Monday January 30, 2023

Facilitating foreigners

By Editorial Board
August 23, 2021

The new scheme under which NADRA will issue Alien Registration Cards to foreigners living in Pakistan for a period of over six months is welcome. For a long time, Biharis, Bengalis, and other nationalities living in Karachi and also other major cities, in some cases, have faced huge problems in completing any kind of official work, acquiring jobs, enrolling children at schools, or getting access to health services because of their stateless situation and the refusal to recognise them as official residents of the country. Under the new regulation, the previous National Alien Registration Authority has been merged into NADRA.

We badly needed such a law. It is true that even non-Pakistani wives of Pakistani nationals have often faced great difficulty in achieving Pakistani nationality and the non-Pakistani husbands of Pakistani nationals have faced an even harder time. We hope the new cards will at least assist them and allow them to acquire jobs and, perhaps at a later point the nationality that is permitted to them under the law, but frequently not issued, especially to those seen by Pakistan as being hostile to it, such as Indians or other persons from South Asia or even Russia and similar countries. The question is an extremely important one at this time, when around the world we are facing an increasing problem of statelessness and national identity. By putting in place the new cards, Pakistan has done its bit to at least recognise foreigners as persons who have the right to live in the country and gain the benefits due to them. Bengali athletes have, for example, complained in the past that despite living in Pakistan for decades, even generations, they are unable to represent the country in national sports or other events, because they are not recognized as citizens. The same is true of Biharis and even the Rohingya who live in Karachi in a small number.

We hope that NADRA will move efficiently after this decision. Allowing foreigners a status which gives them rights within Pakistan is extremely important and will also allow us to estimate the number of foreigners based in various places as well as permit these persons to educate their children through regular methods and acquire other assistance that they require from governance. Statelessness should not be a condition anyone in the world is forced to live under. Many Pakistanis face such a situation after leaving the country illegally for venues in Europe and other parts of the world. There is also the issue of the Syrian refugees and refugees from many other countries. This problem is likely to grow following recent events and there must be a global method to accept that stateless people should not be victimised because of the situation they find themselves in.