Bangladesh agrees with Myanmar to complete Rohingya return in two years

Above, Rohingya refugees line up for daily essentials distribution at Balukhali camp, near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh on January 15. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Bangladesh agrees with Myanmar to complete Rohingya return in two years

DHAKA: Bangladesh has agreed to complete the process of returning Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar within two years after repatriation begins, the south Asian nation said on Tuesday, following a meeting of the neighbors to implement a pact signed last year.
A statement by the Bangladesh foreign ministry did not say when the process would begin. But it said the return effort envisages “considering the family as a unit,” with Myanmar to provide temporary shelter for those returning before rebuilding houses for them.
The statement said Bangladesh would set up five transit camps, which would send Rohingyas to two reception centers on the Myanmar side of the border.
“Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh,” it said.
The meeting in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw was the first for a joint working group set up to hammer out the details of the November repatriation agreement.
The Myanmar government has not issued its own statement after the meeting and government spokesman Zaw Htay was not immediately available for comment.
Zaw Htay said earlier, however, that returnees would be able to apply for citizenship “after they pass the verification process.”
A Myanmar agency set up to oversee repatriation said in a statement last Thursday that two temporary “repatriation and assessment camps” and one other site to accommodate returnees had been set up.
Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, said earlier this month Myanmar would be ready to begin processing least 150 people a day through each of the two camps by January 23.
The Rohingya crisis erupted after Rohingya insurgent attacks on security posts on August 25 in the western state of Rakhine triggered a fierce military response that the UN denounced as ethnic cleansing. Some 650,000 people fled the violence.
Myanmar denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.


Sabika Shaikh’s family waiting to see her one last time

The coffin of Sabika Shaikh, 17, is carried during her funeral service in Stafford, Texas, on May, 20, 2018. Sabika was an exchange student from Pakistan. (AFP)
Updated 48 min 27 sec ago
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Sabika Shaikh’s family waiting to see her one last time

  • The Punjab administration has announced a scholarship in the name of the Texas school shooting victim.
  • Sabika’s body will arrive in Pakistan on Wednesday morning. Her father says he was greatly moved to see how many people attended her funeral in Houston.

KARACHI: Abdul Aziz Shaikh, father of the Pakistani victim of the Texas school shooting, told Arab News on Monday that he would have to wait to see his daughter for the last time due to a delay in flights from the US.

“Sabika’s body was due to arrive in Karachi on Tuesday morning; however, due to a change in flight schedules, we will receive her at 4 a.m. on Wednesday,” he said.

“It’s really difficult but we have no option but to wait,” he continued, adding that officials at the Pakistan Consulate in Houston were striving to make the best possible arrangements for sending her body back to her home.

The 17-year-old Pakistani foreign exchange student, participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program in the US, was killed, along with nine others, when a teenage classmate opened fire on fellow students in the Santa Fe High School in Texas on Friday.

Sabika’s funeral prayers were offered at a local mosque in Houston after the noon prayer on Sunday.

“We thought she was only loved by her family. But the way people showed up at her funeral in Houston — and the way everyone condoled with us in Karachi — shows that she was loved by everyone," her father said.

Shaikh said he saw the video of the Houston funeral, pointing out that it was not only attended by Pakistani-Americans but people from all Muslim countries. Many of those who attended the ceremony, he added, belonged to other faiths. They were all mourning her untimely death, he said.

“All this shows people’s exemplary attachment to her. It makes us very proud.”

Rana Mashhood Khan, a minister in the Punjab administration who visited the bereaved family on Sunday evening, told Arab News that the provincial government was going to introduce a “Sabika Scholarship” that would be awarded to brilliant students from Punjab. This, he added, would help them study abroad in some of the best educational institutions around the world.

“I met the family and conveyed a special message from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. We wanted them to know that we will institute a scholarship in the name of their talented daughter for young and bright students in our province,” Khan said.

Shaikh seemed happy to hear the announcement. “I’m glad that the name of my daughter will be associated with a scholarship that will benefit our students.”

He also said that a Karachi-based industrialist, Ishtiaq Baig, had also promised to introduce a scholarship in Sabika’s name. “She is making us all very proud. I wish I could see her alive with so many accomplishments.”

On Sunday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also visited Shaikh’s residence to condole with the family.

Expressing deep grief and sorrow, the prime minister described Sabika as a talented Pakistani student, adding that the whole nation was mourning her death. The Pakistani premier also pointed out that extremist tendencies were not just a problem in one country or region, but that they were an international one.

Earlier, in an interview with Arab News, Shaikh had revealed that his daughter wanted to be a diplomat and improve the image of her country.

“Sabika wanted to sit the Central Superior Services (CSS) exams and join the Foreign Service of Pakistan. She thought that Pakistan was a great country, but that it had an image problem.”

“At one point, she told me that she wanted to be like Maleeha Lodhi and Tasneem Aslam,” Shaikh had said. “Her desire was to improve the image of Pakistan abroad.”