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Pakistan

Web Desk
September 18, 2018

Imran Khan defends citizenship issue of Bengalis, Afghans

Pakistan

Web Desk
Tue, Sep 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has defended his announcement of granting citizenship right to the children of Bengalis and Afghan refugees born in Pakistan.

Speaking on a point of order here at the National Assembly, the prime minister said Pakistan cannot continue to ignore the issue of non-citizens and needs a policy to facilitate those who have been living here for decades, were born or married here.

The premier in his address at the Diamer-Bhasha Dam fundraising event at the Sindh Governor House on Sunday had announced to give citizenship to the children of Afghans and Bengalis in view of providing them employment opportunities.

“We were informed in a briefing at Karachi that most of those involved in street crimes belonged to this section of society. Since they were not granted citizenship they were not able to get admission in schools or get a job. What else would they do?”

“We are producing an underclass,” Imran Khan warned and said a policy needs to be devised in this regard.

Pakistan, one of the world's largest refugee-hosting nations, is home to roughly 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, some of whom have lived in the country since fleeing the Soviet invasion of 1979.

There are also roughly a quarter of a million Bengalis, many of whom arrived during Pakistan's civil war in 1971, when East Pakistan broke away to declare independence and become Bangladesh.

Two of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf allies have raised concerned on the government steps in this regard. Pakistan Peoples' Party too Monday expressed the reservations over the issue.

PM Khan agreed with Akhtar Mengal who pointed that Pakistan had inked an agreement for the return of the Afghan refugees. But, he said that under the Pakistan law of 1951, the children born in Pakistan get the citizenship status. It is the same in many other countries, he added.

He said Pakistan has different laws for the refugees and for those who came from Bangladesh, around 45 years back. He said for generations, they have not been given the right and were being exploited and were paid half the salary. Neither they can return, nor can they get citizenship, he said.

Imrna Khan said he had taken up this issue since it was a human rights issue.

“We are dealing with humans. We have to look after them,” he added.

The prime minister said a policy decision, after a thorough debate, in this regard was necessary and said “If we don’t do it now, who will do it?”

He said under the international conventions, the refugees cannot be forced to return. He said the issue in Pakistan was being looked after by the UNHCR.

However, the government needs to formulate a plan to cater to those who have been living here for a long time, have got married, and have children. He pointed that the children of refugees born in the European Union too had a right to citizenship.