstrated in Dhaka against the Bangladeshi government's alleged plans to demolish the camps they have been residing in.
Nov 12, 1991 Pakistani officials announced that their government had decided to expedite the repatriation of the Biharis stranded in Bangladesh.
Nov 17, 1991 The Muslim World League urged Muslims around the world to fund the return of the Biharis to Pakistan (estimated US $300 million).
Aug 11, 1992 A joint statement was issued by the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh, stating that Pakistan would begin the repatriation of the stranded Pakistanis. The phased repatriation would begin with an airlift of 3,000 families in December 1992. The statement was released after a three-day visit by Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia to Islamabad.
Sep 21, 1992 The Pakistani High Commission, with the help of Rabita Bangladesh (a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabia-based charity Rabita al-Alam al-Islami), began issuing identity cards to thousands of Biharis in Bangladesh.
Dec 13, 1992 More than 2,000 Biharis demonstrated in the streets of Dhaka after the government informed them that their repatriation to Pakistan had been delayed for a month. The demonstrators threatened to kill themselves.
Jan 10, 1993 The resettlement of Bihari refugees began with the arrival of 325 people in Lahore, Pakistan.
Jan 11, 1993 A bomb exploded in the southern Pakistan town of Kotri, killing 13 people. The bomb was planted in a Bihari colony in Kotri (Sindhis are alleged to be involved in the bombing).
Jan 12, 1993 Pakistan's Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Chaudry Amir Hussain, announced that stranded Pakistanis would be resettled in 32 districts of the province of Punjab, where they would be given houses and job opportunities.
Jan 23, 1993 Two bombs were set off in shops, killing 22 people and wounding more than 100, allegedly by the Jeyay Sindh, a nationalist group opposed to the immigration of the Urdu-speaking Biharis.
Mar 6, 1993 Nearly 1,000 Biharis staged a protest against the delay in their repatriation to Pakistan.
Aug 14, 1993 Nearly 10,000 Biharis participated in a rally in Dhaka to mark the independence anniversary of Pakistan. The rally's organizers, the Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee (SPGRC), urged the Pakistani government to arrange their repatriation immediately.
Nov 9, 1993 Approximately 1,500 Biharis (mostly women) marched in Dhaka, calling upon Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to take them to Pakistan.
Nov 27, 1993 More than 1,000 Biharis staged a protest in Dhaka, threatening to kill themselves unless they were repatriated to Pakistan.
Dec 7, 1993 At least 50 people were injured in clashes between rival groups of Biharis at the Geneva refugee camp. The dispute occurred between the SPGRC (Nasim group) and SPGRC (Ejaz group) factions. A spokesman for the SPGRC (Nasim) stated that Benazir Bhutto's government has pledged to honor the Bihari repatriation agreement signed in 1992 by her predecessor, Nawaz Sharif (Reuters, 12/07/93).
Jul 16, 1994 The leader of the SPGRC (Nasim), Nasim Khan demanded the early repatriation of 3000 families as per the joint declaration issued in August 1992 by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Khan stated that 3000 housing units had already been built in Punjab to accommodate the stranded Pakistanis. So far, only 321 Biharis have been repatriated (Xinhua News Agency, 07/16/94).
Aug 14, 1994 Biharis flew black flags and held demonstrations in refugee camps near Dhaka to mark Pakistan's Independence Day. 23 people were also injured as over 2000 Biharis attempted to march to the Pakistan embassy but were stopped by police in riot gear. The previous week, the Bangladesh government demolished Bihari shelters in Dhaka for allegedly harboring criminals (Deutsche Press-Agentur, 08/14/94).
Dec 19, 1994 Around 500 Biharis threatened to march to Pakistan or kill themselves during a protest in Dhaka. The Biharis were demanding the establishment of a schedule to fulfill the terms of the 1992 repatriation agreement (Reuters, 12/19/94).
Mar 8, 1995 The head of the Muslim World League indicated that the suspension of the repatriation and rehabilitation of the stranded Pakistanis was not due to a shortage of funds. The MWL and the Rabita Trust Board were established by the Pakistani government to help collect funds for the stranded Pakistanis. Various Muslim leaders have pledged to provide funds; however, they are first waiting for the repatriation program to be reactivated (Moneyclips, 03/08/95).
Apr 18, 1995 Nearly 1000 Biharis staged a demonstration in Dhaka to protest the delay of their return to Pakistan. They also threatened to kill themselves (Reuters, 04/18/95).
Apr 23, 1995 Over 500 Biharis, including women and children, took part in an eight-hour hunger strike on the eve of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's visit to Pakistan. The SPGRC wants Zia to press Bhutto to implement the 1992 repatriation agreement (Deutsche Press-Agentur, 04/23/95; Japan Economic Newswire, 04/24/95).
