Monday July 15, 2024

‘State should take responsibility of migrants without CNICs’

By Zoya Anwer
October 24, 2018

The state needs to take responsibility of migrant communities without CNICs, and if they wish to go back, the state must play an active role in listening to them, said Dr Tauseef Ahmed on Tuesday.

Dr Ahmed, who formerly held the chair of media studies at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, was part of a consultation organised at a hotel by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) to address the status of the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities. The discussion was moderated by HRCP member Ghazi Salahuddin.

Journalist and researcher Zia Ur Rehman said Karachi has been home to many communities and seen different waves of migration. “One of the biggest migrations was, of course, right after the Partition.”

The second migration was seen during the late 1970s, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when Pakistan opened its borders, he said. “While the Afghans were given an area, barely any other facilities were provided by the state. Since then they have been settling in different areas.”

Rehman pointed out that whenever an Afghan militant wing carries out a terrorist activity, the entire community bears the brunt. “Following the Army Public School tragedy in December 2014, strict measures were carried out and their PoR [Proof of Registration] cards were seen with suspicion.”

He claimed that many times when Afghans were rounded up, their PoR cards were torn up by the police, while many of them stayed in camps out of fear of being picked up. “The state was supportive of their arrival until 1986, and remained neutral about it until 2001, following the American invasion.”

Regarding Rohingyas and Bengalis, he said they are engaged in the fishing business but are yet to be provided citizenship. He felt that Prime Minister Imran Khan should have taken their representatives and leaders of political parties on board before issuing a statement that can make or break these communities.

Explaining the idea of migration with respect to nation states, Dr Riaz Sheikh said there are many global examples regarding the treatment of ethnic minorities who migrate due to different economic or non-economic reasons or fearing for their lives.

Dr Sheikh, social sciences dean at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, said that often when communities migrate to a place, the locals feel threatened due to the limited available opportunities.

“Another pressing issue the entire world is facing right now is how the nation states, which used to follow progressive norms like secularism and absorbing other cultures and ethnicities, are now stressing on controlling immigration and tilting in favour of strengthening religious identities.”

Representing local Afghans, Abdullah Shah said his community has never been a burden on the economy or resources because they have always engaged in work themselves. “When we take our loved ones to public hospitals, we’re not treated because they say we’re not registered. Our birth certificates are also not considered for admissions, so where do we send our children for education? We don’t demand nationality, but we should at least be given basic rights for being humans.”

Saleem Haider of the Bengali community said that unlike Afghans, who were earlier welcomed by the government, the state has always shown apathy towards Bengalis.

“We have seen how people are able to get CNICs and other documents if they get political affiliations. Is this a way to get the required documents? If one wants a CNIC, we pay Rs70,000, and Rs40,000 for an Intermediate certificate.”

So, he said, if one has resources, registration would be possible. “But what if one doesn’t have the resources? Our families are buried in this country and our children are born here, but we still have to pay large sums of money to prove our existence.”