ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday said Pakistan cannot continue to ignore the issue of non-citizens and needs a policy to grant citizenship rights to those who have been living here for decades, were born or married here.
Speaking on a point of order here at the National Assembly, the prime minister said the issue of ignoring this vital segment of society was not doing the country any good.
“We were informed in a briefing at Karachi that most of those involved in street crimes belonged to this section of society. Since they were not granted citizenship they were not able to get admission in schools or get a job. What else would they do?”
“We are producing an underclass,” Imran Khan warned and said a policy needs to be devised in this regard.
He agreed with Akhtar Mengal who pointed that Pakistan had inked an agreement for the return of the Afghan refugees. But, he said that under the Pakistan law of 1951, the children born in Pakistan get the citizenship status. It is the same in many other countries, he added.
He said Pakistan has different laws for the refugees and for those who came from Bangladesh, around 45 years back. He said for generations, they have not been given the right and were being exploited and were paid half the salary. Neither they can return, nor can they get citizenship, he said.
Imrna Khan said he had taken up this issue since it was a human rights issue.
“We are dealing with humans. We have to look after them,” he added.
The prime minister said a policy decision, after a thorough debate, in this regard was necessary and said “If we don’t do it now, who will do it?”
He said under the international conventions, the refugees cannot be forced to return. He said the issue in Pakistan was being looked after by the UNHCR. However the government needs to formulate a plan to cater to those who have been living here for a long time, have got married, and have children. He pointed that the children of refugees born in the European Union too had a right to citizenship.