Apr 25, 1995 Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and her Pakistani counterpart, Benazir Bhutto, pledged to solve the situation of the stranded Pakistanis. Repatriations were suspended in 1992 following Sindhi concerns that the Urdu-speaking Biharis would tilt the demographic balance in their province, given the existing presence of the Mohajirs (Xinhua News Agency, 04/25/95).
Jul 10, 1995 Approximately 50 Biharis staged an eight-hour hunger strike in Dhaka demanding their repatriation to Pakistan and threatening to immolate themselves if action wasn't taken. SPGRC leader, Nasim Khan, also condemned Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain for demanding a separate Mohajir state, asserting that the Biharis wanted to live in Pakistan with the other ethnic groups (Deutsche Press-Agentur, 07/10/95).
Aug 14, 1995 Nearly 5000 Biharis staged a protest on Pakistan's Independence Day. Riot police stopped their efforts to march to the Pakistani embassy where 11 members of the SPGRC Ejaz faction had volunteered to immolate themselves (Reuters, 08/14/95).
Oct 31, 1995 Pakistan's Interior Minister, Naseerullah Babar, stated that over 2 million illegal immigrants (mainly in Karachi) would be deported and that Pakistan would not accept the Biharis in Bangladesh. Babar indicated that he had asked other Islamic countries to take in the stranded Pakistanis; however, the MQM asserted that Pakistan had a moral responsibility to accept the Biharis (Reuters, 10/31/95).
Nov 12, 1995 SPGRC leader Nasim Khan protested the Pakistani government's recent deportation of 150 Bangladeshis, stating that this could jeopardize the Bihari repatriation. The deportations were the first following Pakistan's recent threat to expel alleged illegal immigrants, of which 1.6 million are reported to be Bengali-speaking settlers (Reuters, 11/12/95).
Nov 14, 1995 Around 130 Bangladeshis have been deported from Pakistan (and arrested on their arrival in Dhaka) as part of the Pakistani government's campaign to remove alleged illegal immigrants (Reuters, 11/14/95).
Nov 23, 1995 An estimated 700 people peacefully protested Pakistan's forcible deportation of Bengali-speaking settlers. The protestors, including SPGRC members, accused Pakistan of attempting to deflect attention from the repatriation issue (Reuters, 11/23/95).
Nov 29, 1995 Bangladesh has stated that it will not accept the Bengalis who are being forcibly deported from Pakistan. Over 300 Bengalis have arrived in Dhaka and the Bangladesh government indicates that they will be sent back if they cannot prove their nationality. Bangladesh also called on Pakistan to honor a 1974 agreement that requires it to take back the stranded Pakistanis (Inter Press Service, 11/29/95).
Dec 1, 1995 The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) presses Pakistan to allow for the return of the Biharis. The organization has been providing financial assistance to help run the 66 camps in Bangladesh where the Biharis are housed (BBC, 12/01/95).
Feb 4, 1996 Hundreds of Biharis stage a protest in Dhaka against delays in their repatriation to Pakistan. The SPGRC (Ejaz faction)-organized demonstration also denounced recent Pakistani remarks that the Biharis would not be accepted (Reuters, 02/04/96).
Mar 11, 1996 Tensions remain high in the southern city of Khulna after some Biharis hoisted a Pakistani flag at the start of a World Cup cricket game between India and Pakistan. Some Bengalis then set the flag on fire (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 03/11/96).
Apr 24, 1996 Thousands of Biharis demonstrate in Dhaka demanding their return to Pakistan (Reuters, 04/24/96).
Jun 1996 The Awami League forms a new government following federal elections. Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Mujibur Rahman, becomes Prime Minister. The ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government stepped down in March amid protracted shutdowns and violent protests that left 130 dead and thousands injured. The Awami League says that it will push for the completion of the repatriation process (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 04/25/96; Reuters, 07/11/96).
Jun 10, 1996 The conditions of the Biharis located in 66 camps is reported to be dismal. Along with living in shanty-town conditions, there are few schools and few sources of employment. The Biharis are not considered citizens of Bangladesh and as such possess few civil rights. The United Nations says that they are not refugees but rather displaced persons (Reuters, 06/10/96).
Aug 4, 1996 Hundreds of Biharis demonstrate in Dhaka against delays in their repatriation. Meanwhile, Bangladesh lodges a protest with Pakistan against the deportation of Bengali-speaking Muslims from that country. Some 19 Bengali-speakers were arrested in Karachi when they arrived from Dhaka. Bangladesh returned them to Pakistan stating that they are not Bangladeshis (Reuters, 08/04/96).
