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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 May, 2003, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Vote for 'stranded Pakistanis'
By Waliur Rahman
BBC correspondent in Dhaka


Ten Bihari refugees in Bangladesh have been granted voting rights after the High Court declared they were citizens of the country.

The refugees, who are also locally described as "stranded Pakistanis" are residents of a camp in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka.

It is the first time that some of the thousands of Urdu-speaking Biharis have been recognised as Bangladeshi nationals.

The court order followed a petition by the group who live in the so-called Geneva camp in Dhaka, one of the main refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Their lawyer said those who were born at the camps and those who have been residing in Bangladesh since 1947 are all citizens of Bangladesh.

Their citizenship cannot be taken away just because they live in a refugee camp or that they opted to go to Pakistan, they argued.

Legal experts say the High Court order is a landmark judgement and it would help the Biharis who want to live in Bangladesh as citizens.

Legacy of partition

Nearly 300,000 Urdu-speaking people are estimated to be living in 66 refugee camps across Bangladesh.

Most of them came to what was then East Pakistan from the Indian state of Bihar after the partition of British India in 1947.

Many of them are still waiting to be repatriated to Pakistan.

In 1993, a little over 300 Biharis were able to go to Pakistan under a deal reached between the two countries.

The process has stalled since then and now the younger generation want to live in Bangladesh with full citizenship.

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