|919,000 (as of 2006)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
Other Indo-Aryan from the region of Bihar
Stranded Pakistanis (Urdu: پھنسے ہوئے پاکستانی, Bengali: তন্তুবিশিষ্ট পাকিস্তানীরা), sometimes also referred to as Biharis, are the ethnic Muslims from North and Northwestern parts of the Indian Subcontinent, currently residing in Bangladesh. They migrated to East Pakistan at the time of the Partition of India to join the Muslim state of Pakistan. They spoke Urdu, which became the official language of Pakistan, but put them at odds with the Bengali-majority in the region.
Not sharing the ethno-linguistic heritage of the Bengali people, who formed an overwhelming majority in the eastern wing, they opposed its agitation for independence from West Pakistan. They opposed Bangladesh Liberation War, and their support for the Pakistani army and participation in pro-Pakistani militias, such as the Razakars, led to considerable hostility and retaliation from the Bengalis, and became stranded after the independence of Bangladesh and were relocated to refugee camps, where their descendants have been born. They have since appealed the Pakistani government for the right to settle in Pakistan. Their petition has only met with marginal support from the Pakistani authorities, who have allowed only a small number of the "Stranded Pakistanis" to settle in Pakistan.
In 2003 a Bangladesh high court ruled that 10 Biharis were entitled to citizenship and voting rights. In 2008 the High Court in Dhakar ruled that 150,000 Biharis, who were minors at the time of the war, could be given citizenship in Bangladesh and voting rights. This is also to be extended to those Bihari born since the war, giving them a path to citizenship rights in Bangladesh at last.
In pre-independence British India, there was an Urdu-speaking Muslim minority in the Hindu majority state of Bihar. In 1947, at the time of partition, the Bihari Muslims, many of whom were fleeing the violence that took place during partition, fled to the newly independent East Pakistan. They held a disproportionate number of positions in this region of the new country, because West Pakistan made Urdu (which was the mother tongue of many Biharis) the only official national language of the new state. This led to much resentment from the native Bengalis, the majority in East Pakistan, who had to acquire a new language and many were at a disadvantage on their own soil.
Independence of Bangladesh 
In 1971, the Bangladesh Liberation War broke out between East and West Pakistan. The Biharis sided with West Pakistan, viewing the Bengali struggle as an illegitimate rebellion against the then-Pakistani government. With covert and later overt support from India, East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh. During the war, the Bengalis made "many attacks on the Bihari community as they were seen as symbols of Pakistani domination."
Refugee crisis 
The Biharis were left behind after the Pakistani army evacuated. They found themselves unwelcome in Bangladesh for having opposed its liberation, and Pakistan feared a mass influx of Biharis could destabilize its fragile and culturally mixed population, which shared no similarity with Bihar. Also, the Pakistani government believed that since Bangladesh was the successor state of East Pakistan, it had to absorb these refugees just as Pakistan (West) did with the many millions of refugees (including 200,000 Bengalis) who had fled to West Pakistan. Some groups in Pakistan have urged the Pakistan government to accept the Biharis.
Surur Hoda, a Socialist leader, played an active part in solving the refugee crisis. He organized a powerful delegation, headed by British Labour Party politician David Ennals and Ben Whitaker, which encouraged many refugees to return to Pakistan. In an agreement in 1974, Pakistan accepted 170,000 Bihari refugees; however, the repatriation process has since stalled.
According to M.Z. Azam, Chairman Sardar Bahadur Non-Local Camp, Jautala, Pahartali, Chittagong Post-independence Bangladesh scorned the Biharis for having allegedly supporting the Pakistani army. With neither country offering citizenship, the Biharis have remained stateless for 36 years. Organisations such as Refugees International have urged the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to "grant citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of people who remain without effective nationality".
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is not addressing the plight of the Biharis. In 2006 a report estimated that between 240,000 and 300,000 Biharis live in 66 crowded camps in Dhaka and 13 other regions across Bangladesh. In 2003, a case came before a high court in which ten Biharis were awarded citizenship according to the court's interpretation of the constitution. So far, however, little progress has been made in expanding that ruling to others. Many Pakistanis and international observers believe the plight of the Biharis has been politicized, with political parties giving the refugees false hopes and impractical expectations. In recent years, several court rulings in Bangladesh have awarded citizenship to Biharis living in Bengali refugee camps, as the majority of these refugees were born there. International observers believe that Bangladesh, as the successor state, needs to fulfill its international obligations and grant citizenship to this officially stateless ethnic group, or arrange for the peaceful repatriation to their native state of Bihar, India.
In a visit to Bangladesh in 2002, Pakistani president Musharraf said that, while he had every sympathy for the plight of the 'stranded Pakistanis', he could not allow them to emigrate to Pakistan. He said his country was in no position to absorb so many refugees who shared no linguistic, cultural, or historical ties with Pakistan. (This is odd, since they are Urdu-speaking Muslims, so do share some commonalities.)
He encouraged his Bengali counterpart to accept the refugees as citizens of the successor state of East Pakistan. Pakistani government officials have threatened to deport the more than 1.5 million illegal Bengali refugees living illegally in Pakistan if the issue is not resolved acceptably.
In May 2003, a high court ruling in Bangladesh allowed 10 Biharis to obtain citizenship and voting rights. The ruling exposed a generation gap among Biharis, as younger Biharis tended to be "elated." Many older people felt "despair at the enthusiasm" of the younger generation, and they say their true home is in Pakistan. Many Biharis now seek greater civil rights and citizenship in Bangladesh.
On May 19, 2008 the Dhaka High court approved citizenship and voting rights for about 150,000 refugees who were minors at the time of Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971. Those who were born in the country since the war would also gain citizenship and the right to vote.
See also 
- Joshua Project - Bihari Muslim of Bangladesh Ethnic People Profile
- "Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and Their Rights", Refugees international
- "Chronology for Biharis in Bangladesh", Minorities at Risk Project. Center for International Development and Conflict Management. University of Maryland, College Park
- "PRC Wants Urgent Steps for Biharis’ Repatriation", Arab News
- "MQM demands issuance of CNICs to Biharis-2004", Dawn, 8 February 2004
- The Guardian
- "Bangladesh State and the Refugee Phenomenon - The Bihari Refugees", South Asia Forum for Human Rights
- "Citizens of Nowhere: The Stateless Biharis of Bangladesh", Refugees International 2006 report
- Refugees International (see below)
- "Musharraf wraps up Bangladesh visit", BBC News, 31 July 2002
- "Vote for 'stranded Pakistanis'", BBC News, 6 May, 2003
- Mixed feelings over Bihari ruling - BBC News 28 May, 2003
- "Bangladesh: Stateless Biharis Grasp for a Resolution and Their Rights", Refugees International
- "Citizenship for Bihari refugees". BBC News. 2008-05-19. 7407757. Retrieved 2008-05-21.