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September 26, 2018
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NA debates citizenship rights for Afghan, Bengali refugees

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September 26, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: As the opposition members in the National Assembly (NA) continued to reject announcement of the Prime Minister Imran Khan to give citizenship rights to Afghan refugees and illegal immigrants, the Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari on Tuesday told the National Assembly that the final decision in this regard would be taken in consultation with all the political parties.

The members from opposition benches including Hina Rabbani Khar, Dr Nafisa Shah, Muhammad Akhtar Mengal and others raised issue of proposal to give equal rights to Afghan refugees and illegal immigrants on a calling attention notice.

There was also exchange of accusations when Dr Nafisa and Hina Khar termed statement of Imran Khan as irresponsible one and alleged him taking U-turn on the issue. “The prime minister has not given any irresponsible statement rather it were the past governments which took U-turns on issue of refugees,” Dr Mazari said.

Dr Nafisa Shah said giving citizenship to refugees and illegal immigrants would tantamount to seizing rights of locals. “As to where are rights of local communities,” she said, adding the prime minister should know as to what was happening with existing resources of Karachi.

On that, Dr Mazari questioned Dr Nafisa as to what steps the PPP Sindh government did for Karachi in the last 10 years. The minister also referred to two verses from the Holy Quran with regard to rights of refugees and what rights they enjoyed in state of Madina.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal demanded debate on the vital issue in the National Assembly before finalising a policy for refugees and illegal immigrants. “We should devise a policy in this regard or declare Pakistan an international orphanage,” he said.

Dr Shireen Mazari informed the National Assembly that the government had started process to collect the data of registered refugees, un-registered refugees and illegal immigrants. She said that the data will be collected with the assistance of UNHCR and local agencies and it would be shared with the National Assembly. The minister said the matter involves a lot of legal, political and humanitarian obligations which will be considered before taking final decision on the citizenship.

She said the issue of Beharis is different from those of Afghan refugees and also agreed with the suggestion of BNP-M leader Muhammad Akhtar Mengal to hold debate in the National Assembly. “We are ready to hold debate on the issue, but the opposition should also come with suggestions and proposals to resolve the issue as we cannot linger on this important issue any more” she added. She said that if the opposition wanted amendment in Citizenship Act 1951 the government was ready to move forward with consensus.

The minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced to give citizenship to refugees and immigrants on humanitarian grounds.

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