Erik Moberg ©:
7. THE ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM BANGLADESH AND PAKISTAN
The present countries of Bangladesh and Pakistan are the results of two divisions. First, in 1947, when British India was decolonized it was also divided into two states, namely the Hindu-dominated India and the Muslim-dominated Pakistan. The latter country did however consist of two widely separated geographical parts and in 1971, after a war initiated by the eastern part, those parts became independent states. The western one was Pakistan and the eastern one Bangladesh.
Pakistan has a population of 212 millions and Bangladesh 165 millions. As already mentioned the populations in both countries are almost completely Muslim. In Pakistan 96.3 percent of the population is Muslim and in Bangladesh 89.6 percent. Furthermore, and in both countries, the Sunnis dominate. It is thus estimated that the Sunnis constitute 85-90 percent of Muslims in Pakistan while the rest are Shiites, whereas in Bangladesh practically all Muslims are Sunnis.
The politics of both countries are characterized by severe conflicts, although of somewhat different kinds. In Pakistan a main conflict is the one between the military and the politicians, but there are also religious conflicts. In Bangladesh there is conflict between the descendants of the fighters in the war of secession from Pakistan and other ones, and also a conflict between the two main parties BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and AL (Awami League), a conflict which to some extent is fought by non-democratic means. Both countries are in fact quasi-democratic with elections held now and then but irregularly and most probably rigged or with results otherwise questioned. Both countries are furthermore characterized by severe corruption. After this very short characterization of the two countries it may now be expedient to start looking at the statistics of asylum seekers.
At first we may then notice that the asylum seekers, although not negligible in EU/EFTA (Table 1, above), are very few as percentages of the populations in their home countries (Table 2, above). This latter fact should not be surprising since both countries, and in particular Bangladesh, are very far away from the EU/EFTA territory. Then we can continue by looking at the distribution of the asylum seekers over the years 2008-2017 (Diagram 6).
Diagram 6: Asylum seekers in the EU/EFTA from Pakistan and Bangladesh
At first it could then be stated, as it reasonably should be, that the Arab Spring is of no importance whatsoever. The Bangladesh curve rises, although somewhat irregularly, slowly all the time. The Pakistan curve, even if it starts rising in 2011, has the big jump upwards in 2015, that is in the same year as the curve for Afghanistan (see Table 1 and Diagram 2, both above). And this indicates a plausible reason for the great increase in asylum-seekers from Pakistan. Thus, and in fact, the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014 made Taliban terrorist-attacks into Pakistan possible. And this was made even easier by the fact that the borderline between Afghanistan and Pakistan, due to the close relation between the two countries, during long times has been unprotected and easy to pass in both directions.
Taliban terrorist attacks in Pakistan were thus not only made possible. They, in fact, also materialized. Thus, on December 16th in 2014, the Pakistani Taliban executed a terrorist attack on a school in a province bordering to Afghanistan. 150 people were killed among which 132 were children. And this attack was considered as turning point. After it several more followed.
Thus, and summarizing, the number of asylum-seekers from both Bangladesh and Pakistan, are small in relation to the total populations in both countries. As for Bangladesh there seems to be no particular, distinct reason for the migration. The reason, rather, seems to be the generally corrupt and conflict-ridden politics and poverty. During the years considered here the number of asylum-seekers has risen slowly albeit irregularly. As for Pakistan the main reason seems however to be closely related to the conditions in Afghanistan. Thus, and in the same way as in Afghanistan, the US troop withdrawal made Taliban activities possible.
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