Pakistanis felicitate new Prime Minister Imran Khan

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The Pakistan Repatriation Council (PRC) recently organized a seminar to celebrate the victory of Imran Khan in the recent elections and becoming the new prime minister of Pakistan. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party, headed by Imran Khan, has secured the largest number of seats in parliament and managed to form the government in alliance with small parties and some independents.

The seminar started with recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an. Then a number of leaders of the Pakistani community in Jeddah delivered speeches. They congratulated the new prime minister, wishing that he may fulfill all the promises that he had given to the people during the election campaign and after assumption of power. They pinned great hopes on the promises made by Imran Khan to change the face of the country through a slew of measures. The most important of these promises are fighting corruption and adopting austerity measures by cutting down expenditures, especially lavish spending and extravagance that caused squandering of state resources. He noted that an enormous burden of debt has hampered the implementation of several key development projects.

The speakers also hoped that Imran Khan would take initiative to solve the problem of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh since the secession of East Pakistan in 1971. They pointed out that his government is different from the previous governments that had promised the repatriation and rehabilitation of these people in Pakistan but failed to fulfill their promises. Though these people sacrificed everything for the sake of Pakistan, they were not given basic rights as citizens like the rest of the Pakistani citizens. The stranded Pakistanis were forced to live in squalid camps without having the basic amenities of life. They are languishing in the midst of people who are hostile to them and consider them as traitors because they stood by the Pakistani army to maintain the country’s unity during the civil war that ended with the establishment of the new nation of Bangladesh.

When my turn came to address the gathering, I thanked the organizers of the seminar for inviting me to the function held to felicitate Imran Khan on his assuming power as the new prime minister of Pakistan. At the outset of the speech, I prayed Almighty Allah to bestow Imran Khan good health and steadfastness to fulfill the promises that he has made to the people of Pakistan, which is one of the foremost countries in the world in terms of population and military strength with a membership in the world’s nuclear club. The people of Pakistan enjoy large, strong and vibrant wealth of human resources that can bring about miracles if it is managed in a clean, transparent and fair manner.

We have to see whether Imran Khan is fulfilling all the promises he has made to the people of Pakistan or not. The new prime minister already announced that he would sell the existing fleet of bulletproof cars, and will have only two servants instead of 524 reserved for a sitting prime minister. He will be staying in a three-bedroom house instead of the sprawling Prime Minister’s House. He urged the people to take austerity measures and called on the wealthy people to pay taxes so that he could pay off the debts burdening Pakistan. Khan said he would deal with the United States as friends rather than as clients, and would share with them peace rather than war.

I devoted the last part of my speech to draw attention to the miserable living conditions of the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh ever since the formation of the country in 1971. I urged the new prime minister to repatriate and rehabilitate these people in the country to which they migrated since the beginning and they made great sacrifices for the same. It is unreasonable and inhuman to abandon them to languish in pathetic conditions. Therefore, it is the moral and legal obligation of Pakistan to own them and issue passports for them while giving their repatriation and settlement in Pakistan a top priority.

The PRC has already submitted a plan to repatriate them and rehabilitate them on a self-financing basis, through resolution of their problem at their own expense. They need to make payment of the cost in soft installments. There was also the Rabita Endowment, instituted by former Pakistan President Gen. Zia-ul-Haq in association with the Makkah-based Muslim World League (Rabita) when Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef was its secretary general. The Endowment was based on charity donations.

The new prime minister can revive the Endowment and make an inquiry into the fate of the money invested in the account of this Endowment. If there is a serious will to solve the problem of about quarter of million Pakistanis stranded in Bangladesh for 47 years, it will not be a difficult solution. If the Pakistani people are asked to give up drinking a cup of tea for a single day, the amount of which will be enough to fund their repatriation and rehabilitation. On the other hand, ignoring the fate of this hapless people to continue leading a miserable life and depriving them of their most basic rights, then it would be a black spot that is harmful not only to the rich history of Pakistan but also to the very idea of Pakistan and its leaders who made great sacrifices and waged heroic struggle until making the dream of Pakistan a concrete reality.

Everybody should remember the famous words of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who said: “Had the massacre in Bihar not happened, Pakistan would not have been there.”

— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com


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