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September 19, 2018

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Bengali, Afghan children issue: Just sought input to grant citizenship, says Imran

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday sought recommendations from parliamentarians about the government's proposal for granting citizenship to all Afghan and Bengali children born in Pakistan. "A final decision has not yet been made in this regard and a proposal is up for discussion," he said while speaking in the National Assembly.

He was responding to a point of order of BNP (Mengal) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal about his statement concerning the grant of citizenship to Afghan and Bengali children born in Pakistan. Imran’s statement had irked the government’s coalition partner BNP (Mengal) whose leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal walked out of the House along with his party MNAs in protest.

Mengal asked the prime minister to explain his remarks as a policy announced by the prime minister was actually the state policy. Mengal said the PTI had signed an agreement with them in which it was agreed that the Afghan refugees would be repatriated to their country but now the government was violating it.

Responding to Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Prime Minister Imran Khan sought recommendations from parliamentarians about the government's proposal to grant citizenship to all Afghan and Bengali children born in the country. "A final decision has not yet been made in this regard and the proposal is up for discussion."

He said everyone should present their recommendations, as the government will seek recommendations from all parliamentarians and consult them before taking a decision. "I will keep asking this question that what is the future of these people who are living here," he said. He said the children born in Pakistan had the right to be called Pakistanis.

Imran Khan asserted that as per the 1951 law, all those born in the country had the right to Pakistani citizenship. “This law is followed in various countries, including the Europe,” he said.

He said several people had been living in Karachi for the last 41 years without nationality. The premier said the laws were different for temporary immigrants. "But those Bengalis who have been residing here for 45 to 50 years are being wasted. They are neither granted citizenship nor do they move back," he said.

Imran Khan said he was saying all this on the basis of humanity. The prime minister said, “If no one takes a decision on migrants then when will we. Immigrants are also humans and if we do not take a decision on them, then we will have to face severe problems," he added. He said in accordance with international laws, refugees could not be forced to leave the country.

The prime minister explained that the reason for rising street crime in Karachi was that immigrant children were not granted citizenship owing to which they were refused jobs. "Immigrant children cannot go to school and this problem is about to enter all out societies," he said.

Later, after the statement of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal walked out of the National Assembly in protest. The PPP legislators also staged a protest and continued to seek the chair’s permission to speak on the issue but the speaker said he will first complete the agenda of the day.

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