Aug 14, 1996 While they were attempting to march to the Pakistani embassy in Dhaka, hundreds of Biharis scuffle with the police and a few attempt self-immolation to press for their return to Pakistan (Reuters, 08/14/96).
Aug 18, 1996 Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Wajmuddin Sheikh says that his country is willing to take back the stranded Biharis, although he did not set out a timetable. During his visit to Dhaka, hundreds of Biharis presented Sheikh with a memorandum urging their immediate return. Pakistan asserts that there over one million illegal Bengalis in and around Karachi, the capital of Sindh province. For the past number of years, Karachi has been subject to violent bloodshed due to battles between Urdu-speakers, Sindhi-speakers, and government forces. The Biharis speak Urdu (Reuters, 08/18/96).
Aug 22, 1996 Pakistan is calling for a pan-Islamic effort to help resolve the issue of the Biharis. Islamabad also denied reports that it had agreed to accept the stranded Pakistanis (Agence France Presse, 08/22/96).
Sep 5, 1996 Pakistan's Interior Minister Naseerullal Babar asserts that as long as he retains his position, the Biharis will not be repatriated. He contends that when they have returned to Pakistan they have engaged in "undesirable activities" (Asia Times, 09/05/96).
Dec 3, 1996 Some Biharis appear to have given up any hopes of returning to Pakistan. They have formed a new organization, the Committee for Rehabilitation of Non-Bengalis in Bangladesh, which will attempt to gain Bangladeshi citizenship for the Biharis. The Committee says that many younger Biharis speak Bengali and have adopted the culture. In its first week, it says some 2200 families have applied for citizenship. The organization also wants the government to allow the Biharis to leave the camps and to provide funds to build houses and schools. The Bangladesh government has not commented on the committee's requests (Reuters, 12/03/96).
Feb 8, 1997 The Stranded Pakistanis General Repatriation Committee (SPGRC) says that it is hopeful that the repatriation process will resume soon following the electoral victory of Nawaz Sharif and the Muslim League in Pakistan. Some 300 Biharis were repatriated in the early 1990s when Sharif was last Prime Minister. The SPGRC says that it has close links with the MQM (a political party comprised of Urdu-speakers) in Pakistan and that it will press it to support repatriation. The new provincial government of Pakistan's Sindh province is a coalition of the MQM and the Muslim League (Agence France Presse, 02/08/97; Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 02/14/97).
Mar 8, 1997 The coalition government of Pakistan's Sindh province has added the Bihari issue to its agenda. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says that she opposes the repatriation of the Biharis as it could threaten national unity and security. She says that tensions between Sindhi and Urdu-speakers (referred to as Mohajirs) will escalate. The Biharis are Urdu-speakers (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 03/08/97).
Mar 24, 1997 Some Biharis hold an open prayer meeting in Dhaka as Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina meets with her Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. No progress on the repatriation issue is reported (Reuters, 03/24/97).
Jun 7, 1997 A report by Probe, a private news agency in Dhaka, contends that at least 200 Bangladeshis C mostly members of the Jamaat-i-Islami party C are fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. A large number of Biharis are reportedly being recruited from their camps and being sent to Pakistan for training (Agence France Presse, 06/07/97).
Jan 17, 1998 Around a thousand Biharis hold demonstrations in Dhaka during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's visit. Some 35 protestors are injured and 15 arrested as police disperse the crowds. The stranded Pakistanis present Sharif with a memorandum calling for their repatriation. No progress on the issue is reported following talks between the two Prime Ministers (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 01/17/98).
Jan 27, 1998 Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif gives his firm commitment to repatriate the Biharis once the necessary funds are raised. Since 1988, a joint Pakistani-Saudi Arabian NGO, the Rabita Alam Al-Islami (World Muslim League), has been providing funds to run the camps in Bangladesh (Agence France Presse, 01/27/98).
Oct 14, 1998 Pakistan says that it is working on the repatriation issue and that it has approached the Rabita Alam Al-Islami for US $200 million. Pakistan would match the funds which would be used to build housing and resettle the Biharis (The Independent, 10/14/98).
Mar 1, 1999 Several hundred Biharis demonstrate in Dhaka to press for their return to Pakistan (Agence France Presse, 03/01/99).
Mar 5, 1999 Pakistan states that while it doesn't accept that the Biharis are Pakistani citizens, it will take them on humanitarian grounds (Xinhua News Agency, 03/04/99). Prime Minister Sharif says that he has appointed a commission to expedite the process (Hindu, 03/05/99).

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