National, Opinion

Blind Decision of Granting Nationality to Afghan and Bengali Refugees

File photo of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced that his government will grant citizenship to all Pakistan-born refugees of Afghanistan and Bangladeshi origins. The premier expressed his views on the hot subject while addressing a fund-raising dinner in Karachi for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

Although this decision of the Prime Minister has garnered a round of applause from the Afghans, Bangladeshis and their sympathizers for all the right and wrong reasons. However, a million dollar question is, is Pakistan prepared for naturalizing millions of these refugees?

Granting nationality to Pakistan-born Afghans would mean accepting and accommodating almost half of Afghanistan with whom Pakistan has borders nor sealed nor guarded.

Another question that hits the mind hard is, if a person’s children are granted Pakistani nationality because they are born in Pakistan, would their parents and spouses also be granted nationality? In case they are refused a stay or nationality, wouldn’t it sound like breaking families? Social activists and humanitarians from within and outside Pakistan will definitely make a point on the issue.

It is also pertinent to mention here that in the last one decade or so, the Afghans who were repatriated from Pakistan through UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) will also make a comeback to get Pakistan’s nationality.

Once again, question arises in mind, is Pakistan prepared to accommodate and introduce millions of people as Pakistanis?

The status of refugees worldwide is governed by very strong system of identification and non-porous borders. Whereas in Pakistan, with its open border with Iran and Afghanistan, there has always historically been a great source of influx of refugees, unguarded and unrecorded. Who will be able to stem the flow of such a massive number of people who shall come back to Pakistan for the sake of education, jobs and cheap labor, is again a million dollar question.

Prime Minister of Pakistan vows to grant nationality to more than 200,000 ethnic Bangladeshis too in Pakistan, most of whom live in the southern city of Karachi. The laudable announcement pleases minds for a while but just in case, would Pakistan be able to grant nationality to those Pakistanis too who are living in Bangladesh and are not given the status of Bangladeshis ever since the country gained independence?

Keeping in view these concerns and all other troubles that Pakistan has been facing after accepting and accommodating Afghan refugees for the last three decades, Pakistan should reassess its decision.

This is a huge step which cannot be thrown on the table carelessly and get a solution right on the spot. Pakistan after the influx of Afghan refugees has not only suffered economically, but physically, socially, culturally and security wise too.

Apparently, Pakistan’s new government has a soft corner for Afghanistan and is seeking for sincere bilateral relationship, but it is supposed to see the impacts of a decision on its own country and people too.

If Pakistan is desirous to help the Afghans, the only wise solution is Open Borders with organized and friendly process.

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