By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, March 16: The minuscule Pakistani community in Kuching Division, numbering about 70 individuals, are appalled by the negative comments and perceptions of them in the social media due to certain events happening in Bau.
“Ever since the story about some Pakistanis in Bau was published a few days ago, we have received negative comments and perceptions in the social media.
“Because of that, we had a meeting last night, and we have advised our members not to go to villages to sell carpets and mattresses. Instead, we advised them to just operate from their shops,” Sohail Khan, proprietor of Jati Furniture House at Matang Jaya, told DayakDaily here today.
Two days ago, the You are Truly Trusted Society of Sarawak (YATTS) wrote to the Immigration Department, urging them to round up Pakistanis and deport them as they had been, among others, sexually harassing the womenfolk in Bau. YATTS alleged that they (Pakistanis) had become a menace to Sarawak.
The 34-year-old Sohail hoped Sarawakians would not judge or generalised them based on a handful of unscrupulous Pakistani businessmen in another part of the state.
“In any community, there are bound to be one or two bad apples, but we should not be generalised because this is very unfair,” he said.
Sohail added that his community had called some officials in their embassy in Kuala Lumpur for advice and had scheduled a meeting with them this coming Monday (March 18).
“We need some guidance from our embassy on how to tackle this issue. We want to clear the air. We do not want this misunderstanding to prolong as Sarawak is a peaceful and nice place to live and work,” he said, adding that they had decided to reactivate their Pakistan Association, which has been dormant for the last 10 years.
Sohail came to Sarawak after he completed his high school 15 years ago: He decided to follow the footsteps of his uncle and late brother to make a living here.
“When I left my home in Pakistan, it was a tough time back then as there was war in Afghanistan, and my home in North-East Pakistan, which is located near the border, was not safe to live. So, I decided to come over here. Sarawak has been a great place to live and work,” he said.
Sohail claimed he came here with valid documents issued by the Malaysian government.
“And as a businessman, I pay both my business and income taxes. So are the other Pakistanis in Sarawak, which number about 300,” he revealed.
Sohail, who speaks fluent English and Malay and is able to speak Iban pretty well, also has a shop in Engkilili, where he used to work for 10 years before he decided to move here.
“One of the factors that we have identified and that may have caused this present predicament to our community could be business rivalry,” he reckoned.
Sohail and his brother, Bacha Hussein, 36, are both married, but they left their wives behind.
“Our late bother, who came here before, brought his wife along, but he died in a road accident while driving from Engkilili to Betong. So, my family said it is better for us not to bring our wives over because it could be sial (jinx),” he disclosed.
Bacha, who speaks fluent Malay, agreed with his brother that business rivalry could be the main cause of the predicament they are now in.
“There are some people who don’t like us to do business here. But as you can see, we are not terrorists. We don’t have bombs and guns. Every day, we just work and work. And after work, we go home. That’s it,” he said.
Both brothers would normally go back home every six months to renew their visas.
Meanwhile, Beli Ah Ngee said he had no regrets working for the brothers since three years ago.
“They treat me well,” said the lad from Kapit.
When contacted, Tupong assemblyman Fazzrudin Abdul Rahman said the people should not make general assumptions about a certain group or people based on their appearances and mistakes made by a handful of them.
“To me, that is quite unfair. What is important is for enforcement agencies such as the police, Immigration Department and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Department to regulate the way businesses or the way they sell their products.
“I am convinced that the laws of the country will prevail, and it would be able to give confidence to the people of all races and religions, especially here in Sarawak,” he added.
There are six Pakistani shops in Matang Jaya township specialising in carpets, mattresses, furniture and food. — DayakDaily